Mike Moxcey ©2005

Reading Chord Charts

Sometimes chord charts will have regular chords like C, G or Em. Those are easy to follow.
But if they have Numbers, then you have to translate them into a specific key.
In that case, you will need to

  1. Decide on the key to play
  2. Figure out which chords match the I, IV and V chords for that key. (There may be other chords such as the II, VI, or VII, but not too often).

Counting Numerical Chords

To calculate the chords, just start counting with I for the key chord and count up to IV and V. You can skip the sharps and flats if you're just doing regular stringed instruments keys such as G, A, C, D, and E.
If you get to G, start over with A.

For example:

              I II III IV V
    KEY OF C: C D   E  F  G
    KEY OF G: G A   B  C  D
    KEY OF E: E F   G  A  B

Purists may know the II and III chords in E are actually F# and G#, but for most of the keys stringed instruments play in (G, A, C, D and E), this finger counting method works.

That's pretty much all you need to know to figure out how to play a song from a numbered chord chart. More theory can help, but it's not required.

Song Parts

Instrumentals are usually played in "parts" which correspond to verse, chorus, and bridge in singing songs. Many times the parts are different melodies but have the same chords. Most part structures are either AABB or AABA so you'll play the correct part--A (verse) or B(chorus) --however many times are indicated.
Reading Music Index