Instead of playing complicated left-hand accompaniment patterns, lead sheets allow students to ease into a piece by starting with simpler root notes in the bass and gradually working up to more sophisticated rhythms or chords if desired.
I remember the frustration as a younger pianist trying to play accompanist versions of my favorite Christian songs but being frustrated because it's hard to play 3 parts with only 2 hands!
And without the melody line that is often omitted in the accompanist part, the song does not satisfy... unless you sing along!
I created this simplified excerpt of "I Can Do All Things With Christ" (the 2023 youth theme song from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Now my students can enjoy playing the piece while learning some basic skills for arranging and playing from a lead sheet. The original version is available for free download so students can compare the scores and spot the differences. It pairs perfectly with the Greensleeves lead sheet in Piano Adventures 3A, giving students extra practice reading a lead sheet.
The following steps can be applied to create lead sheets from other pieces.
- Start with the melody only from a part of the song. You can play just the theme or chorus without having to arrange the whole piece.
- Double the value of the rhythms if needed to make it simpler to read (quarter notes become half notes, half notes become whole notes).
- Transpose to a different key if needed to make it easier to play. (For example to change a piece in B to C, move every note up a half step to avoid having to play a lot of sharps!)
- Add chord symbols. If not included in the original song, analyze the bass notes to figure out which chord to use. You can also play I, IV or V chords and listen to which sounds best in each measure or phrase.
- Experiment with different bass styles (root only, blocked chord, broken chord, syncopated rhythms, open intervals, etc.).
- Lead sheets give you the flexibility to imitate the style of the original or create your version.
For example, by playing broken intervals in Forrest Gump style, the Piano Guys transformed this traditional classical piece into a more modern version.
And Row Your Boat is definitely different than the version you sang in preschool!
They took the liberty of changing up the bass pattern.
For more practice playing from lead sheets, check out this great selection of familiar tunes in lead sheet format from Piano Song Download.