Reading Guitar Music: Pump it or Dump it?

When do you need to read music on your guitar?

by Taura Eruera


Music notation is most used in classical guitar and music genres that are not defined by guitar, notably jazz, some pop and classical music styles. In these styles, music has been transmitted through the centuries by notation. And a tradition of learning music by reading has evolved.

Many virtuoso guitar players read music. Think Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Frank Zappa, Ingwe Malmsteem. Many virtuoso's don't too. Think Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen.

Guitar Players who want to arrange music for instruments other than guitar need to read and write music to communicate with those musicians. They don't do guitar tab.

Guitar Players who want to play music outside their immediate genres need to read music.

The best guitar transcriptions are those done by transcribers who can read music. (Conversely, a great way to learn to write music is by transcribing music.)

When does a guitar player NOT need to read music?


When you are playing guitar defined music, like rock, pop, blues, metal, shred and many others often you don't need to read music. You need to read and write tab.  As an instrument that came to prominence in the age of radio, guitar is a social instrument that is mostly socially taught---friend to friend, family member to family member.  

With the advent of television, video and internet, guitar learning by ear— listening to your desired song over and over---or by eye---watching a good player amongst your friends, family, on you tube or on your dvd collection---has intensified.  Between guitar players the notation of choice is guitar tab, backed up by video and audio to ensure they learn the desired rhythm.

Should you read music on guitar?

This is another version of this basic question: should you read? 

You could answer no.  And it's true that you can get by without reading.  As long as you don't mind being illiterate, earning really low pay all your life, being shut out of any opportunity program, not being able to afford to live and being worn down way by the daily grind way before your time.

You could answer yes.  And suddenly whole worlds of imagination and creativity open up to you.  You have the key that unlocks doors to opportunity, comfortable lifestyle, social security, prosperity and longevity.

Similarly with reading music. You can get by one horizon without reading music. Or you can learn to read and go beyond horizon after horizon. Just because you can read the signs on the doors.

Reading music is not just for the continuously gigging player anymore than reading is just for writers.

I didn't read music for the first 15 years of my guitar life.

I have read music for the last 20 years plus. And I keep playing and playing and playing.

People who started playing the same time as I who do not read, not only don't play anymore. But worse! They struggle to remember ever youthfully playing music at all!

If you don't read music, music won't read you.

Reading music includes understanding rhythm and the guitar notes in the stave as well as guitar notes below the stave and above the stave.

Reading music enables you to join the stave to the tab via your fingerings.

Reading guitar music starts right here.

 

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Praesent accumsan. Donec erat. Integer gravida ligula id enim. Donec nibh enim, rutrum scelerisque, sagittis quis, ullamcorper non, tortor. In ac lorem. Sed pharetra, metus vitae pulvinar luctus, turpis quam elementum felis, at malesuada lacus felis ac orci.

Aenean ac elit. Sed vitae velit. Nulla sodales vehicula mi. Donec imperdiet, libero in elementum varius, leo arcu tincidunt urna, in facilisis justo sem id urna.


Praesent accumsan. Donec erat. Integer gravida ligula id enim. Donec nibh enim, rutrum scelerisque, sagittis quis, ullamcorper non, tortor. In ac lorem. Sed pharetra, metus vitae pulvinar luctus, turpis quam elementum felis, at malesuada lacus felis ac orci.

Aenean ac elit. Sed vitae velit. Nulla sodales vehicula mi. Donec imperdiet, libero in elementum varius, leo arcu tincidunt urna, in facilisis justo sem id urna.


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