Building Your Own Songbook

Let’s face a fact. Most of the people who download tablature songs from the internet sooner or later get bored of notepad-like text files. We are all aware that downloading tab files is vital to our goal of learning new songs and playing for leisure, but we also get soon annoyed with all those sheets of paper scattered on the floor and even eager with their son-of-the-century look.

Printing tabs with notepad is awful. It splits tabs on multiple lines if they are too long, making the whole song a mess, while it is drastically filling our paper bin. This should be common experience for most of us.

On the other hand let’s say that formatting and printing high-quality (graphic) tabs is one of the most time-consuming activity you can run, and even if there are some good software that can help you with printing, they are all focused on media features you won’t ever use.

Building your own songbook (i.e. a collection of nice printed tabs) could possibly be an handy option, as it can save hours of your time when searching your songs, while it gives you some sort of satisfaction in making something by your own. But let’s trace the basic rules of making a songbook before going into details. The easy way of making a nice looking songbook is to define a certain look on the first page (song) then keeping it unchanged for the rest of the collection. Page numbers, images, chords explanation, legends and many other things can be added later, but keep in mind that you can NOT add something to just one of your tabs (a quote for example)! This will vain all your struggle in keeping a really professional and cool looking songbook. So take a word processor (Microsoft Word is ok) and paste one song you really love into that. Delete each single line which is not useful (internet tabs have thousands) and then take a look at it.

Does the title really shine?? Nope. So go, choose a font and a font size (or colour) you will always use for the song names. Do the same for all the other sections. Most of the times you should consider a TITLE, an AUTHOR, a TABLATURE section, a LYRICS and a COMMENTS one.

So it’s 5 “styles” in your page. The only important thing is to remember that you have to choose a mono-spaced font type for tablature (courier new will do, but there are many others) and to set this at least to size 9. Smaller fonts will make your eyes bulge off from your skull. Another nice option is to consider using the same font for the title, lyrics and comments sections, while changing the size. If you are used to Word you could even try to make a template with different background colours and frames.

As a guitar teacher I personally created a template I use for giving my students nice looking, sharp material. You can download an example of this here and if you like it you can use it as your own, free of charge.

Now that you have your song formatted into Word I recommend you to keep this simple rules in mind:

ONE – It’s better to modify the original template BEFORE than editing each single page!

TWO- Set the page margins to at least 1 cm but nothing more, because you don’t need such a thick border

THREE- When your tab is long and it splits into multiple pages try to replace a whole chorus with simply a [Chorus] remainder.

FOUR- If you are planning of printing hundreds of tabs, don’t choose any coloured font.

FIVE- Print only the tabs you really love, don’t print just for the sake of it.

SIX- If you have a long tab line that does not fit into your page width try to split it into two lines. This is a tricky thing to do, but you can use a free software that I developed to do this automatically. I’ve put a URL for this at the end of this lesson.

Well, if you followed all these rules you should have ended up with something nice. Of course you can consider adding chord diagrams and images, but it’s hard to do that by hand. I rely on a software that I made for myself and then decided to publish for splitting or merging the tab lines, or to generate nice chord diagrams to show my students how to play them.

The author is Simone Perandini. He is a student and a guitar teacher in Italy. He is also the lead developer of TabPlayer. He wrote “the ALL TABS METHOD”, and he’s working on the “DO-LIKE-THIS guitar method”, a 100% theory-free kick-start for beginners.

About the Author

Simone Perandini is a student and a guitar teacher in Italy. He is also the lead developer of TabPlayer. He wrote “the ALL TABS METHOD”, and he’s working on the “DO-LIKE-THIS guitar method”, a 100% theory-free kick-start for beginners. E-mail: [email protected] URL: