From the May 30 Issue of Ukulele Player Magazine

GoChords — How an old ukulele inspired a new app.

The day Leslie Chase freed her Martin ukulele from the closet her life changed. An old friend had given her his grandfather’s ukulele to replace the one she had loved as a child. Since it needed repair she put it in the closet and carried it around for many years and many closets before freeing it — and herself in the process.

“I have been a songwriter since I was a teenager and I’ve also been dyslexic. So it was always a challenge to play and sing as I inverted the chord patterns in my head. For my entire career I worked with a band so I could sing freely and not worry about playing.” Her band, the Chase Manhattan Band, played mostly in New York from the classy Bottom Line, to the famous and filthy CBGB’s. “Too many times the band drowned me out. It’s kind of hard to get your words and melody across when you are screaming over a rock band.”

“The beauty of a ukulele is that not only can you conquer chords that were challenging on the guitar but your voice, lyrics and harmonies can be heard!” She started to write and sing again. “I needed a way to learn and practice the chords and to change the key easily. It also became clear while attending jams with other writers and players that sharing song charts was difficult. Very often there were no music stands and the charts were perched on seats of chairs, laps, or the floor. For those who didn’t know the chords it was hard to see and to follow, that is, if the chord form was printed at all. Also, many times the key was not good for a woman’s range. I wanted an easy fix.”

So with all these things in mind she developed GoChords.

“You shouldn’t have to read music to write it, or pay for an expensive program to make a simple chord and lyric chart. I also wanted a way to move the chord symbols over the lyric easily.” She wanted a tool that was easily accessible by everyone and at first resisted the idea of putting it on-line. “I thought I could make a portable unit for people who didn’t have laptops to use.” She put together a prototype using magnets. “Well, after a few weeks of being flung into refrigerator doors, demagnetizing my ATM cards and massive lower back pain, I realized that magnets might not be the answer.”

The Internet was the only way to go and in 2009 GoChords was launched. She and her partners created ChaseCreations LLC, in honor of her father who was an inventor and whose company bore the same name. Partnering with her brother, physician, professor and scientist, Herbert Chase, and her old band-mate and computer programming wiz, Charles Sands, they proceeded to create the online application. Now with thousands of members they are constantly striving to foster a creative community for writers and players. “There are many games being sold where one is encouraged to pretend to play, we wanted to encourage creativity.”

Leslie and Charlie at the Bitter End in NYC, sometime last century
Leslie and Charlie at the Bitter End in NYC, sometime last century.
Leslie and Charlie at Banjo Jim's in NYC, January 2010
Leslie and Charlie at Banjo Jim's in NYC, January 2010.

With the invention of the iPad the original vision of GoChords was realized. Once synched, the GoChords app turns your iPad into your songbook, whether you have an Internet connection or not. The iTunes App Store has featured the app in "New and Noteworthy" and in "What's Hot." Thousands of people have downloaded the free app so far.

A GoChords overview:

GoChords.com is a free, easy-to-use web-based tool for creating simple song sheets, complete with chord symbols and lyrics. It provides the tools for writing chord and lyric charts that anyone who can play a ukulele (or guitar) can apply. You can change keys, move the chord symbols, change instruments, auto-scroll, create custom chord shapes, and create groups to share your music with others. It is available for the computer, iPhone, Android and iPad.

Brand new features:

One to One Sharing. You can now email a link to your chord charts/lead sheets to other players.

You can now sort your lists by song title, genre and date. We've also added a search feature and buttons to help you find things more quickly.

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Check out Leslie Chase’s full band songs “Songs From the Last Century” in the iTunes store. Her ukulele CD is currently in production.

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