Benefits of Reading Music for Guitar Players


martinovation
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Joined: 04/11/17
Posts: 4

Hi, I'm intermediate level guitar player who is mostly self taught. I did take some lessons more than 20 years ago. My instructor basically taught me by using one of the introductory guitar song books and had me play along by reading music. I did that for a year or so, and then put my guitar down for a good 20 years and focused on my day job. I had picked it again a few years ago and learned mostly through youtube videos. Learning to play songs is what I enjoy most about playing guitar.

I now want to take my skill to the next level and start to wonder if reading music would be beneficial. I'm not into classical guitar, and enjoy mostly classic rock. I mostly play rhythm and would like to learn to play leads. I would like to hear from folks out there to see if it is worth it to learn to read and play from written music, or will my time be better spent on something else. Thanks.


# 0
Guitar Tricks Admin
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Joined: 09/28/05
Posts: 3,232

Hi martinovation,

I'm a bit like you in that I learned how to read music for a good year but eventually, it just slipped. It's always useful to learn music especially if you want to learn a song that isn't necessarily in tabs. Learning actual sheet music and learning how to read it is invaluable for learning many more songs than one could ever learn from just tabs. Someone who could read music can possibly take a song that's played on another instrument and transcribe it. I find that really interesting.

For a refresher on reading music, this lesson is always a great starting off point: https://www.guitartricks.com/lesson.php?input=24850&s_id=2051

Best,

Billy


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# 2
ChristopherSchlegel
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Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 7,857
Originally Posted by: martinovation

Learning to play songs is what I enjoy most about playing guitar.

[/quote]

In order to do that you don't necessarily need to read music, but it will help you in the long run to learn more songs, more efficiently.

[quote=martinovation]

I want to take my skill to the next level and start to wonder if reading music would be beneficial. I'm not into classical guitar, and enjoy mostly classic rock. I mostly play rhythm and would like to learn to play leads. I would like to hear from folks out there to see if it is worth it to learn to read and play from written music, or will my time be better spent on something else.

The most important thing to develop is your physical technique & your aural skills (ear training) to the point that you can hear chord changes & melodies & know what they are before you put your hands on the guitar.

Being able to read is a valuable skill, but the physical skills required to actually play the guitar parts in songs you want to play is the priority.

Hope this helps!


Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory
# 3
martinovation
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Joined: 04/11/17
Posts: 4
Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

The most important thing to develop is your physical technique & your aural skills (ear training) to the point that you can hear chord changes & melodies & know what they are before you put your hands on the guitar.

Being able to read is a valuable skill, but the physical skills required to actually play the guitar parts in songs you want to play is the priority.

Hope this helps!

Thanks for the reply. Interesting pointer on aural skills. Do you have any recommendation on how to start developing that? Thanks again.


# 4
ChristopherSchlegel
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Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 7,857

You're welcome for the reply!

Originally Posted by: martinovation

Interesting pointer on aural skills. Do you have any recommendation on how to start developing that?

Absolutely!

Ear training or aural skills is a process by which musicians learn to identify intervals, chords, rhythms, and other basic elements of music.

(from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ear_training)

There are plenty of great sources to help you with this. For example:

http://www.musictheory.net/

When learning guitar, the best way to train your mind & ear (aural training or ear training) is to be able to recognize intervals & chord progressions when you hear them or play them by automatic memory recall.

If you learn basic scales & their degrees like this.

http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=363

And, then practice those basic scales like this:

http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=451

http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=723

And then use them to play lots of little melodies & licks, for example, like this:

http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=439

http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=896

Then mentally identify the notes of those melodies as scale degrees, then you will be on your way to developing your ear correctly.

Consider that once you understand that these major scale degrees ...

1-1-5-5-6-6-5-4-4-3-3-2-2-1

... form the sound of the melody to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, once you can hear that in your mind before you pick up a guitar and play it or hear it, once you can visualize that on the guitar fretboard before you play it, then you've started ear training correctly.

:)

I know that is a very simple example, but really that is the entire process described in a nutshell. That is the exact same thing I do & every musician does to recognize, play, make up melodies, riffs, licks, and chord progressions.

We recognize that certain patterns of notes & scales on the guitar will result in certain specific sounds every time.

For example, when I hear this lick:

http://www.guitartricks.com/lesson.php?input=20405

It doesn't matter if it's in a rock song, blues song, what kind of guitar or amp or which key it's in. When I hear any guitarist play those notes, I know right away before picking up the guitar, exactly what those notes are. This is because I know they are scale degrees 5-5-1-5-1 (with some bending).

I explain the scale degrees of that specific song in the next lesson.

http://www.guitartricks.com/lesson.php?input=20406

Next you want to play various groups of chord progressions like I-IV-V so you are building a similar folder of chord progressions in your memory banks.

You want to play things like this A-D-E progression with the idea in mind that it is a progression:

A (I chord)[br]D (IV chord)[br]A (I chord)[br]E (V chord)

http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=442

And this group of chords is the exact same progression, but in C instead of A.

