These are charts I made for my own use, but you’re welcome to have ’em.
I’ll add new ones periodically, so maybe bookmark this page if you’re into that sort of thing.
Great tune full of way-cool songwriting moves. Starts on the IV, then walks up to an inversion of the V… at various points you could be forgiven for thinking this song is in G, A, or F (but it’s in D).
It’s also one of those tunes where the producer or label exec or whoever decided after the fact that it ought to be a bit faster, so they sped it up… making it out of tune for the rest of us (and thus a bitch to learn). Luckily, Transpose lets you adjust the tuning. Hooray technology.
In Your Eyes isn’t really a guitar song, but unless your group has two keys players, you’ll probably be responsible for those arpeggiated bits in the prechorus and chorus. I’m also copping the rhythm of the talking drum in the verses just to fill the sound out.
Probably the coolest part of this for me is the rhythm in the verses. Check out how the hit on the D chord is on beat 4 until the eighth measure of the verse (so m12 in this chart). Now the D chord hits on the + of 3 each time until we get to the end of the next 8 bar phrase, where it turns back around to set you up for the PC. Super subtle, yet totally badass. I love that sort of shit.
Fun trivia bit: that awesome Lion King-sounding singing on the out chorus is Senagalese singer Yousou N’Dour, singing in his native Wolof with maybe a word or two of French sort of pidgin-ed in.
I don’t have dude’s baller delay pedal, which is pretty central to what he’s playing. I’m also just one person, and there’s two guitars on the recording. So this isn’t one of those obnoxious 100% note-for-note transcriptions, but rather a composite arrangement for one guitarist in a working band.
If you’re a two-guitar band, for the verse one of you might play the 8th note arpeggios (a la the breakdown chorus at m59) while the other one plays muted 16th note strums w/delay. Then for the chorus one of you plays what’s written and the other plays crunchy power chords.
If you want me to write out the synth solo for guitar just holler at me.
Billie Jean hardly has any guitar in it—we’re tacet until measure 47.
None of the three badass riffs that David Williams plays is terribly difficult.
Billie Jean is a perfect illustration of what makes a well-written chart so valuable.
Imagine learning this song from online TAB—the three parts would be written out, but you wouldn’t get a sense of how the pieces fit together, or when to play each riff.
A straight-from-the-record songbook isn’t much better, because they’re including a ton of information that you don’t really need, like the vocal melody or chord voicings that weren’t actually played. They’re also hemmed in by the space constraints of a printed book—that’s why you see so many janky things like “w/Rhythm Figure 1 31/2 times” and multiple “DS al Coda”-type roadmaps. You find yourself frantically flipping back and forth, and needing to memorize the tune if you’re going to perform it anyway.
Being able to see a whole song in a page or two is tremendously insightful, and for me it’s like that moment when the water finally clears from your ear two days after swimming: OOOOHHH. I DIDN’T EVEN REALIZE I WAS MISSING THIS.
Having a concise chart also means you can perform the song without needing to memorize all of its strange internal logic—the second chorus that’s longer than the first, the guitar break that has vocal elements from the chorus in it, and the last chorus that’s the same length as the first but features a different riff on guitar.
Especially in this day & age of producer-driven R & B and its bizarre song forms, having a chart is talisman to ward off on-stage train wrecks. Sure, those Beyoncé & Taylor Swift songs are easy to play, but I have a hundred bucks that says you’ll fuck up the form without a chart.
So yeah: charts. They’re awesome. Get yourself some of that.
This Darrell Scott tune was a big hit for the Dixie Chicks when they turned in a more bluegrass-y direction, and it is chock-full of badassery. I’ve charted it in the original key of G, but if any of y’all want it in the Chicks’ key of D, give a holler and I’ll transpose it real quick.
Tim O’Brien’s mandolin gives us a sort of half-time funk feel in the verses, and then changes to a grass feel in the choruses.
