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Create a Chord Chart

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Jam Genius does not produce any sound. It generates chord charts for practice and improvisation. To create a chart:

If you close the app and return to it later, you most recent chart will be available. When you create a new chart, the current one will be lost unless you've emailed or exported it. From the main screen, you can touch 'Return to previous chart' to see your previously created chart.

Chord Diagrams and Scales (new in version 1.5)

Saving/Exporting Charts

You can read the chart right from your device, or email it as a PDF to print or share.

You can also save to the camera roll, which is handy when you're not connected to the internet:

The layout of the camera roll export is a bit different from the PDF: the margins and font size of the PDF are more appropriate for printing, while the camera roll export produces output suitable for viewing on a device such as a mobile phone.

Playing Jam Genius Chord Charts

Read the chords just as you would from a song book; the only difference is that these chord progressions aren't from existing songs. If you need to, practice alone for a bit before jamming with others. Use a chord book if necessary to look up chords you don't know.

Jam Genius chord charts contain chord symbols, for instance: 'C–' for C minor, 'C' for C major, 'C7' for C dominant seventh, and 'Csus4' for C suspended fourth. A repeat symbol: repeat is also used.

The vertical lines indicate measures, typically 4 beats (but it's up to you). When you see a repeat symbol, it means you stay on the same chord from the previous measure. This:

|C     |  repeat  |  repeat  |  repeat  |

means to play the C major chord for 4 measures.

Once you reach the end of the chart, start again right at the top. Repeat as many times as you'd like. See if you can come up with a cool ending by cuing your friend(s) at the right time. This kind of communication makes jamming much more rewarding, and if you practice communicating for endings (using the way you play the music as well as visual cues), you'll find that communication can extend to encompass the whole jam.

The charts are created specifically to be easy for you to play, and easy to improvise with. For charts in a major key, you simply use that major scale for improvisation. For minor keys, use the 'natural minor' scale, also known as the 'Aeolian Mode.' Touch "Scale" at the bottom to see the scale for the current chart in musical notation.

Tempo and Feel

Jam Genius provides a chord progression, but a lot is still up to you. You can play it at whatever speed you like, and in any style. The same chart could be used to play bluegrass or hard rock, and everything in-between. Try playing at different speeds and styles. Although most people will want to play these charts in 4/4 time, which is very natural, you can also try playing a chart in 3/4 (Waltz) time or 5/4 and beyond. If you don't know about time signatures, all you need to do is play a rhythm that feels natural, and make sure each measure get the same number of beats (typically four).

Improvising Melodies

With Jam Genius, getting started with improvising is easy. Just use the scale for the key the chart is in (in musical notation in the "Scale" tab), and you'll easily find notes that sound good. For instance, if the song is in C major, you can solo along simply by moving around within the notes of the C major scale. Going up and down the scale is an easy way to get started. After that, try skipping notes, but staying within the scale. With Jam Genius, the scale for the key of the chart will work over all of the chords.

Take your time and play the jam a few times through. You'll find things that work in various spots. And if you're in a larger group, listen to how others improvise, and then when it's your turn, try to see if you can play some of what you heard. Stick to the notes of the key of the chart, and the 'right' note will never be far away.

If you're just getting started, use any available recording device to record yourself playing through a chart. Then, play it back and improvise over it. Try moving up and down the scale slowly to get started. Spend some time with one chart in particular before moving on to the next, and you'll find places where certain notes or licks sound good. After you've done this for a number of charts, you'll find you can improvise notes and phrases more easily. All Jam Genius charts are designed to say within a given key, so you'll only need to use the notes for that key, so improvising is easier than with music which changes key or uses 'outside' notes.

For more musical advice and assistance, see Tips on Jamming.


© Copyright 2010-11 by Jon Lukas. All Rights Reserved.