A guest guide by Deon Herbin AKA Deon101
What do I need to make cover songs?
- Guitar Pro
- Tabs (Tabs are all over the internet, but I use Ultimate-Guitar.com for my tabs. There are many songs that have no tabs for them so you will either have to wait, request, or transcribe the song)
- A basic understanding of music theory (More on this later)
Where Do I start?
Okay the first thing I do to chart a song is… find a song. So let‘s do “Mirrors” by Between The Buried And Me. So I go to Ultimate-Guitar.com and do a search for “Mirrors.”
There is only 1 Guitar Pro versions of the song, but usually, if there is more than one option you want the one with 5 stars and the most votes. Warning: sometimes the highest rated tabs can be wrong.
After clicking on the tab I want, I scroll down and look at the instruments and make sure they have guitar, bass, percussion, and (depending on the song) keyboard. Another warning: some tabs won’t have all the instruments listed so you might have to download the tab to check and see what’s on it, but a good rule of thumb is to always check how big the file is. I usually trust files that are at least 40 KBs or higher, depending on the song of course. The tab I’m going to download has everything I need, so I download it and open it with Guitar Pro.
Side Note: GHStudio has a 10 minute song limit and also has a 10,000 note limit if I’m not mistaken. Well actually, I’m never mistaken, even though I thought I was mistaken, but obviously I was mistaken. Wii players have a harder time, their note limit is cut shorter then that I believe. Just keep that in the back of your head as you pick your song.
I Got the Song, Now What?
After opening the file, LISTEN TO IT! It would really suck if you started charting out the tab and you realized that it doesn’t have a solo… (Screw you “Crystal Mountain”). Now, if your song sounds good to you, proceed to the next step. If it sounds a little iffy, pick another tab. If there are no other tabs, ask someone to tab it out. If no one will tab it out, then sorry, you might have to move on to another song.
Song sounds good, Now what did I just look at?
Looking at that tab and all the notes, you may feel like I just dropped you off in Japan and left you to fend for yourself, but fear not! You, my friend, just looked at notes, the music language. You need some basic knowledge to understand what was just said to you, I’m sure. Let’s start all the way at the beginning. I never taught music theory before sooooo… fair warning.
Music is broken down into phrases which are then broken down into measures. The average measure is in 4/4. That means there are 4 beats in a measure and quarter notes take up one beat. Many artists or bands use different time signatures such as 7/4 (7 beats a measure and quarter notes takes a beat) or 2/4. If this is scaring you stop reading please, my teachings will not get any better. Anyway, within these measures are notes, and I will explain what the following notes say rhythmically.
If you see a note that just looks like an O, that is a whole note. Whole notes take up an entire measure of music. If that O had a tail, then it’s a half note or ½ note, it takes up a half of a measure (seeing a trend yet?). If that O is filled with black, then it becomes a quarter note or ¼ note. That one takes up a quarter of a measure. If that tail has a flag at the end, the note becomes an eighth note or 1/8 note. It takes up, that’s right you guessed it, an 8th of a measure. 2 flags means it’s a 16th note, 3 flags are 32nd notes, and 4 are 64th. If you ever manage to find a song that has 128th notes, then godspeed. This is pretty much all you need to know, don’t worry about knowing what note it actually is (as in C, C#, D, D#, E ect.), Guitar Pro has a handy tool that tells you what notes you’re looking at.
Rests have the same concept. I’m going to use a 4/4 measure as reference. If you see one dash with no notes, then that’s a whole rest. A shorter dash with notes in that same measure is a half rest. That “s” looking reef thingy, that’s a quarter rest. That “7” looking thing is a 8th rest. As lines get added to the “7” looking thing, the rest gets shorter, just like the notes did when the tail had flags added to it.
You talk a lot, can I just chart?
No, you can’t. You have to set up your track. Let’s boot Guitar Hero up. Go on into the GHStudios and chose the type of template you want. I ALWAYS use the medium speed template and adjust the guitars to what I want.
Now we have a blank canvas where your dreams will come alive and magic will happen. The first thing you should do is set the canvas up.
1. (For all the instruments besides drums) Go to track settings and go to scales. Change the type to chromatic. This will give you the largest range of notes, as you can use 2 octaves. Change the range to low. This gives you access to the lowest note you can access, E in the first octave (or E2 in Guitar pro) all the way to D# in the second octave (D#4).
