Reading music is an important skill to have as a guitarist & everyone can do it. It isn’t an absolutely mandatory skill to have to play popular songs, yet it is, to have access to an enormous amount of music from our rich musical history. I think that everyone should learn to read. If you are a beginner, let’s start. If you’ve played for awhile, but have never learned, let’s get this skill happening. First, our fretboard zones…
Our Reading System Uses 3 Zones
Reading Music Process
When we learn a piece of music written in music notation, we follow these steps to realize it (if we sight-read all 4 into realization, this would be pure artistic mastery):
- Fingerings/Notes → At the beginning, we spend our time converting written symbols into fingerings. This can be challenging. Our idea is to learn our notes in groups, in a specific order. This way, we have points of reference we can rely on, when and if needed.
- Rhythm → Once we know what notes we are going to play, we then focus on how they are played in time. We read rhythms to make the piece sound as written.
- Interpret → We then shape the piece, play it musically. This is called interpretation. We add emotion, weight, push/pull, dynamics, overall meaning, etc. to make the piece reflect who we are as musicians or show what we think the composer intended.
- Perform → Finally, we perform it. Or, at least play it in performance mode. This often is just for ourselves. But we can [and maybe should] have pieces ready to perform for family, friends, or larger audiences. We don’t have to ‘perform’ every exercise we play, but we should complete this 4 point list for some exercises or pieces. If an exercise or piece sounds good to you, take it through this list. For most exercises, we just run 1 and 2 and move on. We can still play things musically, but we don’t necessarily think ‘perform’.
We start with getting the notes, playing the right tones, in the right rhythm. Then, decide how to shape it, play it musically.
I also ask students to work the open strings in notation as a parallel path (work until they know that they know it). Our sequence doesn’t rely on you doing this, but it can definitely help.
Let’s begin with line 1, middle e.