A “lead sheet” is a simplified form of sheet music that only contains a single staff with the melody, and chord symbols that give an indication of the harmony. It’s up to the players themselves to create the arrangement.
Lead sheets are very popular with many musicians, especially those who play Jazz and popular music.
A lead sheet gives you a quick idea of how a piece is supposed to sound, but it also gives you the freedom to play it however you feel like.
Often lead sheets are sold in thick books called “fake books” that can be pretty expensive. I have a couple of them and they are well worth the money — together they contain more than 2,000 songs — but they are not exhaustive (and there is quite a bit of overlap between them).
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on buying a fake book, or you’re just looking for a song that isn’t in your collection, check out wikifonia.org.
Wikifonia collects lead sheets and publishes them online, for free. The quality of the work is sometimes debatable, but at least it will give you a starting point. You can also submit your own lead sheets for the benefit of others.
Apparently the service is perfectly legal so you won’t have to worry about that either.
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