I made the mistake of trying to read standard notation a few days after I got the basics down, since my big goal as a guitarist is versatility and all. I ran into MANY problems and even the high school band teacher was essentially useless since all she knew were band instruments and piano...anyway my biggest pitfall was "which string should I play this note on". I thought this was unique to me and I was slow but turns out this guy also struggles with the guitar having so many ways of playing one note (as well as a few other results from a google search). based off of this article/essay ---> http://www.woodpecker.com/writing/essays/guitarnotation.html I'm almost certain that guitarists are justified in not understanding sheet music (justified, not excused).

Anyway, I'm ultimately asking if there are any good sight readers here and if so, how did you get to understand it?
Theory is just...wow. I'm getting a bit over my head by trying to learn so much w/o formal educators

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To be a good lead guitar you must be VERY GOOD AT RYTHM

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My motto: Play what the song needs you to play!
As with sightreading for any instrument, you just need to practice and internalize the fretboard. Spend some time everyday with it, and you'll learn soon enough.
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I would say i am pretty good at sight reading, so i am going to give this a go.

Sight reading for guitar is a process of both reading and listening. Depending on what you are playing you have to choose a different place to play it. As you said, the same note in the same octave can be found in a lot of places (24th fret Low E = 19th fret A string = 14th fret D string = 9th fret G string = 5 string B string = open high e string). What we guitarists have to do more than read is think of what we are playing and ask ourselves what sound this song is asking for, and then find a position to play in from there.

For example i am currently hired to play guitar in a local musical, which is all sight reading. Some songs are ballads, some songs are more country. In a ballad i wouldn't play the thinner strings as much cause they really stick out from the rest of the orchestra and give a very thin sound, i would therefor go for the thicker string, but not the thickEST strings, so i am basically playing everything on the G and D and A string if i can. On the other hand when a country song comes up i am more than free to play on the thinner strings, cause many country style sounds come from bending the thinner strings. You really just have to think of the song and what kind of sound it needs.

Other than that it's only a matter of practice and getting used to thinking in notes instead of shapes. That's a reason why many guitarists don't read sheet music, they rely on shapes for playing and don't understand what the shape contains. Props to you for getting into sheet music!
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Anyway, I'm ultimately asking if there are any good sight readers here and if so, how did you get to understand it?

I'm a good sight reader, at least to some degree. The reason was classical guitar lessons. I learned to sight read right from day one, starting in first position and moving up the fretboard. I don't understand what your problem was with trying to learn standard notation after 'getting the basics down', as far as I'm concerned standard notation is pretty basic. There really aren't that many ways to play the same note, and usually either it will be obvious which note you're supposed to play based on what the best position is to finger the whole of the phrase you're looking at, or the composer will have written position, string number and fingering markings on the score. Sometimes you have to make an artistic choice, based on tonal characteristics of the strings, sometimes you just have to choose, in any case it's usually not rocket science.

It sounds harsh, but there really is no justification for not even being capable of sight reading a simple melody in open position besides stupidity or laziness. Since I don't want to rush in and ascribe either of those traits to you I will guess that your problems stem more from not having a teacher to give you proper lessons on sight-reading starting from the very basics, and possibly you taking on material you weren't ready for, which is usually an issue for people who learn the rudiments of technique prior to learning how to sight-read.

By the way, it is a characteristic of string fingering in general that there will be multiple ways to play the same note. This is as true for violinists, violists, cellists and double bass players as it is for electric guitar players. There are also multiple ways to finger certain notes on the flute, or on brass instruments, though in the case of the brass some of those methods will produce out of tune notes and thus be unusable. But still, guitar players are not the only instrumentalists by far who have to deal with the gaping black hole of uncertainty with regards where to put their fingers to make the right noise. They're just the only ones who make such a huge fuss about it because they're used to being mollycoddled by tablature.
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Last edited by Nietsche at Aug 1, 2013,
I can sight read and it@s pretty easy once you get useed to it. As for "where do you put this note?", it depends on what is easiest.
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for me its knowing the major/minor scales in all keys and octaves..then checking the sheet music for the lowest and highest note in a passage..many songs/tunes have passages that adhere to the key of the tune..with only a few accidentals .. in my practice i play a difficult rhythmic passage in several positions in several keys..my goal is to be able read 2 to 4 bars ahead..and if necessary transpose to a different key - which is not a hard as it may sound..
Interesting side-note:

