I am new and have a question. The sheet music with the staves are shown below. I want to play the piano only part. Could someone tell me what chords (keys) to play for the attached piano part only?

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  • Usually 3 staves like this indicate (sung) melody+accompaniment, c.f. music.stackexchange.com/q/11463/2639 -- are there lyrics associated with the upper staff in other parts of the music?
    – Dave
    Aug 8, 2017 at 16:07

4 Answers 4


All 3 staves are the score, with the top staff (a solo) being assigned to a single instrument/voice, and the bottom 2 staves (accompaniment) being assigned to a keyboard.

The chord symbols written above the top staff describe the harmony occurring from the point where a chord symbol is written until the next chord symbol. The chord symbols are, apparently, for a guitar to play an accompaniment, either along with the keyboardist or as the only accompanying instrument.

The chord symbols could also assist the keyboardist in improvising additional notes in the accompaniment, if the keyboardist wanted to fill out the texture.

Alternatively, a keyboardist could ignore the bottom two staves and improvise an accompaniment based solely on the chord symbols, as a jazz pianist might in a jazz ensemble. By approaching the accompaniment in this way, you could play notes within the chord that are higher or lower than those written in the keyboard part. You could add more notes per beat (see how the first keyboard chord in the second measure is a half note; that could be two quarter notes or four eighth notes). If you are going to try improvising, I recommend you keep the bass notes as written, as they are the most important voice after the solo voice. The bass line and the solo are a duet. Improvise only the right hand based on the chord symbols.

The chord symbols are accurate for the two measures you show here, but do not take into account rhythms that appear in the keyboard part.

Gsus/B is a perfectly legitimate guitar chord and jazz chart or lead sheet chord. If you break down Gsus/B, reading from left to right, it means: [G] a G major chord, [sus] a 4th above the root (G) instead of a 3rd, so a C instead of a B; [/] over; [B] a B in the bass; the 5th above the root (G) is implied and is a D.

If you look at the keyboard part that's exactly what you have: a B in the left hand or the bass, and G-C-D in the right hand.

The [sus] literally means a suspended note from a previous chord, in this case the C which was in the previous C Major chord, and [sus] almost always means a 4th instead of 3rd in the chord. The C should resolve to a B in the next measure, which we do not see in your example.


The chords are written above the music: Am7 F | C Gsus/B

Gsus/B is a very strange chord, so it should sound a little weird compared to the others. The notes for these chords are spelled out in the bottom two clefs.

  • Don't play Gsus/B. I'm not sure there's any context in which that would be a nice-sounding thing.
    – Fugu
    Aug 7, 2017 at 20:28
  • @Fugu What? The written notes are a perfectly "nice-sounding thing". I suspect the problem is that Gsus/B is a silly name for the chord, though without seeing the next bar that is just a guess. C9/B might be a more sensible name for it - or even C11/B if the F in the vocal part is considered as belonging to the chord. The voice leading between the voice part and the bass (three consecutive 5ths A-E, F-C, C-G followed by a diminished 5th B-F) isn't "nice" though!
    – user19146
    Aug 7, 2017 at 20:32
  • The way it's written there's a minor ninth between the B and the C, which will always exist in a chord spelled Gsus/B. This minor ninth, particularly in the key of C, is a combination of extremely dissonant and function-muddling since you are simultaneously playing the suspension from the dominant chord and the note that the suspension resolves to. Ultimately these things are subjective, but "very strange" is an accurate way to characterize this chord, without question.
    – Fugu
    Aug 7, 2017 at 20:41
  • Ultimately I was telling them what to play based on what is written in the music. Of course Gsus/B will be dissonant, particularly because of the minor 9, but that is what's written. With the notes written, I couldn't think of this as a C chord, since there is no 3, unless it were a Cmaj7sus4/B (add9), which seems to have the same strangeness about it. I say play what's on the page. Aug 7, 2017 at 20:51
  • 1
    @Fugu - Your comments make sense. I'd also be skeptical of such a chord and listen to the actual song to confirm that the transcription is accurate. Aug 8, 2017 at 13:06

Play the bottom two lines, which are the left and right hand piano parts. Above the whole lot, the chord symbols are written. So you have everything you need. Plus the top line, which is the lead vocal, usually.

Play the written parts, and they are exactly what's needed. They mirror the chord symbols above.

  • What does it means they mirror the chords, Do I for instance on the F (top line) play the F chord per the 3 stave or just the F alone. Aug 9, 2017 at 0:43
  • The symbols are always supposed to tell exactly what chord will be needed in each bar. So, if the letter 'F' appears above the top staff, it means the chord of F.
    – Tim
    Aug 9, 2017 at 12:21
  • last question: Does it make sense to play the chords and the second line? Aug 9, 2017 at 15:46
  • Yes, chords and middle line is what I often do, when I've got fed up with playing what's actually written. Or even bass line and other inversions of the middle line chords. Or even top line with some vocalists, (if it's a vocal line) and make do with comping chords underneath. It gives some variety, but will depend on how you play those chords. There are so many different ways...
    – Tim
    Aug 9, 2017 at 16:01

Your question is a bit difficult to understand, but I think you're asking whether or not to play the chords written in above. Short answer: no. Just play the bottom two staves, the piano part. The chords above are mostly for guitar. Although if you want to, you can add some of the chord tones to the piano part.

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