Reading the Song Charts

A guide to reading song charts on this site

Time Signature: Included at the start of each song. This gives you a general idea of the timing of the song in terms of beats per bar, e.g., 3/4, 4/4, 2/2, 2/4, 6/8 etc.

Key Signature is not always stated. This tells you whether the song is in a major or minor key. Most songs generally start and finish with their key signature, although there are some exceptions. On all song pages on this site, you will always find a key signature stated in 'Song Details' at the top of each page as well as the song charts.

The Capo

Used in some songs to improve the sound of a song by using open chords as opposed to barre chords, or to make playing easier.

  • Better sound: Fingerpicking sounds better when you play open chords as each string rings true, whereas some barre chords can sometimes sound slightly muffled when finger picked. You still retain the original key of the song, while playing nicer sounding chords.
  • Easier to play: Capo's are often used to make playing a piece easier, e.g., if a song is in the key of Eb major, you will find yourself playing chords like Eb, Fm, Gm, Ab, Bb, Cm. You will probably play most of these as barre chords which can sound quite 'ho hum', especially if you are playing a ballad or meaningful song. To play these chords in an open position can be quite daunting, and for many guitarists, off-putting... and what if you can't play barre chords? The simple solution is to place a capo on the first fret and play in the key of D Major, or place the capo on the third fret and play in the key of C major.

The result is exactly the same. To the ear, the song is still in the key of Eb Major, although you are actually playing the song in a much easier key. Consider the following:

No capo is used: E♭ Major - Eb, Fm, Gm, Ab, Bb, Cm... (possibly all barre chords)

Capo on the 1st fret: D Major - D, Em, F#m, G, A, Bm... (possibly 2 barre chords)

Capo on the 3rd fret: C Major - C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am... (easiest to play - all open chords)

Syllables & Punctuation

Separation of each word into syllables: Syllables are units of sound which make up a word. Wherever more than 1 syllable is used in a word, they are separated with a dash, e.g., lov-ing, re-mem-ber, long-ing. The reason for that is that a chord change may occur on the first, second or last syllable of a word. In these cases the chord is placed directly above the syllable in question.

In the above example of re-mem-ber, the chord change may occur on the -ber part of the word, therefore the chord is placed directly above the start of -ber. With one-syllable words like thought, sight, love, etc., the chords are placed directly above the first letter of the word.

Absence of punctuation: Punctuation in the form of commas, full-stops, question marks, exclamation marks, quotation marks, etc., are not always used as they can often make the song chart too 'busy', causing confusion. Emphasis is on the song itself; the chords and lyrics, and where the chords are placed.

The Transposer

The Transposer can be found on most song pages which is ideal for any key changes you may need or feel more comfortable with.

Bars are generally used in the Intro, Outro, Instrumental sections, and wherever necessary to help with reading the song charts. The Transposer is available in most songs which is great, but chords and bars cannot be placed on the same line.

Instead of: ‖  G  |  D   |  G  |  D  ‖

               G     D      G     D
We have:    ‖     |      |     |     ‖

Where there are 2 chords in a bar where the timing is split evenly, e.g., in 4/4 time:

Instead of: ‖ G  -  D  |  D   |  G  |  D  -  G  ‖

              G     D     D      G     D     G  
We have:    ‖    -     |      |     |     -     ‖

OR            G     D     D      G     D     G
            ‖   /    / |      |     |    /     / ‖

When the timing of chords within bars gets tricky we would normally write them like so:

Intro: 2/2
Timing:  1& 2&  1 &    2 &    1& 2&  1& 2& 
      ‖: A    |   G#m  C#m7 | C#m7 | C#m7  :‖ 

With the Transposer the timing counts are written within the bars like so:

Intro: 2/2
            A          G#m  C#m7  C#m7    C#m7
Timing:  ‖: 1& 2&  | 1 &    2 & | 1& 2& | 1& 2& :‖

There may be some situations where chord changes and timing are a little more difficult - consider the following in 4/4 time:

|   F   Em  -  Dm   C   B♭ -   F   | means you play the F chord for 1 beat, the Em & Dm for 1/2 beat each (= 1 beat), the C chord for 1 beat, and the B♭ and F for 1/2 beat each(= 1 beat).

This is a more complex example: There are 6 chords in the bar, and remember we are in 4/4 time which means 4 quarter-note beats per bar. The first chord F, is on its own (1 beat). The next 2 chords, Em & Dm are split sharing equal value(1/2 beat each). The following chord, C is on its own (1 beat). The final 2 chords, B♭ & C are split sharing equal value (1/2 beat each)...

If we were to count the bar as follows: 1 & the C falls on 3&
the Bb and F fall on the 4 & (B♭ on the 4 and F on the &).

