The Seven Unique Types of Written Music

As spotify on web browser , bandleader, teacher, and music copyist, I’ve worked with hundreds of singers throughout the years. Although 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 “great chart” as a piece of written music that properly tells the musicians what they should really play.

Written music comes in seven standard forms: chord charts, sheet music, songbooks, lead sheets, fake books, master rhythm charts and completely notated parts.

As a musician has a duty to play the chart ahead of him appropriately, the supplier of the chart has the duty of providing the proper sort of chart. Realizing what type of chart to use for what type of tune or gig is quite essential.

This post explains what the distinctive sorts of charts are, and beneath what situations to use them. I hope you discover it valuable.


Charts can be basic or elaborate according to the style of music and kind of gig. Cover tunes are traditionally learned from recordings classical and choral music can be identified in sheet music stores as properly as in different music catalogs quite a few tunes will be located in music books of all types and many 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, although a classical buff might not refer to a Mozart operate as a “chart.”

Knowing what variety of chart to use for what kind of tune is incredibly essential. When you are playing a gig and someone hands you a chart — it is what it is and you either read it well or not. But, if you get charts, have them made for you or present them yourself, you want to know which sorts to use for which scenarios. Years back, when undertaking singer showcases, singers brought in all kinds of charts: great ones, bad ones, incorrect ones, inappropriate ones, and it was a genuine discomfort. The singers who offered the appropriate kinds of charts got their music played the way they wanted. The singers who had the incorrect types of charts did not, and weren’t very satisfied about it. Unless a musician currently knows the precise parts, he can only play according to what’s on the chart ahead of him. Although a excellent musician can improvise a great portion in any style, if a specific musical line requires to be played, it demands to be written out.

As a musician has a duty to correctly play the chart ahead of him, the supplier of the chart has the responsibility of providing an appropriate a single.

Without receiving into too quite a few music notation specifics, here are the various sorts of charts and when they are used:


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 kind of the song (the precise order of the sections). This form of chart is primarily used when: 1. the precise musical components are improvised or currently recognized, but the form and chords need to be referred to, 2. to supply chords to improvise over, or three. when a last-minute chart demands to be written, and there is not time for anything more elaborate.

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


Sheet music is a store-purchased version of a song printed by a publisher, which consists of the instrumental portion, chords, lyrics, melody and kind. An instrumental piece will, of course, have just the music. Sheet music is written for each piano and guitar. Guitar sheet music is in standard notation (typically classical), as nicely as in TAB. A good piece of sheet music will constantly say regardless of whether it really is 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.

Lots of people have experienced the frustration of finding the sheet music to a song they like, playing it, and discovering that the chords are different from the recording, and from time to time the type is as well. Sadly that’s the way it is a lot, and it could be for a number of various causes. To get the exact arrangement and chords, you need to have 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 easy chord charts to elaborate orchestral parts or anything in between. In order to do good takedowns, you want to have superior ears, have an understanding of and be fluid with music notation to the complexity of the form of music you happen to be functioning with, and preferably understand music (the more the far better). Possessing “superior ears” consists of recognizing and understanding the music, no matter if heard on the radio, played by yet another musician, or heard in your head.


Songbooks are compilations of a lot of tunes and normally contain the same info that sheet music does, along with the chords and arrangement becoming different from the recording most of the time. Sheet music frequently has complete introductions and endings, whereas songbook tunes are frequently shortened to build space in the book for much more tunes. Sheet music is typically written to be played on a keyboard, but songbooks come in distinctive styles and for unique instruments. They are compiled by artist, style, decade, and in many collections such as movie themes, Broadway hits, and so forth.

Songbooks are a great reference supply when other, extra precise charts are unavailable. For example: I necessary two movie themes for a gig as soon as (client request). Alternatively 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 web page turns and bulkiness but in an emergency you use them and do what you can. If getting 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 possibly be regarded copyright infringement). Make confident to often deliver a copy for each and every musician.

To play from songbooks and sheet music, a musician needs to be in a position to read the music notation, or at least improvise a portion from the chord symbols, i.e., a guitar strum, bass groove, piano groove, etc., or much better but, each. A vocalist can sing the words if they know the melody, or be capable 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 utilised by singers, accompanists and arrangers, although they seem on the bandstand now and once again. Songwriters use lead sheets to copyright their songs, and incredibly usually sheet music incorporates 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 one or two pages lengthy. Lead sheets do not contain any music notation except the melody and chords, so a musician demands to know how to improvise when reading from a single. A lead sheet is commonly written out by a music copyist, who is somebody who specializes in preparing written music. Playing from lead sheets minimally requires 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, etc.) and maximally getting great accompaniment abilities and reading notation fluidly.