The Seven Diverse Kinds of Written Music

As music beats for sale , bandleader, teacher, and music copyist, I’ve worked with hundreds of singers all through the years. Although working musicians know hundreds of tunes, singers need to have to have superior charts in order to have their music played the way they want. I define a “excellent chart” as a piece of written music that correctly tells the musicians what they need to play.

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

As a musician has a responsibility to play the chart just before him correctly, the supplier of the chart has the duty of delivering the proper sort of chart. Knowing what kind of chart to use for what sort of tune or gig is really significant.

This write-up explains what the diverse kinds of charts are, and under what situations to use them. I hope you uncover it helpful.

Varieties OF CHARTS

Charts can be very simple or elaborate according to the style of music and sort of gig. Cover tunes are traditionally learned from recordings classical and choral music can be found in sheet music shops as effectively as in several music catalogs many tunes will be identified in music books of all types and quite a few 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 one of a kind manner) of a tune. Decades ago it was strictly a “cool” slang term for a tune, but any piece of music could be named a chart these days, though a classical buff may well not refer to a Mozart function as a “chart.”

Understanding what type of chart to use for what sort of tune is extremely critical. When you are playing a gig and someone hands you a chart — it is what it is and you either read it properly or not. But, if you purchase charts, have them made for you or provide them yourself, you require to know which kinds to use for which conditions. Years back, though doing singer showcases, singers brought in all sorts of charts: excellent ones, undesirable ones, incorrect ones, inappropriate ones, and it was a genuine pain. The singers who provided the ideal sorts of charts got their music played the way they wanted. The singers who had the wrong kinds of charts didn’t, and weren’t very delighted about it. Unless a musician currently knows the particular components, he can only play according to what is on the chart prior to him. Even though a good musician can improvise a excellent component in any style, if a precise musical line requirements to be played, it demands to be written out.

As a musician has a responsibility to properly play the chart before him, the supplier of the chart has the duty of supplying an suitable one particular.

With no finding into too numerous music notation specifics, right here are the different kinds of charts and when they are made use of:


A chord chart includes the chords, meter (how the song is counted, e.g., in four or in three (like a waltz), and the kind of the song (the precise order of the sections). This sort of chart is mainly used when: 1. the particular musical parts are improvised or already recognized, but the form and chords need to have to be referred to, 2. to offer chords to improvise over, or 3. when a final-minute chart wants to be written, and there isn’t time for anything far more elaborate.

A chord chart does not contain the melody or any precise instrumental components to be played. To play from simple chord charts a musician fundamentally demands to have steady time, know the chords, and improvise his component in whatever style the tune is in.


Sheet music is a store-bought version of a song printed by a publisher, which includes the instrumental element, chords, lyrics, melody and type. An instrumental piece will, of course, have just the music. Sheet music is written for both piano and guitar. Guitar sheet music is in regular notation (frequently classical), as well as in TAB. A fantastic piece of sheet music will always say whether it’s for piano or guitar. Most sheet music is not meant to be completely representative of the actual recording, and the actual arrangement that you have heard on a recording is seldom present.

Numerous folks have seasoned the aggravation of having the sheet music to a song they like, playing it, and discovering that the chords are distinct from the recording, and often the type is also. Regrettably that’s the way it is a lot, and it could be for a number of diverse causes. 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 write it down. Takedowns can variety from uncomplicated chord charts to elaborate orchestral components or anything in among. In order to do fantastic takedowns, you need to have to have great ears, recognize and be fluid with music notation to the complexity of the type of music you are working with, and preferably have an understanding of music (the extra the far better). Getting “good ears” consists of recognizing and understanding the music, no matter if heard on the radio, played by an additional musician, or heard in your head.


Songbooks are compilations of lots of tunes and usually contain the similar information that sheet music does, along with the chords and arrangement being distinctive from the recording most of the time. Sheet music normally has full introductions and endings, whereas songbook tunes are typically shortened to build space in the book for much more tunes. Sheet music is generally written to be played on a keyboard, but songbooks come in diverse styles and for diverse instruments. They are compiled by artist, style, decade, and in several collections such as film themes, Broadway hits, etc.

Songbooks are a great reference supply when other, more exact charts are unavailable. For example: I needed two film themes for a gig after (client request). Rather of spending $eight for two tunes of sheet music, I purchased a book of movie themes for $16 that contained over a hundred tunes. Sheet music and songbooks are fairly unusable at gigs mainly because of cumbersome web page turns and bulkiness but in an emergency you use them and do what you can. If having to use sheet music or songbooks for live efficiency, either: 1. recopy the tune onto 1-three pages or 2. photocopy it and tape the pages collectively (although, strictly speaking, this could be viewed as copyright infringement). Make sure to generally offer a copy for each and every musician.

To play from songbooks and sheet music, a musician requires to be able to read the music notation, or at least improvise a aspect from the chord symbols, i.e., a guitar strum, bass groove, piano groove, and so forth., or better yet, both. A vocalist can sing the words if they know the melody, or be able to study the notated melody if they do not know it.


Lead sheets include the chords, lyrics and melody line of the song and are mostly made use of by singers, accompanists and arrangers, although they seem on the bandstand now and once again. Songwriters use lead sheets to copyright their songs, and very frequently sheet music involves a lead sheet of the tune as a condensed version to use. As an alternative of getting three to six pages of sheet music to turn, a lead sheet is commonly one particular or two pages lengthy. Lead sheets do not include any music notation except the melody and chords, so a musician requirements to know how to improvise when reading from one particular. A lead sheet is commonly 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 finish, and so on.) and maximally obtaining outstanding accompaniment capabilities and reading notation fluidly.

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