Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lead Sheets

Now that we've talked a bit about scales, scale degrees, intervals, chords, chord voicing, and roman numerals, let's take a look at lead sheets.

Here's a lead sheet of a piece written by Cole Porter:

Notice that a lead sheet has only the melody line, the chord names, and the words. Lead sheets do vary. Some may not have the melody lines. So what do we do with this?

You may be accompanying someone or playing lead with lead sheets, sometimes both. Whatever the case may be, the same rules pretty much apply. You use the chords for both bass and treble, for the most part. This is where chord voicing comes in and is important. If you are accompanying someone you can just voice the chord in both hands (or very open, on stringed instruments) while keeping timing. If you are playing in a band with a bass and/or drummer, remember to follow their timing. If you are the only instrument you must provide the rhythm. For instance, on piano play the bass of the chord on beats 1 and 3. If the voicing is C, B in the l.h. and E, G in th r.h. then play the interval of C, B on beat one and a G on beat 3, in the l.h. There are many variations of voicing. It's something you have to play around with and play what sounds best and what you like. 

You'll find lead sheets like this in jazz fake books, on line, from other musicians, etc. They are abundant.

The lead sheet above was found at You can find many lead sheets there and download for free. Check it out and try working out some songs on lead sheets. Don't think you don't know enough. You know how to build a major scale, how to build chords, and how to voice them. If you get stuck, come back and ask me for help. I love to see people learn....especially music! If you don't want to ask on a post, email me at

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