The Seven Different Varieties of Written Music

Aug 25, 2022 Others

As a bassist, bandleader, teacher, and music copyist, I’ve worked with hundreds of singers all through the years. Even 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 effectively tells the musicians what they ought to play.

Written music comes in seven basic 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 just before him properly, the supplier of the chart has the responsibility of delivering the correct type of chart. Knowing what variety of chart to use for what sort of tune or gig is pretty significant.

This short article explains what the distinctive kinds of charts are, and beneath what circumstances to use them. I hope you locate it valuable.


Charts can be easy or elaborate according to the style of music and form of gig. Cover tunes are traditionally learned from recordings classical and choral music can be found in sheet music stores as properly as in different music catalogs various tunes will be discovered in music books of all sorts 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 referred to as a chart these days, though a classical buff may possibly not refer to a Mozart operate as a “chart.”

Understanding what type of chart to use for what sort of tune is quite critical. When you’re playing a gig and a person hands you a chart — it is what it is and you either study it nicely or not. But, if you acquire charts, have them produced for you or give them your self, you have to have to know which kinds to use for which situations. Years back, even though undertaking singer showcases, singers brought in all sorts of charts: very good ones, poor ones, incorrect ones, inappropriate ones, and it was a actual discomfort. The singers who provided the suitable kinds of charts got their music played the way they wanted. The singers who had the incorrect types of charts didn’t, and weren’t incredibly delighted about it. Unless a musician currently knows the particular parts, he can only play according to what’s on the chart before him. Although a great musician can improvise a very good component in any style, if a precise musical line desires to be played, it requires to be written out.

As a musician has a responsibility to properly play the chart before him, the supplier of the chart has the responsibility of delivering an acceptable 1.

Without the need of obtaining into also quite a few music notation specifics, right here are the diverse 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 variety of chart is mostly made use of when: 1. the specific musical components are improvised or currently identified, but the kind and chords need to have to be referred to, 2. to give chords to improvise over, or three. when a final-minute chart wants to be written, and there isn’t time for anything additional elaborate.

Acoustic Guitar backing tracks does not include the melody or any certain instrumental components to be played. To play from simple chord charts a musician generally requirements to have steady time, know the chords, and improvise his aspect in what ever style the tune is in.


Sheet music is a shop-purchased version of a song printed by a publisher, which contains the instrumental element, chords, lyrics, melody and form. An instrumental piece will, of course, have just the music. Sheet music is written for both piano and guitar. Guitar sheet music is in standard notation (often classical), as effectively as in TAB. A great piece of sheet music will usually say no matter 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 have heard on a recording is seldom present.

Many individuals have knowledgeable the frustration of getting the sheet music to a song they like, playing it, and discovering that the chords are distinctive from the recording, and sometimes the kind is too. Unfortunately that’s the way it is a lot, and it could be for a number of distinct factors. To get the exact arrangement and chords, you will need 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 components or anything in among. In order to do superior takedowns, you have to have to have fantastic ears, recognize and be fluid with music notation to the complexity of the type of music you’re functioning with, and preferably fully grasp music (the extra the much better). Getting “very good ears” consists of recognizing and understanding the music, no matter if heard on the radio, played by a different musician, or heard in your head.


Songbooks are compilations of many tunes and generally contain the same data that sheet music does, along with the chords and arrangement becoming various from the recording most of the time. Sheet music normally has full introductions and endings, whereas songbook tunes are generally shortened to create space in the book for far more tunes. Sheet music is normally written to be played on a keyboard, but songbooks come in unique types and for distinctive instruments. They are compiled by artist, style, decade, and in various collections including film themes, Broadway hits, etc.

Songbooks are a superior reference source when other, a lot more precise charts are unavailable. For instance: I necessary two movie themes for a gig once (client request). Alternatively of spending $eight for two tunes of sheet music, I bought a book of film themes for $16 that contained over a hundred tunes. Sheet music and songbooks are quite unusable at gigs mainly 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 functionality, either: 1. recopy the tune onto 1-3 pages or two. photocopy it and tape the pages together (despite the fact that, strictly speaking, this may be regarded as copyright infringement). Make sure to usually supply a copy for every musician.

To play from songbooks and sheet music, a musician desires to be able to study the music notation, or at least improvise a part from the chord symbols, i.e., a guitar strum, bass groove, piano groove, etc., or greater but, both. A vocalist can sing the words if they know the melody, or be able to study the notated melody if they don’t know it.


Lead sheets include the chords, lyrics and melody line of the song and are primarily used by singers, accompanists and arrangers, although they seem on the bandstand now and once again. Songwriters use lead sheets to copyright their songs, and extremely usually sheet music incorporates a lead sheet of the tune as a condensed version to use. Instead of possessing three to six pages of sheet music to turn, a lead sheet is generally one or two pages lengthy. Lead sheets do not include any music notation except the melody and chords, so a musician requires to know how to improvise when reading from one. A lead sheet is usually written out by a music copyist, who is an individual who specializes in preparing written music. Playing from lead sheets minimally requires 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 finish, etc.) and maximally having outstanding accompaniment expertise and reading notation fluidly.

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