Demo: Lead Sheets

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Lyrics and Chord Charts

An important stage of the song writing process is to present your song in a way that other musicians can read and play it.

There’s no point having the best tune and chord structure that has ever been written, if you can’t give it to other musicians in a way which they can read it easily, quickly and play along to it.

So, here are 10 tips that we’ve found helpful with lyrics and chord sheets:

1. Where possible, type the sheets rather than handwriting them. As nice and as arty as your handwriting may be, vocalists are more likely to sing the right words if they can read them.

2. Make similar sections look similar. So, if you have a chorus, that’s repeated, label it as such. And if the lyrics are not too different, then try to format the text and present it in the same way. That way the musicians will soon learn to associate the shape of the text stanzas with the music that goes with it.

3. Give each musician a pencil, and let them make notes as you go through. They might find ways to write things that are easier for them to understand.

4. If there’s more than one page, then number the pages or stick them together. If sticking them together, use tape and tape along the longer edge of the paper and stick the right hand side of page 1 to the left hand side of page 2 and so on.

5. Don’t use the smallest font you can find. The Same goes for using other fancy fonts. Times New Roman will do. Serif fonts tend to be easier to read because of the serif.

6. Put composer and lyricist details on the sheet. That way, if the sheet makes it out of your sight in any way (disappears into a guitar case etc..), then you are still linked to the content on the sheet.

7. Make a note of any changes you make to your lyrics. Then after the session, update your lyrics document, and print out a new copy and file it somewhere. Save a copy of the lyrics file in the session folder of your song to keep the file somewhere you will easily find it. This will come in very handy if you want to publish the lyrics in the CD liner notes.

8. Put the chords above the lyrics. Even where you have a vocalist who doesn’t play guitar, this will prove useful to pointing out different sections of the song to the vocalist (such as ‘lets try to phrase it differently between the C chord in the first line and the F in the second’

9. For extra understanding from the musicians, write it out bar by bar.

So, for the first 2 lines of our song Footprints, you could display it like this:

VERSE 1
|G                               |C                      |

Walk,   walk  walkin’ slow

|G                            |C                          |

Up and down the  Beach

10. Finally – it is important to remember that you have created the music and the lyrics, so you should be proud of them and remember that they are yours! At the same time, remember to credit any co-writers or collaborators, just as you would want to if someone used a chorus of yours.

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