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What method do you use to "chart out" songs?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by tbirdsp, Apr 2, 2013.

  1. tbirdsp


    Sep 18, 2012
    Omaha, NE
    I've been playing for many years, but have always just learned parts by ear and relied on my memory. Now I'm in one band and possibly joining a second, plus looking at some sub gigs. I'm really thinking I need to come up with my own "fake book". I mostly mean charting out the structure (and maybe the basic chords) of the song, not so much tabbing the licks (or using regular musical notation). What methods do others use? Examples would be great.
  2. hennessybass

    hennessybass Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2008
    Houston, TX
    I mostly use cheat sheets... my own personal language (numbers or letters) that help me get thur a song... but if I gave that sheet to someone else, they might not be able to make sense of it. Might just be one phrase, or a tough bridge in the song that I need to make notes for.

    A chart, to me, indicates the entire song written out, with some indication of time, form, structure, etc. Usually with numbers (I'm in TX, so lot's of country). To me, the point of a chart is that anyone should easily be able to read and understand the chart and play the whole song... so we are talking about sight reading, without really having to read music.

    Not sure how familiar you are with the number system, but it it nice to know... 1 4 5 in the key of G is G C D. In the Key of A is A D E, etc... If you have numbers, it's easier to play in any key.

    A chart might look like this...
    1 4 1 5
    1 4 1(4) 5
    5 5m 4 1
    Verse 2
    Solo = Verse
    Verse 3

    Lot's of symbols, and everyone does it a little different: m or - for minor,, a diamond means play a whole note. back slash or () indicates time -- like in my chart above, 7th measure could be written[DEL] 1\4\ [/DEL]or 1(4) -- meaning two beats of the 1 chord, and two beats of the 4 chord.

    Edit: you use a forward slash to mark time -- 1/// 4/// 5/4/

    Nothing worse on a gig than when someone gives you a bad chart!
  3. aigman


    Jun 5, 2004
    I used to print out the lyrics and write the chords on the particular word in the song (e.g. like the Beatles Complete Chord Song Book) to keep track. Then put it in a binder for later. I did it for my band mates once, but they couldn't decipher my scribbling.
    Moleskine journals will give you the artist cred, they have a music notation style.
  4. repoman


    Aug 11, 2011
    Kinderhook NY
    Seeing how I've only been playing 4-5 years, there's always been the internet to go to and print out the song with lyrics and chords. Any specific bass line that MUST be played to make the song sound correct I'll write out, otherwise, the chart gets the PDF file convert and goes into my iPad....piece of cake.
    How did you guys ever play music without the help of Apple and the internet? :cool:
  5. m0ranwad


    Jan 29, 2013
    +1 to that ;)

    I have transcribed to Nashville numbers in the past, but I tend to print out the chord sheet with lyrics.
  6. tbirdsp


    Sep 18, 2012
    Omaha, NE
    Sorry - should have said I'm familiar with the Nashville Numbering System - most recent gigs have been blues bands. Some modern pop cover songs have too many chords/changes to make that viable (to me anyway).

    I'll probably just have to come up with my own shorthand. Probably just the lyrics with the chords written above - basically what repoman is doing.

    repoman - back in the day we would have to hand out cassette tapes of cover songs we were going to learn:p
  7. madurolover


    May 21, 2011
    Tampa Fl
    I can read the chords fine, but most of the songs have a different pattern. I can jam fine with the chords but later when I look it up like in Songster, I was way off.

    Sometimes I create a fake with a similar pattern for complicated songs and as I get more comfortable with it, I go back and learn it better. Last week I had two days to learn Wicked Garden, I wasn't close but no one really noticed - I guess bass doesn't matter as much as a guitar, its more like a drum, as long as you are keeping the beat
  8. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg Keyboards
    I actually do everything by ear and memory. I have been playing for 35 years and have never relied on charts of any type.

    I have played with guys who use them. My advice is to try several different ways and see what works for you.
  9. craig.p


    Sep 28, 2008
    New Hampshire
    Definitely the Number System. It makes things ridiculously easy and fast.

