A Note About Chords and Lyrics

I’m about to start sharing – through this very blog – chord progressions to some of my favorite songs.  Some of these are songs whose chords I figured out completely on my own.  Others are lead sheets I found littered about the internet, which I then edited.  The internet offers a wealth of available lead sheets and tablature for the aspiring musician, but sometimes they end up misrepresenting the song.

Common errors/weirdnesses found on the internet are:

  • a song in the wrong key.  I am always amused at this, because generally, it is off by a half step or whole step, the equivalent of one or two frets on the guitar.  Meaning: someone didn’t tune their guitar properly that morning.
  • alternately, when one is instructed to “tune down” or “tune up” a guitar to play a song correctly.  an alternate tuning is one thing, but if I am not tuning my entire guitar up, down, or sideways by the same interval on every string just because you couldn’t really figure out the chord progression.  The neck of a guitar offers easily two locations to play any song.  If one doesn’t seem to be working for you, find the other one.
  • instead of chords we are given the lead guitar line, which may or may not be enough to accurately represent the song. Unless you have an entire band backing you, this is usually useless.
  • attempts at representing the proper strumming rhythm generally take up way to much space on the page and don’t seem to be worth it.

There are probably a few more mistakes and awkward things around the world wide web of guitar chords and tab, so it’s possible I will be adding to this list as time goes on.  My own attempts at sharing my “fake” sheets with you will hopefully attack each of the gripes on my list head on and provide you with the best representation of how I myself play this song.

Following the chord post will be a harmonic analysis of each song, utilizing roman numerals (which I’ve already talked about on this blog), to analyze how the chords relate to each other. Being able to hear the relationships between the chords is almost as important as knowing the chords themselves. It’s the difference between seeing random words strung together followed by some punctuation, and being able to identify the subject, predicate, and object in any given sentence.

The songs I publish to my blog will mostly include songs that I perform live or songs that I enjoy playing at home.  Many of these really are songs that I have spent a lot of time on, from figuring out the basic chord structure to the strumming pattern.  Often times I am analyzing music which was never meant to be played by one girl with her acoustic guitar, and I work towards the best way to boil down, say, a nine piece punk band to suit my needs.

  • Eric

    I’m curious about point 1: “a song in the wrong key. I am always amused at this, because generally, it is off by a half step or whole step, the equivalent of one or two frets on the guitar. Meaning: someone didn’t tune their guitar properly that morning.”

    I can see the purpose to transcribing a song from, say, an Eb guitar, but playing it on an E guitar, without transposing. The point would be to represent the song in position, not necessarily in key. Tho, why not just transcribe it in position and just note that it’s meant for Eb and let the buyer beware, I dunno.

    Unless I totally missed your point. Wouldn’t be the first time.

    And what’s wrong with just the lead guitar line (unless it’s represented as Lead only). A little riff…500 rests….a little riff….etc…. 🙂

    Point 2: If you are referring to “drop” tunings, that’s not always the fault of the transcriber. Bands write and play in drop tunings (D, C, B – Korn, Slipknot, etc). Accurate recreation would require instructing your audience to do the same.

  • http://www.missannalawrence.com missanna

    Well, see, every so often, I come across one version of a song – and usually it’s only one version – that is “off” by a half step, with absolutely no notation of it in the tabs. Which, I would assume, means the tabber doesn’t know they’re wrong. Which would mean that the guitar was “off,” not necessarily the tabber.

    Usually when someone transcribes something somehow in a different key (or perhaps, using a capo), they note it.. which kind of rolls into point 2. Dropped tunings (like Drop D, etc) or open tunings, or totally alternate tunings (See: the majority of Ani Difranco’s catalog), usually need to be noted, and usually are, and in fact, if a tabber transcribes a song without noting the changed strings, they’re either doing it wrong, or they’re somehow achieving the notes on a standard tuning.

    There’s nothing really wrong with just posting leads. It just bugs me sometimes when the only version of a song available features only the lead riffs. How many people are really in a band that will cover any given song? Probably far fewer than the people who just want to be able to play the song on their own in their living room, or at an open mic, or around the campfire.