Tip: If you want to access higher notes change the range to high to get D#4. To get any higher than that change the root to D (or Eb) to access C#6 (or D6).
2. Next go to effects and choose the kind of guitar you want. On my lead I always choose (ALWAYS!!!!!!!) “Hot Rocker.” On my Rhythm or second guitar (more on that later) I always choose Heavy Drive on the second pod.
3. Finally, set the tempo of the song by going to tools and then to “Tempo.” “Mirrors” has a tempo of 100 so that’s what I set the song to.
Now can we please start charting… PLEASE!!??
Fine, let’s do it your way. Now, we have to collaborate with the Xbox and your computer. The only track that has anything in the beginning of the song is the rhythm guitar. I’m not going to chart on the rhythm though because that guitar cannot reach the notes I need it to. Rhythm guitar can only get to F#3. So I go to my lead guitar part and start the charting process.
The entire first measure has 8th notes, so I scroll the note snaps to 1/8 Note Snap. Now I hit Record, and then Step Record.
Now on your Guitar Pro, go to “view” and go to “fretboard/keyboard/drums”. On the “show” dropbox, go to “Show Beat+Bar.” Now you can see every note that is in the measure. Now that that’s set up, we have to make sure your song in Guitar Pro is in standard tuning because GHStudio is limited to just that tuning. On GP6 click the guitar button on the left hand side of the screen. On the drop box with all the notes, click on it and make sure it’s on Standard (E A D G B E). Now click the check marker (not the one with the + and – sign). Now your song is tuned to E.
Now, we can chart.
The first note is an 8th note A#3. In GHStudios, A# can be accessed by holding your guitar 1/3rd of the way so that yellow highlighter is on the second bar and strumming an open note, and also holding the guitar all the way up so that the yellow highlighter is on the 4th bar and strumming an open note. Since we want a A#3, we are going to hold the guitar all the way up to get the second octave A# and strum the open note. Congratulations you just learned how to chart. Now be gone!
You’re not done yet!
The entire first measure consists of the following notes: A#3, B3, A#3, F#3, G3, A#3, B3, E4. After charting the original note I continue to hold my guitar up and strum the green button to get B3, then another open note to get another A#3. Now we have F#3 to chart and to get to this note we have to hold the guitar 2/3rd so the yellow bar is highlighting the third bar and strum the red note. If you see the pattern, great! If you don’t, then you might need to read another guide. To reach the E4 note, we have to back out and go to your scales and change to range to high. Then, you can reach the E4 note by strumming the open note with bar in the 3rd section of the half circle.
I’ve completed a whole measure now so I go back and look at the same measure to see if there are any legatos I need to pay attention to (Guitar tricks). There is a slide between F# and G. So I back out of the recorder and go to “Edit,” and “Note Sound Edit.” I go to the G note and go to type (the blue button). I scroll all the way to slide fast, because I think that sound the best.
Now the measure looks like a bunch of nonsense to play. To correct this, go to tools go to track design, and go to Note Track Design. Now set up the notes to what you think would look the best. For the first measure of “Mirrors,” I chose: Y, B, Y, G, R, Y, B, O. Just think about all your favorite tracks you play and just think about how they charted it. Imitation is the key!
The next measure of “Mirrors” has a whole note chord. A chord, by definition, is the sounding of 3 or more notes. 2 notes are double stops, but that’s enough on music theory. Since GHStudios can’t really chart chords outside the rhythm track, you should just take the highest note. This isn’t a normal chord though as there is a down stroke arrow so I’m going to make it an extended sustained note; I’m not even going to begin to explain how to do this. So I would take the F#4 note and hold it for 2 measures, I took the liberty of looking ahead and saw that the note was held through that measure. If you look closely at the sheet music, there is a bunch of squiggly lines on top of the notes. This signifies a Vibrato. Just to the edit note function and scroll all the way to vibrato heavy. Usually when you chart the notes for chords, you don’t want to chart more than 3 notes. Now, I’m going to continue charting until I get to something new that I didn’t cover yet.
There is a tempo change in measure 7, but I’m not going over that here since that’s a little advanced. After I get to measure 14 I notice it repeats (minus that tempo change I’m not going to explain right now) so I go back to the beginning and go to edit then Delete/Copy/Cut and then copy the whole 14 measures and paste it.
