The ToneWay® Project: helping people play music

Guitar cords over lyrics.

I'm used to playing songs with the cords written over the words. I already know the tune but I have trouble with which cord & when.


The number system we use in ToneWay gives one a lot more freedom to play in the key that suits their personal vocal range. It also can help make us less 'tied down' to having the chords be 'just so'. That freedom can liberate our hidden musical potentials.

In other words, if you give the number system (a.k.a, the Nashville number system) time and effort it can allow you play outside your musical box, so to speak.


Hi Bill,

You can also just choose whatever key you are comfortable singing in and then pencil in the chords next to the numbers. For example if you are singing the song in C, you would write chords next to the numbers, like this:
* next to the number 1, write C.
* next to the number 4, write F,
* next to the 5, write G.

Now your song is written with the chords for the key of C!

Just remember that the name of the key (In our example, the key of C) is always the 1 chord, and you count up from that. So in the key of C, C=1, D=2, E=3, F=4, G=5, and so on.

Go ahead and count on your fingers as you go up the alphabet to figure out what chord to write; I always do. :)

Here is another really neat trick you can do. If you have a chord sheet for a song that you like but the key is not comfortable for you to sing, you can put the NUMBERS next to those chords. Then you can use the numbers to put the song in a different key.

For example, if your song is in G but you or your friend would prefer to sing it in a different key, write as following:
* Put a 1 next to the G chord,
* put a 4 next to the C chord,
* and put a 5 next to the D chord.

Then choose a comfortable key and use the numbers to put in the chords for that key.

This is a super nifty way to be able to quickly and easily change the key for any song you want to do. I hope it helps you as much as it has helped me.

Happy Picking! -Jessica



I have the same problem with figuring out how to match the chord changes to the lyrics when the chords are written above the lyrics. Especially when I find a song on the internet, sometimes the chords are not positioned properly, and if I copy a song and paste it into a text file, the chords move relative to the lyrics, and I'm lost.

I have taken to copying the song into a text file, and then manually embedding the chord changes within the lyrics line, i.e.,

[G]Go tell Aunt Rhody,
[D7]Go tell Aunt [G]Rhody,
[G]Go tell Aunt Rhody,
The [C]old grey [D7]goose is [G]dead.

Sometimes the chord change comes in the middle of a word, i.e.

Oh my [G]darling, oh my darling, Oh my darling Clemen [D7]tine

Of course this can be done using the Toneway, I, III, IV, V7 Method as well as with specific keys.

To determine the proper placement, as I embed the chords, I refer to the placement of the chords in the original internet, “above the lyrics” file, I sit with my guitar and play the song, I listen to and play along with recordings, and when playing with my friends, they are happy, even eager, to tell me when I've got it wrong, then I reposition the chord within the lyrics line until it “sounds” right. It takes some time, but after you do a few dozen songs, it gets easier.

It helps a lot to do this if you share and play a song with friends, it keeps everybody in sync.

I hope this helps.



Not always are the songs you find on the internet correct relative to chord placement. Solution: use and listen to the songs/watch the entertainers for proper placement. Then sit down and play the tune and make changes to fine tune your work. This is the way I do it and have done this for hundreds of songs.

I also like to put the chords over the words. I do it in the key that is comfortable for me. I also put the chord number in parentheses after the chord. Ex: G (1) or A (2), etc. This is so I can change keys AND I can share and the user can sing and play in their key by just using the numbers.


Here is a visual tool I print and stick into the front page of my song book. Finding the I, IV, and V is easy using the fingers but the minor chords are a bit trickier to remember. If there is only 1 minor in a song it is usually the 2nd.


Key IV V(7) 6th 2nd 3rd

A D E7 F#m Bm C#m

C F G7 Am Dm Em

D G A7 Bm Em F#m

E A B7 C#m F#m G#m

G C D7 Em Am Bm

to write a reply.