Monthly Archives: July 2010

How to Play a Lead Sheet in One Easy Lesson

How to Play a Lead Sheet in One Easy Lesson

BlueBoy has fallen in love, GreenBoy is worried about copyright (aren’t we all), and RedBoy is mad that a girl as smart as him has arrived on the scene. If you aren’t familiar with my NoteBoy™ series of theory sheets, check them out.

When I was a teen I discovered very inexpensive fake books of popular music sold on the magazine rack of the local drug store. When I purchased my first one, (the Beatles) I  didn’t realize there was not a bass staff until I got home and saw only a melody line in the treble clef with chords. That was fine by me. I had already taught myself to play folk guitar so I was familiar with just chords and a melody line. In the enthusiasm of youth, I plunged into it and had lots of fun. It was easier for me than actually reading the music because I was a little lazy, I suppose.  

As a piano teacher, I have found that playing from a lead sheet doesn’t come as naturally to all of my students as it did for me. A lot of them are not interested, or maybe they need the comfort level of everything being written down. But some students want to learn how so they can play in praise bands, jazz groups, or  keyboard in garage bands. Some teachers want to get their students started, but are not quite sure where to begin.

I like to start from the beginning when I teach something, so I made a very straightforward handout in black and white, very serious and boring. But being my usual distracted self, I soon started adding  arrows and then color, and before too long, cartoons. I’ve found that my students are more attracted to something if there is a little humor and it is certainly more fun for me. Did you know that studies show people learn easier if humor is involved?

With that background, today I present a little handout that you can use to introduce your students to the world of playing notes that are not on the page. The students I made this for have been introduced to I and V7 chords in the key of C and are comfortable playing them. The age of the student will vary, but I make these NoteBoy sheets for students about age 11 and up.  Even my high school students love the NoteBoys when they are visually explaining things like chord inversions.   I do not suggest you use this with students who are in the beginning stages of learning to play the I and V7 chord progression.

What comes after this? One thing you can do is write the popular chords along with the Roman numeral analysis in their music so they can learn right away that  I V7  I   is  C  G7  C   or   G   D7   G.  Roman numeral analysis is necessary if students are serious about music, but  I think students need to learn both, and the theory behind the numbers and letters.

I would like to thank the excellent teachers Marcia and Deborah who graciously looked this sheet over and made some helpful suggestions.

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