Keyboard Sheet Music


Keyboard sheet music is best described as single sheets printed on one or both sides, folios (one sheet folded in half to form four pages), folios with a loose half-sheet inserted to make six pages, double-folios (an inner folio inserted within the fold of an outer folio to make eight pages) and double-folios with a loose half-sheet inserted within the fold of an inner folio to produce ten pages.

Modern keyboard sheet music may come in different formats. If a piece is composed for just one instrument or voice (such as a piece for a solo instrument), the whole work may be written as one piece of sheet music. If an instrumental piece is intended to be performed by more than one person, each performer will usually have a separate piece of sheet music, called a part, to play from. The sung parts in a vocal work are not usually issued separately.

Keyboard sheet music can be issued as individual pieces or works (for example a popular song or a Beethoven sonata), in collections (for example works by one or several composers), or as pieces performed by a given artist.

Sheet Music Scores

When the separate instrumental and vocal parts of a musical work are printed together, the resulting sheet music is called a score. Conventionally, a score consists of musical notation with each instrumental or vocal part in vertical alignment (meaning that concurrent events in the notation for each part are orthographically arranged). The term score has also been used to refer to sheet music written for only one performer. The distinction between score and part applies when there is more than one part needed for performance.

  • A full score is a large book showing the music of all instruments and voices in a composition lined up in a fixed order. It is large enough for a conductor to be able to sight read it while directing rehearsals and performances.


  • A miniature score is like a full score but much reduced in size. It is too small for practical use but handy for studying a piece of music, whether it be for a large ensemble or a solo performer.


  • A study score is sometimes the same size as a miniature score. Some study scores are octavo size and are thus somewhere between full and miniature score sizes.


  • A piano score (or piano reduction) is a more or less literal transcription for piano of a piece intended for many performing parts, especially orchestral works; this can include purely instrumental sections within large vocal works (see vocal score immediately below). Such arrangements are made for either piano solo (two hands) or piano duet (one or two pianos, four hands). Extra small staves are sometimes added at certain points in piano scores for two hands in order to make the presentation more nearly complete, though it is usually impractical or impossible to include them while playing the piano. As with vocal score (below), it takes considerable skill to reduce an orchestral score to such smaller forces because the reduction needs to be not only playable on the piano keyboard but also thorough enough in its presentation of the intended harmonies, textures, figurations, etc. Piano scores are usually not meant for performance outside of study and pleasure (Liszt's concert transcriptions of Beethoven's symphonies being a notable exception).


  • A vocal score (or, more properly, piano-vocal score) is a reduction of the full score of a vocal work (e.g., opera, musical, oratorio, cantata, etc.) to show the vocal parts (solo and choral) on their staves and the orchestral parts in a piano reduction (usually for two hands) underneath the vocal parts; the purely orchestral sections of the score are also reduced for piano. While not meant for performance, vocal scores serve as a convenient way for vocal soloists and choristers to learn the music and rehearse separately from the instrumental ensemble.


  • The related but less common choral score contains the choral parts with no accompaniment.


  • A short score is a reduction of a work for many instruments to just a few staves. Rather than composing directly in full score, many composers work out some type of short score while they are composing and later expand the complete orchestration. Short scores are often not published; they may be more common for some performance venues (e.g., band) than in others.


  • A lead sheet specifies only the melody, lyrics and harmony, using one staff with chord symbols placed above and lyrics below. It is commonly used in popular music to capture the essential elements of song without specifying how the song should be arranged or performed.


  • A chord chart or chart contains little or no melodic information at all but provides detailed harmonic and rhythmic information and is an excellent accompaniment to ear training. This is the most common kind of written music used by professional session musicians playing jazz or other forms of popular music and is intended primarily for the rhythm section.


  • A tablature is a special type of musical score - most typically for piano or guitar - which shows where to play the pitches on the given instrument rather than which pitches to produce, with rhythm indicated as well. This type of notation, which dates from the late Middle Ages, has been used for keyboard and for fretted string instruments (guitar).
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