Using chord charts to learn new songs…

Here’s an article from covering a great question….  

Esther Morford from Colorado in the US asks:

“Many times I am handed a sheet that has words and chords; that’s all. No lead line, no time signature, no key signature, and I don’t know the song. How do I handle that situation?”

This is a difficult situation and one which is common place in many churches. The truth is that it’s very, very difficult to figure out a song from just words and chords. Try to insist that the person introducing the song lets you have a recorded version to go with the chords, preferably a few days ahead of when you actually introduce the song to the congregation. Make sure the whole band has access to the same recorded version. I’ve been in many situations where each band member knows a different version with a different feel or groove that’s produced an interesting live hybrid arrangement! Also get the person bringing the song to check that the chord chart is in the same key as the recorded version AND if you are changing the key to make it easier to sing then provide a further set of chords to anyone who?s not good at transposing. This will save time and emergency prep just before the service. Remember, good rehearsals are much more productive when they focus on getting the band to gel with a song and rather than learning the song itself which can be done beforehand in each players’ own time.

Also if you are more familiar with a full music score rather than a chord chart it’s a good idea to count through the beats of the bar against the words as you listen to the song and mark off a bar line on every 1st beat which will give you a better “roadmap” of the structure.

CCLI’s Song Select is the best tool I’ve found to help get round this. It’s an online system where you can select any one of 88,000 songs, print out charts, lead sheets or full score in any key, listen to melody and harmony lines via midi and it links to a 30 second segment of a definitive recorded version of the song so you can hear what it should sound like in a band context.


Be sure and check out for great articles, video resources and much, much more!!!

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