The Seven Distinct Varieties of Written Music


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

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

As a musician has a duty to play the chart prior to him correctly, the supplier of the chart has the responsibility of delivering the correct type of chart. Knowing what kind of chart to use for what kind of tune or gig is quite vital.

This report explains what the distinctive varieties of charts are, and under what situations to use them. I hope you locate it beneficial.


Charts can be basic 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 found in sheet music stores as nicely as in numerous music catalogs numerous tunes will be located in music books of all kinds and a lot 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 distinctive 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, though a classical buff may possibly not refer to a Mozart perform as a “chart.”

Knowing what type of chart to use for what kind of tune is really important. When you are playing a gig and someone hands you a chart — it is what it is and you either study it nicely or not. But, if you get charts, have them made for you or supply them your self, you will need to know which kinds to use for which circumstances. Years back, whilst performing singer showcases, singers brought in all kinds of charts: very good ones, terrible ones, incorrect ones, inappropriate ones, and it was a real discomfort. The singers who offered the correct kinds of charts got their music played the way they wanted. The singers who had the incorrect kinds of charts did not, and weren’t really delighted about it. Unless a musician already knows the distinct components, he can only play according to what is on the chart prior to him. Even though a very good musician can improvise a good element in any style, if a particular musical line desires to be played, it demands to be written out.

As a musician has a duty to appropriately play the chart ahead of him, the supplier of the chart has the duty of offering an appropriate 1.

With no receiving into too quite a few music notation specifics, right here are the different kinds of charts and when they are utilised:


A chord chart consists of the chords, meter (how the song is counted, e.g., in 4 or in 3 (like a waltz), and the type of the song (the precise order of the sections). This sort of chart is mainly utilized when: 1. the distinct musical parts are improvised or currently recognized, but the form and chords require to be referred to, 2. to offer chords to improvise over, or 3. when a final-minute chart requirements to be written, and there isn’t time for anything a lot more elaborate.

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


Sheet music is a retailer-purchased version of a song printed by a publisher, which includes the instrumental part, chords, lyrics, melody and form. An instrumental piece will, of course, have just the music. Sheet music is written for both piano and guitar. Guitar sheet music is in typical notation (typically classical), as properly as in TAB. A great piece of sheet music will often 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.

Numerous individuals have knowledgeable the frustration of obtaining the sheet music to a song they like, playing it, and discovering that the chords are unique from the recording, and often the form is as well. Sadly that is the way it is a lot, and it could be for a quantity of unique causes. To get the exact arrangement and chords, you need to do a “takedown” of the song: learn it by ear. A takedown is when you listen to a piece of music and write it down. Takedowns can range from very simple chord charts to elaborate orchestral parts or something in involving. In order to do great takedowns, you require to have superior ears, comprehend and be fluid with music notation to the complexity of the form of music you happen to be operating with, and preferably fully grasp music (the more the improved). Having “good ears” consists of recognizing and understanding the music, whether or not heard on the radio, played by a further musician, or heard in your head.


Songbooks are compilations of several tunes and often contain the similar information and facts that sheet music does, along with the chords and arrangement being distinctive from the recording most of the time. Sheet music typically has complete introductions and endings, whereas songbook tunes are typically shortened to make space in the book for extra tunes. Sheet music is typically written to be played on a keyboard, but songbooks come in distinctive styles and for different instruments. They are compiled by artist, style, decade, and in several collections including movie themes, Broadway hits, and so forth.

Songbooks are a very good reference supply when other, more exact charts are unavailable. For instance: I required two film themes for a gig once (client request). As an alternative of spending $eight for two tunes of sheet music, I bought a book of film themes for $16 that contained over a hundred tunes. Sheet music and songbooks are pretty unusable at gigs simply because of cumbersome 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 with each other (even though, strictly speaking, this may well be deemed copyright infringement). Make sure to often give a copy for each and every musician.

To play from songbooks and sheet music, a musician wants to be capable to study the music notation, or at least improvise a part from the chord symbols, i.e., a guitar strum, bass groove, piano groove, and so on., or superior 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 include the chords, lyrics and melody line of the song and are primarily employed by singers, accompanists and arrangers, although they appear on the bandstand now and again. use lead sheets to copyright their songs, and incredibly usually sheet music involves a lead sheet of the tune as a condensed version to use. As an alternative of obtaining 3 to six pages of sheet music to turn, a lead sheet is normally a single or two pages lengthy. 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 1. A lead sheet is usually written out by a music copyist, who is an individual who specializes in preparing written music. Playing from lead sheets minimally needs 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, etc.) and maximally getting exceptional accompaniment skills and reading notation fluidly.

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