Reading Chord Charts
Once you've mastered the open-position chords and the moveable barre chords, you're ready to play almost anything that comes your way. Unlike music for the piano, guitar sheet music typically doesn't use standard notation for its chord playing. The ability to read standard notation is extremely important to being a good, well rounded musician. As a guitarist, reading chord charts is a more common part of the job. Typically a chord chart consists of two elements: chord name and duration. Most chord charts won't show you exactly how to play the chords; you're expected to be able to play basic major and minor chords. Some charts will show a small chord box (like the ones in FIGURE 2-2) to aid you in playing the correct chord voicing.
Voicing refers to the way a chord is played. A simple C-Major chord can be played many different ways on the guitar; each is a different voicing. For example an open C-Major chord and an 8th fret barre chord are considered two different voicings of the same chord. If a guitar player is supposed to use an unusual chord voicing in place of a open chord, the chord charts will specify exactly how to play that chord.
The duration of the chord will be expressed in slash notation—one slash equals one strike of a chord with your pick or fingers. This simple way of notating guitar chords is common and acceptable. Chord charts are also used in jazz, country, blues, and commercial music styles. Many players find it faster to read the chord symbol C Major than to read the standard notation for the chord.
FIGURE 2-7 is a simple chord chart showing a D-Major chord followed by an A-Major chord using open-position chords.
When you read this chord chart you can play any version of a D-Major chord you wish—either the open position D or a D-Major barre chord are fine.
FIGURE 2-8 shows how the barre chords would substitute for the open chords.
Notice the difference in sound between the open-position chords and the barre chords. Play both examples again to compare the different chords. The choice of which to use depends on your personal preference.