WHAT IS 'SHEET MUSIC'??

There are various way to write music down.   

SHEET MUSIC:  The traditional way music has been written  for centuries.   

'FAKE' Charts / 'Lead Sheets: 
An abbreviated way of writing music containing chords and melody.

(CHORD) CHARTS: Just the chords.

Which format do you need music to be presented in? 
See notes at bottom page.                    

An example of traditional SHEET MUSIC:
Traditional classical musicians are used to playing from this sort of music. The SHEET music tells them EXACTLY what to play, note for note.
The advantage of this sort of music is that even if the musician has never heard the song before, they can play it EXACTLY as it is written, so you get to hear the music exactly as it 'should be', if it has been arranged well- and assuming you learnt it straight from the sheet-music in the first place. However. because every note played is written out, the music may take up a lot of pages, which can be inconvenient in a show or cabaret context. 'Summertime, (below) is about 3 pages.  JAZZ and POP players who are not as traditionally trained may not be as familiar with this form of written music and may prefer CHORD CHARTS or 'LEAD sheet' / FAKE CHARTS. THE FIRST FEW BARS OF 'SUMMERTIME' in SHEET MUSIC FORM:
SummerSHEET.jpg (84600 bytes) << click for enlargement (may take a while to load!)

 

An example of a 'LEAD sheet' or 'FAKE' chart
This is music 'shorthand' if you will. The melody is written down normally, but there is no written accompaniment, just chord symbols. The musician uses their knowledge of chords to 'fake' an accompaniment that sounds something like the original arrangement. (Hence the name. This also used to be known as 'vamping')
         The good thing about the 'FAKE' chart compared to the following simple chord chart, is that it has the melody there which can be a good guide to the musician who may not know the song well. It may have the lyrics as well. They are also smaller, (Summertime would fit easily on one page)
         The drawback with these abbreviated versions of music is that if the musician does not already know the song and it's 'feel' or 'style'  they may not know how to improvise the accompaniment, and they may be a bit lost and may not play what you expect to hear. Traditional classical musicians may not be AT ALL comfortable playing from this sort of music. JAZZ and POP players will probably be more familiar with this.

THE FIRST FEW BARS OF SUMMERTIME' in 'LEAD sheet' / FAKE CHART form

SummerFAKE.jpg (85801 bytes) << click for enlargement (may take a while to load!)

 

An example of a simple (Chord) CHART. 
Not much information here. No melody to follow. Best used when the musician knows the song already and just needs prompting to 'remember how it goes' (However, this may work fine if the musician can also hear a pre-existing recording of the song, either by you or a commercial one. It will give them more musical and stylistic information and they can then play what you need)

THE FIRST FEW BARS OF 'SUMMERTIME' in handwritten 'CHORD CHART' form.
(May be in printed form too)

SummerCHORD.jpg (46838 bytes) << click for enlargement (may take a while to load!)

 

A variation on the simple CHORD chart . 
Here the chords are simply added to a lyric sheet,
(or crumpled paper napkin!) Once again, no melody or rhythm information, best used when performer knows the song very well
(Once again, if the muso doesn't know the song, this may work fine if the musician can also hear a pre-existing recording of the song, either by you or a commercial one. It will give them more musical and stylistic information and they can then play what you need)
SummerCHORD2.jpg (92478 bytes)
<< click for enlargement (may take a while to load!)

 


(NOTE: If you are paying someone like me to write out music for you in your key, then a full sheet music version like the first example above is probably the most time-consuming (and therefore expensive!)  way to do it. You may be able to save lots of $$ if you get a 'FAKE' chart done instead. If you are pretty sure that the musicians you normally hire to play for you can handle them, then there is no real reason to pay the extra for the full 'note for note' transcription.   I find that these days, a 'LEAD sheet' or FAKE chart is often all that is necessary.   However, if the SHEET MUSIC already exists, and you just need it in a particular key, then, using some fabulous computer technology I have here, it is often possible for me to make a full SHEET MUSIC arrangement   in your key, at the FAKE CHART rates! -- JUST ask me about whether I have the music already) 

I am describing these types of written music from the perspective of a singer who may want to work with musicians using these different forms of written music, in a cabaret, audition or concert situation. I will outline the advantages and disadvantages of each of these forms from your point of view.

A TIP:
If you are going to ask a musician to accompany you as a singer,  sometimes you may need to be aware of their background as to what kind of music to give them.  
What form of written music are they comfortable / familiar with?
The question 'Can I give you a chord chart or do you need sheet music?" 
will usually produce the information you need.