How to Read Chord Charts

By: Jerry A. Greene

Question: How can I begin to learn to play pop-style piano accompaniments from chord charts? I read scores well due to studying "classical" piano, but chord charts mystify me.

Answer: Learning to read from chord charts definitely takes a different "point-of-view" from playing from notation. It is something that I go quite in depth with, with students that are interested in learning. Obviously it would be hard for me to cover it in one article :)

The benefits of learning to read from chord charts, or lead sheets (as they are often called), can be immensely satisfying, as they give you the ability to make up your own version of the song. You may have seen books called "Fake Books" and wondered what they are. Fake books are essentialy collections of lead sheets (melody, chords and lyrics only).

When I play at cocktail hours, or holiday parties, I take a few fake books with me, and it can keep me quite busy for hours. Also, it makes it easier to take requests, since most fakebooks have 100's if not 1000+ songs in them...and everytime you play the music, it's different!

I wish you the best in starting to learn to play in this way. Please let me know if you have any more specific questions.

Jerry A. Greene