How to Format the Clearest Chordchart Ever

I frequently use chordcharts. Here’s a couple of tips I’ve learnt over the years which make my chordcharts as legible and efficient as possible.

I use Open Office  to write out my chordcharts, because that way I can use an amazing (free!) plugin called ChordTransposer that will transpose the chart to whatever key I wish in less than 1 second. Handy if that singer (or me) has a cold, and suddenly all songs need to be brought down a step…!

For legibility of the chords and to imply rhythm, it’s really helpful to use a monospaced font – a font where all the letters and digits take up the same amount of horizontal space. I use Inconsolata.

I make the margins narrow, to make the lyrics as large as possible and the spacing as expanded as possible:

left margin: 0.7cm

right margin: 0.7cm

top margin: 0.7cm

bottom margin: 1.27cm

Correct line spacing is vital: I use double spacing. At a pinch, for example to fit one more line of a verse on a page and thus minimise page-turns, I’ll use 1.5cm line spacing.

I find font size 22 optimal for reading lyrics & chords.

I make the font ‘black’ for added clarity. If the song has a chorus, I make it ‘bold’.

The relative spacing between lyrics font and chord font is really important: I use a semi-expanded spacing for the lyrics, and condensed spacing for the chords, e.g.

For lyrics: Inconsolata Semi-expanded black size 22

For chords: Inconsolata condensed bold size 22

If a song has long lines, I’ll put the page in landscape format to allow that.

For a section without lyrics: if you’re following the font sizes and margins recommended above, insert 5 blank spaces after each chord to have 2 bars of chords equally spaced throughout a line*.

As a lever harp player, I need to set the key of the harp with levers before I begin to play. So I write the key and levers required in the top right corner of the first page.

Also as a lever harp player, I need to flip a lever every time I play a non-diatonic chord. So I highlight each non-diatonic chord in red.

Pro tip: I created a template file in the format listed above, and I just use that when I need to write out a chart.

I used to print my chordcharts, but now I export them to my iPad and view them with the app Music Book by Caposoft. I turn pages with a bluetooth pedal called the AirTurn PEDPro.

Hope this helps, and wishing you much fun and joy with your music-making!

(*In Open Office, with margins as above, using font Inconsolata at font size 26, one can fit 42 characters on a line. So for a chord chart without lyrics of 2 bars per horizontal line, insert 5 characters per chord.)