"How do you get a guitar player to stop playing? Put sheet music in front of him".
This classic joke says a lot about the relationship between guitar players and reading music. Some of the greatest guitar players admit not being able to read music notation and in the professional world there are very few gigs that require a guitarist to be able to read music fluently. We would all agree that reading music is a key element to becoming a well-rounded musician, so let’s learn some tips that will help us improve our reading skills.
1. Work On Your Technique
In order to be able to read music you need to be able to play without looking at your hands. You are going to rely on your touch rather than your sight, so having a good technique that allows you to feel the strings will help you to focus on the paper.
Here’s a good video where we address the basics of Guitar Technique:
2. Know The Fretboard
If you want to read music, you need to know where the notes are located on the fretboard. One easy way to learn them is to keep the “Note Names” activated at all times in Rock Prodigy. Start by memorizing the name of the open strings and the natural notes in open position.
Here’s a great exercise to locate the notes in the fretboard:
Then, you can work on simple exercises like:
Play and sing along with all of the E’s in first position. Then, do the same with the notes A, D, G, C, F, and B.
Try the same exercise but add the next note going up the scale. For example, play and sing C-D in all octaves. Then try A-B etc...
Play the next note going down the scale. For example: Play and sing C-B in all octaves. Then try A-G etc...
Once you know all the natural notes in open position you can try to learn all the natural notes on the fretboard.
Start by getting familiar with the natural notes on each individual string, and then, add groups of two or three notes and play them on different strings, like we do in lesson 13 "Theory: Natural Notes".
3. Know The Staff
There are many ways to get familiar with the notes in the staff in treble clef. For example, you can use mnemonics like "Every Good Boy Does Fine" as a way to remember the notes on the lines (E-G-B-D-F), or FACE for the notes on the spaces.
Here is a useful exercise to get familiar with the notes on treble clef: Write down the names of these notes:
Once you solve that, try this one:
As you can see, there is a pattern in this last exercise, the first and third beat of each bar are followed by the next note of the scale, going up or down. If you know the name of the notes on beats 1 and 3, the beats 2 and 4 are easy to find.
(We will give you the answers in the next article - Part II.)
Look for sequences and patterns every time you read music. Remember that the notes on the paper are not just single letters put together, but words and phrases. All your favorite songs have plenty of patterns to look for.
4. Improve Your Theory Knowledge
Some of these patterns are really easy to spot on the paper if you understand music theory. For example, three consecutive notes over lines make an arpeggio.
Or, two notes that are two lines or two spaces apart from each other, make a fifth interval. Etc...
The more you know about intervals, chords, scales, etc... the easier it becomes to put what’s on the paper under your fingers.
I hope these tips are helpful to set the tone for the future lessons on Reading Music for Guitar Players. Please stay "in tune" :-P for the next articles. And remember, the key to Sight Reading is to read and read and read.