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

Written music is available in seven fundamental types: chord charts, sheet music, songbooks, lead sheets, faux 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. Figuring out what kind of chart to make use of for what sort of tune or gig is essential.

This text explains what the various kinds of charts are, and underneath what circumstances to make use of them. I hope you discover it helpful.


Charts will be easy or elaborate in keeping with the type of music and kind of gig. Cowl tunes are historically discovered from recordings; classical and choral music will be present in sheet music shops in addition to in numerous music catalogs; quite a few tunes can be present in music books of every kind; and lots of public libraries carry recordings and written music to 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 may very well be referred to as a chart today, although a classical buff may not check with a Mozart work as a “chart.”

Figuring out what kind of chart to make use of for what sort of tune is essential. If you’re enjoying 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 could know which varieties to make use of for which conditions. Years again, whereas doing singer showcases, singers introduced in every kind of charts: good ones, unhealthy ones, incorrect ones, inappropriate ones, and it was an actual ache. The singers who supplied the precise sorts of charts acquired their music performed the way in which they wished. The singers who had the mistaken sorts of charts did not, and weren’t very completely satisfied about it. Except a musician already is aware of the particular components, he can solely play in keeping with what’s on the chart earlier than him. Although a superb musician can improvise a superb half in any type, if a selected 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 acceptable one.

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


A chord chart incorporates 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). One of these chart is primarily used when: 1. the particular musical components are improvised or already recognized, however the type and chords must 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 include the melody or any particular instrumental components to be performed. To play from easy chord charts a musician principally 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 incorporates the instrumental half, chords, lyrics, melody and type. An instrumental piece will, after all, have simply the music. Sheet music is written for each piano and guitar. Guitar sheet music is in normal notation (usually classical), in addition to in TAB. An excellent piece of sheet music will at all times say whether or not it is for piano or guitar. Most sheet music will not be meant to be fully 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, enjoying it, and discovering that the chords are totally different from the recording, and typically the shape is just too. Sadly that is the way in which it’s a lot, and it may very well be for numerous totally different causes. To get the precise association and chords, you could do a “takedown” of the track: be taught it by ear. A takedown is if you take heed to a bit 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 could 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 include the identical data that sheet music does, together with the chords and association being totally different from the recording more often than not. Sheet music generally has full introductions and endings, whereas songbook tunes are typically shortened to create house within the e-book 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 numerous collections together with film themes, Broadway hits, and many others.

Songbooks are a superb 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 an alternative of spending $8 for 2 tunes of sheet music, I purchased a e-book 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 dwell 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). Make sure 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 a minimum of improvise an element from the chord symbols, i.e., a guitar strum, bass groove, piano groove, and many others., 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 include the chords, lyrics and melody line of the track and are primarily utilized by singers, accompanists and arrangers, although they seem on the bandstand on occasion. 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 an alternative of getting three to 6 pages of sheet music to show, a lead sheet is often one or two pages lengthy. Lead sheets don’t include any music notation besides the melody and chords, so a musician must know the best way to improvise when studying from one. A lead sheet is mostly written out by a music copyist, who’s somebody who focuses on getting ready written music. Taking part in from lead sheets minimally requires enjoying 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 tip, and many others.) and maximally having wonderful accompaniment abilities and studying notation fluidly.


A faux e-book is a big e-book of tunes that include solely the melody line, lyrics and chords. There isn’t any piano half, guitar half or bass half. That is why they name it a faux e-book. You must already know your components, or improvise them within the type of the tune. Some folks 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 skilled”, they be taught to acknowledge and perceive the connection of pitches and musical parts. With this understanding you possibly can “hear” your method by means of tunes, even when you have not heard them earlier than, you faux it. Nonetheless, when you do not hear so nicely, you are actually faking it!

Earlier than there was an abundance of authorized faux books in the marketplace, there was an abundance of unlawful faux books on the streets. (As of this writing, I’ve solely seen just a few at gigs.) Since a working musician must have entry to numerous tunes at gigs, musicians compiled books of lots of 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 giant books have been made with alternative tunes. Some faux books are hand copied, both by a professional copyist or casually achieved with pen or pencil, whereas others encompass minimize up sheet music the place all of the piano components are eliminated, leaving the melody and chords, all for the aim of condensing house.

