How To Make Your Chord Charts A Lot Better

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Dear Worship Leader,

If you have spent any time on this blog in the past, you probably know how much I like well-run rehearsals. If you don’t, click here to read how I try to run rehearsals.

One of the tools that helps me run a good rehearsal is having a clear and detailed chord chart for my team.

Great chord charts are easy to overlook and yet they make a huge difference for our team.

Why We Need Better Chord Charts

Obviously, you are busy. We’re all busy. So why is it worth it to spend extra time to create better chord charts for your team? Here are some reasons:

  • Set Up For Success. With the help of a well-crafted chord chart, there is a good chance you’ll be able to get through the song the first time. Stopping a new song during a rehearsal isn’t uncommon, but when you can get through a song the first time it’s a huge confidence booster.
  • Less Talk; More Music. Clear, detailed chord charts mean more time is spent playing music rather than talking about how to play the music.
  • Creates More Consistency. There is nothing worse than not being able to remember how you played a song the week before. A better chord chart can remember things you might forget.

Here are the two things you need to create a better chord chart.

Build The Order Of The Song In The Chart

The thing that will save you the most headaches in rehearsals is to have the entire order of the song built into the chord chart.

To build the sequence of the song into your chart, have the top of the chart be the beginning of the song and the bottom of the chart be the end. The rest of the song will be in descending order (a sample image will be at the end of this post). This allows the eye to follow the page while playing.

To keep yourself from copying and pasting all over the place, use bold section titles. Instead of rewriting a chorus the second time through, simply write the section title.
Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 8.07.27 AM
Instead of rewriting the chorus, simply write the section header to let people know where they are going.

Having the sequences of the song is great. Having every measure of the song on the chord chart is even better.

In order to do this, you’ll have to know which time signature the song is. Using the slash (/) and bar (|) on your qwerty keyboard, you can start making measures on your charts like this:

INTRO:

| A / / / | / / / / | D / / / | / / / / |

The bars (|) tell you where the measures start and stop and both the chords and the slashes (/) are the quarter notes. Above is what this chord progression looks like in 4/4 timing. Here’s what it would look like in 6/8:

INTRO:

| A / / / / / | / / / / / / | D / / / / / | / / / / / / |

For much of the chord chart, you’ll be able to have chords over lyrics (like most charts you’ll find on the internet). For instrumentals, intros and interludes, having every measure notated is a lifesaver.

Planning Center Hacks To Fit Your Charts On One Page

Whether your team is using tablets or pages on a music stand, two page chord charts are clumsy and cumbersome. Someone will have to stop playing their instrument just to turn a page or swipe a screen.

Formatting your chord charts to fit on one page is one of those little things that make life easier.

If you use Planning Center Online, you may have noticed that they have updated how chord charts are made. Here are some hacks you can use along with the new updates to help avoid using two pages for your chord charts.

  • Format. When you get to the chord chart edit section there is a little button on the top right labeled “Format” right next to a green button that says “Download.” That Format button is where all the magic happens. Click that button.
  • Select 2 columns. There is a drop down menu under “Columns.” The options are 1 and 2. Select 2.
  • Select Arial/Helvetica Font. There are several font options to choose. To my eyes, Arial/Helvetica is the most visually pleasant, but it’s also the skinniest. Select this font.

Using 2 columns and the Arial/Helvetica font combined with the section headers we talked about earlier, you’ll be able to fit 99.999% of the songs you play on to one page.

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 7.17.45 PM

 

Take some time to create a better chord chart. A little extra work now will create better rehearsals in the future.

Keep sharp,

-Jed

4 Responses to "How To Make Your Chord Charts A Lot Better"
  1. Simeon says:

    Good post Jed.

    As someone who plays keys and uses chord charts 99.9% of the time, the importance of easy-to-read charts is essential. I find OnSong an indispensable resource for creating and storing my chord charts and set lists.

  2. Justin says:

    Hi Jed! Was just wondering how I can make this template of having all the extra stuff as a default template setting for all future chords.

    Or do I have to manually change the format of the chord chart for every song we set for services?

  3. Jed says:

    I do it manually. Planning Center Online may have a way to load in a template, but I haven’t explored that. Of course with how often they update their service, there are a lot of features they have that I don’t use.

    If you hit the format button in the chart editor and select Arial/Helvetica font and switch the chart to 2 columns, you’re half way there.

  4. Danny Wilson says:

    If you want to make even better chord charts, use numbers, then you can change keys at will and your chord chart is always correct and useful. As a musician, one should always know the scale number of the chord he is playing. This also helps the practitioner understand basic theory.

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