Just Fakin’ It- Reading Lead Sheets

Camps and Workshops

I thought I would kick off my return to blogging by sharing a little bit of what I did with one of my summer workshop classes this year.  I always wanted to do a class on reading lead sheets.  I know for me personally this was something I wanted to get better at and what better way to get better at something than to teach it.  This forces me to learn all I can on the subject so I’m prepared to teach it to my students.

One of my resources was good ol’ Scott Houston- yep!  The Piano Guy!  I know he gets a pretty bad rap in the piano teaching world but I have to say when it comes to lead sheets and chord playing he knows his stuff and he presents it in a way where it’s easy for most to understand.  He has a new site PianoGuy.TV where he does live broadcasts similar to what you would see on his PBS shows.  They are about 10 min. long .  If you miss the live broadcast he has the taped broadcasts on the site to view later.  I shared a couple of the clips (fast forwarding some area’s that I didn’t think were necessary or didn’t agree with some of his side comments) with my students before we got started so they could get an idea of what we would be learning in this class.

(Side note:  I borrowed a powerpoint projector to use for a couple of my classes this year.  I loved it so much that I’m seriously considering in investing in one this year for future classes.)

Before we went to the piano we learned some chord basics, and then would follow up with games.  First we learned basic triads.  We played chord swatter with major and minor triads where I would call out a triad and they would swat the triad.  With the same cards we also played memory.

Some other games we played to review concepts was Name the Chord where I would draw the chord on a staff white board and they each had a whiteboard (I bought these at Dollar Tree recently!) and would write the answer on their board and show the answer at the same time.  I also would flip the concept of this game and I would name a chord and they would draw it on the staff.  (By the way these are very easy to make, I just printed out a grand staff and laminated it.  They used dry eraser markers and it worked perfectly)

We played TCW’s Triad Musical Spoons- they LOVED this one!  We had a spell the inversions race.  You can do this a couple different ways where they could play the inversion or draw it on their white boards.

Those were the games we had time for, but another one that you can do if you wanted to is a bingo game naming certain chords, etc…  Using blocks to build chords…  The possibilities are endless.

Between games we of course went to the piano for the hands on learning to read lead sheets.  Because I bought Scott Houston’s kids book it gave me a link to download for free some simple lead sheets such as When the Saints, Are You Sleeping, He’s Got the Whole World in his hands, America, etc…  Speaking of America, I couldn’t believe most of my students didn’t know this song!  I was astounded how many of these pieces they never heard of before!

After learning the basics we explored different left hand accompaniment patterns they can play.  This was my favorite sheet I found online for that:  Left Hand Accompaniment Patterns


Once we got through the basics and exploring we got to some “dessert” pieces like Love Story, Heart and Soul, Hey Soul Sister, etc… where you can download them for free here.

For this class, we mostly stuck with the basic chords- major, minor and some 7th chords and just touched briefly on the augmented and diminished chords.  This is a class that could definitely have a reading lead sheet beginner class and intermediate class.

Wish I had pictures to share, but I’m kicking myself because I totally forgot to take pictures of this class!  Guess we were having way too much fun!


  1. Alice

    Jennifer, Thanks for sharing what you’re up to with the kids! And thanks for leading me to a new resource: coloradopowerpiano.com. The resources on chord progressions are really helpful. Written and illustrated very clearly.

  2. Sarah

    Thanks so much for sharing all your great ideas and some free resources! Definitely looks like you and all the students had a blast!

  3. Becky

    Thanks for sharing. Sound like a great class. And great resources.

  4. April Hamilton

    Thanks so much for the very helpful sheets and ideas!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Newsletter Subscription

Stay updated and sign up for our email list to receive the Music Educator Resources newsletter which includes monthly freebies, exclusive tips, resources and specials to help today’s teacher stay relevant and engaged! You may opt-out at any time.

Click to Sign Up and Grab Welcome Gift

Subscribe to Blog Posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,097 other subscribers


Post Archives