Ask the Expert – adding notation to chord charts for worship groups?
Ideas for notation on chord charts
Tim Lunn from Wantage in Oxfordshire asks:
“I’m interested to know your thoughts on the use of chord charts for worship groups. The problem is that although, in our case, the bass and guitar rely on them heavily they convey no sense of timing and can cause problems when the keyboard player is rigidly sticking to the sheet music. I have thought about using lead sheets instead but this is a lot of work and a it more info than is needed. There has been an article on this recently in Worship Leader Magazine by Brian Steckler, in which he advocates adding additional notation and marks the bars on a chord chart. Do you have any experience of this or use anything different?”
Yeah – the usual charts with chords on top of lyrics only work when you know the song well, are aware of the changes and just need a chord or note reminder of what change is coming up next. They are pretty much useless for anything else rhythm-wise.
I would say we need to develop some kind in between, standardized chart that gives some kind of bar based references and space to write things in. Maybe have sections for verse, chorus and bridge if applicable plus space to write in what you do in intros, endings and unusual bits. So much music is grouped into four bar segments it could even be groups of four boxes across the page with room to write in key words where changes occur. The key thing is to try somehow to get this all on to a single sheet of paper. So if you have any thoughts or ideas on this do let me know.
In the meantime, yes it’s good to write rhythmic notes on whatever chart you have and a lot of musicians do just that. It’s not ideal but it works. With my students I get them to put rhythms over the lyrics where changes occur in the bar so – may be notate 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & or 1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e etc over the lyrics and connect via an arrow the relevant beat and lyric. For any other changes and even the song structure (v1v2 repeat chorus etc) you could just jot those in the side bar.
However for me the best thing with worship music is try to really know the song and commit the arrangement to memory, especially if you are playing the song week in week out. Therefore the chart becomes just a memory prompt rather than a road map that needs a lot of concentration.