I am an amateur musician who often performs (sings, plays guitar, plays piano) at church. I attend a Unitarian Universalist congregation, and so the songs are often secular ones (a recent one was Lenny Kravitz's "Let Love Rule").

I play by ear, so my work process is the following:

  • Find the lyrics via Google and copy them to a MS-Word file

  • Find the song on Spotify or Youtube

  • Listen and write down the chords on the lyrics sheet (i.e. create a lead sheet)

  • Decide if the native key is appropriate. If not, transpose the chords to the desired key.
  • Practice
  • Perform it in the church service (utilizing my self-created lead sheet)

Are there any copyright issues with what I described? Would it be any different if I shared my lead sheet with a couple of friends who performed the song with me?

I understand that no license is needed to perform any type of music in a church service. I suppose my question pertains specifically to my creating and utilizing the lead sheet.


1 Answer 1


Recording the original work and editing that record is a breach of copyright. You are taking unauthorised copies of the original music and lyrics when you make the notes, and creating derivative works when you alter the notes of the song to match what you think they should be.

Performing the songs is a breach of copyright in countries that don't provide for it explicitly (the USA is notably strange on this point). You cannot simply just take a piece of music and perform it this way everywhere, even for church service.

In sum, what you're doing is at least partly and could be fully illegal.


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