What is a Lead Sheet in Music?
A music lead sheet is a great way to save the absolute foundations of any piece of music saved in 1 single layout. This makes lead sheets incredibly efficient.
What does a Lead Sheet include?
On top of the essentials such as key signature and tempo, as well as the track title and the composer/arranger you should include:
- The Leading Melody (treble staff)
- The Chords (above the staff)
- Optional: Chord Alterations (transition chords, altered bass etc.)
- Optional: The Lyrics (written below the staff)
Lead Sheet vs Chord Chart
A chord chart is great for simple backing to accompany your singing or someone playing the melody on another instrument: for example on rhythm guitar, comping piano etc.
However, a chord chart simply shows the chord names where they change, most often above the words of the lyrics. It does not include any information regarding the melody, tempo, key etc.
Of course, you can go even further and use full sheet music, with a staff for each instrument…or perhaps a grand staff for piano.
But I personally believe a lead sheet is the most efficient and optimal way to have the “core arrangement” of any piece of music in one simple and clear layout.
A lead sheet provides all musicians that will play the piece, as well as the singer, with the fundamental overview of the arrangement.
This will lead to a better understanding of the piece of music, and can therefore help everybody from the bass player, to the rhythm guitarist, to the comping keyboard player, to the singer.
Even the drummer can get ideas for where to add fills, accents and variations if he/she has a lead sheet as a guide.
Lead Sheet Example