Free Lead Sheets

Free lead sheets are an excellent way to not only stretch your music budget and your students' repertoire, but also to stretch their musical skills.  Lead sheets require an understanding of chords!

Lead sheet Amazing Grace

What's so useful about a lead sheet?

Ae Fond Kiss lead sheet in treble clef, key of G, with chords.  A Scottish song with lyrics by Scottish poet Robert Burns.

Ae Fond Kiss vocal score, piano & other instruments

A lovely Scottish poem and song which works well with guitar or piano.

Using their understanding of chords and chording patterns, music students will learn how to take a simple melody and make their own arrangement.

All the Pretty Little Horses

A pretty lullaby, useful for learning different kinds of strums and chord patterns, piano and guitar.

Chord practice!  And chord relationships!

All You That in This House

An unusual Christmas carol, set in a minor key.

Piano students in particular may start with very simple melodies and chords.

Eventually, they will be able to employ flowing or powerfully rhythmic left hand parts, and add harmony in the right hand.

Amazing Grace

The wonderful song with words by a former slave trader, turned repentant.

So... what IS a lead sheet?

Whether for guitar or piano, music lead sheets are simply the melody of a song, with chord symbols added above the notes.

America

"My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing."

With melody in bass clef, treble clef, guitar tablature, and viola clef too.

The right hand (of a piano player) plays the melody while the left hand plays a chord in the left hand.

For a guitar player, usually the guitarist sings the melody and strums or picks the notes of the chord.

America the Beautiful

"O beautiful for spacious skies" - this song is frequently used as a test for singing auditions, in high schools in the United States.

Lead sheets are easier to read!  

And for some students, much less intimidating. 

Anchors Aweigh

An energetic song for the Navy!

Check out all the free lead sheets (many of them will also be found on the Vocal, Piano, and Guitar pages) and you will see that the majority of them are just a few lines of melody in the treble staff.

Angels We Have Heard on High

The lovely Christmas carol with the "Glo-o-o-o-ri-a!" section.

A favorite.

Use lead sheets to make progressively harder arrangements.

Arkansas Traveler

A great fiddle & guitar song.

In the key of C (shown here) and also the key of G.

With a few of my free lead sheets, I have left a blank bass staff for piano players.

That way, sample chord patterns for the left hand can be written out in the empty measures, to give students ideas, or to jog their memory when they get home from their lesson.

Army Theme Song (Caisson Song)

"Over hill, over dale, we will hit the dusty trail"!

A fun, energetic song.

Some of the leads have guitar tabs for the melody as well.

Ash Grove

A pretty old-fashioned song from Wales - "Down yonder green valley..."

You will sometimes hear this song in movies about bygone days, such as "Pride and Prejudice."

The tune is also used as a hymn melody: "Let All Things Now Living."

Further down the page, see my performance suggestions if you need ideas for how to use my free lead sheets.

Ave Maria - this is the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria

The lyrics are Latin, but alternate lyrics in English are offered as well. ("Father Almighty")

Away in a Manger

Another pretty Christmas song, this one about Baby Jesus.

Question from a Reader

Hello! First of all, I love your site! 

I wanted to ask you about lead sheets. I learned piano when I was young for few years, but only the classics. Now they're a bit difficult for me, and I want to play easier and more enjoyable pieces.

I saw an infomercial before mentioning lead sheets, how it makes playing piano easier, and I want to ask you, how do I use it? I'm really bad at chords, does that mean I need to know all my chords before playing a lead sheet music?

Thanks so much!

R---, India

Be Thou My Vision

 A beautiful and quite old hymn

Dana:  Hello, R ---

You are right that you need to understand chords to make use of lead sheets.  But you can start with the basics & go on from there...

I have a page of links to lead sheets https://www.music-for-music-teachers.com/free-lead-sheets.html  which has some instruction about using chords. 

Also, my piano pages "Mary Had a Little Lamb," and "Twinkle", and "Water is Wide" all have information about chord patterns and uses.  Those are EASY BEGINNER pages, but very useful if you are unfamiliar with chords! 

