Tutorial: DIY Chord Books – Take All Your Songs Everywhere

8 minutes read

Do you know those chord books and sheet music books (usually dedicated to just one artist/band) that are sold in stores and cost a lot of money? (like this one) Well, today I’ll show you how to create your own custom chord books, almost for free!

So, we can remember and play by heart a certain number of songs. But we just love sooo much music. I bet that there are hundreds of songs that you enjoy playing. WELL then, why won’t you gather alll the songs that you love in a personalized chord book that you made for yourself and always make sure that it’s inside your guitar case, ready to go anywhere?

When you create your own chord book, you…

  • Literally have thousands of hours of fun at your hand’s reach! These books cost me 5$ total and I will have them for a lifetime of funky music time with my favorite music!
  • Always have something to play when you’re chillin’ at home and feel like picking up the guitar.
  • Always ready to spice up any random jam with friends and other musicians.
  • Always have your songs at an easy, comfortable access without a need for a computer or a smartphone’s tiny screen.

I guarantee these books will eventually make you play the guitar more, and therefore also improve faster, because all your favorite songs will suddenly be so accessible, so you get two birds here.

I started making big chord books for myself about six years ago. So far I have gathered seven books that are filled with music that I love and they are a blast to play around with. People always ask me questions about “where” I got those books and how. So, I wrote it all down for y’all, and here’s the best way and most valuable tips on how to do it yourself in the most time-efficient way!

Here we go:

The Guitar Songs Masters DIY Tutorial – Create Your Own Chord Books:

Step 1 – Start Gathering Your List Of Songs.

A good number of pages (and songs) to have on your book is no more than 200. You can also go for 300 and I did it myself a few times, but I do not recommend that – because the book comes out weighing too much and tends to start falling apart after a few months of use, especially if you haul it around and travel a lot (which still can be solved by binding it again before it’s starting to tear apart).

Start gathering list of songs over a few weeks, songs that you want to include in your chord book. Start a note in your smartphone and write down your guitar / piano faves whenever they cross your mind, or whenever you hear a cool new song that you want to have in there. A great place to start is by looking up your favorite artists one by one – and from each one of ’em gather the songs that you want to have in the book.

You can also do it all in just one sitting but you don’t want to bind the book only to later find out you left many songs out. The best place to start looking for good songs to include is obviously in your own playlist.

guitar chord book DIY
Chord books are a great way to get more fun out of your instrument and always have jam materials up your sleeve when you feel like picking up the guitar or when friends are coming over. I currently have 7 of those and working on the next one, this is how you’ll do it yourself:
Step 2 – Print All The Songs’ Chord Sheets.

Work one by one through your list and print out everything. My favorite website for getting chords is Ultimate GuitarI suggest printing everything dual sided, to save paper and save space in the book. Usually, if a song goes for more than one dual-sided paper, I only print pages 1-2 unless it’s a really epic song that needs the whole thing. (gotta love American Pie for it’s bazillions of verses…)

Look here for more cool guitar apps besides Ultimate Guitar.

♣ Hippie Tippie: Sit with the guitar in front of the computer and try out the chords before you print them out, because some of the versions you find online are not correct at all. Better find that out before one of those duds are printed and binded deep in your book. While you’re at it, you can also make sure that the key fits your voice. (However, it’s best to always

While you’re at it, you can also make sure that the key fits your voice. (However, it’s best to always have a capo anyway…)

guitar chord books
This pile of fresh prints will soon turn into a new book. The guitar’s there to make sure there are no wrong chord sheets before I bind the whole thing.
Step 3 – Arrange The Order Of The Songs To Your Liking.

These books can be big and the pages are not numbered, (unless you choose to number them manually) so you can make your life a lot easier by doing at least part of this job. Get
all the Dire Straits songs together. Same with the pile of Pearl Jam songs… Dylan songs should also be in one batch. And whatever artists you have there, sort them by piles and then mix them in.

After the pages are arranged to your liking, you can make an “index” at the first last page. This will make your life easier and you can refer your friends who are going through the book and trying to find something to play – to have a look in the index as well.

A sample index is shown here below, it’s pretty simple. You can also go more serious and do that for all the artists that only appear once, but to me it seems like a waste of time, and I only index artists that have at least 3-4 songs in there.

Don't forget to create your own index at the end of the book for easier navigation. That's how mine looks like.
Don’t forget to create your own index at the end of the book for easier navigation. That’s how one of my indexes looks like. (yeah, it got a bit dirty)
Step 4 – Optional Eye Candy – Find A Cool book Cover.

I always print a nice colorful cover to make things look neat and also to help easily differentiate between my different chord books. I use photos of my favorite artists, cool music paintings and such. You can find everything on Google Images, start by googling “guitar paintings”, “music jams” or anything you think you’d like.

It’s a great way to make your book a real candy!

guitar chord books
In my last book I took the cover one step forward and created a collage for it, from several pics of some of my favorite artists. “Tiled” is a great free app to create attractive collages on your phone.
Step 5 – Bind !

Now take your well-indexed pile of songs to the nearest office equipment store and ask them to bind the thing up. You can also ask them to hole punch the whole bundle and put it in a ring binder. Personally, I prefer a book over a big pile in a ring binder, because of the good feeling it gives you, and also because it’s slimmer.

Another option you can go for instead of the spiral binding is “hot glue book binding” – like most of the books in the bookstore – and also like the songbook in the above pic. (the one with the collage on the cover)

That’s it! And there you go! for the cost of a couple of bucks you are now equipped with thousands of hours worth of fun in this cool new book you now have in your hands!!!

chord books
When the books are bound correctly by a professional, (a matter of about 5$) you can lug your books everywhere and they will last a real long time.

Extra Points:

* Why stop at one book? If you like what you got, start working on more books.

* These books can make for exceptional gifts for friends who play guitar or piano. I have a few buddies who are still grateful to this day, who are still often using a book I gave them even three and four years ago!

* For you business-oriented fellas – I am sorry, but remember that you cannot sell these books due to copyrights on the songs and the chord sheets.

I hope you found this helpful,  have fun with your new books and let me know in a comment if ya got any questions.

chord books
Always ready to jam with a stack of books by my piano and guitars. Hell yeah!
chord books
Another good indexing trick is to add these small markers in a few places. These will be your navigation waypoints and will ease the finding of specific songs.
Check out this list of top campfire songs – if you like them too – they should be in at least one of y’er books.
Alon Cooper

Alon Cooper

Hey! I'm Cooper, and I hope I can be a helpful friend on your musical journeys. I'm a music artist based in Austin & Amsterdam, playing venues with a band / solo, and trying to learn with the most inspiring musicians wherever I go. In the last 8 years I've lived in Australia, northern Europe, the US and more.

Share this article:

Continue Reading:

The Guitar Campfire Songbook

I hope this list has given you some great ideas, and if you want to have another bunch of song ideas in a fancy PDF songbook form, then feel free to download the songbook in this link.

Recommended Posts: