Jazz glossary


Lead Sheet

A lead sheet is a type of musical score that includes all the essential elements of a song for any given instrument. For example, a trumpet lead sheet will include everything that the trumpet plays throughout a song, as well as the chord symbols, and indicators for the basic structure of the song (verse, chorus, bridge).


The head is the main theme of a song, displayed on a lead sheet as a melody with chord symbols. It is usually played once or twice (by all the instruments) at the beginning and end of a song. The song will often have a short intro followed by the head, a solo section, the head again, and an outro to conclude.

Solo Section

In the solo section of a song, the instruments take turns to play a solo (play alone), often supported by an accompaniment from the rest of the band. These solos are often improvisations and tend to display the musician’s virtuosity. In a small group, like a jazz trio (piano, bass, drums), it is likely that each instrument will play a solo. In larger groups, like a big band, generally only a few of the instruments will play a solo.

'Real Book Style' Lead Sheet

A ‘Real Book style’ lead sheet is a more abreviated form of a normal lead sheet. It only includes the melody and chord symbols for the head, and sometimes it includes the melody and chord symols for the intro and outro too. It does not include the solo section and therefore each instrument can improvise its own solo! This type of lead sheet can be used by any instrument in the band (it can be transposed to suit transposing instruments like the Bb trumpet).


A riff is a short musical phrase (usually two to four bars long) that is repeated numerous times throughout a song. It is sometimes used as an intro or refrain.

Intro / Outro / Coda

An intro (short for introduction) is a short musical section that starts a song. In jazz music, it is often followed by the head. It sets the tone for the piece, establishing the melodic, harmonic or rhythmic material.

An outro is a short musical section at the end of the piece, which concludes it.

A coda is another name for outro. You will commonly find it used in songs that include repeats. For example, you might find an indication to repeat a section of the song from the beginning until the ‘coda sign‘. When you reach the coda sign, you will then skip directly to the section at then end of the song marked ‘coda‘.

Rhythmic Chart

A rhythmic chart is a type of musical score that includes the structure of the piece, the chord symbols, and any important instrument cues or hits. It is mainly used by the rhythm section of a band (piano, bass, drums). For example, in a band with piano, bass, drums, a singer and a horn section, the rhythm section (piano, bass, drums) might use a rhythmic chart, the singer might use a vocal lead sheet, and the instruments in the horn section might use their own lead sheets (with all of the notes written out).

Chord Symbols

Chord symbols are always written above the staves and provide the harmonic information of the piece. A couple of examples of chord symbols are Em and Ab.

Arrangement Level (or Difficulty)

Are you a beginner, intermediate or advanced player? (Or perhaps somewhere in between?) Choose the level that suits you perfectly. We can adapt any piece to your playing level: if it is too complex, we can simplify it, and if you want a virtuoso arrangement of a simple tune, we can add a whole load of complexity to it! Just let us know your wishes: you can send us some examples of pieces that are at the right level for you (either PDF scores or YouTube links) – we will make sure that we adapt the piece requested to fully suit your needs and expectations!

Piano Solo Arrangement

A piano solo arrangement is perfect for a solo performer: it combines both the lead melody and the accompaniment of any given piece into a score for piano only. With this type of arrangement you will be able to play the full song alone on the piano.

Piano Accompaniment Arrangement

A piano accompaniment arrangement condenses all of the accompanying instruments of a song into one piano part (the lead melody line is not included). This is the perfect option if you want to accompany a singer or sing yourself while you play!


A pickup is a note, or short sequence of notes, that leads into the first downbeat of a bar or musical phrase. In jazz, this term is often used when talking about a particular solo or section of the piece: for example, in a rehearsal you might say ‘let’s do the solo from the pickup‘. 



Hits are instances when the whole band plays one or several notes together rhythmically. They feel like accents and can create intensity in the music. For example, there might be some important hits at the end of the song that help conclude it in a strong, emphatic way. Hits are indicated using rhythmic notation (as the pitches played by the band don’t necessarly have to be the same, the pitch value is not included in the notation).