As many musicians, I enjoy playing quite a number more songs than I have all of the words and music memorized to. Because of this, when I play out, and gig, I keep a binder full of songs with me, so if I want to play anything I don't have memorized, I can open my binder and roll off of that. Because it is a binder, I often carry a music stand with me, and just keep it behind me until I want to use it. Is it bad to play out of a book? As I said, I don't use it constantly, but on occasions where I am using it more than usual, I sometimes feel as if I look like I really don't know what I'm doing. Do people care whether I have a book in front of me or not? I have buddies that clip their Ipads to their mic stand, and use it in the same way, but an Ipad is not nearly as big, or prominent as my binder.
Is this something I should stop doing? Do people care?
Who cares what other musicians think, what does your audience think? Most 3 chord rock bands don't use lead sheets cause... well... they don't need to. Jazz players often use lead sheets cause who can remember 437 different chords in every song? Mozart Beethoven and Chopin used music sheets to their original works. Do what suits you and ignore haters.

A music stand does clutter up the stage a bit and that affects some shows more than others. I like the ipad solution better and will sometimes use one depending on the set for the night.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Nov 1, 2015,
I've debated about this as well and my solution was just to use it during practice and not on stage. At one point I had probably half a thousand songs memorized on guitar and quit playing for a while and now probably remember like 50 songs off the top of my head. The binder I just used for lyrics anyway because it sucks trying to focus on playing a good set when you are struggling to remember the words.
"Men profess to be lovers of music, but for the most part they give no evidence in their opinions and lives that they have heard it." ~Henry David Thoreau
A teacher I had once said something along the lines of "if you need music in front of you, you don't know the song well enough". Makes a lot of sense, I've played with people who get stuck in a song if the lights are just a tad too dim or a breeze blows the page over because they rely completely on a piece of paper and can't play the song without it. I've never had that problem because I learn songs without music.
What you have there is a "fake book." It's a bunch of music with the essentials to a tune that is used to "fake" your way through a song you don't know. But I don't think it was supposed to be standard operating procedure.

It really depends on your specific circumstances. Fake books are great for jazz players because once they know the head, they can do a decent solo and play a decent accompaniment for other solos. But we don't know about your circumstances, so it's not a clear call.
^^The above is a Cryptic Metaphor^^

"To know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity." Everything is made up and the facts don't matter.

Yeah, I guess I didn't mention much about my situation. All I've been doing lately is solo acoustic acts. I play country, folk, rock and roll, etc.. All my book has are chords and lyrics. The type scenario I am referring to is playing in a pizza joint, bar, etc.. I was playing "lead guitar," for a couple of groups for a while, which was a very different situation, and in those situations, I NEVER would look at any kind of music in front of an audience for anything, and I think that is part of the reason I feel so strange having the book.
But anyway, there's a little more info on my situation, if that changes anything. I know there may not be a definite answer to this; opinions are all I am looking for.
I appreciate the responses!
Seriously...no one really cares.

Do what you need to do. If you're playing the guitar well and your singing is awesome then anyone that sees you will think that's just how it's done. It is by your performance that people will make judgements about whether you know what you're doing or not. Even if they comment on the book/binder it's most likely that they haven't been sold by your performance.

Kurt Cobain had papers and stuff on a music stand in front of him when he did the MTV Unplugged concert in New York.
If you are doing a solo, I think it's OK. you need a lot of songs. I played a solo gig for a few years and while I didn't use a book or anything I occasionally needed some words so I might have a page of lyrics of new songs I was learning. I can only say that personally I found that having the music or lyrics on a page distracted me from the audience and I found that I never really learned the songs. I relied too much on the "crutch". Once I actually put my ass on the line and did the songs without any sheets the mistakes became less and less and finally I learned the song and concentrated on putting something more into the song. That's just me.

If you are going to use a stand, do it all night long. Put it up at the start and leave it there. Make it look natural so your audience is just use to it being there. Stopping during your set and moving a stand into place is telling the audience "Here comes a song I don't really know."

Don't worry about what other musicians who come to see you think. That kind of stuff goes on all the time. Other musicians who come to see you and want to give you advice about what they would do. Remember they came to watch you. You're working, they are not.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at Nov 1, 2015,
It can even make you look more "sophisticated".
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.


Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Very, very few people care. There might a few hardcore jazz players who have a problem with it, but they are probably at their own gigs anyway. I wouldn't worry too much about what other musicians think unless you're trying to get hired by them. Plus I think most of them would judge the performance on its own merits. If I saw someone playing with a chart I wouldn't care unless they screwed up a lot.

I see no problem with having music on stage as long as it's a guide for tunes you are actually familiar with. The only problem is letting it become a crutch and never memorizing stuff that you do play regularly, which can happen if you work from paper all the time. Use it for stuff that's not memorized yet. I much prefer to work from memory than rely on scant notes, as referring to a chart can be a distraction when you really want to focus on fluency and creativity.

Also, keep the music stand in front of you the the whole time. Getting it out halfway through the set does kinda make it look like you don't know the songs. And moving stuff around on stage while playing is always a liability.

I played a couple of gigs with charts recently. The first was filling in with a 90s/classics cover band, which went decently except for a few WTF moments thanks to almost everything being downtuned. I don't feel too bad about it, since I pulled together like 30 songs in one day. The second gig was with a Grateful Dead cover band, which went a lot smoother. In both situations the charts and lyrics were absolutely necessary, but the difference was very clearly made by having more familiarity with the Grateful Dead music than the 90s music.
Last edited by cdgraves at Nov 2, 2015,
I personally feel like it negatively affects the performance if you're staring at sheet music the entire time, and with the exception of perhaps classical/jazz, reliance upon sheets to get you through a gig will ultimately sound less professional (or good) than a well practised band who actually know their parts.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Last edited by AlanHB at Nov 3, 2015,
I'd say the opposite: jazz and classical pros are the least likely to rely on written music in performance. Jazzers might have charts in case something genuinely unfamiliar gets called, but I thin it's generally frowned upon to rely on charts in performance. In classical performance the music is almost entirely superfluous, as the pieces are given out and thoroughly rehearsed long before performance. Unless maybe you're playing like 3rd bassoon and your score has 120 bars of rest before your single note of the evening.
Last edited by cdgraves at Nov 4, 2015,
Generally the more complex and precise the music, the more likely they will have charts or lead sheets. The idea that "pros don't use charts" is just UG mythology. Maybe they have never played or attended a pro jazz or classical concert before. Do what your music requires.

Tommy Emmanuel- no charts
Steely Dan- often charts
Jeff Beck- no charts
Herbie Hancock- often charts
AC/DC- no charts
Mozart Quartet- charts
John Mayer- rolling lyrics/teleprompter
Wynton Marsalis- often charts
George Benson band- often charts
Ozzy- no charts
Steve Gadd band- charts
Stevie Wonder- no charts
Julian Bream- charts
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Nov 4, 2015,