Types of Written Music

TYPES OF CHARTS

Charts can be simple or elaborate according to the style of music and type of gig. Cover tunes are traditionally learned from recordings; classical and choral music can be found in sheet music stores as well as in various music catalogs; numerous tunes will be found in music books of all kinds; and many public libraries carry recordings and written music for your use. The word chart refers to any piece of written music or any arrangement of a tune. Decades ago it was strictly a cool slang term for a tune, but any piece of music could be called a chart these days, though a classical buff might not refer to a Mozart work as a chart.

As a musician has a responsibility to correctly play the chart before him, the supplier of the chart has the responsibility of providing an appropriate one. Without getting into too many music notation specifics, here are the different kinds of charts and when they are used:

1. CHORD CHARTS

This type of chart is primarily used when: 1. the specific musical parts are improvised or already known, but the form and chords need to be referred to, 2. to provide chords to improvise over, or 3. when a last-minute chart needs to be written, and there isn’t time for anything more elaborate. A chord chart does not contain the melody or any specific instrumental parts to be played. To play from simple chord charts a musician basically needs to have steady time, know the chords, and improvise his part in whatever style the tune is in.

2. SHEET MUSIC

Sheet music is a store-bought version of a song printed by a publisher, which 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, as well as in TAB. A good piece of sheet music will always say 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’ve heard on a recording is seldom present.

3. SONGBOOKS

Songbooks are compilations of many tunes and often contain the same information that sheet music does, along with the chords and arrangement being different from the recording most of the time. Sheet music commonly has full introductions and endings, whereas songbook tunes are generally shortened to create space in the book for more tunes. Sheet music is generally written to be played on a keyboard, but songbooks come in different styles and for different instruments. They are compiled by artist, style, decade, and in various collections including movie themes, Broadway hits, etc. To play from songbooks and sheet music, a musician needs to be able to read the music notation, or at least improvise a part from the chord symbols, i.e., a guitar strum, bass groove, piano groove, etc., or better yet, both. A vocalist can sing the words if they know the melody, or be able to read the notated melody if they don’t know it.

4. LEAD SHEETS

Lead sheets contain the chords, lyrics and melody line of the song and are mainly used by singers, accompanists and arrangers, though they appear on the bandstand now and again. Songwriters use lead sheets to copyright their songs, and very often sheet music includes a lead sheet of the tune as a condensed version to use. Instead of having three to six pages of sheet music to turn, a lead sheet is usually one or two pages long. 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. A lead sheet is generally written out by a music copyist, who is someone 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 and maximally having excellent accompaniment skills and reading notation fluidly.

5. FAKE BOOKS

fake book is a large book of tunes that contain only the melody line, lyrics and chords. There’s no piano part, guitar part or bass part. That’s why they call it a fake book. You have to already know your parts, or improvise them in the style of the tune.