The Seven Various Types of Written Music

As a bassist, bandleader, teacher, and music copyist, I’ve worked with hundreds of singers throughout the years. Though operating musicians know hundreds of tunes, singers will need to have superior charts in order to have their music played the way they want. I define a “good chart” as a piece of written music that efficiently tells the musicians what they should really play.

Written music comes in seven simple 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 ahead of him appropriately, the supplier of the chart has the duty of offering the appropriate kind of chart. Figuring out what variety of chart to use for what type of tune or gig is really essential.

This write-up explains what the distinctive forms of charts are, and under what situations to use them. I hope you discover it beneficial.


Charts can be easy or elaborate according to the style of music and type of gig. Cover tunes are traditionally discovered from recordings classical and choral music can be located in sheet music shops as effectively as in several music catalogs several tunes will be identified in music books of all kinds and lots of 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 exclusive manner) of a tune. Decades ago it was strictly a “cool” slang term for a tune, but any piece of music could be known as a chart these days, although a classical buff might not refer to a Mozart perform as a “chart.”

Knowing what kind of chart to use for what kind of tune is pretty critical. When you’re playing a gig and a person hands you a chart — it is what it is and you either study it well or not. But, if you obtain charts, have them made for you or give them oneself, you require to know which kinds to use for which conditions. Years back, when performing singer showcases, singers brought in all kinds of charts: excellent ones, undesirable ones, incorrect ones, inappropriate ones, and it was a genuine pain. The singers who supplied the correct types of charts got their music played the way they wanted. The singers who had the wrong sorts of charts did not, and weren’t incredibly satisfied about it. Unless a musician currently knows the certain components, he can only play according to what is on the chart prior to him. Though a excellent musician can improvise a great portion in any style, if a precise musical line wants to be played, it demands to be written out.

As a musician has a duty to properly play the chart ahead of him, the supplier of the chart has the duty of supplying an appropriate a single.

With out acquiring into also quite a few music notation specifics, right here are the distinct kinds of charts and when they are applied:


A chord chart includes the chords, meter (how the song is counted, e.g., in four or in 3 (like a waltz), and the form of the song (the precise order of the sections). This type of chart is mostly applied when: 1. the distinct musical components are improvised or already recognized, but the kind and chords want to be referred to, 2. to give chords to improvise over, or 3. when a final-minute chart requires to be written, and there is not time for something more elaborate.

A chord chart does not contain the melody or any particular instrumental components to be played. To play from very simple chord charts a musician basically desires to have steady time, know the chords, and improvise his element in what ever style the tune is in.


Sheet music is a store-purchased version of a song printed by a publisher, which includes the instrumental portion, 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 standard notation (typically classical), as well as in TAB. A fantastic piece of sheet music will generally say irrespective of whether it is for piano or guitar. Most sheet music is not meant to be entirely representative of the actual recording, and the actual arrangement that you’ve heard on a recording is seldom present.

A lot of individuals have experienced the aggravation of finding the sheet music to a song they like, playing it, and discovering that the chords are diverse from the recording, and often the type is too. Unfortunately that’s the way it is a lot, and it could be for a number of unique reasons. 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 range from uncomplicated chord charts to elaborate orchestral components or something in between. In order to do good takedowns, you want to have very good ears, fully grasp and be fluid with music notation to the complexity of the type of music you are operating with, and preferably realize music (the much more the improved). Possessing “great ears” consists of recognizing and understanding the music, no matter if heard on the radio, played by a further musician, or heard in your head.


Songbooks are compilations of quite a few tunes and usually contain the similar details that sheet music does, along with the chords and arrangement becoming various from the recording most of the time. Sheet music generally has full introductions and endings, whereas songbook tunes are usually shortened to create space in the book for extra tunes. Sheet music is frequently written to be played on a keyboard, but songbooks come in distinct designs and for distinct instruments. They are compiled by artist, style, decade, and in various collections including film themes, Broadway hits, and so on.

Songbooks are a very good reference source when other, far more precise charts are unavailable. For example: I required two film themes for a gig once (client request). As an alternative of spending $8 for two tunes of sheet music, I bought a book of film themes for $16 that contained more than a hundred tunes. Sheet music and songbooks are fairly unusable at gigs because of cumbersome page turns and bulkiness but in an emergency you use them and do what you can. If obtaining to use or songbooks for live performance, either: 1. recopy the tune onto 1-three pages or two. photocopy it and tape the pages collectively (although, strictly speaking, this might be considered copyright infringement). Make positive to normally supply a copy for each and every musician.

To play from songbooks and sheet music, a musician demands to be capable to study the music notation, or at least improvise a portion from the chord symbols, i.e., a guitar strum, bass groove, piano groove, and so on., or greater yet, both. A vocalist can sing the words if they know the melody, or be able to read the notated melody if they never know it.


Lead sheets include the chords, lyrics and melody line of the song and are mostly applied by singers, accompanists and arrangers, though they appear on the bandstand now and once more. Songwriters use lead sheets to copyright their songs, and quite generally sheet music involves a lead sheet of the tune as a condensed version to use. As an alternative of obtaining three to six pages of sheet music to turn, a lead sheet is usually a single or two pages lengthy. Lead sheets do not contain any music notation except the melody and chords, so a musician wants to know how to improvise when reading from a single. A lead sheet is normally written out by a music copyist, who is a person who specializes in preparing written music. Playing from lead sheets minimally requires playing an accompaniment from the chords and understanding the form directions and symbols (the markings telling you to go to the verse or the chorus or the finish, and so on.) and maximally having outstanding accompaniment skills and reading notation fluidly.