#1
I plan on updating this constantly, so suggestions/commentary are certainly welcome. I'm really just out there to encourage something that guitarists are often made derided for, and I think it's time for that to come to an end.


I've got to repost this because I went to edit the original post and it told me it had gotten too long, so I think what I'm going to do is repost it here, and since a LOT of people offered suggestions as to amendments, I'm going to use this repost at the official permanent posting and any additions will be made in subsequent posts in the thread. As was the case with the last thread, your suggestions are welcome.

Introduction: Many fine musicians have been exceptionally successful without ever reading a single note of music in their lives. Many famous jazz musicians couldn't explain to you a single thing they did in their playing, they just heard it, and that's why today people such as myself are into the field of theoretical analysis of pop and jazz music, so that their methodologies can be dissected and explained to the rest of us non-geniuses.

As such, no matter your chosen style of music, many of us reach a point where we want to learn more about our craft. And to do this one often must at least have some basic understand of reading standard musical notation. If you want to learn how to solo like the guitarist from Metallica (not really my kinda music, so I don't know names), what you'll end up doing is transcribing on your own, or buying transcriptions of his solos. While very often these days publishers put out books that include both standard notation and tablature, one can discern more information regarding style and the theory behind a musicians choices by looking at standard notation, where you can see in read time actual note movement. Unlike a guitar tab where numbers represent an arbitrary fret, with standard notation you look at the piece of paper and you instantly can see which notes the musician chose, and with that information , and a bit of theory knowledge, what you can do is create rules or maxims in your head that you can use to help you apply that same idea to your own music in creative and individual ways. This is why, no matter how simple or complex your chosen style of music, we all have something to gain from being able to read standard music notation.

Aside from the "learning from others" reasoning too, you can find so much more music out there to play that is only printed in standard notation, especially if you're into jazz or classical.

Now on to the original post:

Why should I learn to read music?

A reasonable question for the contemporary guitarist. Why do I need to read music when I can just get tabs off the internet, or learn songs by ear? Well there is a fairly simple answer. Reading music will open you up to a whole new world of possibilities in terms of guitar repertoire. If you've never heard/played a Bach solo violin sonata, you're missing out on something. The harmonies of the European classical tradition are something to investigate if you’re interested in really spicing up your music. And being able to read will help you learn from these masters even faster!

Also, being able to read music will give you immense credibility with other musicians. If you meet a piano player in a coffee bar and he says he wants to jam, but wants you to learn a tune to play, he'll expect you to read music. While there are some prodigies than cannot read music and yet could wipe the floor with all of us, reading music is an excellent way to improve our playing for those of us that are not gifted with such ability! I started my musical life as a Viola player, and I can tell you from experience that those that were raised in the European/western musical education system do have something of an ego about ability, it comes with the territory. If you were to meet a Violin player who can sight read the Paganini Caprices and they were to recommend them to you (they’re great technical exercise) and you were to say “Well....I can’t read music,” you’d get a very odd look, and that other player would likely think something less of you. This plays into much of the reason that guitarists are often looked at my society as sub-par musicians. In many cases, if a musician were to tell someone "I play the trumpet," that person would assume the trumpet player can play their scales, play songs, and read music. The same is not often assumed of guitarists. The common lack of music reading ability causes the value of the guitarist to be undermined, and that hurts each and every one of us.

Also, are you wondering where Dream Theater got their inspiration for their complex harmonies? Pick up a Tchaikovsky score, or buy a copy of the score to Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. It's all right there. Also, if you're into it, even many famous jazz musicians (like Miles Davis) talk about how they would read scores from famous classical pieces to get inspiration. Try it some time, go to your library, pick up a score and a recording of a piece, and just follow along, you'll appreciate the complexity that much more (If you’re interested, go to your local library and ask if these materials are available.)

Finally, and most pertinently, learning to read music on your guitar will exponentially improve your playing abilities. You will at the same time learn tone relationships (intervals) and the notes of the fret board. Your dexterity will increase as you learn new ways to traverse the fret board as you encounter new musical patterns as well. And as I said before, you’ll gain new ideas for your own music. All music in the American tradition from blues to jazz to rock and roll has at least some element of “copying the former masters” to it.
#2
continued:

But how do I do it?!

First, it's freaking hard. Reading music isn't something that you accomplish in a week, a month, or a year. As my stoner room mate says, like all music, "it's a journey." You can totally nail that Wes Montgomery transcription one day, what you thought was the hardest thing ever, and the next day someone will hand you a Telemann viola concerto put in treble clef and it'll kick your ass. I myself am not even some great master at reading, but in the short time (probably two or three years) that I've been doing it, I've only gotten better, and so has everything else about my playing, and much of that improvement I can draw some line back to reading.

So treat it like a journey. One you'll never really complete, but will always garner satisfaction from.

Moving on to the practicals:

Books to start with:
For the outright beginner, who knows almost nothing about music, there is one book that has been the bible for reading for years. And even though I used to not be a fan of it myself (before I got into college), I have now recognized its unending value.

William Leavitt: A Modern Method For Guitar: This 3 Volume method is now printed in one big book, and runs like $20 on Amazon. The first book is great for someone that can handle a guitar but knows nothing about reading. Even if you work on one page a day, you'll be moving forward, and that's what important. If you're working all on your own, the duets may seem worthless (I know I thought they were), but they generally offer you more to learn, and you can often see/hear the relation between the two parts. The book is VERY methodical, and if you were to complete all 3 volumes of this thing, I'm sure you could teach everyone here at UG a thing or two. The method covers everything from single note lines to arpeggios, well for god's sake, it's the textbook at the Berklee College of Music, it covers what you need to know to get rolling.

