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Completing the Charts and Chord Docs

In mid-January of 2017 I began work on the task of creating charts and chord docs for the 168 progressions and the 84 guitar duet arrangements. My initial resolve was to complete each album (including hand-writing the charts and chord docs, digitalizing the charts and chord docs, and making sound recordings of the guitar music detailed in the charts and chord docs) before moving on to the next album. After completing the first two albums in this fashion, I decided to postpone making the sound recordings for the other 12 albums until after all the charts and chord docs were finished. Then after completing hand-written as well as PDF (digitalized) charts and chord docs for the third and fourth albums, I decided to work through the 10 remaining albums by concentrating solely on producing hand-written charts and chord docs, and postponing the task of making PDFs. I made this decision in part because I was intensely curious about whether all of the 120 progressions remaining could serve as the basis for viable song structures. In addition, postponing the more tedious tasks of completing PDFs and sound recordings allowed me to focus my efforts on the more creative tasks of fashioning song structures and duet guitar arrangements. Like many other decisions I had already made in connection with this project, this proved to be a beneficial decision. In retrospect, I have no doubt that freeing myself in this way (at least temporarily) from less creative pursuits had a positive effect on my work, and on the final result of my efforts (the Progressions Catalog).

The hand-written charts and chord docs for the last 10 albums of the Catalog were finished toward the end of March, about six weeks after I decided to devote myself entirely to this important task. At that point, faced with the prospect of having to digitalize 180 charts and 120 chord docs, I decided it was a good time to take a break of two weeks or so from working on this project. After resuming work on the PDFs more refreshed and more energized, I was able to complete all the PDFs in about 5 weeks. The actual creation of PDFs, the last step in the digitalization of the charts and chord docs, consists of converting Word documents into PDFs by using the Adobe Acrobat program. This is a fairly simple but tedious and somewhat mind-numbing task that requires 15 mouse clicks to convert each chart and chord doc to PDF format. In truth, though, most of the work involved in digitalizing the charts and chord docs consists of finalizing the Word documents that the PDFs are based on. The Word documents for the charts and chord docs are based on templates that can be amended and adjusted to suit the particulars of each individual chart or chord doc. Because they are so similar in structure and appearance, all of the chord docs were fashioned from a single template. In 2010 and 2011, when I was digitalizing the charts for the D.L. Stieg Catalog and the Popular Music Catalog, I fashioned chart templates as required. Each of the two dozen or so templates that I devised at that time was distinguished by a given number of lines, and a given number of slash marks per line. By comparison, the charts for the Progressions Catalog were somewhat easier to digitalize, since all but a few were based on a single template consisting of 8 lines and 4 slash marks per line.

Only four slash marks per line were required for practically all of the charts for the Progressions Catalog because the song are relatively short and relatively simple in structure. The average length of three minutes is a reflection of my opinion that songs that are much shorter or much longer than about three minutes in length are too short or too long. The simplicity of the musical structure of most of the Progressions is a reflection of my opinion that a relatively simple but sensible and orderly chord progression can serve no less effectively as the basis for a song accompaniment than a longer and more complicated chord progression. In addition, simpler progressions that employ a limited number of chords are more accessible and more comprehensible, and can be played by a greater number of guitarists and other musicians. This last point is of no small importance, because in composing the music for the Progressions Catalog, it was important to me to try to develop viable song structures that would also be relatively easy to play, so that as many people as possible could learn to play them if they so desired. One final advantage to shorter and simpler song structures is the fact that the use of only four slash marks per line better allows for the placement of chord symbols, since there is a greater amount of space between slash marks as compared to six or eight slash marks per line.

The placement of chord symbols is the last step in completing a chart in Word format. Before that can be accomplished, however, a number of other tasks must first be completed. These include adjusting the chart template as required (such as by deleting lines or adding a ninth line, or adding a fifth slash mark on one or more lines), substituting the correct information in the heading at the top of the chart, inserting the headings for the various components of the song form (introduction, verse, chorus, break, and so on), inserting repeat signs as required, inserting asterisks between the slash marks as required to indicate the correct timing of syncopated (between beats) chord changes, and at the bottom of the chart, indicating the ORDER in which the various component of the song form are to be played.

Apart from the obvious need for a correct spatial placement of the chord symbols along the lines of the chart, there are three other possible considerations regarding the placement of chord symbols. First, when a capo or a lowered standard tuning is used, two rows of chord symbols are required, with the upper row indicating the chord shapes played, and the lower row indicating the actual chords sounded. Second, it is sometimes necessary to reduce the size of the font for some chord symbols so as to be able to place them between the slash marks in the correct locations. Third, it is sometimes necessary to abbreviate longer chord symbols, again so as to be able to place them between slash marks in the appropriate locations. Chord symbols that are abbreviated in a chart are asterisked, with the asterisk indicating that the full name of the chord is indicated at the very bottom of the chart (beneath the ORDER). The following is an example of how the full names of abbreviated chord symbols would be indicated at the very bottom of a chart:

Note: go* is gm7-5o ; ao* is am7-5o

The use of asterisks for abbreviated chord symbols is not to be confused with the use of asterisks on chord symbols for chords that have the same name as one of the 18 common chords (for example, an A chord with a different chord shape than the A common chord would be indicated with an asterisked chord symbol).

Having now digitalized well over a thousand charts (1,299 to be exact, including the charts contained in the write-ups for the 160 rhythm guitar arrangements that comprise the Rhythm Guitar Catalog), I have understandably become fairly proficient at doing so. As a result, I can usually complete a chart in Word format in no more than a half hour or so, unless the song is longer and/or more complicated than usual, in which case an hour or more might be required. In any case it is tiresome work that demands a great deal of concentration, and achieving the correct vertical alignment of the slash marks and chord symbols is at times a somewhat daunting task. The process of creating a digitalized chart can be greatly simplified, however, by using the copy/paste function as often as possible. It is nevertheless a tedious process that would undoubtedly be better and more efficiently accomplished by means of a computer program designed and built for that very purpose. Since it remains to be seen whether such a program will ever be developed, the hand-crafted charts I have fashioned will have to suffice. In fact, I believe them to be more than adequate for the purpose of conveying all the necessary information in a concise and unambiguous manner.

One final note of some importance regarding the digitalization of the last 180 charts for the Progressions Catalog has to do with the manner in which I went about this task. Shortly after beginning work on this phase of the project, I decided that I would go through each chart carefully, and by so doing try to re-create the guitar music without recourse to listening to the music on the hand-held recorder I used to record the 168 original progressions (I did listen to the recordings before I digitalized the charts, but only after having done this first). Doing this provided me with an excellent opportunity to test the effectiveness of the charts, since I did not recall how a great many of the progressions sounded, having composed so many in so short a time, and having only played each one maybe a handful of times. For most of the progressions, I was able to re-create the guitar music fairly accurately from the chart alone, though there were a number of instances in which I did not recall the exact playing pattern used, so the re-created guitar arrangement was a little different from (but nevertheless compatible with) the recorded guitar arrangement. In truth, I believe that the charts are most effective when used together with a recording, in which case it is relatively easy to faithfully and exactly reproduce a guitar arrangement (or at least a guitar arrangement that one is capable of playing).


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