The Seven Different Forms of Written Music

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

Written music comes in seven basic forms: chord charts, sheet music, songbooks, lead sheets, fake books, master rhythm charts and totally 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 offering the suitable kind of chart. Realizing what form of chart to use for what sort of tune or gig is really important.

This post explains what the distinctive varieties of charts are, and beneath what situations to use them. hope you find it helpful.


Charts can be simple 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 a lot of tunes will be discovered in music books of all types and several 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 called a chart these days, although a classical buff may possibly not refer to a Mozart operate as a “chart.”

Recognizing what type of chart to use for what sort of tune is incredibly important. When you’re playing a gig and an individual hands you a chart — it is what it is and you either study it effectively or not. But, if you purchase charts, have them made for you or provide them yourself, you need to know which types to use for which scenarios. Years back, although doing singer showcases, singers brought in all types of charts: excellent ones, bad ones, incorrect ones, inappropriate ones, and it was a genuine discomfort. The singers who supplied the appropriate sorts of charts got their music played the way they wanted. The singers who had the wrong kinds of charts didn’t, and weren’t really content about it. Unless a musician currently knows the distinct parts, he can only play according to what is on the chart prior to him. Even though a fantastic musician can improvise a fantastic part in any style, if a distinct musical line requirements to be played, it needs 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 giving an suitable 1.

Without the need of acquiring into too numerous music notation specifics, right here are the different sorts of charts and when they are made use of:


A chord chart consists of 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 variety of chart is mainly used when: 1. the distinct musical components are improvised or currently recognized, but the kind and chords will need to be referred to, 2. to offer chords to improvise more than, or 3. when a last-minute chart demands to be written, and there is not 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 very simple chord charts a musician fundamentally desires to have steady time, know the chords, and improvise his portion in whatever style the tune is in.


Sheet music is a shop-purchased version of a song printed by a publisher, which includes the instrumental part, chords, lyrics, melody and type. An instrumental piece will, of course, have just the music. Sheet music is written for each piano and guitar. Guitar sheet music is in regular notation (generally classical), as nicely as in TAB. A superior piece of sheet music will usually say regardless of whether it’s for piano or guitar. Most sheet music is not meant to be completely representative of the actual recording, and the actual arrangement that you’ve heard on a recording is seldom present.

Lots of men and women have skilled the aggravation of finding the sheet music to a song they like, playing it, and discovering that the chords are various from the recording, and sometimes the form is too. Unfortunately that’s the way it is a lot, and it could be for a number of different causes. To get the exact arrangement and chords, you need to do a “takedown” of the song: study it by ear. A takedown is when you listen to a piece of music and create it down. Takedowns can variety from easy chord charts to elaborate orchestral parts or anything in involving. In order to do good takedowns, you will need to have very good ears, have an understanding of and be fluid with music notation to the complexity of the variety of music you are operating with, and preferably realize music (the a lot more the superior). Obtaining “very good ears” consists of recognizing and understanding the music, irrespective of whether heard on the radio, played by one more musician, or heard in your head.


Songbooks are compilations of a lot of tunes and generally include the identical 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 make space in the book for extra tunes. Sheet music is frequently written to be played on a keyboard, but songbooks come in distinctive types and for distinct instruments. They are compiled by artist, style, decade, and in different collections like movie themes, Broadway hits, and so forth.

Songbooks are a superior reference supply when other, a lot more exact charts are unavailable. For example: I required two movie themes for a gig once (client request). Rather of spending $8 for two tunes of sheet music, I purchased a book of film themes for $16 that contained more than 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 getting to use sheet music or songbooks for reside functionality, either: 1. recopy the tune onto 1-three pages or two. photocopy it and tape the pages with each other (although, strictly speaking, this may well be regarded copyright infringement). Make certain to often offer a copy for each and every musician.

To play from songbooks and sheet music, a musician needs to be able to read 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 much better however, both. A vocalist can sing the words if they know the melody, or be able 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 mainly utilised by singers, accompanists and arrangers, although they seem on the bandstand now and once more. Songwriters use lead sheets to copyright their songs, and pretty frequently sheet music incorporates a lead sheet of the tune as a condensed version to use. Alternatively of getting 3 to six pages of sheet music to turn, a lead sheet is typically one 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 a single. 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 form directions and symbols (the markings telling you to go to the verse or the chorus or the end, and so forth.) and maximally obtaining fantastic accompaniment skills and reading notation fluidly.

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