The Seven Diverse Sorts of Written Music

As a bassist, bandleader, teacher, and music copyist, I’ve worked with hundreds of singers throughout the years. Though working musicians know hundreds of tunes, singers have to have to have very good charts in order to have their music played the way they want. I define a “great chart” as a piece of written music that proficiently tells the musicians what they must play.

Written music comes in seven fundamental forms: chord charts, sheet music, songbooks, lead sheets, fake books, master rhythm charts and fully notated parts.

As a musician has a responsibility to play the chart ahead of him correctly, the supplier of the chart has the responsibility of delivering the appropriate kind of chart. Knowing what type of chart to use for what kind of tune or gig is pretty significant.

This write-up explains what the unique forms of charts are, and below what circumstances to use them. I hope you uncover it useful.


Charts can be easy or elaborate according to the style of music and form of gig. Cover tunes are traditionally learned from recordings classical and choral music can be located in sheet music shops as well as in numerous music catalogs quite a few tunes will be discovered in music books of all kinds and many public libraries carry recordings and written music for your use.

The word “chart” refers to any piece of written music or any arrangement (music that has been adapted in a distinctive manner) of a tune. Decades ago it was strictly a “cool” slang term for a tune, but any piece of music could be referred to as a chart these days, though a classical buff may possibly not refer to a Mozart function as a “chart.”

Understanding what kind of chart to use for what type of tune is quite critical. When you are playing a gig and an individual hands you a chart — it is what it is and you either study it well or not. But, if you acquire charts, have them created for you or give them yourself, you need to have to know which types to use for which conditions. Years back, while carrying out singer showcases, singers brought in all kinds of charts: superior ones, negative ones, incorrect ones, inappropriate ones, and it was a true pain. The singers who offered the appropriate sorts of charts got their music played the way they wanted. The singers who had the incorrect kinds of charts didn’t, and weren’t pretty delighted about it. Unless a musician already knows the distinct parts, he can only play according to what is on the chart ahead of him. Although a good musician can improvise a fantastic portion in any style, if a particular musical line requirements to be played, it requirements to be written out.

As a musician has a duty to appropriately play the chart just before him, the supplier of the chart has the responsibility of giving an proper one particular.

Without acquiring into too several music notation specifics, right here are the various types of charts and when they are applied:


A chord chart includes the chords, meter (how the song is counted, e.g., in 4 or in three (like a waltz), and the kind of the song (the exact order of the sections). This type of chart is primarily utilised when: 1. the precise musical components are improvised or already identified, but the kind and chords need to be referred to, two. to provide chords to improvise over, or 3. when a last-minute chart requirements to be written, and there isn’t time for anything far more elaborate.

A chord chart does not contain the melody or any distinct instrumental components to be played. To play from basic chord charts a musician fundamentally needs to have steady time, know the chords, and improvise his portion in what ever style the tune is in.


Sheet music is a shop-purchased version of a song printed by a publisher, which includes the instrumental component, chords, lyrics, melody and form. An instrumental piece will, of course, have just the music. Sheet music is written for each piano and guitar. Guitar sheet music is in common notation (generally classical), as nicely as in TAB. A fantastic piece of sheet music will often say no matter whether it’s for piano or guitar. Most sheet music is not meant to be totally representative of the actual recording, and the actual arrangement that you’ve heard on a recording is seldom present.

Lots of people today have knowledgeable the frustration of getting the sheet music to a song they like, playing it, and discovering that the chords are unique from the recording, and in some cases the kind is as well. Unfortunately that’s the way it is a lot, and it could be for a number of unique factors. To get the precise arrangement and chords, you want to do a “takedown” of the song: discover it by ear. A takedown is when you listen to a piece of music and create it down. Takedowns can variety from very simple chord charts to elaborate orchestral components or something in in between. In order to do good takedowns, you want to have good ears, have an understanding of and be fluid with music notation to the complexity of the sort of music you’re operating with, and preferably have an understanding of music (the more the greater). Having ” consists of recognizing and understanding the music, no matter if heard on the radio, played by yet another musician, or heard in your head.


Songbooks are compilations of numerous tunes and normally contain the exact same information that sheet music does, along with the chords and arrangement being diverse from the recording most of the time. Sheet music normally has full introductions and endings, whereas songbook tunes are commonly shortened to develop space in the book for additional tunes. Sheet music is commonly written to be played on a keyboard, but songbooks come in distinctive designs and for various instruments. They are compiled by artist, style, decade, and in several collections which includes movie themes, Broadway hits, and so on.

Songbooks are a great reference supply when other, a lot more exact charts are unavailable. For example: I needed two movie themes for a gig when (client request). Alternatively of spending $eight for two tunes of sheet music, I purchased a book of movie themes for $16 that contained more than a hundred tunes. Sheet music and songbooks are quite unusable at gigs simply because of cumbersome web page turns and bulkiness but in an emergency you use them and do what you can. If obtaining to use sheet music or songbooks for reside overall performance, either: 1. recopy the tune onto 1-three pages or 2. photocopy it and tape the pages collectively (although, strictly speaking, this may be viewed as copyright infringement). Make certain to usually supply a copy for every single musician.

To play from songbooks and sheet music, a musician demands to be in a position to read the music notation, or at least improvise a element from the chord symbols, i.e., a guitar strum, bass groove, piano groove, and so on., or much better but, each. A vocalist can sing the words if they know the melody, or be in a position to read the notated melody if they do not know it.


Lead sheets contain the chords, lyrics and melody line of the song and are mainly utilized by singers, accompanists and arrangers, although they seem on the bandstand now and once again. Songwriters use lead sheets to copyright their songs, and extremely usually sheet music includes a lead sheet of the tune as a condensed version to use. Alternatively of having three to six pages of sheet music to turn, a lead sheet is ordinarily a single or two pages extended. Lead sheets do not contain any music notation except the melody and chords, so a musician desires to know how to improvise when reading from a single. A lead sheet is frequently written out by a music copyist, who is a person who specializes in preparing written music. Playing from lead sheets minimally demands playing an accompaniment from the chords and understanding the kind directions and symbols (the markings telling you to go to the verse or the chorus or the end, etc.) and maximally getting excellent accompaniment capabilities and reading notation fluidly.