Back in the day (I want to say it was in Zappa's band, but it seems weird that Frank would allow that, so I'm not sure off the top of my head), Steve Vai would have people bring sheet music they wrote to concerts and he would sight-read it live on stage.
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I'd say the best way to sightread is to first look at the key signature. If you can identify what key the piece is in, then sightreading is just a matter of looking out for accidentals and identifying intervals. You should be able to tell what each interval looks like, so you know how to move from the note that you're on. What string to play each note on shouldn't be a problem, as it'll be fairly self explanatory when you're actually playing through the piece. I actually learned sightreading from singing, as I study Opera and Musical Theatre, and with that, it's about knowing how to go from the note you're currently on to the next note, you'll know how to sing each interval, so when you put what you know together with what you see, you can quite easily get a grasp of what the piece requires. That same principal can easily apply to guitar, and, in fact, it's so much easier to do it on a guitar, as it's a visual instrument, you can see all of these intervals you'll need to play, and it'll be so much easier. Really, you shouldn't be reading note by note, it'll make things far too difficult, and will make faster and more complicated passages impossible.
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Mostly they just whine about how hard it is to sight read.
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I would say i am pretty good at sight reading, so i am going to give this a go.

Sight reading for guitar is a process of both reading and listening. Depending on what you are playing you have to choose a different place to play it. As you said, the same note in the same octave can be found in a lot of places (24th fret Low E = 19th fret A string = 14th fret D string = 9th fret G string = 5 string B string = open high e string). What we guitarists have to do more than read is think of what we are playing and ask ourselves what sound this song is asking for, and then find a position to play in from there.

For example i am currently hired to play guitar in a local musical, which is all sight reading. Some songs are ballads, some songs are more country. In a ballad i wouldn't play the thinner strings as much cause they really stick out from the rest of the orchestra and give a very thin sound, i would therefor go for the thicker string, but not the thickEST strings, so i am basically playing everything on the G and D and A string if i can. On the other hand when a country song comes up i am more than free to play on the thinner strings, cause many country style sounds come from bending the thinner strings. You really just have to think of the song and what kind of sound it needs.

Other than that it's only a matter of practice and getting used to thinking in notes instead of shapes. That's a reason why many guitarists don't read sheet music, they rely on shapes for playing and don't understand what the shape contains. Props to you for getting into sheet music!

didn't think of either of those. I learned from Gibson's website about how each string brings a different tonal quality, like the open high e would be bright, but the 24h low e would be smoother/warmer tone. Guess I should put more stock into that heh.
As for the thinking in notes instead of shapes (and later, intervals instead of notes), that's actually a huge help. I'll be sure to keep that in mind while I start looking to attempt learning this stuff.

I'm too lazy to quote everyone else's advice but it was all kinda helpful heh, even the thing about not being able to sight read being akin to laziness. To be honest I kinda threw the idea of sight reading away after a few months of no progress. I figured that I could get by without...then I changed my minor to music a few months back lucky for me they won't begin those classes until January. Once I got that push, I jumped headfirst into theory and now sight reading.
Anyways, I can sight read for piano...sorta. I know the basics (eg==EGBDF and FACE)...

This post was pointless haha
Theory is just...wow. I'm getting a bit over my head by trying to learn so much w/o formal educators

Quote by DBKGUITAR
To be a good lead guitar you must be VERY GOOD AT RYTHM

Quote by MaggaraMarine
My motto: Play what the song needs you to play!
oh, other than that Steve Vai example (seriously Sleaze, that's epic ), how many of you guys can play something from sight reading it once? Like within 10 minutes
Theory is just...wow. I'm getting a bit over my head by trying to learn so much w/o formal educators

Quote by DBKGUITAR
To be a good lead guitar you must be VERY GOOD AT RYTHM

Quote by MaggaraMarine
My motto: Play what the song needs you to play!
Quote by Nietsche
I'm a good sight reader, at least to some degree. The reason was classical guitar lessons. I learned to sight read right from day one, starting in first position and moving up the fretboard. I don't understand what your problem was with trying to learn standard notation after 'getting the basics down', as far as I'm concerned standard notation is pretty basic. There really aren't that many ways to play the same note, and usually either it will be obvious which note you're supposed to play based on what the best position is to finger the whole of the phrase you're looking at, or the composer will have written position, string number and fingering markings on the score. Sometimes you have to make an artistic choice, based on tonal characteristics of the strings, sometimes you just have to choose, in any case it's usually not rocket science.

