The Seven Distinct Kinds of Written Music

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

Written music comes in seven basic types: 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 properly, the supplier of the chart has the responsibility of supplying the right type of chart. Recognizing what sort of chart to use for what type of tune or gig is pretty significant.

This short article explains what the distinct types of charts are, and below what situations to use them. I hope you discover it beneficial.

Varieties OF CHARTS

Charts can be straightforward or elaborate according to the style of music and sort of gig. Cover tunes are traditionally discovered from recordings classical and choral music can be found in sheet music retailers as properly as in a variety of music catalogs many tunes will be discovered in music books of all types 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 unique 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, even though a classical buff might not refer to a Mozart function as a “chart.”

Understanding what kind of chart to use for what sort of tune is really vital. When you are playing a gig and someone hands you a chart — it is what it is and you either study it effectively or not. But, if you get charts, have them made for you or give them yourself, you need to have to know which sorts to use for which conditions. Years back, while performing singer showcases, singers brought in all kinds of charts: fantastic ones, poor ones, incorrect ones, inappropriate ones, and it was a true discomfort. The singers who supplied the right types of charts got their music played the way they wanted. The singers who had the incorrect sorts of charts didn’t, and weren’t pretty content about it. Unless a musician currently knows the particular parts, he can only play according to what’s on the chart just before him. Even though a fantastic musician can improvise a excellent element in any style, if a specific musical line wants to be played, it requires to be written out.

As a musician has a responsibility to correctly play the chart before him, the supplier of the chart has the duty of delivering an appropriate 1.

Devoid of getting into too lots of music notation specifics, here are the different sorts of charts and when they are utilized:


A chord chart contains the chords, meter (how the song is counted, e.g., in four or in 3 (like a waltz), and the type of the song (the precise order of the sections). This type of chart is mainly employed when: 1. the specific musical parts are improvised or currently identified, but the kind and chords will need to be referred to, 2. to provide chords to improvise over, or 3. when a last-minute chart desires to be written, and there isn’t time for anything far more elaborate.

A chord chart does not include the melody or any specific instrumental parts to be played. To play from basic chord charts a musician fundamentally requires to have steady time, know the chords, and improvise his component in what ever style the tune is in.


Sheet music is a shop-bought version of a song printed by a publisher, which contains the instrumental component, 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 regular notation (normally classical), as well as in TAB. A superior piece of sheet music will constantly say no matter whether it really 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 knowledgeable 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 in some cases the type is also. Unfortunately that’s the way it is a lot, and it could be for a quantity of various causes. To get the precise arrangement and chords, you need to do a “takedown” of the song: find out it by ear. A takedown is when you listen to a piece of music and create it down. Takedowns can variety from very simple chord charts to elaborate orchestral parts or something in in between. In order to do excellent takedowns, you will need to have fantastic ears, recognize and be fluid with music notation to the complexity of the sort of music you are functioning with, and preferably recognize music (the more the far better). Possessing “very good ears” consists of recognizing and understanding the music, whether heard on the radio, played by a different musician, or heard in your head.


Songbooks are compilations of lots of tunes and normally include the exact same details that sheet music does, along with the chords and arrangement being diverse from the recording most of the time. Sheet music normally has complete introductions and endings, whereas songbook tunes are normally shortened to generate space in the book for a lot more tunes. Sheet music is frequently written to be played on a keyboard, but songbooks come in different styles and for unique instruments. They are compiled by artist, style, decade, and in several collections like movie themes, Broadway hits, etc.

Songbooks are a great reference source when other, additional exact charts are unavailable. For example: I necessary two movie themes for a gig as soon as (client request). Instead of spending $eight 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 because of cumbersome 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 reside performance, either: 1. recopy the tune onto 1-three pages or 2. photocopy it and tape the pages with each other (despite the fact that, strictly speaking, this may possibly be thought of copyright infringement). Make positive to generally supply a copy for every single musician.

To play from songbooks and sheet music, a musician requires 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 far better however, each. 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 contain the chords, lyrics and melody line of the song and are primarily applied by singers, accompanists and arrangers, although they appear on the bandstand now and again. Songwriters use lead sheets to copyright their songs, and pretty typically sheet music incorporates a lead sheet of the tune as a condensed version to use. Instead of having 3 to six pages of sheet music to turn, a lead sheet is commonly a single or two pages extended. Lead sheets do not contain any music notation except the melody and chords, so a musician needs to know how to improvise when reading from one. music beats for sale is generally written out by a music copyist, who is an individual who specializes in preparing written music. Playing from lead sheets minimally calls for 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 finish, and so on.) and maximally possessing fantastic accompaniment abilities and reading notation fluidly.