Also, take a peek at https://www.music-for-music-teachers.com/printable-piano-chord-chart.html - this page is a graphic showing what the most common chords (major & minor chords) look like.

Blow the Candles Out

This minor melody is unforgettable.

Some of the words are risque, so I omitted them - sorry!

Boil'em Cabbage Down beginner guitar song

This is a beginner arrangement for fiddle & guitar of this bluegrass favorite.  

Very easy, with lots of repetition.

This is the song I use to get kids started flatpicking.

Why use lead sheets in your studio?

It's good to shake up your music lessons with activity changes!

Bonaparte Crossing the Rocky Mountains bluegrass guitar tabs

This is a great bluegrass tune you may never have heard before!

Caisson Song

Same as the Army Song, above!


I suggest setting aside a portion of each music lesson for a rotation of activities, different every week.

Camptown Races

An older song that has a definite American feeling

Along with games that stretch and reinforce understanding of music theory, give kids lead sheets (and if you can, free lead sheets such as I have here!).

Cat Came Back

This fun song with silly lyrics can be simplified to just 5 notes.  

Kids like this song.

Several different versions here...

Starting very simply, students will gradually hone their arranging skills and feel "cut loose" from the written page.


A cowboy love song, Colorado Trail, lead sheets and guitar tabs, piano sheet music and vocal duet.

Colorado Trail song

This is a sweet love song, with a surprisingly pretty melody.

Also find on this page

  • a piano version,  and
  • a vocal duet

Especially for pianists, this is an entirely different way to make music, and will gradually lead to playing by ear (which I personally believe every adept musician ought to be able to do).

Come Ye Sinners, one of the old gospel hymns

This beautiful hymn from  an earlier time is known as the Beach Spring melody, from The Sacred Harp) -

This an excellent melody with an old-fashioned American hymn sound.

What KINDS of lead sheets?

In addition to using older, public domain songs, one kind of lead sheet I've had a lot of success with among my students is contemporary Christian lead sheets such as "Be Unto Your Name," "Shout to the Lord," "Give Thanks," etc.

Come Ye Sinners

I Will Arise and Go to Jesus, from Southern Harmony.

This hymn has the same words as the previous one, but a very different melody, minor and beautiful.



But those ones aren't FREE, are they?

Of course, those ones are NOT free lead sheets, being under copyright.  

So I go looking for these songs on SheetMusicPlus.com (they have digital downloads now) or Musicnotes.com. 



Musicnotes.com

Deck the Halls

A very popular Christmas carol that kids love to play!

After buying the version I like, I loan students page 1, with instructions to give the music back to me and buy their own copy if they want the whole thing. 

Devil's Dream

A great favorite among both fiddle and flat-picking guitar players

Dona nobis pacem

 A beautiful but CHALLENGING vocal round.

The words mean "Give us peace."

Doxology

"Praise God from whom all blessings flow."


Down in the Valley

A sweet old song from the mountains of Appalachia.

The Erie Canal Song

A still-popular song about driving a mule and a barge along the Erie Canal.

Farther On

A truly lovely hymn I never tire of, about looking beyond the troubles of today to the "field of endless day."

  • A vocal ensemble
  • Guitar tabs in 2 keys
  • Lead sheets in several keys
  • And a beginner piano version

Found a Peanut

A goofy song for a "certain age bracket" that uses only 2 chords!  

Great for beginners.

For Health & Strength, a prayer for Thanksgiving

A round.

This melody progresses in easy steps downward, after the initial octave leap.

Pretty!

Thanksgiving song

For the Beauty of the Earth, a Thanksgiving song

An old-fashioned hymn giving thanks to God for what he has created

God Rest You Merry Gentlemen

A Christmas carol from England, with an arresting minor melody, and sophisticated lyrics ("let nothing you dismay") celebrating the arrival of the SAVIOUR


Goober Peas

A fun song about soldiers and eating peanuts that comes from Civil War times.

Though kids may initially be reluctant to try this unfamiliar song, it quickly becomes a favorite!

Greensleeves Christmas sheet music

One of the loveliest and oldest of melodies.

Originally, the words were addressed to a Lady Greensleeves.