The Transposer is not used on pages where:
  • timing may be complex (like the previous example)
  • certain chords are not recognized, e.g., minMaj7, Δ, º, 6/9, +,  9-5, +7 etc.
  • chords with leading base notes are used on several pages, e.g., A/E, C/G, D/F# etc. The chords are all pushed to the right by one space with each chord. If there is only one chord like this per line, chords and lyrics still line up pretty well, but if there are several chords like this on a line, the following chords are thrown too far to the right and don't line up with the lyrics. This may be confusing for some some musicians.

Wherever this occurs, the Free Transposition service is available

Repeat Signs

/ are used to repeat parts in a bar while 𝄎 are used to repeat bars
/ is also referred to as a simile mark

|   A   /   /   D  | means you play the A chord for 3 beats and the D Chord for 1 beat

|   A   D   /   /  | means you play the A chord for 1 beat and the D Chord for 3 beats

|   A   /   D  G  | means you play the A chord for 2 beats, the D chord for 1 beat, and the G chord for 1 beat.

|  F  C-Dm7  C  /  | means you play the F chord for 1 beat, the C & Dm7 for 1/2 beat each, and the C chord for 2 beats... an example of this is in Let It Be by The Beatles

Exception to the rule: where you see a forward slash between 2 chords which looks like a simile mark, e.g., C/E , that means you play a C chord leading with an E Bass note. There shouldn't be any confusion, as this is only used on its own, and not written within a bar:
/ E as opposed to |   A   /   E   D   |

|     D    |    𝄎    | means you play a D chord for 2 bars

|     D    |    𝄎   |    𝄎    |    𝄎    | means you play a D chord for 4 bars

|     D    |    𝄎    |    G    |    𝄎    | means you play a D chord for 2 bars and then a G chord for 2 bars

Key Changes - Chord Changes - Chord Diagrams

Key Changes: If a key change occurs within a song, it is simply written as 'key change' wherever it occurs.

Time Changes: Let's look at a song played in 4/4 time, where D Major is played followed by a 2/4 bar of A major and then back to D Major in 4/4 time. The timing change would look something like this:

|    D    | 2/4    A    | 4/4     D    |

Chord diagrams are used in all song charts. If some are missing, they are generally the easy chords. Also some pages use Tabbed Charts where some non-mainstream chords are used.

Chord Chart Legend:
Chord Chart Legend

Written chords

Sometimes you will see a chord written, e.g., x32010 (C chord), where each space or segment (6 in total), represents each guitar string starting with the lowest string EADGBe. Each number represents the fret played on that particular string, and the letter 'x' means you don't play that string, therefore in this example, x32010:
  • String 1: x - don't play (low E - fattest string)
  • String 2: 3rd fret
  • String 3: 2nd fret
  • String 4: play open string
  • String 5: 1st fret
  • String 6: play open string (high E - thinnest string)

Although this method doesn't show you which fingers to use, you can generally work it out once you know which frets are required.

Song Charts - Common Symbols:

𝄐 Fermata: a symbol placed over or under a note, chord or rest to extend the note, chord, or rest for an indefinite duration. It may be a short duration or a long duration depending on the discretion of the performer or performers playing the piece. You will often find it at the end of a song where a chord or note is drawn out till the note or chord fades, or sometimes when the song finishes abruptly... also known as hold or pause symbol.

𝆱 Glissando: a glide or slide from one note or chord to the next. It can also be drawn as a straight line. An upward slope indicates sliding upwards. This could be from a low note to a higher note, or from a barre chord on a low fret to a similar shaped barre chord on a higher fret. The same applies to the downward slope, from a higher note or chord to a lower note or chord.

𝄾 Eighth-Note/Quaver Rest: Sometimes you will see an eighth-note followed by a chord. This means that the chord isn't played at the start of the bar, but 1/2 beat after the start of the bar. Let's say for example that we have a 4/4 bar (4 quarter-note beats per bar). Let us break each quarter-note into 2 eighth-note beats. Therefore instead of counting the beats in each bar as 1, 2, 3, 4, we would count 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & (8 eighth-note beats). In this example the chord would come in on the & after the 1.

𝄽 Quarter-Note/Crotchet Rest: Rest for 1 beat equal to a quarter-note/crotchet.

𝄎 Simile Mark: repeat the previous bar again or several times. Also called a repeat sign.

𝄍 Simile Mark: repeat the previous parts in a bar or passage

N.C. No chord is to be played

4/4 time: 4 beats per bar. The value of each beat is a quarter-note / crotchet.

3/4 time: 3 beats per bar. The value of each beat is a quarter-note / crotchet.

2/4 time: 2 beats per bar. The value of each beat is a quarter-note / crotchet.

2/2 time: 2 beats per bar. The value of each beat is a half-note / minim.

6/8 time: 6 beats per bar. The value of each beat is an eighth-note / quaver.

There is more information on Music Terminology which looks at common music terms as well as some 'not so common' terms. This will assist you greatly on any music site, especially if you use sheet music.

Hope this helps...

Back to Popular Music Back To Top
Contact Me

A seasoned performer joyfully playing the guitar