Lead sheet

Lead sheet

A lead sheet is a form of music notation or transcription that specifies the essential elements of a composition in popular music: the melody, lyrics and harmony. As such, it is the form of a song to which copyright is typically applied. The melody is written in traditional music notation, the lyric is written as text below the staff and the harmony is described by popular music symbols, "universally used in jazz and popular music, above the staff. Other information about a particular arrangement or performance of a song is not specified, such as the chord voicings, voice leading, bass line or other aspects of the accompaniment, which are expected to be improvised or prepared by the performer.

Popular music symbols
Letter Triad quality Example (C)
Uppercase Major triad C
Uppercase MI Minor triad CMI
Lowercase MI(5) Diminished triad CMI(5)
Uppercase + Augmented triad C+
Uppercase 6 Added sixth chord C6 or CMI6
Uppercase 7 Major-minor seventh C7

Though voicing and voice leading is most often determined by the performer, more recently chord roots have been indicated through following the chord with a slash and the root note letter name, such as C/G for a C chord with G as the root.

It is often the only form of written music used by a small jazz ensemble. One or more musicians will play the melody while the rest of the group improvises an appropriate accompaniment based on the chord progression given in the chord symbols, followed by an improvised solo also based on the chord progression. Similarly, a sufficiently skilled jazz pianist should be able to accompany a singer and perform a song by himself using only a lead sheet.

Lead sheets are also called fake sheets and collections of lead sheets are called "fakebooks," as in the old cliché "I don't know the song but if you hum a few bars I can fake it." The most famous fakebook is called, ironically, "The Real Book"

See also


  • Carl Brandt an Clinton Roemer (1976). Standardized Chord Symbol Notation. Roevick Music Co. "Widely adopted throughout the music industry."


External links

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