The Seven Unique Types of Written Music

As a bassist, bandleader, teacher, and music copyist, I’ve worked with hundreds of singers throughout the years. Though functioning musicians know hundreds of tunes, singers want to have excellent 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 correctly tells the musicians what they ought to 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 responsibility to play the chart prior to him correctly, the supplier of the chart has the duty of providing the right type of chart. Realizing what form of chart to use for what type of tune or gig is really critical.

This write-up explains what the diverse varieties of charts are, and under what circumstances to use them. I hope you obtain it valuable.


Charts can be very simple or elaborate according to the style of music and form of gig. Cover tunes are traditionally discovered from recordings classical and choral music can be located in sheet music shops as properly as in several music catalogs quite a few tunes will be discovered in music books of all types and a lot of public libraries carry recordings and written music for your use. “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 called a chart these days, though a classical buff may possibly not refer to a Mozart work as a “chart.”

Being aware of what type of chart to use for what kind of tune is quite essential. When you happen to be playing a gig and someone hands you a chart — it is what it is and you either read it nicely or not. But, if you invest in charts, have them made for you or offer them yourself, you require to know which types to use for which situations. Years back, though performing singer showcases, singers brought in all sorts of charts: excellent ones, undesirable ones, incorrect ones, inappropriate ones, and it was a true discomfort. The singers who offered the right 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 extremely pleased about it. Unless a musician already knows the distinct components, he can only play according to what is on the chart just before him. Even though a superior musician can improvise a excellent part in any style, if a specific musical line wants to be played, it requirements to be written out.

As a musician has a responsibility to appropriately play the chart just before him, the supplier of the chart has the responsibility of delivering an acceptable a single.

With no finding into as well quite a few music notation specifics, right here are the distinctive kinds of charts and when they are utilized:


A chord chart contains the chords, meter (how the song is counted, e.g., in 4 or in three (like a waltz), and the type of the song (the exact order of the sections). This form of chart is mainly used when: 1. the specific 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 more than, or three. when a final-minute chart desires to be written, and there isn’t time for anything additional elaborate.

A chord chart does not include the melody or any distinct instrumental parts to be played. To play from uncomplicated chord charts a musician generally wants to have steady time, know the chords, and improvise his element in what ever style the tune is in.


Sheet music is a store-bought version of a song printed by a publisher, which contains the instrumental aspect, chords, lyrics, melody and kind. 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 (often classical), as well as in TAB. A fantastic piece of sheet music will constantly say whether or not it’s 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.

A lot of persons have knowledgeable the aggravation of obtaining the sheet music to a song they like, playing it, and discovering that the chords are distinctive from the recording, and sometimes the form is as well. Sadly that is the way it is a lot, and it could be for a number of different factors. To get the precise arrangement and chords, you need to have to do a “takedown” of the song: find out it by ear. A takedown is when you listen to a piece of music and write it down. Takedowns can variety from very simple chord charts to elaborate orchestral parts or anything in among. In order to do superior takedowns, you want to have superior ears, comprehend and be fluid with music notation to the complexity of the type of music you are working with, and preferably comprehend music (the additional the much better). Having “fantastic ears” consists of recognizing and understanding the music, no matter whether heard on the radio, played by another musician, or heard in your head.


Songbooks are compilations of several tunes and typically contain the identical facts that sheet music does, along with the chords and arrangement becoming various from the recording most of the time. Sheet music usually has complete introductions and endings, whereas songbook tunes are commonly shortened to develop space in the book for far more tunes. Sheet music is usually written to be played on a keyboard, but songbooks come in different designs and for different instruments. They are compiled by artist, style, decade, and in different collections such as film themes, Broadway hits, and so on.

Songbooks are a excellent reference supply when other, a lot more precise charts are unavailable. For example: I required two movie themes for a gig when (client request). As an alternative of spending $8 for two tunes of sheet music, I bought a book of movie themes for $16 that contained over a hundred tunes. Sheet music and songbooks are fairly unusable at gigs since 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 reside functionality, either: 1. recopy the tune onto 1-three pages or 2. photocopy it and tape the pages together (while, strictly speaking, this may well be viewed as copyright infringement). Make sure to always present a copy for each musician.

To play from songbooks and sheet music, a musician requirements to be in a position to study the music notation, or at least improvise a element from the chord symbols, i.e., a guitar strum, bass groove, piano groove, and so forth., or improved yet, each. A vocalist can sing the words if they know the melody, or be capable 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 mainly applied by singers, accompanists and arrangers, even though they seem on the bandstand now and once again. Songwriters use lead sheets to copyright their songs, and incredibly often sheet music includes a lead sheet of the tune as a condensed version to use. Instead of getting 3 to six pages of sheet music to turn, a lead sheet is ordinarily 1 or two pages lengthy. Lead sheets do not include any music notation except the melody and chords, so a musician needs to know how to improvise when reading from one particular. A lead sheet is generally written out by a music copyist, who is someone who specializes in preparing written music. Playing from lead sheets minimally demands playing an accompaniment from the chords and understanding the type directions and symbols (the markings telling you to go to the verse or the chorus or the end, and so forth.) and maximally possessing exceptional accompaniment capabilities and reading notation fluidly.

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