What is a tango “lead sheet” and how to use it?

Por una cabeza - Image

What is a tango “lead sheet” and how to use it?

Many times we find a tango, jazz, rock or pop score and we think: “this looks quite poor. Is this the right music score for what I’m listening to?” And in fact, yes it is.

The thing is that “popular music” is characterized, among other things, by providing enormous interpretive freedom as long as the general idea of the original composition is respected. This is why the same piece usually sounds different from artist to artist.

The melody, chords and other indications that we see in a music score in ‘lead sheet’ format (like many Real Books), are extremely useful to know the general directions of a song. They can be considered as the skeleton of a popular music composition. In tango, a musician is expected to take these general directions and use them quite freely: replace harmonies, add ornaments and decorate the melodies based on his own interpretation.

In summary, we can say that a lead sheet provides the basic information to be able to approach a composition. It simply shows us the main melody, chords, structure (and sometimes some additional information), but not much else. It may look a bit poor, but it’s actually a very powerful and versatile tool, allowing us to study, improvise, accompany or even create our own musical arrangements. Far from limiting yourself to playing only what is written there, consider it a starting point to develop your creativity!

Where can I find good and reliable Tango lead sheets? You can download the lead sheet for this classic tango by clicking here.

Check all the ones we have ready for you on our lead sheet PDF section!