Later, the meaningful lyrics "What Child is This" were attached to this melody.


The Grenadier and the Lady - loveliest of sad songs

From England comes this unforgettable song about impossible love.

Happy Birthday

Several different arrangements!

The one shown to the right may seem impossibly high for the average singer, but fear not, I have the lead sheet in many keys, from A to Z! 

Just kidding.  From A to G.

He is Born (Il est ne) free Christmas sheet music

From France, a pretty Christmas carol


Heigh Ho, Nobody Home

A good beginning round for singers, with words sung by a "hobo"

I Dreamt That I Dwelt in Marble Halls

An opera song about a girl who dreams she is not really a gypsy, but a princess. 

With the vocal line in several keys, or with the standard piano accompaniment, also in several keys.  This is very easy, for an opera aria.

I Love the Mountains

For guitar or piano, this is a fun song with opportunities to improve chord technique

I'll Fly Away

A song about flying away joyfully to heaven when the day comes "when I die".

Jingle Bells

One of the Christmas songs everyone knows - and it only has 5 notes (in the chorus)!

June Apple

A fun melody for fiddle or guitar

Keegan's Waltz

A very pretty Irish song

Lavender's Blue, Cinderella song lyrics

An old song that still seems fresh & sweet.

Several versions, including a fancy piano accompaniment for vocalists.

Loch Lomond

A Scottish song about the sad parting that comes to lovers, with war and battle

Mari's Wedding

A brisk tune great for fiddle & guitar, from Scotland.

Lyrics can be found on this page as well.

Mary Had a Little Lamb guitar

A handy song for beginners!

Mary Had a Little Lamb, piano

My students all master this song in order to learn to use chords well!


Minstrel Boy, free Irish sheet music

- another sad but lovely patriotic song about love for one's country - and a harp.


Check out a fancy version of the Pachelbel Canon that even elementary students can play!


Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics and melody, Modern Major General, the vocal line

Modern Major-General, with the usual silly Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics

Often called a "patter  song," this particular solo-with-optional chorus from Gilbert & Sullivan is a tongue-twister!

For that reason, even students who initially balk at classical music and light opera will take pride in being able to sing this song FAST.

Morning Has Broken

Very beautiful chords in this song.

My Country 'Tis of Thee (America)

This song is offered in numerous keys, and for different clefs.

O Holy Night

This is a famous and beloved Christmas song.

O Susanna

Just three chords make "O Susannah" an easy song for guitar beginners!

Old Joe Clark

A super-cute song that mostly moves step-wise.

Very fun lyrics, and easy chords and tabs for beginning guitar.

On Top of Old Smokey

This is the song I sang as a kid that went "On Top of Spaghetti!"

Redhaired Boy free fiddle sheet music

Also known as "The Little Beggarman".

This is a very fun & popular flat-picking song for young guitarists!

Road to Lisdoonvarna

A swingy, energetic, pretty piece, especially nice for fiddle and other melody instruments.

Scarborough Fair guitar tabs and chords

A couple different versions - one showing a finger-picking chord pattern with walking bass.

Scarborough Fair

Lead sheets in many keys.

The most famous of the Scarborough Fair melodies.

Shalom chaverim

A Hebrew round.

Very pretty.

She Moved Through the Fair/ She Went Through the Fair Celtic sheet music

An unusual folk piece:  Part love song, and part ghost story!

Shenandoah

A love song? or a song about travelling "across the wide Missouri"?

Either way, it is a lovely American song.

Shortnin' Bread, an American bluegrass song, given here as a lead sheet with guitar tabs

Shortnin' Bread

- an adorable American folk song (bluegrass?) with repeating lines

Silent Night sheet music

Perhaps the most beloved of Christmas songs, this is the famous German carol "Stille Nacht."

This page has: lead sheets in many keys, plus several versions for piano

Silent Night chords & tabs

On this page you will find:

  • A duet for treble instruments
  • Solos for guitar & other stringed instruments


Sing We Noel free Christmas songs

A little-known French carol in a minor key.

Very pretty!

