Purpose of Chord Charts

The audience is screaming and the lights are coming on. It is your first gig with this new band and you had merely a week to prepare the whole repertoire. Thankfully one of your band members gave you the chord charts of all the songs, so you can now strum the first chord with full confidence. It’ll be a great concert!

Chord charts have various uses and this article will highlight a few. With a chord chart you can remember musical ideas, analyze songs or play songs easily, as we saw in the story above. Let’s start with quickly sketching a song idea.

Remember Song Ideas

If you want to quickly sketch a song idea, a chord chart can come in handy. Instead of writing each note in detail, you can quickly capture the gist of a whole song. No need to fill in the details yet. To get an idea out of your head and onto paper before you forget about it, a chord chart is a wonderful tool.

Analyze Songs

A chord chart is also a wonderful tool to analyze songs and to learn from them. You can clearly see the overall song form and the broader harmonic relationships. As a studying device, chord charts are indispensible.

Play Music

Chord charts are also indispensible for playing music. With their compressed amount of information they’re easy to read and play even on first sight. They also give you some freedom to improvise and adapt to the current setting and mood in which you play. Although chord charts are mostly used in modern music (popular and jazz) today, the concept goes back to the basso continuo of the baroque era. Instead of writing out each accompaniment for every part of the ensemble, composers simply stuck to the gist of the song and let the players improvise and adapt to the setting and mood.


Chord charts have many uses we saw in this article. They can help to remember musical ideas or be a device for analyzing songs. Probably most important for many of us is the use of chord charts to play songs on stage.

Matthias Orgler

I play music on stages and in studios :). My passion is to help other musicians wherever I can. With www.gixtra.com I want to make gigging easier and with my "Real World Music Theory" series I want to make music theory fun to learn.

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