Creating Lyric and Chord Sheets

View the full lesson at Creating Lyric and Chord Sheets | JustinGuitar

I thought I would leave a suggestion here. I actually, over the past year or so, went through the exercise of making a 50-song songbook of “campfire” songs that I can (mostly) play (most of the time) and it was really a good exercise. Learning all the songs including all link and bridge sections, etc. and working out easy to play arrangements was great. So thanks for the encouragement to do that.

One thing I would suggest though is to not use the Word template and instead use something like ChordProd format instead. There are a number of reasons for this suggestions:

  1. Word is not the best at managing text-formating where position matters (even when you pick the right monospace font, etc). It is a bit of a nightmare to add words that have been missed in the text, etc.
  2. The chords over text format suggested in the word template is a bit “brittle”, correcting typos, etc. requires very careful checking of the position of the chords, etc. ChordPro places the chords in brackets in the text so if you add/remove characters, they move correctly.
  3. The suggestion to print out the lyrics and keep them in a binder (which I did), is probably not how most people will end up managing their songbook in the end, they will probably want it on an iPad or other such device and the word document(s) are not the best for that. Most apps for managing songbooks (Onsong, Songbook Pro, etc.) are easier to work with if you have your songs in chordpro (or at least ascii text) format.
  4. If you want to share some of your transcribed songs with your jam buddies, they will likely be using chordpro (or ascii chords over lyrics) and they would easily be able to import your songs into their books (or the set list for your band).
  5. You can still easily make PDFs out of the songs and print them if you would like.

I followed the suggestion and used the Word template in this lesson and it was fine, but I have subsequently had to spend some time converting the songbook to chordpro so that I can carry it with me on my iPad (and on the phone too, which is handy). I wish I had started with that format, it is better in my opinion.

Just some thoughts. But again, this exercise of major value, it really helps you grow as a guitar player and prepares you for that awkward moment when somebody puts a guitar in your hand at a party.

I agree with most of this - especially the difficulties with using conventional word processors like Word or Pages.

It is extremely tedious to keep the chord text and the lyric text properly aligned. Even more so when you are learning to sing, and trying to make the phrasing of the lyrics line up exactly with the chord changes. (Maybe most people can do that on the fly, but I sure can’t!)

I dabbled with Songbook Pro for iOS, but ended up going back to Pages because of a couple of limitations I ran into:

  1. I don’t think it supports showing bars with multiple chords delimited with “|” characters? e.g.

G C | Am D | G

At my current stage of development, that’s essential.

  1. I’ve come up with a couple of my own conventions e.g. I write pushed chords with a “<” in front of them, and often write the count between the chords for tricky lyrics, so I know exactly which sub-beat each syllable lands on. The program didn’t seem able to deal with this at all.

But maybe I just couldn’t figure out how to do these things.

Tom @Tbushell
I have just started to use Songbook Pro on my iPad, for obvious reasons.
However I can do the editing on my Windows Laptop using the songbook pro manager to make the link. You then can add in by copy and pasting whatever characters you want.
Personally I prefer the chords above the lyrics I find that when I am not playing and singing a song from memory but using a sheet to help it is easier to locate where the chords change with the words.
Hope this helps

Good to know, thanks.

I got so fed up with my dog of a Windows PC that I packed it away a couple years ago, and do everything on my iPad these days.

But it’s nice to know it might still be good for something! :wink:

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I also need the bars above the sometimes, but I have found that you can put any annotation above the lyrics just by putting it in brackets, so something like:

This [|] [Am]is [G]the [|] [C]way [|]

renders as:

    | Am G  |  C   |
This  is the   way

As you would expect. You can put other accents and things. In general anything with * in front of it is explicitly not a chord, but will go above the lyrics.

Hope this helps.


@Tbushell and @MAT1953, I also do the heavy editing on my Windows PC. I sync the chordpro files to OneDrive anyway so on my PC, I can use a proper text editor and other tools and then on the ipad it is mostly just touching up things, etc.

I converted my 50 song word file to chordpro on the PC and then imported. It was while I was in that process that I thought I would comment here, because, I really wish I had just done it in chordpro to begin with and saved myself the hassle of converting.


Interesting! Can you edit this way on the iPad, or do you need to use the PC editor?

@Tbushell you can edit that way on the iPad. Here is a random example:

And it renders like this:

Maybe not the best example, but I happened to have that open. And I am typing this on the iPad.


I played with Songbook a bit more, and was able to get the “|”, “<”, and counting chars up on the chord line, thanks to @cloudynerd 's suggestions.

Some things don’t seem to be supported e.g. {chordcolor: green} and similar directives.

In general, I am not a fan of these kinds of editors that use embedded “magic” codes for formatting. (I have the same complaint with the editor used here on the Forum, though it at least allows basic WYSIWYG formatting).

This style of editor seems to appeal more to programmers than the average user, but it’s programmers who write the applications, so I guess we’re stuck with it. I’m certainly not planning to come out of retirement and write my own!

Going forward, I think I’ll give Songbook another chance the next time I create a lead sheet.

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@Tbushell there are other editors and viewers for the iPad too…OnSong is one that I checked out, but it’s pretty expensive and their new 2022 version seems a bit half-baked, so I use Songbook. If you use chordpro format you always have the option of just making PDFs from them too.

ChordPro is certainly not perfect and none of the apps are either, so much to improve on. That said, I think using chordpro as a format is much better than a Word template. Gives you more options overall, so I think this discussion is imortant to have here and maybe in the future @JustinGuitar can do a lesson on that or update this one.

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@cloudynerd I’ve been experimenting with the free version of Songbook Pro on my iPad, with mixed results.

One thing I notice is that my editing screen does not look like your screenshots, or the official documentation.

This is what I see:

I can’t find any button or setting that will show the editing screen as full screen, like your screenshots. Controls on my screen look different from yours as well.

Thoughts? Maybe the free version has a different user interface? Certainly no mention of this in the documentation that I saw.

Tom @Tbushell
I have the full version cost me the princely sum of 5.99 GBP.
There are some strange features but am puzzled by your screenshot, LHS has chord pro version, chords buried in the lyrics but RHS is chords above.
In the editing screen you can switch between the two but you have to save for the change to stick, I think, as I don’t use or like the chord pro version.
Not sure that answers your question though.

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Ok, I see where I was confused.

The app in @cloudynerd’s screenshots is SongBook Chordpro - $20 cdn

The app I’ve been using is SongbookPro - limited free version, or $9 cdn for all features

Different apps from different developers, with very similar names. Looks like there are also some more in the App Store…again with very similar names.

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I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to get Blow Up the Outside World into Songbook Pro, and it has not gone well.

This song is quirky, with arpegiated chords, pushed chords, and occasional 6 beat bars. I like to notate these things in my lead sheets, but - other than using “|” to indicate bars - the program is fighting me all the way.

Depending what special characters, or even alphabetic chars you put in the chord line, strange things will happen. The worst is that the program will strip out all the "[ ]’ chars on a line if it doesn’t like something in that line.

The program works ok for simple lead sheets with no special notation, but I want something more powerful.