For those of you a little more comfortable with music already and want to get into somewhat heavier stuff, but things that are still manageable (Remember, it's a journey, take your time and have fun!):

Dr. Charles Colin and Bugs Bower: Rhythms Complete, Keyboard and Guitar Edition "The Bible of Syncopated Rhythms": Here is the description from right inside the book -- "The most widely used primer in the world for teaching rhythm, syncopation and phrasing, employing a very melodic format of 82 exercises in rhythmic structures and combinations of rhythms. It requires time, practice and repetition to master, however once you can read this in 4/4 and cut time correctly, you will be able to read anything. While written especially for beginning/intermediate levels, it is also used by advanced players as a daily practice book to maintain facility." ----- I completed this entire book last semester in one of my classes. If you've got a handle on basic note reading, this book will get you involved in reading slightly more complex rhythms and playing in the standard keys that most gig bands (that are not rock) play in. It presents each rhythm as a unit, and then has two exercises to work on it, then after 2 individual rhythms are learned, they are combined in two "combined rhythm" exercises. This is just great stuff.

William Leavitt: Melodic Rhythms for Guitar. Another Berklee book, and I still think Rhythms Complete is cooler, but another great workout that focuses on types of rhythms and develops them through melodies.

Tom Bruner: Sight Reading for the Contemporary Guitarist: I just got this book last week. It's hard, I mean this is for when you're ready to really get heavy into sight reading. It works on reading in terms of "regions" such as open strings to fret 6, etc etc. The exercises are hardly melodic so you can't remember how they sound. Each region workout starts with "top 3 strings" then "bottom 3 strings" and after about....4 of these (two for each set) it moves into "Full region." I'm using this book as my reading workout for this month, it seems really solid. So anyone looking for a serious reading workout, I strongly recommend it.

Alright, work with those books, I get it. What next?

Once you have a basic handle on note reading, even if you're just beginning, START READING MUSIC! Go buy a violin etudes book. Steal your sister's piano music and read the treble clef part. Get Guitar Pro and start learning your favorite songs, reading the notes instead of the tabs! You'll find it much more fulfilling, and you'll be able to SEE the relationships. In terms of just straight melodic workouts, I like the book Rhythmical Articulation by Pasquale Bona. It's used at some crazy European conservatory, and it can be very challenging, but if you take your time it's so worth it. I'm still working with this book. The first section is actually for vocalists, but I've yet to see a vocalist that can sing this stuff, it's hard. The book has a series of exercises that are like short pieces of music.

That's basically it once you've got the basics of note reading down, you just hunt down music and learn it. I like reading violin music as it is the most easily transferred. I'd also recommend learning some transcriptions from rock or jazz songs. There are books of these things, and you can find some online. Learning the solo's of others will help you improve your own soloing, and you'll keep working on your reading!

There is no magic bullet when it comes to reading. But over time you will find out how you’ve benefited from it. Each person will take away something different. One person make take new musical ideas, another person make take away an increased technical proficiency. No matter what you take, you can use it to improve your music, which is the music that really matters.

Music is a journey, always strive to get better. Reading music can help you get there in so many ways! And as always, have fun doing it!
#3
I want to reiterate right now the value of the program Guitar Pro. I have been using this for months, and love it. It's much better than simply looking at tabs alone. I used this song yesterday to learn a Phish song (Stash) and a John Mayer tune (Who Did You Think I Was?). It's got standard notation, and if you ever get really stuck, or something calls for a specific fingering, there are tabs there too.

And I've never had trouble finding a guitar pro file of a song. You just go into google and type (for example) "Johnny B Goode guitar pro" and you're likely to find your song.

Also what's great is many files have the ENTIRE BAND's parts included. So if you want your band to learn a song, print out the parts and take them to practice.
#5
there are many different approaches to reading...it comes down to the "learning what you don't know how to do" which is difficult because...well...you don't know how to do it...the adage "do alot of it" over time will produce results..but to make it an effective journey..some basic steps need attention:
why do you want to learn how to read music...you want to or you have to
do you approach the task of learning as: very difficult-cant wait till i don't have to do it or a way to open a wide world of all types of music

alot of the learning process depends on how much pressure you put on your self to complete a task within a given time frame

once you determine what your goal is .. just be able to read melodies to standards or complex chord structures .. then determine how much time you are giving yourself to learn that task-weeks / months / years..

once you have begin the process the important thing is to make daily progress...push yourself to learn the "next step"...take breaks...and reward yourself after you accomplish a task ...

understand your learning limit - if you see four bars of complex notes and rhythms you might want to choose something that "looks" easier

once you have the basics understood you will be able to take complex passages apart and break them down in "easier to digest" bits and link them together

all of this takes time and patients...but worth it

its the difference between reading a book or just looking at the pictures

wolf
#11
Actually I hated high school. Mine was full of egotistical jerks.

And Wolfen, the whole "personalized goal" thing is why I wanted to play up Guitar Pro, as I think many guys here would be more interested in looking up rock songs, while my thing is more classical and jazz music. I used guitar pro today to learn a Simon and Garfunkle song, and admittedly, I used to the tab part a lot because I have so little experience with folk and fingerpicking. But it's just such a great little program.
#14
awsome guide ...its pretty funny couse my grandfather got me the "William Leavitt: A Modern Method For Guitar" a year ago but i never used it, but i have been wanting to learn how to read music. so i went though my books ..looked at the book for a second ,couse i forgot i had it ..... week later i read this. tryed out the book ...and wow its really helping me alot. so thanks.. (smily face)
ug's cool so i guess im cool to

Originally Posted by gallagher2006
Whats a Steve Vai? Floyd Rose ripoff?

Originally Posted by Virgil_Hart05
no...stop being fat