top of page

Reading Charts

In order not to lose your place when you are reading music, I suggest you move your eyes and not your head – also, if needed, hold your guitar so that you can see both the fret-board and the sheet music in the same field of vision.

That means you don’t need to move your head, just your eyes to see either your fret-board placing or your music.

  • This way, you’ll keep your place a lot better!

  • When it comes to reading charts, part indicators are things that you should know:

Here are some of them

In these following bars (sometime also called measures) , the top 5 bars show a repeat from bar 2 to bar 5.

So you play the top line until you got to the end, then go back to the 2 bar and play.

When you get to the end of the 5th bar again you’d carry on to the 6th bar.

In bar 7, we get a repeat sign which tells up to repeat the previous bar. the last two pars has a sign that tells up to repeat the previous two bars.

Here are some other things you should look for before playing:

Da Capo – an Italian term that means literally “The Head”. The letters “D.C.” are written at the point where you are to jump back to the beginning of the chart.

D.C. al Fine – go back to the beginning of the chart and play to the word “Fine“.

Dal Signo – “from the sign” – The Letters D.S. are placed at the point when you are to launch backwards to where thesign(below) was shown. The sign indicates where you will be repeating from. Often D.S. will be accompanied by a road map directions, such as D.S al Fine – jump back to the sign, and continue playing until you reach the word Fine.

- the sign

The Coda is a section of music added to the end of a chart. The first coda sign marks the point where you will jump ahead to the next coda sign (the coda added to the end of the chart) and continue playing until you reach the final double bar line or Fine.

Coda signs are never observed until the second time through a section and are often part of D.C. or D.S. road map indication.

D.C. al coda means to jump back to the beginning and continue playing until you reach the first coda sign, at which point you should jump to the second coda sign at the end of the chart and continue playing until the Fine sign or final double bar.

- the coda

In the example below, read down to the end of the third line, go back to the top and read that line again, including repeats, and then take the coda by jumping to the bottom line and playing until the final double bar.

D.S. al Coda means jump back to the sign and continue playing until you have reached the first coda sign, at which point you should jump to the second coda sign at the end of the chart and continue playing until you reach the Fine or final double bar.

Should you observe repeat signs after a D.S. indication? Here are some general rules you can go by:

  • Most phrases are 4 bars in length, and most sections are 8 bars.

  • If taking the repeat means that a section adds up to 8 bars (as in the above example) then there is a good chance that the repeats should be observed.

  • Similarly, you could count the number of bars in the section as it was played originally

  • This section with repeats, equals 12 bars.

  • Now add the number of bars on the D.S., including the coda.

  • Does it equal the same number of bars?


  • De Capo, D.C: Go to “da” (the) “cap” (beginning) of the song.

  • Dal Signo, D.S go to “da” sign

  • Coda – usually after second time through – jump to the outro of the song (also often called “the coda”)

A Word about Road Maps

When somebody talks about “Learning the Road map of a chart,” they are referring to learning the chart’s form. The first time you look at a chart, you need to be able to answer several questions about it.

  • Where are the repeat signs?

  • Do my eyes have to jump back to the beginning or to some other section of the chart?

  • Do I then have to jump forward?

Once you understand the road map, you need to practice following the form until your eyes are accustomed to the movements required to read the chart. Notice the use of thin double lines in charts. You will find that, most of the time, road map directions will appear at the beginning or end of a section of music marked with a double line bar. Go through the previous two examples and look at their use of double bar lines.

Dynamics: Most musical directions are written in Italian and appear below the staff. There are many to learn, so we will focus on a few at a time. There are essentially just two main dynamic markings: loud and soft. Everything else is a variation on these.

  • p means piano or soft

  • f means forte or loud

  • mp is a variation of piano. It means mezzo piano or moderately soft

  • mf is a variation of forte. It means mezzo forte or moderately loud.

  • pp is a variation of piano. It means pianissimo or very soft

  • ff is a variation of forte. It means fortissimo or very loud

  • cresc. or < means crescendo, or gradually louder

  • decresc. or > means decrescendo, or gradually softer

The next part was taken for wikipedia and it deals with note articulation.

In music notation, an accent mark indicates a louder dynamic to apply to a single note or an articulation mark. The most common is the horizontal accent, the fourth symbol in the diagram above; this is the symbol that most musicians mean when they say accent mark. The vertical accent, third in the diagram, may be stronger or weaker than the horizontal accent; composers have never been consistent in using these markings. In most musical works this type of accent is meant to be played more forcefully and usually shorter. The remaining marks typically shorten a note.

  1. Staccato, the first symbol shown above, indicates that the last part of a note should be silenced to create separation between it and the following note. The duration of a staccato note may be about half as long as the note value would indicate, although the tempo and performers' taste varies this quite a bit. In Jazz articulation, it is stated as "dit". (sean - this can achieved by palm-muting or releasing the pressure of the fretted note)

  2. The staccatissimo, shown second, is usually interpreted as shorter than the staccato, but composers up to the time of Mozart used these symbols interchangeably. A staccatissimo crotchet (quarter note) would be correctly played in traditional art music as a lightly articulated semi-quaver (sixteenth note) followed by rests which fill the remainder of the beat.

  3. The Martellato, which is Italian for "hammered", shown third, the vertical open wedge, is generally accepted to be as loud as an accent mark, along with as short as a staccato. In Jazz articulation, it is stated as "daht".

  4. The fourth mark shown, the accent mark, indicates that the marked note should have an emphasized beginning and then taper off rather quickly. This mark is correctly known by classically trained musicians as marcato, though it is usually simply referred to as an accent. In Jazz articulation, it is stated as "dah".

Featured Posts
Check back soon
Once posts are published, you’ll see them here.
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page