Tutorial: DIY Chord Books – Take All Your Songs Everywhere

Hey there! My name's Cooper, I am discovering the world while running my online teaching business, 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 spent long periods in Australia, northern Europe, the USA, Sri Lanka and more. Originally I am from Tel Aviv, Israel. I hope I can be a helpful friend on your musical journey. ūüôā

(Last Updated On: May 31, 2020)

Create Your DIY Guitar SONGBOOKS + Bonus PDF Songbook

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.

Guitar Tricks Free Trial

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 РCreate 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 Guitar.¬†I 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 РBind !

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.

Hey there! My name's Cooper, I am discovering the world while running my online teaching business, 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 spent long periods in Australia, northern Europe, the USA, Sri Lanka and more. Originally I am from Tel Aviv, Israel. I hope I can be a helpful friend on your musical journey. ūüôā

19 comments for “Tutorial: DIY Chord Books – Take All Your Songs Everywhere

  1. Maria
    March 29, 2020 at 8:56 PM

    But in Ultimate Guitar, don’t you have to have a subscription to print the music?

    • Camilla M
      July 17, 2020 at 11:20 AM

      I don’t know. But they have a free trial subscription you can get.

  2. Joab
    June 27, 2019 at 5:30 AM

    The troubles that musicians face is true as mentioned in this article. Appreciate your efforts in producing this article. Really useful. I too have been maintaining a chord book for all my songs. As I learn more about music, I add more chords to get more depth in the music of the song, so then every now and then adding or editing sheets and numbering them became tedious. So now I use setlisthelper app, maintaining online all the content. With this I can keep editing and can access/share songs on the mobile anywhere. Also, I have kept songs on Google drive in pdfs; this also makes my work dynamic.

    • Alon Cooper
      September 14, 2019 at 8:46 PM

      Cool Joab, thanks for sharing the tips and what’s working for you.

  3. Jack
    June 13, 2019 at 10:12 AM

    Hey Cooper; for my on stage book I use a three ring binder with plastic protector sheets. But for any of my books I have found that using a heavier paper works best. Most general use paper is 20 lbs and that’s very thin. I like to use 24 lb paper as it lasts longer, doesn’t bleed thru. 22lb paper would work too. I found a comb binder at a flea market and now I have been binding my own books. Great blog to, keep up the good work and thank you.

    • Alon Cooper
      June 15, 2019 at 1:50 PM

      Cheers Jack! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Steven
    March 13, 2019 at 2:47 AM

    Hey Cooper I love this idea, as a musician of 4.5 decades you can imagine how big and unruly my binders became, spending more time searching than playing. I recently started changing to a 10″ tablet which works great especially around the campfire but I Will definitely use this idea to make personalized books for close musician friends. Thank You for the great ideas, less gift shopping and more creativity.

    • Alon Cooper
      May 2, 2019 at 4:54 AM

      Cheers Steven! Glad to hear. I personally love books more than tablets but I can also definitely understand that it can be more convenient. (Especially if you got a tablet that you’re not afraid to bring to campfires…)

  5. Person
    July 15, 2018 at 1:22 AM

    Its really handy having a chord book. Thank you so much for telling us how to make one!

    • Cooper
      July 28, 2018 at 4:02 PM

      Best regards, enjoy the book!

  6. martin moloney
    March 27, 2017 at 9:20 AM

    does anyone have their chord books in pdf or word??! and could email to me?! with 2 little kids i literally have no time to prepare one!! marty

    • Cooper
      April 6, 2017 at 8:08 AM

      Hey Martin, if you google “guitar chord books” and start digging up you’ll find amazing pdf’s that people uploaded with all kinds of music. Some have 30 songs in them, some have a 1000. They’re all ready to print in one click. Have fun

    • Josh Smith
      February 9, 2019 at 2:23 AM

      I made three so far. I used a free trial of adobe acrobat and I love them. I would be glad to email them to you!

  7. Sharon Bertsch
    October 14, 2016 at 5:11 AM

    I have making my own books for a few years. I created a holiday book and a campfire book. With my computer and home printer it is easy. I like to use a 3 ring binder with plastic protector pages. It is easy to add songs, and to rearrange them into an order that I like to practice. I have about 50 songs right now. I find that the binder stays open for me. I want to find a blank stamp for putting chords onto pages.

    • Cooper
      October 18, 2016 at 11:26 AM

      Thanks for sharing Sharon. Open binders are indeed a great idea and let you change things later, my only problem with them is that they make the book bigger and a bit less comfortable to carry around.

  8. Mark
    September 5, 2016 at 12:33 PM

    I just store them as bookmarks or pdf on my iPad and access them that way. Easier to carry….

    • Cooper
      September 13, 2016 at 10:52 PM

      If it works for you – why not.

  9. Brian B.
    June 8, 2016 at 11:50 PM

    This is a fantastic idea and I am totally doing this as well. The only thing that I noticed when I tried to print out from ultimate guitar was the actual tabbed out chords didn’t print. I noticed in your sample page, I can see the tabbed out chords but when I print, I only get the regular chord sheet without the fretboard like yours. Can you help me understand how you got those to print please?

    Thanks so much.

    • Cooper
      June 10, 2016 at 8:32 PM

      Hey Brian, glad you liked the idea, you’ll have lots of fun with your new book!

      About the printing issue, I would try using a different browser.


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