Chord charts for most country songs are usually quite easy to write, but you still have to follow some basic rules so that bands can read your charts efficiently.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD CHART
- A big clear title
- Some instructions as to how to play the song, e.g. Straight/swing rhythm, fast/slow
- A metronome speed
- Clear bold chords correctly aligned with the right lyrics
- A suitable musical introduction
- Verses and Choruses identified and separated
- A suitable ending
STEPS TO CREATING YOUR OWN CHART
1. Get the Lyrics
You could hand write or use a typewriter, but the best way is to use a computer to type the lyrics. Don’t type in all uppercase (capital letters). Use mixed case as it’s easier to read. Another option is to look on the Internet and copy and paste lyrics into a Word document. Most song lyrics come with chords above them, which aren’t necessarily correct. Remove them all.
2. Format the Lyrics
- Set the Font to “Times New Roman” size 14
- Set the Line Spacing to “Double Line Space” (under Format, Paragraph)
- Write the song Title at top in a large Font, Bold and Underline.
- Write your name on the next line, in a smaller Font, at the right-hand side.
- Leave a big enough space before the first lyric line for the Intro chords.
- Group the lyrics into Verses, Choruses, Bridges, Instrumental Breaks and label them.
- Make full use of the space available over two pages (or one page if possible). Don’t break up verses or choruses between pages.
- “Pretty up” e.g. with Indented and Bold choruses, extra spaces between Verses and Choruses.
3. Now REALLY format the actual lyric lines
- Sing the song to your self, at the same time adding spaces between groups of lyrics for chord timing. This is probably the hardest part as the chords are not yet there (you do this later!). Most songs will usually be written allowing for 4 chords per line, so set out the lyrics so that the chord positions will be evenly spaced across the line.
4. Adding Chords
- You can use the computer to add chords, although I find they stand out better if handwritten with a felt pen onto the printed lyric sheet (I use an Artline® 2.0 calligraphic pen, water based). Make sure you don’t write too close to the edge of the page, otherwise it might get missed when photocopied.
- Most important – add all the chords for the Intro, Outro, and Instrumental breaks.
- Use “bar lines” between the chords to help the band with timing. Sometimes there may be 2 or more chords to a bar, and sometimes the same chord is also in the next bar (indicated with a %). Finish a verse or chorus with a “double-barline”.
- Add some timing marks (small slashes) as necessary within a bar, e.g. where there is more than one chord in a bar.
- Sometimes the bass guitar plays a different note to the chord, making it more ‘colourful’. Write these bass notes under the chord like a fraction, e.g. G/D
5. Stops and Starts
Stops and starts should be well indicated. There are two kinds of stops:
- a Pause sign above a chord (inverted semicircle with a dot under) means the band pauses, then waits for the singer before continuing.
- a big diamond beside a chord indicates a “Hold” for 4 counts, then continue rhythm again. (represents a “semibreve”)
There are also symbols for shorter “Holds”, e.g. 2-counts.
6. Add Instructions
- Add the key of the song at top left, e.g. “C”
- Add some “playing style” instructions at the top, e.g.
STRAIGHT ROCK (4/4)
SLOW SWING (4/4)
FAST WALTZ (3/4)
- Add a Metronome speed under the playing style instruction, e.g.
= 100 which means 100 beats per minute.
- Add other instructions for “light and shade” as necessary, e.g.
o “Guitar only”
o “Full Band”
o Louder and Softer indicators using long < and > marks