We've all heard the endless jokes about guitar players and their lack of ability to read music.
It can't be denied that there is some truth behind these jokes.
Many guitarists see no reason to learn to read. Add to that the fact that reading for guitar is more difficult than many other instruments (due to the fact that so many notes exist in several positions on the guitar), and it's no wonder why so many guitarists simply avoid the topic of reading altogether.
Even if you feel fine just using your ears and the occasional tablature, let me try to convince you to at least develop some basic music reading skills.
First of all, learning to read rhythms forces you to categorize all the rhythms you play, making your overall sense of time and groove stronger. Plus it opens your ears to rhythmic variations you may have otherwise never considered. Suddenly you're a more creative player, and you'll be able to memorize tunes faster.
Second, learning to read enhances your ability to communicate with other musicians. Learning and rehearsing tunes with musicians who understand musical notation and rhythmic terminology is incredibly easy and efficient compared to learning tunes with musicians who haven't studied these basics.
Third, having the ability to read opens up worlds of music for you to study with or without recordings. You can really get into the minds of songwriters, composers, improvisors and guitarists by reading music. Listening to amazing music can be a magical and mysterious experience, but when you see the same music on a page of manuscript paper you get a look behind the curtain. The mystery clears up, and you're left with musical fact.
Lastly, you become a more employable guitarist as you learn to read. Many gigs require basic reading chops, so it's a great idea to set yourself apart by learning to read. In my experience, most reading gigs only require basic chart reading (chords, rhythms) and some occasional guitar cues (riffs or lead lines in standard notation). Spend 15 minutes a day reading rhythm charts, and you'll be ready for these type gigs in no time.
There you have it...my quick plug for learning to read music.
Next week we'll look at a few tips to get you started with music reading. Until then, practice well.
Question: Have you learned to read? If so, how has it affected your guitar playing, your listening, or your career?
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