Reasonably than take stacks of songbooks to gigs, you pop a faux e-book of lots of of alternative 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. Pretend books are sometimes used and I’ve seldom been at an off-the-cuff the place somebody hasn’t had a minimum of one.

The rationale the unlawful books are unlawful is copyright legal guidelines. With the home made books, nothing goes by means 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 over time has been the truth that there weren’t any good authorized faux books that professional musicians might use at a gig. In a songbook of 200 tunes, perhaps ten have been usable. So, the gamers made their very own, and gigging musicians lived fortunately ever after. However since making these books is prohibited, some a long time in the past just a few nationwide distributors have been arrested and fined for copyright infringement. However you continue to see the unlawful books on the bandstands, nonetheless.

Over time many authorized faux 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 wedding ceremony books with all the important thing music that brides like. Large sheet music shops ought to have all of them. And lately, a number of the hottest unlawful faux books have been made authorized. (Hooray!) The fifth Version Actual E-book is an instance. Crammed largely with jazz tunes, the e-book is within the authentic format, however revealed legally because the 6th Edition Real Book.

Authorized faux books are plentiful at sheet music shops, and unlawful books… nicely, you are by yourself. Commerce magazines and music union papers usually promote all kinds of music books in addition to joke books, ethnic music and different associated leisure supplies. Typically instrument shops carry faux books as nicely.

Pretend books are good to have, however the extra tunes a musician is aware of, the higher.


Grasp rhythm charts are charts designed for the rhythm part (piano, bass, guitar and drums). It’s one chart that incorporates the overall concept for everyone to play from: a sketch of the tune, a grasp copy of all of it for every participant. These charts are like elaborate chord charts with simply sufficient specifics on them to make the music both really feel and sound extra like the unique recording, or to supply simply sufficient specifics to make it fascinating and recognizable, leaving the remainder to improvising.

Except a tune consists or organized on this type to start with, which many are, these charts are written by somebody doing a takedown from a recording, or created from lead sheets or songbooks. Whereas lead sheets are primarily for the singer, grasp rhythm charts are primarily for the musicians. When a singer supplies charts to the musicians within the band, these are the standard ones to make use of.

A grasp rhythm chart incorporates:

• All of the chords

• Key rhythms (the principle rhythms)

• Key melodic components for the devices

• Key lyrics for reference if desired

• Key background vocals if current

• Dynamics-how loud, how comfortable, and many others.

• Any type, clarifying directions and symbols wanted to make sure a superb efficiency of the tune.

All kinds of widespread music use grasp rhythm charts, and it’s normal to have one together with a lead sheet for every tune when a singer is concerned. Grasp rhythm chart studying, and writing, entails improvising fluidly within the type of the tune, and requires fluid notation studying talents.


When the music must be extraordinarily particular it will likely be absolutely notated. Every thing that must be performed is written on the web page. What to play, when to play it and the best way to play it: the notes, rhythms, dynamics, and any and all notational expressions, equivalent to tempos (how briskly or sluggish), who cues what, and many others. {Most professional} recording periods and exhibits require fluid observe studying and supply particular person components for every instrument.


Although they don’t seem to be written music, lyric sheets with chords deserve a point out.

Singers who play an instrument usually use lyric sheets with chord symbols written above the phrases. For a singer/musician these are very helpful, and are sometimes used. I’ve used them myself.

Musicians studying these charts, nonetheless, can do nicely if they’re conversant in the track, however this leaves a very giant margin for error. Fairly often the chords are over the mistaken phrases, or the chords are mistaken or incomplete: very dicey enterprise. Musicians like specifics.

My college students use these on a regular basis, and there are a selection of Web websites with hundreds of lyric sheets you possibly can obtain. For sure conditions they’re very helpful!


With the presence of smartphones, tablets, and comparable units, it’s normal to see a musician with all of their music scanned into a tool! Although this can by no means exchange paper, it actually is handy! A solo pianist can go away the suitcase of music at dwelling, a jazz participant can load the sixth Version Actual E-book on his or her smartphone, and a singer can get last-minute lyrics through the Web whereas on the bandstand.

Expertise is marvelous!


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. Figuring out what kind of chart to make use of for what sort of tune or gig is essential.

Present your musicians with the correct of chart, and likelihood is your music will sound the way in which you need. The nearer you adhere to this maxim the higher your performances can be.

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