The Seven Different Types of Written Music

As a bassist, bandleader, trainer, and music copyist, I’ve labored with a whole bunch of singers all through the years. Although working musicians know a whole bunch of tunes, singers have to have good charts with the intention to have their music performed the way in which they need. I outline a “good chart” as a chunk of written music that successfully tells the musicians what they need to play.

Written music is available in seven primary kinds: chord charts, sheet music, songbooks, lead sheets, pretend books, grasp rhythm charts and absolutely notated components.

As a musician has a duty to play the chart earlier than him appropriately, the provider of the chart has the duty of offering the correct of chart. Understanding what sort of chart to make use of for what sort of tune or gig is essential.

This text explains what the several types of charts are, and beneath what circumstances to make use of them. I hope you discover it helpful.


Charts might be easy or elaborate in accordance with the type of music and kind of gig. Cowl tunes are historically realized from recordings; classical and choral music might be present in sheet music shops in addition to in varied music catalogs; quite a few tunes can be present in music books of all types; and lots of public libraries carry recordings and written music in your use.

The phrase “chart” refers to any piece of written music or any association (music that has been tailored in a novel method) of a tune. Many years in the past it was strictly a “cool” slang time period for a tune, however any piece of music could possibly be known as a chart nowadays, although a classical buff may not seek advice from a Mozart work as a “chart.”

Understanding what sort of chart to make use of for what sort of tune is essential. If you’re taking part in a gig and somebody fingers you a chart — it’s what it’s and also you both learn it nicely or not. However, in the event you purchase charts, have them made for you or present them your self, you should know which varieties to make use of for which conditions. Years again, whereas doing singer showcases, singers introduced in all types of charts: good ones, dangerous ones, incorrect ones, inappropriate ones, and it was an actual ache. The singers who offered the proper sorts of charts obtained their music performed the way in which they wished. The singers who had the fallacious sorts of charts did not, and weren’t very comfortable about it. Except a musician already is aware of the precise components, he can solely play in accordance with what’s on the chart earlier than him. Although an excellent musician can improvise an excellent half in any type, if a particular musical line must be performed, it must be written out.

As a musician has a duty to appropriately play the chart earlier than him, the provider of the chart has the duty of offering an applicable one.

With out entering into too many music notation specifics, listed below are the completely different sorts of charts and when they’re used:


chord chart accommodates the chords, meter (how the track is counted, e.g., in 4 or in 3 (like a waltz), and the type of the track (the precise order of the sections). The sort of chart is primarily used when: 1. the precise musical components are improvised or already identified, however the type and chords have to be referred to, 2. to supply chords to improvise over, or 3. when a last-minute chart must be written, and there is not time for something extra elaborate.

A chord chart doesn’t comprise the melody or any particular instrumental components to be performed. To play from easy chord charts a musician mainly must have regular time, know the chords, and improvise his half in no matter type the tune is in.


Sheet music is a store-bought model of a track printed by a writer, which accommodates the instrumental half, chords, lyrics, melody and type. An instrumental piece will, in fact, have simply the music. Sheet music is written for each piano and guitar. Guitar sheet music is in customary notation (usually classical), in addition to in TAB. A superb piece of sheet music will at all times say whether or not it is for piano or guitar. Most sheet music just isn’t meant to be utterly consultant of the particular recording, and the precise association that you’ve got heard on a recording is seldom current.

Many individuals have skilled the frustration of getting the sheet music to a track they like, taking part in it, and discovering that the chords are completely different from the recording, and generally the shape is simply too. Sadly that is the way in which it’s a lot, and it could possibly be for a variety of completely different causes. To get the precise association and chords, you should do a “takedown” of the track: study it by ear. A takedown is if you take heed to a chunk of music and write it down. Takedowns can vary from easy chord charts to elaborate orchestral components or something in between. So as to do good takedowns, you should have good ears, perceive and be fluid with music notation to the complexity of the kind of music you are working with, and ideally perceive music (the extra the higher). Having “good ears” consists of recognizing and understanding the music, whether or not heard on the radio, performed by one other musician, or heard in your head.


Songbooks are compilations of many tunes and infrequently comprise the identical data that sheet music does, together with the chords and association being completely different from the recording more often than not. Sheet music generally has full introductions and endings, whereas songbook tunes are usually shortened to create area within the ebook for extra tunes. Sheet music is mostly written to be performed on a keyboard, however songbooks come in numerous kinds and for various devices. They’re compiled by artist, type, decade, and in varied collections together with film themes, Broadway hits, and so on.