C (I chord)[br]F (IV chord)[br]C (I chord)[br]G (V chord)

http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=443

Eventually you need to work at realizing that those are the same kind of sounds anytime you encounter them. So, when you hear Buddy Holly playing It's So Easy, you'll know right away that he's playing an A, D and E major chord in different orders.

A-E-D-E

A-D-E-A

Or when you hear Twist & Shout or La Bamba, you'll recognize that they are both just variations on I-IV-V chord progressions in C major!

C-F-G

Every song is built from the basic materials of notes, scales & chords. These patterns repeat over and again in pop, rock, country, blues music. So, the trick is to get you mind & ear to memorize & understand what those patterns are.

Almost every blues you hear is built from a I-IV-V progression. After practicing playing & learning to identify these chord progressions, I can hear them immediately when I hear a new song.

So to sum up, learn the basic materials of music: scale intervals, chord progressions. Then figure out lots of melodies, chord progressions & songs. Play them a lot on your guitar and listen to them. Gradually over the course of time these patterns become second nature.

Make sense?! :)

Ask for more help if necessary! Best of success!


Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory
# 5
martinovation
Registered User
Joined: 04/11/17
Posts: 4

Hi Christopher, this is awesome. A lot of materials! I guess is a very different set of skills to develop than sight reading music,

Even if I can sight read, there doesn't seem to be a lot of sheet music written specifically for guitar in pop music (or maybe I don't know where to find them). So what you're suggesting here does seem to make a lot of sense. Thanks very much again.


# 6
ChristopherSchlegel
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Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 7,857
Originally Posted by: martinovation

I guess is a very different set of skills to develop than sight reading music,

[/quote]

Sight reading is a very specific skill set. It is related to, but different from simply know how to read music. Simply knowing how to read music is a great skill to have. It can also help you to learn songs, quite obviously! :)

[quote=martinovation]

Even if I can sight read, there doesn't seem to be a lot of sheet music written specifically for guitar in pop music (or maybe I don't know where to find them).

There are lots of sites that offer sheet music for pop-rock material. What do you want to play? Search for it here:

www.musicnotes.com

You can also find a lot of Hal Leonard books & similar materials on their site or Amazon. For one example.

https://www.amazon.com/Beatles-Complete-Scores-Transcribed-Score/dp/0793518326/

So knowing how to read music can help you learn songs & play lead, because if you bought those materials you'd have to know what the symbols on the page meant. But you could also figure it out 'by ear'. Or, like most players, you could use a combination of the two.

But developing your physical skills, your playing technique is the highest priority, because without it you can't do anything! Hope this helps!


Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory
# 7
martinovation
Registered User
Joined: 04/11/17
Posts: 4

Thanks again Christopher. These are really good information. FWIW, I know how to read music, but not to a point where I can comfortably read and play at the same time. I can handle the easy stuff like the ones from beginners guitar books, but I like to get to the point where I can pick up a piece of sheet music of a popular song and play comfortably. That is why I raised this question on this thread. I've been mostly learning songs from youtube videos, and playing from memorizing the chords and some riffs.

I'm definitely intrigued by your suggestion on ear training. It would be a great skill to have, and an alternate route to achieve what I want to do. Thanks.


# 8
sconvery
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Joined: 08/07/22
Posts: 1

Can I re-open this thread with another related question? This post is many years old so wondering what the latest advice is.

I played guitar for many years, took a couple decades off, and am now back into it. I never learned to read music, only tab. I would like to learn to read music and maybe someday to sight read. I've finished the fundamentals I course and it was mostly review and have started fundamentals 2. My technique is decent given the long break (thank you muscle memory).

Here's the question:

Will I naturally be able to switch to reading music vs. tab as I progress through guitartricks.com via the lesson progression or are there specific courses I should prioritize now so that I start learning to read the staff vs. the tab before the songs get more complex?

Thank you so much. Loving the site.


# 9
ChristopherSchlegel
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Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 7,857
Originally Posted by: sconvery

This post is many years old so wondering what the latest advice is.[/quote][p]My advice (the info & links) in my previous replies is still the same. I can add that since then I've added tutorials on ear training!

Ear Training for Intervals

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=2401

Ear Training for Chords

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=2414

[quote=sconvery]

Will I naturally be able to switch to reading music vs. tab as I progress through guitartricks.com via the lesson progression or are there specific courses I should prioritize now so that I start learning to read the staff vs. the tab before the songs get more complex?

Lisa's old GF 2 course has tutorials on learning to read music in chapter 7.

https://www.guitartricks.com/course.php?input=fundamentals2lisa

My older GF2 course also has these tutorials on learning to read music notation.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=271

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=318

Learning to read music notation is not part of Anders's GF courses. So, you will have to use the above links. And then you can use that knowledge to start practicing reading the music notation on everything you work on.

I also have some basic sight reading exercises here. They are in classical style but applicable to practicing the skill for any style.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=1013

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=1014

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=1024

It's important to keep in mind that learning to read notation is just the first step. It is, of course, a necessary step! But after learning the basics you have to spend a lot of time practicing the skill in order to develop it to make it useful.

Hope this helps!


Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory
# 10