It sounds harsh, but there really is no justification for not even being capable of sight reading a simple melody in open position besides stupidity or laziness. Since I don't want to rush in and ascribe either of those traits to you I will guess that your problems stem more from not having a teacher to give you proper lessons on sight-reading starting from the very basics, and possibly you taking on material you weren't ready for, which is usually an issue for people who learn the rudiments of technique prior to learning how to sight-read.

By the way, it is a characteristic of string fingering in general that there will be multiple ways to play the same note. This is as true for violinists, violists, cellists and double bass players as it is for electric guitar players. There are also multiple ways to finger certain notes on the flute, or on brass instruments, though in the case of the brass some of those methods will produce out of tune notes and thus be unusable. But still, guitar players are not the only instrumentalists by far who have to deal with the gaping black hole of uncertainty with regards where to put their fingers to make the right noise. They're just the only ones who make such a huge fuss about it because they're used to being mollycoddled by tablature.

+3 million

I really don't have much else to add except that I used to be a rad sight reader; reading grade 7/8 level classical guitar charts off the cuff. To my shame, I didn't practice music much at all for my first year out of high school so my sight reading has especially suffered. Sight reading is like anything else, it's a skill that is built up over time through practice, starting off with simple single line melodies, then adding accidentals and moving on to things contain more notes, things in different positions, syncopation, weird timings and the list goes on.
Look at the key signature of your piece and use the major scale shapes you know as a guideline to play the notes (if its in C, use your C major scale shapes). With practice you will know on which area of the neck a piece would be easier/ sound better to play according to the whether most of the notes are high on the staff or lower, on the difficulty of the piece, etc.
Just one of the ways to start off, you will get used to all the accidentals and know all the notes on the fingerboard with practice
As I asked essentially the same question on here recently I'll echo what was said to me, ( mixed with my own advice anyway ) learn to fully read sheet music , if you can read bass clef and treble clef that's great , there's not a huge difference anyways! Make sure you know the fretboard, you'll need to locate notes with ease , also use the 'little numbers' by the notes , I fully admit to being confused by them at first but now understanding those I've been able to progress well and some less technical but equally helpful advice , read the sheet music , not literally note by note but look at the music and get a sense of what it should sound like in time you'll be surprised by how accurate your initial thought of how the tune should be actually is to the piece!
I sightread quite a lot as part of my job, but it tends to be reading melodies on jazz lead sheets. The melodies tend to stay within a couple of octaves range (usually one), and don't contain chordal structures. I learnt to do this by working my way slowly through melodies, then building up tempo over time, never sightreading the same melody twice in succession. Hope that helps!
Just a quick add on, I was reading through Josh Urban's lessons and I just read the Circle of fifths column. I have been hearing that term all over but had no idea heh. Honestly, that helped me out a lot just now.
Anyway, I'll start looking at simple melodies and going from there to cray cray symbols that I'm just learning but I'll keep you guys updated, things seem to be in a better perspective now for some reason.
Theory is just...wow. I'm getting a bit over my head by trying to learn so much w/o formal educators

Quote by DBKGUITAR
To be a good lead guitar you must be VERY GOOD AT RYTHM

Quote by MaggaraMarine
My motto: Play what the song needs you to play!
So I started looking at simple stuff on 8notes.com http://www.8notes.com/scores/572.asp?view=full&ftype=gif&kar= (I said simple) and I want to understand something. Is that all there is to reading sheet music? reading the notes, playing them, and memorizing them? I'm asking because I am about to start my music performance minor and I want to be sure that I'm not underthinking this, and if not I totally overthought staff reading all these years >.<

If this is the case, can I just do this in the mindset as if it were a tab or am I underestimating things?
Theory is just...wow. I'm getting a bit over my head by trying to learn so much w/o formal educators

Quote by DBKGUITAR
To be a good lead guitar you must be VERY GOOD AT RYTHM

Quote by MaggaraMarine
My motto: Play what the song needs you to play!
Quote by eric_wearing
Is that all there is to reading sheet music? reading the notes, playing them, and memorizing them?

