a division of Twelvemonth Music


Who invented the song chart system used on this website, and when was it invented?

The song chart system was invented in 1981 by D.L.Stieg, who about seven years earlier invented visualinear tablature, the guitar notational system on which the song chart system is based.

Why do the reference numbers for the Popular Music Catalog start at R26?

R1 through R10 are the ten volumes of the Rhythm Guitar Music Catalog on the Twelvemonth Music website. This catalog consists of 160 short acoustic rhythm guitar arrangements, all notated in visualinear tablature scores, and including study notes detailing how to interpret the score most efficiently and most musically. R11 through R25 are the 15 albums of the D.L.Stieg Catalog, a collection of 180 songs (86 originals, 70 covers, and 24 Christmas carols), all played, sung, arranged, and recorded by D.L. Stieg

What sort of gigs were available in the 1970s for acoustic performers?

In the 1970s there were numerous small clubs and coffeehouses that had bands on weekend nights, and ran acoustic solo or duo acts on weeknights. It was also not uncommon at that time for restaurants to feature live acoustic music, usually solo performers. I had successful runs as a solo acoustic act, albeit on a local level, in Colorado (Greeley), Massachusetts (Springfield), and California (Santa Barbara and Palo Alto). Gigs typically called for 3 or 4 sets of 40 or 45 minutes each, and paid about $30.

How is it possible to show the required chord changes for playing practically any song on a single page?

The required information (what are the chords, and when do you change from each chord to the next) can be shown by breaking the song down into component parts or sections, by using repeat signs whenever possible, by notating only once parts or sections that are repeated non-consecutively, and by showing the order in which the parts or sections should be played at the bottom of the page. (See the About Charts page of this website)

Why are minor chords referred to in the charts with lower case letters?

The conventional chord symbol notation for an e minor chord is Em. The conventional chord symbol notation for an E Major chord is E. The Em chord symbol therefore sends a mixed message, since the upper case E implies a Major chord. The use of lower case letters for the chord symbols for minor chords eliminates this mixed message effect, so the chord symbol e more simply and more clearly identifies the e minor chord than does the chord symbol Em.

Why are the chord diagrams horizontal rather than vertical?

The typical configuration for chord diagrams is vertical. Chord diagrams were first devised centuries ago by classical guitarists. In the formal classical style of play, the guitarist holds the neck of the guitar pointed upward, in a nearly vertical position. The vertical configuration for chord diagrams therefore corresponds to how a classical guitarist views chords while playing them. Non-classical guitarists, however, and it should be noted that most guitarists are nonclassical guitarists, almost always hold the neck of the guitar in a more or less horizontal position. The horizontal configuration for chord diagrams therefore corresponds to how most guitarists view chords while playing them.

Couldn’t the chord charting system featured on this website be used for classical music?

Absolutely. Practically all western music, including classical music, is based on progressions of chords. This means that chord charts like the ones featured on this website, using the same types of chord symbols and the same methodology for showing the rhythm of chord changes, could be devised for practically any piece of classical music.

What were the criteria for selecting the songs in the Popular Music Catalog?

The first and most obvious consideration was to match up songs correctly with the themes of the various albums. This entailed deciding on a style of play and tuning for all the songs in the first 5 albums, and doing a little research to make sure all the songs in the second 5 albums were associated with the right decade. The next most important consideration was to try to include as many acoustic guitar icons as possible, meaning very popular and well-known songs based on acoustic guitar arrangements. A high priority was also given to including as many artists as possible whose success and whose music had a big impact on the development and popularity of acoustic guitar music. Close attention was also paid to making the catalog as eclectic as possible, so as to include a wide variety of musical styles and points of view.

Why is the time for each song included in the catalog listing?

This might seem like an unimportant and unnecessary detail, since only brief excerpts of the songs, and not the songs in their entirety, are available on this website. But it is an important detail nevertheless, because the charts and chord docs are an accurate account of the chord changes for a specific recorded version of each song. The problem is that for many songs there is more than one recording by the original artist. The inclusion of an exact time for each song therefore makes it possible to find the correct recorded version of a song (ie. the recorded version that the chart and chord doc describe) on YouTube, i-Tunes, or any other music resource.

