There has never been a commonly used method for showing the required information for playing a song in a simple format and on a single page. For anyone who plays an instrument that makes chords, the required information consists solely of the following – what are the chords, and when do you change from each chord to the next. The song charts featured on this website depict this information in exact detail, and in an easy to read format that is very easy to learn. The song charts are efficient and effective roadmaps for playing songs through from start to finish along with the recordings, yet they are concise enough that each is contained on a single page. This is an important consideration, because it’s nearly impossible to turn pages while you’re playing, and because it’s impractical to spread two or more pages out so you can read them while playing. As an added benefit, the song charts can be read directly from a computer monitor, thus eliminating the need for a paper copy altogether.
The song charts are based on rows of evenly spaced diagonal slashes. The diagonal slashes create a visual representation of the passage of time, against which the exact timing of chord changes can be shown. The charts are made as concise as possible by assigning as great a value as possible (usually one full measure) to the unit of time represented by the distance between the evenly spaced diagonal slashes. Because most chord changes occur on the downbeats of measures, most of the chord symbols on a typical song chart are notated directly beneath slashes. The next most common timing of chord changes is on the third beat of measures in 4 (halfway between slashes), and on the second or third beats of measures in 3 (one third or two thirds the distance between slashes). Syncopated chord changes that occur between beats can be notated by the placement of chord symbols beneath the slashes, together with the exact placement of asterisks between the slashes to show the exact timing of the chord change.
Another reason why the song charts can be contained on a single page is the fact that they are based on the form of the arrangement for a song, rather than on the melody or the lyrics for the song. The most common elements of the form of a song arrangement are introduction, verse, chorus, instrumental break, and cadence (ending). One or more of these elements of form is normally played more than once in a song arrangement, but there is no need to notate (write down) any element of form more than once in a song chart. All that is required is to notate each element of form in the order in which it is first played in the song arrangement. Then, at the bottom of the song chart, the order in which the elements of form are played can be indicated. The following is an example of how the order in which the elements of form are played in the song arrangement is iindicated at the bottom of a song chart:
ORDER : introduction, verse, chorus, instrumental break, verse, chorus, cadence
Another way in which the song charts are made more concise is by the use whenever possible of repeat signs. Repetition is very common in music of all types, and phrases (groups of measures) are often repeated exactly and consecutively. As with the elements of form, there is no need to notate a consecutively repeating phrase more than once in a song chart. All that is required is the placement of repeat signs ( : ) at either end of the repeating phrase. If more than one repeat is required, the second repeat sign is followed by a numeral indicating the required number of repeats. Whenever repeat signs are encountered in a song chart, you need to observe the repeat signs before reading further along in the chart. On occasion you may encounter double repeat signs, which indicate that there is a repeating phrase within a larger phrase that also repeats. When interpreting a double repeat sign, you should always observe the inner repeat sign first, then the outer repeat sign. In the following example
( : A B :2 C :: A : B : ), with the letters A ,B, and C representing phrases, the correct interpretation of the repeat signs indicates that the phrases should be played in the following order : A B A B A B C A A B A A B.
You can click here to review a more in-depth description of the song chart notation system, but you will probably find that that will not be necessary, because the song charts are fairly intuitive and self-explanatory. In fact, you will likely find that while listening to the recordings, you can read the rhythms of the chord changes by sight from the charts. All that is required is to establish the connection between the flow of the music and the flow of the diagonal slashes on the chart. In other words, after you’ve made a quick review of a chart to ensure that you understand the use of repeat signs and the correct ORDER in which the elements of form should be played, you’re basically ready to play the song, except of course for the critical task of familiarizing yourself with the required chords.