Kanaryyoung777's website

The Seven Several types of Written Music

the only one

As being a bassist, bandleader, teacher, and music copyist, I've worked with hundreds of singers throughout the years. Though working musicians know countless tunes, singers have to have good charts to be able to have their music unquestionably way they want. I define a "good chart" as a piece of written music that effectively tells the musicians the things they should play.

fly away

Written music comes in seven basic forms: chord charts, written music, songbooks, lead sheets, fake books, master rhythm charts and fully notated parts.

Kanary Young

Being a musician has a responsibility to experience the chart before him correctly, the supplier with the chart has the responsibility of providing the right kind of chart. Being aware what type of chart to use for what kind of tune or gig is essential.

This article explains exactly what the different types of charts are, and under what circumstances to use them. I hope you believe it is useful.


Charts might be simple or elaborate in accordance with the style of music and type of gig. Cover tunes are traditionally learned from recordings; classical and choral music are available in sheet music stores plus various music catalogs; numerous tunes will likely be found in music books of all kinds; and many public libraries carry recordings and written music available.

The word "chart" refers to any piece of written music or any arrangement (music that is adapted in a unique manner) of a tune. Decades ago it turned out strictly a "cool" slang term for the tune, but any piece of music may be called a chart nowadays, though a classical buff probably won't refer to a Mozart are a "chart."

Knowing what type of chart for what kind of tune is critical. When you're playing a gig and someone hands that you simply chart -- it is how it is and you either see clearly well or not. But, if you decide on charts, have them created for you or provide them yourself, you need to know which kinds for which situations. In years past, while doing singer showcases, singers earned all kinds of charts: high quality ones, bad ones, incorrect ones, inappropriate ones, plus it was a real pain. The singers who provided the best kinds of charts got their music played the way they wanted. The singers that had the wrong kinds of charts didn't, and weren't happy about it. Unless a musician already knows the specific parts, he can only play according to what's around the chart before him. Though an excellent musician can improvise a great part in any style, if your specific musical line needs to be played, it needs to be prepared.

As a musician features a responsibility to correctly play in the chart before him, the supplier with the chart has the responsibility of providing an appropriate one.

Without stepping into too many music notation specifics, listed here are the different kinds of charts when they are used:


A chord chart provides the chords, meter (how the song is counted, e.g., in 4 or perhaps 3 (like a waltz), and the form of the song (the exact order of the sections). This sort of chart is primarily used when: 1. the precise musical parts are improvised or already known, nevertheless the form and chords should be referred to, 2. to offer chords to improvise over, or 3. when a last-minute chart needs to be written, where there isn't time for some thing elaborate.

A chord chart doesn't contain the melody or some kind of instrumental parts to get played. To play from simple chord charts a musician basically needs to have steady time, understand the chords, and improvise his part in whatever style the tune is in.


Written music is a store-bought version of an audio lesson printed by a publisher, that contains the instrumental part, 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), along with TAB. A good part of sheet music will always say whether it's for piano or guitar. Most sheet music is not meant to be completely connected the actual recording, and also the actual arrangement that you have heard on a recording is seldom present.

Many people have experienced the frustration to getting the sheet music to a song they like, playing it, and discovering that the chords are different from the recording, and sometimes the design is too. Unfortunately this is the way it is a lot, also it could be for a number of different reasons. To obtain the exact arrangement and chords, you must do a "takedown" of the song: learn it by ear. A takedown occurs when you listen to some music and jot it down. Takedowns can range from simple chord charts to elaborate orchestral parts or anything between. In order to do good takedowns, you'll want good ears, understand and be fluid with music notation to the complexity of the form of music you're dealing with, and preferably understand music (the harder the better). Having "good ears" consists of recognizing and knowing the music, whether heard on the radio, played by another musician, or heard in mind.


Songbooks are compilations of countless tunes and often support the same information that written music does, along with the chords and arrangement being not the same as the recording most of the time. Written music commonly has full introductions and endings, whereas songbook tunes are often shortened to create space inside the book for more tunes. Sheet music is generally written to be played on a keyboard, but songbooks appear in different styles and for different instruments. They're compiled by artist, style, decade, and in various collections including movie themes, Broadway hits, etc.

Songbooks make the perfect reference source when other, more exact charts are unavailable. As an example: I needed two movie themes to get a gig once (client request). Rather than spending $8 for two tunes of sheet music, I bought a book of movie themes for $16 that contained over the hundred tunes. Sheet music and songbooks are pretty unusable at gigs as a consequence of cumbersome page turns and bulkiness; but also in an emergency you use them and do what you can. If having to use sheet music or songbooks for live concert, either: 1. recopy the tune onto 1-3 pages or 2. photocopy it and tape the pages together (although, in fact, this may be considered copyright infringement). Make sure you always provide a copy for every musician.

To play from songbooks and sheet music, a musician needs to be capable of read the music notation, or at least improvise a part from the chord symbols, i.e., an acoustic guitar strum, bass groove, piano groove, etc., or even better, both. A vocalist can sing the language if they know the melody, or be able to read the notated melody should they don't know it.


Lead sheets offer the chords, lyrics and melody distinct the song and so are mainly used by singers, accompanists and arrangers, though they search on the bandstand now and again. Songwriters use lead sheets to copyright their songs, and intensely often sheet music features a lead sheet in the tune as a condensed version to utilize. Instead of having 3 to 6 pages of sheet music to turn, a lead sheet is often one or two pages long. Lead sheets usually do not contain any music notation except the melody and chords, so an artist needs to know how to improvise when reading derived from one of. A lead sheet is normally written out by a music copyist, who's someone who specializes in preparing written music. Playing from lead sheets minimally requires playing an accompaniment from the chords and comprehending the form directions and symbols (the markings hinting to go to the verse or perhaps the chorus or the end, etc.) and maximally having excellent accompaniment skills and reading notation fluidly.