Why are the chord docs in table format?

The initial considerations were cost, my technological ineptitude, and my unwillingness to hand-draw chord diagrams for songs. Nevertheless, I believe it’s probably true that most people would prefer chord diagrams over table format. Upon further consideration, though, I continue to prefer the table format for the chord docs. I believe that some people will find that the table format allows them to “see” the chord fingerings fairly easily. But I also believe that those who are not comfortable working with the table format will benefit from translating the information in table format into chord diagrams. Doing so will help familiarize them with new chords, and give them a better understanding of how to go about forming new chords, and how to most efficiently make the transitions between each chord and the next.

Why should I pay for something I can get for free from a TAB score or a YouTube video?

There are free online learning resources for nearly every song in the Popular Music Catalog, but they are not the equivalent of the charts and chord docs for a number of reasons. TAB scores and instructional videos are a much less direct and much less efficient means for achieving the goal of learning to play along with a recording from start to finish. Using instructional videos to achieve this goal requires knowing the melody as well as a lot of memorization, neither of which is necessary when working with song charts. Using a TAB score to achieve this goal requires either familiarity with the melody, or music reading ability, or sometimes both. But most importantly, you can return to a song chart months or even years later, and in a very short time pick up right where you left off, whereas with a video or a TAB score, you’d be practically back to square one, so the recovery time would be much longer.

Why should I purchase a chord doc for a song that only requires a few chords?

Unless you’re a complete beginner, you probably shouldn’t, because the chord doc for such a song would likely not contain any information you could not figure out for yourself. The same is true for many other more complicated songs as well, because the catalog listings contain enough information to give you a pretty good idea of what the chording requirements for a song are. The most useful chord docs are for songs that require a lot of non-common chords, and for songs played in alternate tunings. On the other hand, all the song charts are equally useful, because they allow you to develop the ability to play along with the recording for a song far more easily and far more quickly than would otherwise be possible. This is no less true for a song played with very simple chords than for a song with a larger chord vocabulary.

Doesn’t music reading ability eliminate the need for song charts and chord docs?

Not at all. Learning a melody from a sheet music score would undoubtedly be more efficient than memorizing the melody by listening to it over and over. But that is beside the point, because the purpose of the charts and chord docs is to learn how to play the songs. Most sheet music scores include guitar chord diagrams, but they seldom correspond exactly with the chords played on the recording, and they are not always placed at the exact point in time that changes of chord are made. Most sheet music scores also include piano accompaniments in great staff notation, but the piano accompaniments normally have only limited relevance for songs based on rhythm guitar arrangements, and they are seldom entirely correct even for songs that are based on keyboard arrangements. For guitarists, reading TAB notation or visualinear tablature notation would also be considered reading music. Even though an entirely correct TAB score or visualinear tablature score would allow for an exact note-for-note duplication of a guitar arrangement, a song chart would still be of value as a guide to playing the song through from start to finish that can be read much more easily.

What about all the great songs and artists that were not included in the Popular Music Catalog?

It’s true that there are a great many worthy acoustic guitar songs, and more than a few important acoustic guitar artists, that were not included in the Popular Music Catalog, but it was impossible to be all-inclusive in compiling a catalog of that size. Any oversights or injustices will hopefully one day be remedied by the creation of additional catalogs of music, including a catalog of acoustic guitar songs suggested by, or even written up by (in exchange for a sales commission agreement), other musicians. There are also numerous worthy popular songs that are based on keyboard arrangements rather than rhythm guitar arrangements (practically all popular songs are based on one or the other). Song charts could be devised just as easily for keyboardbased songs as for guitar-based songs, and a catalog of Keyboard Songs would be a welcome and useful addition to this website. Other possible catalogs include collections of songs in particular styles of play on acoustic guitar (folk, blues, bluegrass, acoustic rock, fingerpick, flatpick, etc.), collections of songs by individual artists, and a collection of songs based on Electric Guitar.


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