After a couple times through the verse & chorus, we modulate up a whole step and restate the fiddle tune-esque thang from the intro/interlude.
Then we take it to a kick-ass bridge, which bends us around to land back in the original key. Hip!
Double chorus with the BGs stepping in to give the lead singer a chance to breathe, then another pass through the fiddle tune part.
And then the coup de grace: a mixed-meter tag that took me forever to decide how to write. A bar of 3, two bars of 4, a bar of 5, four bars of 4, repeat. Phew!
Beyond all the super hip badassery, this is quite simply a great song. I absolutely love this sort of thing: it just sounds like good music, but when you go to play it you realize there’s all sorts of crazy shit going on under the hood.
This time out I wanted to show you something a little different: a chart meant for a whole rhythm section.
Fishin’ In The Dark is a really simple tune, but there are a few things in it that—if you were to call it at a gig or jam—make in unlikely that it’ll go off smoothly. That’s why I included the small staves below the guitar part(s) to show a sample of the bass & drums groove, all the more important because they enter exactly at the point where the tune changes feel.
Speaking of guitar parts: after the first system you’ll notice that the two guitars are combined into one staff (along with the occasional snare hit).
As a sidenote, I’ve noticed something about learning songs (or at least the sorts of songs you’ll be asked to play on paying gigs):
There are almost no songs that are actually difficult, only songs that are personally counterintuitive.
The electric guitar riff on Fishin In The Dark is one such example of this. It isn’t even a little bit difficult, but my ears want it to be on +4+1 instead of on +3+4. It wasn’t until I took the trouble to write it out as it actually is (instead of how I expect it to be) that I was able to override my inclinations and play it properly.
I want to hate this hokey country song, but I can’t. It’s fun.
Not much to it, but there are a couple things worth pointing out.
- I prefer to write & read things that are 4 bars to the system, but crammed 8 per onto this one because 1) there’s not much going on, and 2) now it fits neatly onto one page.
- See that “(9)” written on a few of the systems? That’s a courtesy for drummers—it basically says “hey this section is one bar longer than you want it to be; don’t play a fill that sets up a chorus that’s still a bar away.”
This is a perfect example of where TAB and internet chord charts fall flat.
The main riff is like 95% of this song, and you could absolutely learn how to play it from the internet. But you’d be missing out on the form, which has some tricky bits to contend with. In fact, I asked my friend who plays in a DMB tribute band if they do the form from the record. He said not really, that their arrangement is built to follow the singer, who is the only guy in their band who didn’t study music in any formal organized way.
Some cool things going on here:
- I wrote this to be a one-page chart, so there are some 4-measure repeats (those o////o symbols with a 4 over them) to help free up some white space.
- The refrain has a 2/4 bar. Doesn’t feel especially strange, but when you’re playing as a band, you have to move as one cohesive unit and this is an open manhole cover you might fall into without a chart.
- After the refrain, there’s a section that starts on the lyric “in a boy’s dream,” where they don’t play the riff, but instead two bars of C#m, then the rest of the riff turned inside out. It takes another 2/4 bar of the E chord to turn it back around to catch the riff again.
- You’ll notice some bright blue repeat signs bracketing bars 13 to 38. Most guys & gals are reading on iPads these days, and the color contrast helps the eye move smoothly across the page, avoiding on-stage train wrecks.
- Bright blue again for “open vamp” and “on cue.” I could have made the chart two pages and worked out the exact bars and sections, but the riff doesn’t change until the very last bit, and I’d rather have everyone’s heads out of the chart and enjoying themselves.
- If you’ve read any of my charts before, you’ll notice that I switched up the appearance a bit (the “house style” in Sibelius parlance). I thought my charts looked pretty good, but then I saw some of my friend Jo’s… and promptly stole a bunch of ideas from her.
“Easy Steely Dan song” is an oxymoron, but Josie is at least approachable for the average guitarist. I included some specific voicings where it seemed important, but left the rest up to you.