Songbooks are an excellent reference supply when different, extra actual charts are unavailable. For instance: I wanted two film themes for a gig as soon as (consumer request). As a substitute of spending $8 for 2 tunes of sheet music, I purchased a ebook of film themes for $16 that contained over 100 tunes. Sheet music and songbooks are fairly unusable at gigs due to cumbersome web page turns and bulkiness; however in an emergency you employ them and do what you possibly can. If having to make use of sheet music or songbooks for reside efficiency, both: 1. recopy the tune onto 1-3 pages or 2. photocopy it and tape the pages collectively (though, strictly talking, this can be thought-about copyright infringement). Ensure that to at all times present a duplicate for every musician.

To play from songbooks and sheet music, a musician wants to have the ability to learn the music notation, or not less than improvise a component from the chord symbols, i.e., a guitar strum, bass groove, piano groove, and so on., or higher but, each. A vocalist can sing the phrases in the event that they know the melody, or be capable to learn the notated melody if they do not know it.


Lead sheets comprise the chords, lyrics and melody line of the track and are primarily utilized by singers, accompanists and arrangers, although they seem on the bandstand once in a while. Songwriters use lead sheets to copyright their songs, and fairly often sheet music features a lead sheet of the tune as a condensed model to make use of. As a substitute of getting three to 6 pages of sheet music to show, a lead sheet is normally one or two pages lengthy. Lead sheets don’t comprise any music notation besides the melody and chords, so a musician must know the right way to improvise when studying from one. A lead sheet is mostly written out by a music copyist, who’s somebody who focuses on making ready written music. Enjoying from lead sheets minimally requires taking part in an accompaniment from the chords and understanding the shape instructions and symbols (the markings telling you to go to the verse or the refrain or the top, and so on.) and maximally having glorious accompaniment expertise and studying notation fluidly.


pretend ebook is a big ebook of tunes that comprise solely the melody line, lyrics and chords. There is no piano half, guitar half or bass half. That is why they name it a pretend ebook. You need to already know your components, or improvise them within the type of the tune. Some individuals name that “faking it.” Faking it means to be musically adept sufficient to have the ability to observe alongside by ear and determine it out as you go: that is one of many causes for ear coaching. When an individual’s ears “get educated”, they study to acknowledge and perceive the connection of pitches and musical parts. With this understanding you possibly can “hear” your means by way of tunes, even when you have not heard them earlier than, you pretend it. Nevertheless, when you do not hear so nicely, you are actually faking it!

Earlier than there was an abundance of authorized pretend books available on the market, there was an abundance of unlawful pretend books on the streets. (As of this writing, I’ve solely seen a couple of at gigs.) Since a working musician must have entry to numerous tunes at gigs, musicians compiled books of a whole bunch of helpful tunes containing solely melody traces and chords. A working participant does not want all of the notes written out, as a result of he can improvise, so massive books have been made with selection tunes. Some pretend books are hand copied, both by a professional copyist or casually achieved with pen or pencil, whereas others include minimize up sheet music the place all of the piano components are eliminated, leaving the melody and chords, all for the aim of condensing area.

Somewhat than take stacks of songbooks to gigs, you pop a pretend ebook of a whole bunch of selection tunes into your gig bag and off you go. A tune taking over 5 – 6 pages in songbook/sheet music type can take up a web page or much less when rewritten by hand or minimize up, leaving solely the chords and melody. Faux books are sometimes used and I’ve seldom been at an off-the-cuff the place somebody hasn’t had not less than one.

The rationale the unlawful books are unlawful is copyright legal guidelines. With the home made books, nothing goes by way of the publishing homes that personal the rights to the tunes, so neither the publishers nor the composers receives a commission for his or her use. The Catch-22 through the years has been the truth that there weren’t any good authorized pretend books that professional musicians may use at a gig. In a songbook of 200 tunes, possibly ten have been usable. So, the gamers made their very own, and gigging original sound design lived fortunately ever after. However since making these books is illegitimate, some many years in the past a couple of nationwide distributors have been arrested and fined for copyright infringement. However you continue to see the unlawful books on the bandstands, nonetheless.

Through the years many authorized pretend books have been revealed and are excellent. There are music books for: pop, jazz, rock, nation, particular artists and film themes, and there are particular marriage ceremony books with all the important thing music that brides like. Massive sheet music shops ought to have all of them. And just lately, a few of the hottest unlawful pretend books have been made authorized.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *