It's true that no musician has to learn to read music, but there are great benefits enjoyed by those who do. This post is regarding one of these benefits: charting.
What is a song chart? A song chart is an outline, or roadmap, that displays the structure of a song. Charts are fantastic when we need to learn a song quickly. For working musicians, it's not uncommon to be hired for a gig or even an audition with little notice or time to prepare.
When we're asked to play ten songs in just a few days, we could try to memorize the music, but this takes a lot of time, which in this case we don't have. Instead, we should create a chart for each of the ten songs. This will allow us to play more accurately right away, as we'll have the charts (roadmaps) to follow. Thanks to charts, it's possible to play many songs on short notice. It's important to note that I'm not saying that we shouldn't memorize the music we can, because we should, but charting the songs should be first priority.
A good chart should have the following things:
- Order of song sections: verse, chorus, bridge, etc.
- Number of measures in each section
It's important to keep in mind when charting, that we don't have to write every single note exactly as they're played in the song, especially if we don't have a lot of time to prepare. The most crucial thing for us to do when charting is to accurately map the song structure, stops, starts, and hits. We shouldn't be overly concerned with playing the song note-for-note, especially since we should always try and put our own personal spin on everything we play anyways.
In conclusion: Charting is a wonderful tool to help us drummers learn songs quickly. I highly recommend it!