I want to play what they want to hear
November 24, 2010 6:01 AM   Subscribe

Guitar/Music filter: what handy tools can you recommend to remind you of the songs you can play, for those occasions when you're asked to perform out of the blue and your mind goes blank.

I'm not one of those guitarists that picks up every guitar he sees and starts serenading. However, most people that I know are aware that I play or have seen me play and every now and then I'll find myself with a guitar in my hand, and a polite request that I perform. (And I'm just a strummer and singer, not much else.)

Unfortunately, the songs that I can play fairly automatically tend not to be songs that the general public is interested in hearing. There's a whole bunch of other, more public-friendly, stuff that I've learned at one point or another but I can never remember them at the crucial moment.

What tricks do you guys have? A note on your phone with the first few chords? A list of the songs on a folded up piece of paper? Is there an iPhone app for this? Send an email to myself with the relevant details and keep it on my phone? My grandfather was a pianist and he had a music book with the first 4 bars of hundreds of songs - his own little Fake Book. My grandfather was awesome.

I do actually keep a printed spreadsheet with about 40 songs and the first few chords in my guitar case. But if I've actually got my guitar with me, it's usually because someone has asked me to do something in advance, in which case I prepare a mini-set for the occasion. So that doesn't really cut it.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a fakebook of any sort for the beginnings of songs I can play (though this is making me think maybe I should!), but I do keep an iTunes playlist called "Songs I Can Play" to refer to when I forget. If you had an iPhone or iPod Touch or similar device with iTunes, you could bring that with you and refer to it as needed.
posted by limeonaire at 6:09 AM on November 24, 2010

bit of paper in your wallet?
posted by runincircles at 6:59 AM on November 24, 2010

Write the songs and first few words/chords on an index card and tape that to the back of your guitar, or drop it in the soundhole and fish it out as needed.
posted by paulina961 at 7:14 AM on November 24, 2010

If you're on an iPhone, why not just write yourself a Note with a list of songs?
posted by mykescipark at 9:17 AM on November 24, 2010

Best answer: You have an iphone ( or any mobile phone with a browser ), you are set. Just go to

You can bookmark songs, search, and save to profile. It lists the chords of most songs out there (not tabs, just chords, perfeect for a strummer). Also shows fingerings for chords if you are hit with some odd one.
posted by ShootTheMoon at 10:24 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

On my ipod touch I usually have a playlist of songs I do as well as a text file with lyrics and chords.
posted by snofoam at 2:01 PM on November 24, 2010

Best answer: Actually, now that I think about it, it would not be hard to make an ePub of a bunch of songs and chords, with the song titles as the table of contents. Then you can add the ePub to iBooks. I'm totally going to do this.
posted by snofoam at 2:02 PM on November 24, 2010

Best answer: I use iTunes playlists - one for songs I'm good at, another for songs I'm still learning, one for classical songs, and so on. These sync to my phone so I have them handy all the time.

I use the Lyrics feature to note the chords for some of the songs - this will display on the iPhone too. (You could use it for actual lyrics also if you sing.)
posted by mmoncur at 5:44 PM on November 24, 2010

Best answer: I keep chord/lyric charts of each in Google Docs. I have a folder called "Songs" and they all go in there. It's easy to view them on screen or print them out and throw them in a binder, if I need to take them with me.

For just the chords, you could use iRealBook (iPhone / iPod touch fake book app). It lets you create your own chord charts and organize them as playlists. It'll even play an accompaniment for them. You can create them on the iPhone, with the web editor, or with their stand-alone editor for OS X.
posted by wheat at 10:06 PM on November 24, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks guys - some great answers, especially the link to the chordie site. ShootTheMoon already has a friend with my wife, as I can now play the Banana Pancake song for her without actually having to learn it and let its worminess find a home in my brain.

After asking the question I realised that I could also just access my current song list cheat sheet through DropBox and save it to the phone but I like your ideas better. Seriously.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 5:33 AM on November 25, 2010

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