    Here's a real simple one. Reference approx. 7:30 into this. In my band I restate the bass intro at the end of every verse & chorus, but otherwise the chart reflects what Smith's bass player is doing in that vid.

  10. jonas_24112


    Jul 11, 2011
    I usually pt together a spreadsheet. Separate cell for intro,, chorus, bridge, and a cell for notes. Most of the time just put chords into the cell. If there's a particular part or signature bass line I really need to nail, then I may write in some tab.

    For sub gigs, i usually try to run through the songs a couple of times prior to the gig to get the rhythms down. I Also listen to the songs constantly during my commute and on my iPod at work to become as familiar with them as possible.
  11. madurolover


    May 21, 2011
    Tampa Fl
  12. I find that less is better......i don't want to be staring at tab sheets in a poorly lit bar. I just put the chords of the verse / chorus / bridge after the name of the song on a set list. The more your can memorize the better. The keys are just to stimulate the memory.
    Some bands / gigs / club owners frown on seeing musicians using music stands all night....set lists you can hang any where

    Example Set list

    Song 1 G C D G / D E D E / Bb F G

    Song 2 C F G G / A A B A / E F#

    Etc Etc
  13. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Here's a pretty specific description of how I do it.

    For each band I keep a Word document with lyrics and chords. At the top of each song is the title in capital letters, and then who the song is by. I should probably add bpm numbers for one band, too, though I haven't done that yet.

    If there's the same chord progression throughout, I'll just write them at the top, with maybe vertical lines marking bars. If there's different chords in different sections but they don't change within a section then I write them above each section. If things change within a section, I put them above the lyrics.

    In all cases, I write out the chords using letters American-style - so Bb, B, Bm, Bm7, Bm7b5, Bm7b5/F etc.

    If a verse has the same chords as a previous verse, I just have lyrics for the subsequent verses. If lyrics are repeated, I'll just have the first line of that section followed by ...

    I try to keep each song on one page if it will fit, but some longer ones (a lot of Shakira, hip-hop etc.) end up on two pages to keep the font at a legible size.

    Each song gets exported to its own PDF file, and then I put those on an iPad running OnSong. Each band gets its own book in that, and I make a new setlist for every gig.
  14. 5 Wire

    5 Wire

    Feb 1, 2013
    This was the main topic at our swing band meeting last night - how to get or generate horn charts. Since most of our initial offerings are covers (Cherry Poppin' Daddies, etc) some are available on line, some are not which means someone has to make charts.
    We aren't too worried about the rhythm section. I feel like charting their own parts will be a test of the dedication of the individual horns.
    At one point the guitarist mentioned he may be able to help with a program called Band In A Box. Anyone heard of or used this?
  15. Vakmere


    Sep 6, 2007
    Staff paper always worked for me.
  16. hennessybass

    hennessybass Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2008
    Houston, TX
    I have to disagree with this. I think the bass is the most important instrument:D

    Bass is the bridge between rhythm and tone. As a bass player you are responsible for both. The entire harmonic foundation of what the whole band is doing is built on what the bass is doing. Guitar players can miss notes, and no one notices much... then they can play the wrong note twice and its Jazz;) (JK, but not really). If a bass player misses a note, everyone hears it and it sounds wrong!

    Guitar players can fake it,, just solo in the right key, add little things here and there. Bass players can't do that. You have to play the song... which is why good charts are so important!

    I once read an interview with Paul McCartney (in the Bass Player Book), and he talks about when he first switched to bass. Said he didn't like it at first, and didn't want to play bass, but soon discovered that with the bass, he was in total control of the band.
  17. hennessybass

    hennessybass Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2008
    Houston, TX
    The ipod playlist is a wonderful thing. I keep playlists of all the songs I know, the ones I need to currently work on, ones I would like to learn, etc...

    As far as the internet, I don't find it useful much beyond getting me a good start on a song, and then it's usually just to find a chord or two to give me a starting place to go from.

    So many BAD tabs on the internet. Stuff that is just way off / incomplete / and just wrong.:rollno:
  18. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound

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