Playing lead-sheets vs three staff music sheets

by Rick
(Pekin, Illinois USA )

I’m a retired 70 year old who recently took up the piano three years ago. Initial instructor three years ago got me into playing lead-sheets —- chords with my left and melody with my right.

By practicing my scales, chords, inversions and modes, this “method” allowed me to quickly build up repertoire of songs.

I play for my own enjoyment and I like hearing the melody harmonized with chords.

I’ve started to look at buying sheet music and I found I have a choice between lead sheets and “three” staff sheets.

My question is am I missing something by staying with, what for me is the easier lead sheet approach, or do I breakout and learn how to play the “grand staff” or bass staff with my left.

Or, stated another way, when you play chords are you basically playing the grand staff and bass staff?

Maria's Answer:

Hello Rick,

Playing from lead sheets vs reading sheet music for piano on a grand staff (treble and bass clef’s) are two different approaches to playing the piano and reading sheet music.

One is as good as the other but with different purposes. So, no- you’re not missing anything from playing from a lead sheet.

However, if you want to expand your repertoire with pieces from different genres, (where you’ll play each note exactly as the composer/arranger has written), then you’ll need to read a grand staff.

A grand staff for piano has (normally) only two staves; one for the left hand (bass) and one for the right (treble).

So yes, playing the bass in the left and the chords in the right could also be written on a grand staff.

Sheet music with 3 staves; one grand staff (treble and bass) and one more, usually treble, indicates another instrument/voice.

The piano then often has only the accompaniment written out (based on the chords) and the melody is meant to be sung.

Tip: If you learn to play from a grand staff, you can also “steal” ideas for your accompaniment when playing from lead sheets. There are so many ways to play those chords!

Here I have written about the music staff:
The Music Staff

If you’d like to get started to read beginner piano sheet music from a grand staff, I have written an easy (free) “mini” course that you could try:
Read piano music 1
Read piano music 2

I hope this helped. Happy practicing!

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