Making Tracks: Note for Note

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FIG. 1: Well-positioned melody, chords and lyrics make for an easy-to-read, professional-looking lead sheet.

A good lead sheet contains clear, easy-to-read chords, melody and lyrics (see Fig. 1). I'll show you some ways to create these with Apple Logic Pro 9, but you can apply my techniques in most modern notation software (see Step-by-Step Instructions below).

Play it Straight

It's helpful to think of the three elements — melody, chords and lyrics — separately. Use either step entry or a MIDI keyboard to enter the melody. If you are playing the melody in, slow down the tempo as necessary, record with a click, quantize and begin phrases right on the beat as much as possible. The goal is for it to look good, not sound good.

For real-time entry, the Interpretation function in Logic's Score window will help make rhythms easier to read by lengthening shorter notes to avoid unnecessary rests. If you use step entry, leave Interpretation off.

The Syncopation function will replace tied notes with dotted values whenever possible. For intricate rhythms, the Display Quantization value provides additional control over how the melody looks.

To reduce accidentals, drag in the appropriate key signature from the Part box. If some notes are still displayed incorrectly, use the Score window's Attributes menu or double-click directly on the note heads to enharmonically shift them. Also keep in mind that you can change the staff style at any position to display the melody in a different clef or octave.

Tab Tips

Logic's text objects let you enter multiple chord symbols quickly and simply. Either drag the Part box's Chord Symbol object to the desired location or click the location with the Pencil tool while the Chord Symbol object is selected.

As you type in the chord symbols, letters are placed on a lower extension line and numbers and their accidentals are placed on an upper extension line. Placing a comma after a chord extension will force it onto the lower line, whereas characters entered after the comma are placed on the upper line. Letters following a forward slash are entered as bass notes. While you're in Chord Entry mode, the Tab key will position your insertion point at the next displayed note or rest. Double-clicking any chord will open the Chord Symbol window, letting you edit the placement of elements.

Use a similar strategy to enter lyrics with the Part box's Lyric object. Using the Tab key locks cursor movement to the notes. Logic will automatically adjust the spacing to accommodate the underlying lyrics. Using Shift + Tab lets you enter lyrics under tied notes. If you haven't entered lyrics or chords in a single pass, use the Align Object Positions key command to align them after the fact.

Cleaning Up

The difference between a good lead sheet and a great one is formatting. Logic's Text Styles window lets you assign individual font attributes to various elements in the score. Create additional styles from the New menu for rehearsal letters, the title or other special markings. Try to keep a unified look by restricting the total number of fonts. Once you've set up a new text style, make sure it is selected in the Event Parameter box's text field, then click in the score with the Text tool and start typing.

Page numbers, bar numbers and instrument names are generally unnecessary. Hide them using the Project Settings Score page to get a cleaner look and leave more room for the other elements. When things look cluttered and cramped, you can adjust the spacing in the header and between the staves in the Project Settings Global Score tab.

A great lead sheet is easy to sight-read. Place double bar lines at the ends of each section and set the Project Settings to display four bars per line. (Sometimes eight bars per line will also work.) New sections should start at the beginning of a staff. If the form of the piece requires irregular numbers of bars per line, then drag them up or down with the Layout tool to override the default settings. Generally, three or five bars on a line will still look fine.

You can drag in ornamentations, dynamics and articulation markings from the Score window's Part box. Adding a tempo marking in the upper-left corner is a nice touch. The Resize tool will let you freely resize these along with any other element on the page.

Finally, don't forget to credit the author of the tune. This should appear underneath the title, either centered or offset to the right. Once you type it in, use the Layout tool to position it.

Eli Krantzberg is a Montreal-based bandleader, musician and sound engineer. You can find his training DVDs


Enter the melody either in real time or using step input.

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To enter chords, drag the Part box''s Chord Symbol object into position and type in the names.

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Add the lyrics with the Part box''s Lyric object. Use the Tab key to move the insertion point from note to note.

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Use the Text Styles window to format the chords and lyrics and to create additional text styles for the title and rehearsal letters.

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Go to the Project Settings Score page to adjust the space in the header and between the staves.

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Add double bar lines, tempo markings and the author''s name. Use the Resize and Layout tools to make necessary final adjustments.

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