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TR-301 • Creating Lyric and Chord Charts

The Justinguitar.com Transcribing Course

Sound like fun? It is fun, and highly recommended. Making your own songbook is a GREAT idea - you will learn lots on the way and I'm going to help you make this as easy as possible... Don't expect to have it finished by tomorrow - just take you time and get it together as you can, if you are a beginner let the book grow with you!

What you need... well the most important thing you need is to want to do this! So what exactly I am suggesting is this:

Make your own songbook collection of 50 easy strumming songs you can play.

You will make your own lyric and chord chart for each one, print them out and make it into your own song book. And it's going to be better than any songbook you ever buy because you made it and you chose the songs you put in it. Cool huh?

Getting started

So to make things super easy I'm going to give you a Lyric Chord Template (.doc). Feel free to modify it any way you want it's not copyright or anything, just I doubt you'll need to change it much! So why have a template? Well there are certain layout tricks that I am about to explain to you that will probably be easier to see and understand if you are building them from a template.

Now I may be a little strange, but I like things to match and look the same, maybe you do too - so my putting all the songs you learn into a template, they will all match (and when you print them out and put them into your own songbook, it's gonna look cool. Plus the act of typing them up will help you remember them a lot more than you might think.

Font
Your font is one of the most important considerations when you are making any kind of text chord sheet (or the web text tab stuff). It needs to be a fixed space font, where each letter (or number or space) takes up the same amount of room on the page. The one I think works best is called 'Courier New' and I use it for pretty much all my charts. There are others if you want to be different, but I'm thinking that it would be fun for y'all to have matching sheets that we can compare one day and maybe build into one MASSIVE songbook!

Layout
I think laying your songs out the same way each time help your remember them, it gives you a format that you will get comfortable with. Probably the most important of these is to have the structures in bold so that you can see the arrangement of verses and choruses very quickly. But other things to remember is the Title - Artist at the top are in size 24 on the template (but I do make them smaller if the band or song name is real long!). My web link you can change or add your own, not important, maybe add 'Your Name's Songbook' or something, up to you. The structures in bold is the only super important thing out of these...

Save To Folder
Before you start, make yourself a folder on your computer where you will store all the tunes. Nothing worse than losing a bunch of work, or saving over the top of something (I've done this more times than I should admit!). Also make your template before you get going and lock it so that you can't save over it (and or just make a copy of it someplace else).

Getting Your Lyrics

So once you have your template open and you have decided on a song - the first step is to get your lyrics into the song chart. You can get the lyrics from:

• The artists CD sleeve or web site (most accurate)
• Listening and writing the words down (sometimes things ain't what they seem)
• Google the lyrics (as above but somebody else's mistakes, but saves typing)
• Writing them from memory (this can be very funny but not recommended!)

Now once you have them on your page you need to lay them out correctly. So you need to try and make them into lines, just like poetry, you will find there is a meter and most songs have clear breaks at the end of lines (the exception is rap, but I'm guessing there are not too many rap songs you wanna make a chord chart for!).

So get the lines laid out as best as you can, you can change them later of course.

Once they are laid out add in your structure (verse, chorus etc.) and then add one line space above each line for the first verse and chorus.

It is very rare for the chords to be different in each verse or chorus, so you will usually only need to write them once and on the following verses you just put the words there without leaving space to write the chords.

Have a good look at the template and see the way it is laid out.

Just like anything worth learning it is going to take some practice, but you will find after you have done say 10 songs you will find that you can set out a chord and lyric page in no time!

Getting The Chords

So now the fun starts, adding in the chords. So where you gonna get the chords from?

Option 1
This is the best way of getting the chords, but is also the hardest... and that is work them out yourself. This is a skill that you will have to develop over a few years and I have other lessons coming up to help you develop the necessary skills. Beginners will find that properly tough. If you can't do this one for now then don't stress, but remember that this one is the goal. Eventually it would be great if you can work out and write down any song you like by yourself.

Option 2
Use song hints, but do the hard work yourself. I have some song hint pages on this site which are designed to give you lots of clues so that you are almost working out song by yourself, but with a bit of help up! This can be a great way to build your confidence as a transcriber. If I don't have tips for a particular song then you can try a similar trick, which is to go have a look at a tab (either a book in a shop or online) and try and get some of it in your head, and then try and work it out... this will help if you know the first chord, or if you know they are using a capo or something.

Option 3
Watch a video lesson on the song and add the chords to your own chart. This should be pretty easy with the majority of my videos but you could use any video really. Even maybe the short "sample lesson" ones you see a lot - they might give you enough to get you nearly finished and just have to do a little work yourself.

Option 4
Copy out of a chord book or web tab. Copying the chords right out from a official chord or tab book is probably (hopefully?) the most accurate way, but it also means you are not doing much of the work yourself. Doing it is still a good idea because you are collating the info into your own work and that will help you remember the song.

You do need to be aware that most tabs on the internet are rubbish. I'm not trying to be funny about it, but they are. I have seen so much utter poo offered as tabs over the last few years... it's an outrage I tell you! ;) Lots of them are done by kids learning - and it's great that they are transcribing, I applaud that - but they need to have kinda system that sorts them out (there are some sites that are rating the tabs now, but some bad ones still get good ratings) and I'm still not confident in them.

So if you decide to work from an internet tab you need to treat it like Option 2, as a hint, and then listen real hard and make sure that it sounds right. Some if it may be ok, some of it not. Only your ears will sort it out.

Making The Book

So once you have some done, get yourself a clear display folder (something like: Amazon UKAmazon US) make your own title page and then you have your own songbook.

And the cool thing is that you can play all the songs in it - so if you have your friends over you can pull it out and say 'yeah, pick anything from that' :))