The next 10 measures are the same but have a splash of lead guitar thrown in so I merge the tracks since I’m going to be using the keyboard track for an actual keyboard effect. (MUSIC THEORY ALERT!) One of the new things that the lead guitar shows you is dotted notes. A dotted note is a note with a small dot written after it. The dot increases the duration of the basic note by half of its original value. So if a you have a 1/4 dotted note, add 1/8 to it.
About an hour goes by charting (Yes you need to be dedicated for your work to sound really good. And please note that I did the tempo change and extended sustain notes.) and I finally got to the main part of the song where all the instruments are playing. I usually chart everything together. Most of the time, songs follow simple structure of repeating itself for about 8 or 16 bars. I usually just chart out one section on all instruments before moving on. This section in mirrors has 4 measures so I chart out the lead guitar part out. The measures are in 7/4 in this section as well so you have to pretend that you changed the time signature. GHStudio doesn’t allow you to change the time signature. So now, you have to count out 7 bars and make sure you keep track of it. So now I got the 4 bars charted out and now I’m going to move on to the bass.
Make sure you set Guitar Pro to e standard tuning so it doesn’t conflict with anything that’s going on. Then chart out the bass part. I had to extend the bass range so I raised the root note to D to get the notes I needed, but then put the root back to E.
After that I move on to the drum track. I usually go to track settings and sounds. I go to customize drum kit (Yellow button) and change the Cymbal to Big Room Rock, and then I go to Customize Percussion Kit (Blue Button) and change cymbal to metal. That’s my normal drum set. Now, on Guitar Pro, before you go to the drum track make sure you change “Show Beat+Bar” to just “Show Beat.” Trust me. Now it works the same way as guitar and bass did for the most part. Just highlight the note that you’re about to chart and match it up with Guitar Hero hold the guitar all the way up so it can be as loud as possible (seriously) and hit the note you want. So now I chart out the Drums.
To get the ride sound you have to follow the following instructions. Place a crash cymbal note down. Go to “Edit,” then “Note Sound Edit,” then Velocity Edit. Click the cymbal note and take the number down to 8. This works great with the Big Rock Cymbal, that’s why I told you to choose that one. To get a closed Hi Hat sound, do the same thing but with the yellow button. My drum track for the song sounds bad without the cabasa so now I have 2 options. I can either leave it out, or try to fit it in with the drum track while making it possible. I choose to make it possible with it.
So first I have to find a cabasa sound and since that’s a special percussion instrument it would be found in the percussion kit. So I go to Track Settings, Sound, Customize Percussion Kit, and since I already know what I’m looking for I go to Hi Hat. Then I choose Dance Perc, that has a nice salsa cabasa sound. Now to chart percussion instruments you have to be in record mode and press the back button. Percussion should go from off to on. Make sure you don’t chart over the same note with this on. It will overwrite the note, for example, If I tried to place a cabasa (yellow note) over a Hi Hat (also a yellow note) the Cabasa will overwrite it.
Now I have that down, I repeat the process for the rest of the song (the long boring tedious process). I must warn some of you, charting is not for the feint of heart; it takes dedication and practice. There are tricks that you will have to learn in order to get the most out of your charts. I’m only here to set your foundation. Feel free to branch off and do your own thing once you get enough experience. Everyone has their way of charting, this is mine.
Step 1: Find the song you want and download the Guitar Pro version
Step 2: Listen to the regular song and the Guitar Pro version to make sure it’s right
Step 3: If they aren’t already set the instruments to E Standard and click the check without the + and – signs.
Step 4: Select your GHStudio template.
Step 5: Set up your guitar sound you want (Hot Rocker and Heavy Drive is what I use) and your drum sound.
Step 6: Set all the instruments you plan to use to chromatic scale to get a wide range of notes.
Step 7: Set the tempo of your song.
Step 8: Begin your journey of charting.
For now this is all you need to chart basic songs. You can get a lot of songs done with just this information. There are tons of tricks you can employ, but for now, take this and digest. This is a lot of information to fathom, I know, but if you want to be like me or any other GHTunes artist you may look up to, this is what you need to practice until charting becomes as basic as blinking. In due time I will construct information on tips and tricks to get extended sustains, changing tempo, duel guitar and advancing charting, and probably more that I can’t think of right now.