Well yeah, were you expecting to have your mind opened up to some deep secret of the universe just by looking at the notes on the page?

If this is the case, can I just do this in the mindset as if it were a tab or am I underestimating things?

I have no idea what you mean by reading it as if it were tablature, but if you play the notes written, in the rhythm written, with the dynamic markings written, you've pretty much got the gist of sight-reading.
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Quote by Nietsche
Well yeah, were you expecting to have your mind opened up to some deep secret of the universe just by looking at the notes on the page?

Actually...yeah heh. I mean I mentioned that I tried before and I was so confused by so much cos I'm purely self taught for all of the 3 years I've been playing. My basics came from the book Teach Yourself Guitar and lucky for me it wasn't a quick tips n tricks book. The one problem was in the notation chapter, it went straight from Every Good Boy Does Fine to some Traditional song I've never heard of. Ig it's cos it's English and I'm American ie cultural disconnect but when I tried it myself I failed so hard I was unsure of everything staff music. Add on the fact my only internet access was at school and they blocked 8notes and the like as 'educational music' and staff reading was tough to find a way to learn.

Quote by Nietsche
I have no idea what you mean by reading it as if it were tablature, but if you play the notes written, in the rhythm written, with the dynamic markings written, you've pretty much got the gist of sight-reading.

yeah something like that. I read tabs and play it and of course I can't play it as soon as I see it. I overthought staff all this time though cos I expected the rhythm and other details would allow me to play it on the spot like I see some musicians do (I mean why else do these professionals need sheet music with them in concerts and such? ). But after reading these comments, I guess I understand now that it's not a quick fix to automatically play anything on a sheet, though I learned how to play simple children stuff faster on sheets than tabs cos of rhythms...
Theory is just...wow. I'm getting a bit over my head by trying to learn so much w/o formal educators

Quote by DBKGUITAR
To be a good lead guitar you must be VERY GOOD AT RYTHM

Quote by MaggaraMarine
My motto: Play what the song needs you to play!
Suggestion:
Learn EGBDF and FACE, then slow down and figure out the notes on the staff for some simple songs. For example, pick up sheet music for "Mary Had a Little Lamb". It's a simple tune, which means it won't be as hard to figure out as something complex. Pick up several songs like that and keep reading until you can look at those songs and sight read them without having to stop and figure out what to do. Then, move on to harder songs and so on.

There is no quick secret to this. You have to work at it. Music has no shortcuts; you have to do the work to learn things properly.
Every Good Boy Does Fine and FACE are simple enough. As for the simplicity thing, I shall take that and run heh. Thanks.

I'll be back to this post once I'm able to do intermediate stuff and talk about that :P
Theory is just...wow. I'm getting a bit over my head by trying to learn so much w/o formal educators

Quote by DBKGUITAR
To be a good lead guitar you must be VERY GOOD AT RYTHM

Quote by MaggaraMarine
My motto: Play what the song needs you to play!
Well written sheet music will at least give you a clue where you should play a chord.

Assume you have an uninverted G major chord written out, G(3), B(4), D(4).

That can't be played in the open position of a guitar, because the B & the D, are on the same string. You can play it at the 3rd position with this fingering, D-4, 5th fret, G-3, 4th fret, & B-2, 3rd fret.

So, the way a chord is written on the staff, is also a rough equivalent of a tab, once you know the names of the notes written on the staff, and the names of the notes that make up any given chord. After that, it's just about interpolating the two factors, practice, and a bunch of memorization..
Quote by eric_wearing
Every Good Boy Does Fine and FACE are simple enough. As for the simplicity thing, I shall take that and run heh. Thanks.

