Lead Sheets are a form of short hand notation, designed to write quickly and take less space. They are often used in Blues or Jazz where there is more leeway for the performer to go where the mood takes them.
In traditional popular music, more often, the lead sheet takes the form of a melody line, some lyrics and some chord names. If you know your basic chords, you just play and sing along.
In blues, the lead sheet is often slash notation with chord names, and possibly lyrics. Blues is sometimes freeform with respect to rhythm, so you might not get much direction from a lead sheet.
In Jazz, the lead sheet is often just chord names, and possibly some rhythmic indications. Jazz almost always has these strange and complicated looking chords. Begin more freeform than other styles, chord substitutions and rhythm variations go with the territory, so notation is often more suggestive than literal.
For Rhythm, people sometimes just sketch out lyrics and chord progressions. When you’re fleshing out a new song, or just some reminder sheets, this style of lead sheet is very popular.
There are a myriad more short hand notations that people use. With these examples, you should be able to follow them.
Join the discussion and let us know what you use.