A replica book is a large book of tunes that contain only the melody line, lyrics and chords. There is no piano part, guitar part or bass part. This is why they call it a replica book. You have to already know your parts, or improvise them in the style of the tune. Many people call that "faking it." Faking it indicates to be musically adept enough as a way to follow along by ear and figure out a solution as you go: that's one good reason for ear training. Whenever a person's ears "get trained", they learn to recognize and comprehend the relationship of pitches and musical elements. With this understanding you can "hear" the right path through tunes, although you may haven't heard them before, you fake it. However, when you don't hear very well, you're really faking it!

Before there is an abundance of legal fake books available on the market, there was an abundance of illegal fake books around the streets. (As of this writing, I've only seen a couple of at gigs.) Since a working musician needs to have use of a large number of tunes at gigs, musicians compiled books of countless useful tunes containing only melody lines and chords. A working player doesn't need all the notes written out, as he can improvise, so large books were created with choice tunes. Some fake books are hand copied, either by a pro copyist or casually finished with pen or pencil, while some consist of cut up sheet music where all the piano parts are removed, leaving the melody and chords, all when considering condensing space.

Rather than take stacks of songbooks to gigs, you pop an imitation book of numerous choice tunes to your gig bag and away you go. A tune taking up five or six pages in songbook/sheet music form may take up a page or fewer when rewritten manually or cut up, leaving merely the chords and melody. Fake books will often be used and I've seldom been at a casual where someone hasn't had no less than one.

The reason the illegal books are illegal is the laws of copyright. With the homemade books, nothing experiences the publishing houses that own the rights to the tunes, so neither the publishers nor the composers earn money from their use. The Catch-22 over the years has been the fact that there weren't any good legal fake books that pro musicians can use at a gig. In a songbook of 200 tunes, maybe ten were usable. So, the gamers made their own, and gigging musicians lived happily ever after. Speculate making these books is prohibited, some decades ago a few nationwide distributors were arrested and fined for copyright infringement. However you still see the illegal books on the bandstands, nonetheless.

Over the years many legal fake books happen to be published and are good. There are music books for: pop, jazz, rock, country, specific artists and movie themes, and there are special wedding books with all the current key music that brides like. Big sheet music stores should have them all. And recently, one of the most popular illegal fake books have already been made legal. (Hooray!) The fifth Edition Real Book is definitely an example. Filled largely with jazz tunes, the book is in the original format, but published legally because the 6th Edition Real Book.

Legal fake books are all around at sheet music stores, and illegal books... well, you're on your own. Trade magazines and music union papers often advertise numerous music books and also joke books, ethnic music and other connected entertainment materials. Sometimes instrument stores carry fake books as well.

Fake books are great to have, but the more tunes an artist knows, the better.


Master rhythm charts are charts made for the rhythm section (piano, bass, guitar and drums). It can be one chart made up of the general idea for everybody to play from: a sketch in the tune, a master copy from it all for each player. These charts are like elaborate chord charts with just enough specifics on them to make the music either feel and sound similar to the original recording, or to provide just enough specifics to make it interesting and recognizable, leaving the rest to improvising.

Unless a tune is composed or arranged in this fashion to begin with, which lots of people are, these charts are compiled by someone doing a takedown from a recording, or produced from lead sheets or songbooks. Whereas lead sheets are primarily for the singer, master rhythm charts are primarily to the musicians. When a singer provides charts on the musicians in the band, these are the basic usual ones to utilize.

A master rhythm chart contains:

• All of the chords

• Key rhythms (the principle rhythms)

• Key melodic parts to the instruments

• Key lyrics for reference if desired

• Key background vocals if present

• Dynamics-how loud, how soft, etc.

• Any type, clarifying instructions and symbols had to ensure a good performance of the tune.

All varieties of popular music use master rhythm charts, and common to have one along with a lead sheet for every tune when a singer is involved. Master rhythm chart reading, and writing, entails improvising fluidly within the style of the tune, and requires fluid notation reading abilities.


When the music needs to be extremely specific it'll be fully notated. Everything that should be played is written for the page. What to play, when you ought to play it and how to participate in it: the notes, rhythms, dynamics, and any and all notational expressions, for example tempos (how fast or slow), who cues what, etc. Most professional recording sessions and shows require fluid note reading and supply individual parts for each instrument.


Though they are not written music, lyric sheets with chords deserve a mention.

Singers who play a guitar often use lyric sheets with chord symbols written across the words. For a singer/musician these are generally very useful, and are often used. I've used them myself.

Musicians reading these charts, however, can perform well if they are acquainted with the song, however, this leaves a very large margin for error. Usually the chords are gone the wrong words, or the chords are wrong or incomplete: very dicey business. Musicians like specifics.

My students start using these all the time, and there are a number of Internet sites with a large number of lyric sheets you can download. For sure situations they are very handy!


With all the presence of smartphones, tablets, and similar devices, it's common to find out a musician with all of their music scanned in to a device! Though this can never replace paper, it really is convenient! A solo pianist can leave the suitcase of music in your house, a jazz player can load the 6th Edition Real Book to the smartphone, and a singer could get last-minute lyrics via the Internet while on the bandstand.

Technology is marvelous!


Like a musician has a responsibility to learn the chart before him correctly, the supplier of the chart has the responsibility of providing the right kind of chart. Knowing what type of chart to use for what kind of tune or gig is very important.

Provide your musicians with the proper kind of chart, and odds are your music will sound how we want. The closer you abide by this maxim the higher your performances will be.

You are visitor no.

Make your free website at Beep.com
The responsible person for the content of this web site is solely
the webmaster of this website, approachable via this form!