Skye Boat Song from Scotland, with lead sheet chords and easy guitar tabs

Skye Boat Song

- from Scotland; a song about the escape after a devastating battle by Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Very pretty and very singable.

Sleepsong

This is an amazingly lovely "lullaby wish" from the group "Secret Garden."  

It is copyrighted, so not avaiable here.

But you can hear it and find out where to get this piece on this page - your students will thank you!

Slumber, My Darling

This is another lullaby, but this one is American, by Stephen Foster.  

Very sweet, with potential to be a nice first recital song for a young girl.

With lead sheets and also guitar tabs.

Softly and Tenderly free hymn sheet music

"Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling... calling for you and for me.  Come home..." - a moving hymn, quite old-fashioned.

Spanish Ladies

A favorite of my guitar-playing boys, who will even sing the swash-buckling sailors' lyrics!

Several keys and arrangements.


Spanish Lady

A different song entirely from "Spanish LADIES", this one describes the winsome ways of a pretty lady from Spain.  

From Ireland.  Several different arrangements, for singers, guitarists, and piano.


Give your students the joy of learning Beethoven's famous Für Elise in an easy-to-read format... every note from the ORIGINAL piece is here  in this beautiful new setting


Star of the County Down

This  may be THE FAVORITE MUSIC in my studio!

A very fun song from Ireland, arranged in multiple keys for piano, violin, and guitar.

Star-Spangled Banner

The national anthem of the United States of America.

Streets of Laredo

Arrangements for guitar and piano.

I loved this cowboy song as a child.

Sweet Betsy from Pike free lead piano sheet

This great old song tells a story and uses fun nonsense syllables!

Taps Trumpet Music

And piano music... and lead sheets for any instrument.

Ten-Penny Bit free fiddle music, with guitar tabs too

This song is eminently suited to violin!  

There is a tricky bowing pattern discussed on this page that makes this melody flow better.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star music

This page features arrangements for guitar and violin, as well as duet.

Una furtiva lagrima

This is a song for a male singer.  

An opera aria, it is slow and SO BEAUTIFUL, with a cadenza at the end.

Check out the page to learn what the seemingly-sad melody is truly about.

Though the vocal line is offered in several keys with chords - a lead sheet version - the standard arrangement with piano accompaniment is also available on this page.

Up on the Housetop easy kids Christmas piano sheet music

This is a favorite old Christmas song with a bouncy feeling.

Vieni, vieni o mio diletto

This is a beautiful minor song with a complex-sounding melody that builds with soaring intervals.

Much repetition makes learning the melody line easier than you'd think. 

Wabash Cannonball

This is a fun song.



Waltzing Matilda

Arrangements for guitar and piano, and lead sheets in many keys.

Such a lovely song, from Australia.

Water is Wide easy guitar songs

A very pretty old song with vague but poetic lyrics about love gone cold.

Water is Wide beginner keyboard music sheets

This page has several versions of a Middle C arrangement, for beginner piano.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Several arrangements plus lead sheets of this energetic Christmas carol.

What Child is This Christmas sheet music

The name of this melody is "Greensleeves", named for a woman named Lady Greensleeves. 

But the Christmas lyrics about the new-born baby Jesus are the words most people are familiar with.

Several different arrangements.

What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor guitar tabs & treble staff melodies

What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor chords & melody for guitar & fiddle

There is also a 3-page DUET on this page for guitars or fiddles - very fun!

What Wondrous Love

This is the well-known evocative and older hymn speaking about the love of God, so great that He sent his only Son to rescue us.

When He Cometh

This is a sweet and musically satisfying hymn, describing in an oblique way how God treasures children.

When the Saints Go Marching In

Download a jazzy but easy piano arrangement as well as lead sheets in several keys!

This arrangement is handy for piano, because the melody uses just the five fingers with no shifting necessary!

White, Orange and Green free Irish sheet music

A song about the courage of a young girl and her love for her country.

She carries a banner with the forbidden colors of Ireland, and a young English soldier wants to take it away from her!

Best of all, this song is lovely and singable.



FLASH UPDATE, 5-1-2018: Musicnotes dot com is now offering a free sample of the first page of at least some of their music! (I found that out while looking over music from The Greatest Showman.)