I'll be back to this post once I'm able to do intermediate stuff and talk about that :P

Keep in mind that a lot of it is about finding the most comfortable fingering. For instance, there's a lot of spots I can play an E note (assume I mean an E(4), which is the E is EGBDF). But you have to find the most comfortable fingering for you to be able to not only play that E, but the notes before and after it. Make sense?
yeah. When I was playing Mary Had a Lil Lambda (haha) I figured it out pretty quick. I saw the G on the main staff and the first E above it so it kinda gave me a reference point only problem so far is the octave names/# and the key signature but even then I'm starting to learn the Circle of Fifths :P
Theory is just...wow. I'm getting a bit over my head by trying to learn so much w/o formal educators

Quote by DBKGUITAR
To be a good lead guitar you must be VERY GOOD AT RYTHM

Quote by MaggaraMarine
My motto: Play what the song needs you to play!
Quote by eric_wearing
....[ ]......only problem so far is the octave names/# and the key signature ...[ ]....
The octave names (rather "octave numbers"), are best learned on a piano keyboard diagram, with the numbers in place. They are especially useful when discussing vocal ranges. Anyhoo, "middle C", is "C4", and the number changes on each "A". A piano has 88 keys and therefore spans approximately 8 octaves.

Key signatures are "best" (IMO) memorized using a system of remembering which key comes next in the "add a sharp or add a flat sequence". C, all natural, G 1 sharp F#, D 2 sharps, F# + C#, A 3 sharps, F3, C#, + G# and so forth. You just build the next key adding sharps (or flats) the the ones you already have.

This helps to play melody on the guitar in different keys, without actually changing position.
That actually helps a lot. I thought the # would change on the C as per the rest of general music. Thanks
Theory is just...wow. I'm getting a bit over my head by trying to learn so much w/o formal educators

Quote by DBKGUITAR
To be a good lead guitar you must be VERY GOOD AT RYTHM

Quote by MaggaraMarine
My motto: Play what the song needs you to play!
I wrote an Android app with the aim of helping guitarists learn to sight read.

Let me know what you think.
Last edited by Hupio at Aug 18, 2013,
Quote by Hupio
I wrote an Android app with the aim of helping guitarists learn to sight read.

Let me know what you think.

I'm still gonna keep going the way I'm going (I just found an old hymn book and that's VERY useful) but pm me the site so i can check it
Theory is just...wow. I'm getting a bit over my head by trying to learn so much w/o formal educators

Quote by DBKGUITAR
To be a good lead guitar you must be VERY GOOD AT RYTHM

Quote by MaggaraMarine
My motto: Play what the song needs you to play!
Obtain Levitt's "Modern Method For Guitar".

Start at the first lesson and work through Volume 1. Step by step you will learn to sight read.

It's excellent. I've never seen a better method for learning to sight read on the guitar.

Learning to sight read is like learning to read books. You begin with very simple books and progess over time.
Read backwards from the last bar.... but read each bar forwards. This will develop your eye movement rapidly, because you'll notice that you have to jump from the END of the bar to the START of the PREVIOUS bar. So always look ahead.

Try articulating notes, like string bending. This is a really good one because you actually have to fret the WRONG note due to having to bend up to the correct note.

With basic reading exercises there is not likely to be any articulation or expression marks, so feel free to add your own. Very useful if you have a simple chart to read at a gig.
Last edited by mdc at Aug 19, 2013,
Quote by CelestialGuitar
I'd say the best way to sightread is to first look at the key signature. If you can identify what key the piece is in, then sightreading is just a matter of looking out for accidentals and identifying intervals. You should be able to tell what each interval looks like, so you know how to move from the note that you're on. What string to play each note on shouldn't be a problem, as it'll be fairly self explanatory when you're actually playing through the piece. I actually learned sightreading from singing, as I study Opera and Musical Theatre, and with that, it's about knowing how to go from the note you're currently on to the next note, you'll know how to sing each interval, so when you put what you know together with what you see, you can quite easily get a grasp of what the piece requires. That same principal can easily apply to guitar, and, in fact, it's so much easier to do it on a guitar, as it's a visual instrument, you can see all of these intervals you'll need to play, and it'll be so much easier. Really, you shouldn't be reading note by note, it'll make things far too difficult, and will make faster and more complicated passages impossible.

ive only recently started to learn sight reading after all these years its been so much easier since reasiling just what you said its very good advice to anyone reading, justkinda think up and down. using all FIVE didgts on your fret hand also helps so much. i started doing that early with as i liked war of the worlds as a kid. but kinda wrong also. for me anyway.your hand will strech and your mind will get used to more fingers :-)
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Last edited by bigfootedfred at Jan 23, 2014,