View Full Version : Singing and chords

08-10-2009, 10:27 AM
Im having a little difficulty understanding chord charts where the chords are written above the lyrics of a song.

How do I know what note I should start to sing the song in, in order to sing in the same key as the chords given? Im happy singing a song written in staff notation and transposing it if necessary if some of the notes are outside my range, but how do I know if I need to transpose it if I dont know the notes of the song?

I know a little music theory from playing the violin but I'm used to seeing everything written down in notation.

Thank you!

08-10-2009, 10:34 AM
Usually if you know the song, you can play through a few of the chords and find your starting place in your head or by humming.

08-10-2009, 10:41 AM
I don't know much theory, but I believe the assumption is that one can intuit the proper vocal notes. We "know" the melody of a song without needing to name the notes we're singing. If you really need the note for note of the vocals, you can sit there and pick it out on the fretboard. Hope that helps. Others with more knowledge can probably do a better job of explaining it.

Ukulele JJ
08-10-2009, 10:50 AM
That's pretty much it. Chord charts--just the lyrics with the chord names written in--are very easy to read and use, even by people with little knowledge of music theory. The trade off, however, is that you have to pretty much know how the song goes and be able to sing it when given only the chords.

But we do this all the time, if you think about it. A song comes on the radio, and we can often just jump in and start singing along from the get-go, just by hearing the intro. Or someone can strum a single chord for something like "Happy Birthday", and everyone chimes right in.

I've found that people who started off with classical training, and who have always had things notated for them, sometimes have trouble at first with having nothing to go by but their ears. It's kinda like cooking from recipes your whole life, then suddenly having to throw something together based only on a vague description of the dish, and with no measurements indicated! :eek:

But the more you do it, the better you get!


08-10-2009, 11:03 AM
aha! as I thought, I've been thinking and worrying too much!

08-10-2009, 07:15 PM
aha! as I thought, I've been thinking and worrying too much!

Yes. One trick I use quite often is to play a the chords for a phrase in the song that ends on the tonic chord prior to singing. This will almost always give your ear enough to go on to pick out the opening note.

Another thing I find quite useful is Fake Books with lead sheets that include both the melody and the chords. I need it not so much for the melodies but for the rhythms… I have sung without accompaniment for so many years that I often take egregious liberties with the rhythm of the melody. Further, I am lousy and figuring out rhythms and pick ups by ear, so I will often put chord changes in the wrong place or strum oddly.

I find a nice lead sheet makes a world of difference when I am learning something new on the ukulele, even if I have known the song for years.

With a classical background you may find the same to be true.

In the end, though, learning to use your ears more and learn things by ear is an invaluable skill… I am still aweful at it, but I try and develop both skillsets. Reading music is invaluable. Being able to play by ear is invaluable.

Keep at it—everything gets better with practice.