• Understand the basics of the Nashville Number System.
• Learn how to create charts quickly and effectively.
• Create accurate, readable charts for the rest of your band.
Throughout my career as a guitarist, I’ve received plenty of last-minute calls to cover a gig or session. I’ve heard everything from “Can you cover this session for me on Friday?” to “Can you fly to Los Angeles and do the Jay Leno show on Friday?” Such calls usually come a day or two beforehand.
Dealing with this kind of pressure is part of being a professional guitarist. If you’re going to accept the gig, then you have to be able to deliver. As a result of these calls I’ve grown musically and I’m used to virtually any type of situation. One way I’ve been able to pull it off is by using charts and cheat sheets to learn lots of material in a short time.
I’m currently working as the guitarist and musical director on the TV show Live from Daryl’s House. This means not only must I learn the songs for all the various artists, but I’m also responsible for writing charts and arrangements for the other guys in the band, doing the occasional horn arrangements, and creating lyric and chord charts for Daryl Hall and often the artists themselves. In this lesson, I’d like to share how I use charts and musical “shorthand” in real-life situations to get me through some of these last-minute calls.
Rough Chord Charts
When I’m dealing with a simple arrangement and I know the musicians are going to cover all the parts, I’ll often just write a simple chord chart. It’s not the prettiest chart, but the chords and form are correct, so it will get the job done. In Ex. 1 you can see a chart I wrote up for “Love You Like a Brother.” We played this with the legendary Billy Gibbons on Live from Daryl’s House. If there are more intricate parts, I’ll use Sibelius to make the charts cleaner.