Will students' parents really buy the sheet music for them?

Yes! This process has worked very well for us; many of the students do indeed talk their parents into purchasing their own copies, and others simply memorize the main theme and figure out the rest.

I have a lot of church-going families among my students, and these songs are ones that are special to them already; they are thrilled to be able to play them at home!

Well... how do I USE these free lead sheets?

Follow the diagrams below to see the "evolution" of lead sheet playing...

Start with the lead sheet:

Mary Had a Little Lamb with chord symbols

Here, perhaps the most basic way to play a lead sheet:


Solid triads for Mary Had a Little Lamb

Even easier - using "open" chords (also called "open fifths" or "shells"):


Open chords in the left hand

Once piano students understand how to add the left-hand chords this way, teach them how to do inversions of the I - IV-V chords. 

Here is the way the chords would look with the closest regular G and F inversions (closest to the root position C chord):

Cadences of the I,IV & V chords

Do you recognize the F and G7 chord inversions?  

Your students don't need to wait until they encounter them in their method books to begin using them and developing an understanding of the relationship of the 3 main chords.

These forms of the most-used chords (the I, the IV, and the V) are not only prettier, but also ultimately EASIER than jumping back and forth, since the left hand hardly has to move.

With very young beginners, I like to start with the "pinch" chord (which is actually a G7, and not just a G chord) and the "baby" or "little F" chord.

Here's how the open C and pinch G would look with Mary Had a Little Lamb... 

Chords for left hand of Mary Had a Little Lamb, for beginner piano

What about the IV (four) chord?

Now it is time to change songs, because Mary Had a Little Lamb only uses two chords. Let's change to "Twinkle" to demonstrate the use of the IV chord (which will be "F" if we play it in the key of C, as I usually do with beginners).

Here is the beginning of "Twinkle" using the C chord in root position, and F and G inversions: 

Twinkle Twinkle with chords

Here is the beginning of "Twinkle" with C, pinch G, and little F chords: 

Twinkle Twinkle with block chords on piano

Here is Twinkle with pretty broken chords, MUCH more difficult for young students (but where you are heading):

Twinkle Twinkle with broken chords

Along the way to playing it like that, is an in-between version:

Twinkle with broken chord pattern on the piano

These are only a few ideas, the beginnings of where you can go with these free lead sheets.  See other pages, such as Mary Had a Little Lamb, for more ideas.  Have fun!








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Just the Black Keys, a piano song book for young beginners.

Just the Black Keys

This book is available as a digital download  from this site, and also from Amazon as a paperback!

This is the perfect easy start for little pianists.

And when they start reading white-key notes on the staff, this is a fun easy resource to say each week, "Choose a new black-key song at home this week and figure it out to show me next lesson!"  They will be spending more time at the piano.

The Adventures of Tonsta, Volume 1, is a book about a young boy travelling over mountains and fjords from village to village, encountering trolls and helping folk in distress.

The Adventures of Tonsta

A perfect read aloud storybook
for little boys or girls. 

The Adventures of Tonsta highlight the travels of a very young boy with a good heart, who goes about helping folk in trouble.  

With a red cap on his head and a sack of tools slung over his shoulder, Tonsta seems to meet people in distress wherever he goes.

Lots of trolls in this book - including one who gives him a Christmas gift!

Available at Amazon

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Comments: Do you have a story or a question about music teaching? Share it!

Please note that all comments are moderated, and will not appear until I have approved them. Also, IF YOU ARE ASKING FOR MUSIC THAT IS NOT IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN, YOUR REQUEST WILL BE IGNORED. That's pretty much any music written in the last 75 years...

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US Air Force Song Not rated yet
I love your site! The lead sheets are a great help, as I just really want to have a simple melody that my students can follow. I was wondering if you …

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About the Author

Dana Thynes

Hi, I'm Dana!  (Say that like "Anna".)  I'm the owner of Music-for-Music-Teachers.com.

Like some of you, I've been playing the piano since early childhood, and added a few other instruments along the way, plus an interest in arranging and composing music.

You can find out more about me and the reason for this website at my About Me page.






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