The Seven Various Types of Written Music

As a bassist, bandleader, teacher, and music copyist, I’ve worked with hundreds of singers all through the years. Although functioning musicians know hundreds of tunes, singers need 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 effectively tells the musicians what they should play.

Written music comes in seven simple types: 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 before him properly, the supplier of the chart has the duty of offering the correct kind of chart. Recognizing what form of chart to use for what sort of tune or gig is very significant.

This post explains what the various types of charts are, and beneath what circumstances to use them. I hope you come across it beneficial.


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 identified in sheet music shops as properly as in numerous music catalogs various tunes will be located 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 special 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 well not refer to a Mozart perform as a “chart.”

Being aware of what type of chart to use for what sort of tune is pretty crucial. When you happen to be playing a gig and somebody hands you a chart — it is what it is and you either study it properly or not. But, if you acquire charts, have them created for you or deliver them yourself, you will need to know which types to use for which circumstances. Years back, though carrying out singer showcases, singers brought in all kinds of charts: excellent ones, negative ones, incorrect ones, inappropriate ones, and it was a genuine discomfort. The singers who provided the proper types of charts got their music played the way they wanted. The singers who had the incorrect types of charts did not, and weren’t extremely satisfied about it. Unless a musician already knows the precise components, he can only play according to what is on the chart prior to him. Even though a fantastic musician can improvise a very good aspect in any style, if a precise musical line wants to be played, it desires to be written out.

As a musician has a duty to appropriately play the chart before him, the supplier of the chart has the responsibility of offering an suitable 1.

Devoid of getting into too many music notation specifics, here are the distinct sorts of charts and when they are utilised:


A chord chart consists of 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 exact order of the sections). This variety of chart is mainly utilized when: 1. the specific musical parts are improvised or currently known, but the type and chords will need to be referred to, 2. to give chords to improvise more than, or 3. when a final-minute chart needs to be written, and there isn’t time for anything more elaborate.

A chord chart does not include the melody or any specific instrumental parts to be played. To play from very simple chord charts a musician basically desires to have steady time, know the chords, and improvise his aspect in whatever style the tune is in.


Sheet music is a shop-bought version of a song printed by a publisher, which consists of 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 typical notation (generally classical), as nicely as in TAB. A fantastic piece of sheet music will generally say whether or not 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 have heard on a recording is seldom present.

Quite a few individuals have experienced the aggravation of finding the sheet music to a song they like, playing it, and discovering that the chords are different from the recording, and in some cases the form is as well. Unfortunately that is the way it is a lot, and it could be for a quantity of different causes. To get the precise arrangement and chords, you want to do a “takedown” of the song: understand it by ear. A takedown is when you listen to a piece of music and write it down. Takedowns can range from straightforward chord charts to elaborate orchestral components or something in among. In order to do very good takedowns, you have to have to have excellent ears, comprehend and be fluid with music notation to the complexity of the form of music you happen to be working with, and preferably fully grasp music (the extra the improved). Obtaining “very good ears” consists of recognizing and understanding the music, irrespective of whether heard on the radio, played by an additional musician, or heard in your head.


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

Songbooks are a good reference source when other, a lot more exact charts are unavailable. For instance: I necessary two film themes for a gig once (client request). Rather 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 fairly unusable at gigs for the reason that 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 live performance, either: 1. recopy the tune onto 1-three pages or two. photocopy it and tape the pages with each other (even though, strictly speaking, this may perhaps be viewed as copyright infringement). Make matrolagu to always supply a copy for each and every musician.

To play from songbooks and sheet music, a musician requirements to be able to study the music notation, or at least improvise a aspect from the chord symbols, i.e., a guitar strum, bass groove, piano groove, etc., or improved but, each. A vocalist can sing the words if they know the melody, or be able to study the notated melody if they don’t know it.


Lead sheets contain the chords, lyrics and melody line of the song and are mostly made use of by singers, accompanists and arrangers, even though they appear on the bandstand now and once more. Songwriters use lead sheets to copyright their songs, and quite generally sheet music consists of a lead sheet of the tune as a condensed version to use. Rather of having three to six pages of sheet music to turn, a lead sheet is generally one particular or two pages long. Lead sheets do not include any music notation except the melody and chords, so a musician wants to know how to improvise when reading from one particular. 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 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 end, and so on.) and maximally getting great accompaniment skills and reading notation fluidly.

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