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The Seven Different Types of Written Music

Guido Donato | 4 November, 2020

As a bassist, bandleader, teacher, and music copyist, I’ve worked with hundreds of singers throughout the years. Though working musicians know hundreds of tunes, singers need to have good charts in order to have their music played the way they want. I define a “good chart” as a piece of written music that effectively tells the musicians what they should play.

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

As a musician has a responsibility to play 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.

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

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 (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 called a chart these days, though a classical buff might not refer to a Mozart work as a “chart”.

Written by Guido Donato

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