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I am very confused on lead sheets at the moment.

First of all, in this lead sheet, how would I play this. Would I play the chords as the harmony, and the notes as the melody, or would I do something else? Lead sheet for "Moon-silver" by Dan Lis

Secondly, I see the same thing as the first example, but it also has a bass clef. What would I do? Would I play the melody and the harmony, then the chords would be for the another instrument to play?

Music for "Changes" by David Bowie

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  • What instrument do you play? Do you play solo or in a band? Sep 24 at 0:20
  • I mostly play solo
    – Doddle
    Sep 24 at 0:26
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    I’m guessing you play piano. Can you confirm that? Sep 24 at 2:27
  • You can play it however you want.
    – PiedPiper
    Sep 24 at 15:14
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In the first lead sheet, you play the melody with one hand and the chords/harmony with the other. (In fact, it's looser than this. For example, I often divide chords between the two hands while also playing the melody. Or I play a walking bass line rather than chords. In other words, you make up your own way of playing the song.)

The second example is not a lead sheet. It's an arrangement for piano and voice. The chords are there either for a guitar player or in case the pianist prefers to create a vocal accompaniment based on the chords rather than reading the written part.

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A lead sheet is the bare bones of a song. The top piece is a lead sheet. It is made up from the single notes providing the melody, while the l.h. part is just not there. That's due to the chords being written out as the song progresses, for a chordal instrument (usually piano or guitar) to provide the backing. That could be played as full chords, dyads/triads, on piano, or provide enough information for a bassline on bass or l.h. piano, the player may then use the r.h. for chords. Obviously if there was a singer, they would use the top line, leaving the accompanist to play whatever else fits.

The other is not a lead sheet. Notice it has 3 lines in parts. That's to differentiate the vox from the two-handed piano part. It's a specialised arrangement which could be played just on piano, but there's 'bass' written in for a bass guitar rather than l.h. piano to play - they could even double. Thee 3 staves is a very common way to write out songs, and is usually standalone, whereas lead sheets are more of a guide - for players who may put more or less into the performance.

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