Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How to learn to read guitar sheet music

Usually when you are playing your first guitar sheet music melodies you will have to learn the notes in the first position on the guitar. To have a good grasp of these notes on the guitar I suggest that you learn them slowly and with concentration. I usually begin by teaching the notes on the first string like E on open string, F on fret 1 and G on fret 3. On string two you'll find B on open string, C on fret 1 and D on fret 3. With these notes you can play the song Mary Had A Little Lamb.

Using the previous notes the melody can be played as follows:

E D C D E E E - D D D - E G G - E D C D E E E - E D D E D C

I hope you recognized the melody. This kind of music notation doesn't give any hints as to how the rhythm is to be played but presupposes that you already know the melody. Traditional classical guitar sheet music notation shows both the notes and the way they are supposed to be played.

My dad was the only guitar tutor in the town where I lived and he taught mostly classical guitar playing. His young students, I was one of them, learned those first guitar pieces very fast because he used a system similar to tablature showing the frets and strings to play, along with the sheet music. Tablature wasn't common back then when playing classical guitar sheet music. I remember somebody remarking that his system prevented the children from learning to sight read sheet music. His reply was that if somebody really wants to learn the notes they will anyway. I agree with that and I have found that if a pupil is not motivated learning guitar sheet music they will not advance in this area whether they play with or without tablature.

What has fingers to do with guitar playing? The answer is, quite a lot. A more important question is if the fingers you choose to use can have a bearing upon your guitar playing. Left hand fingerings are numbers on the sheet music indication which finger you are suggested to use when playing a specific note. Usually when playing the first pieces on the guitar on the first frets it can be a good idea for you to play the notes on the first fret with the index finger, notes on the second fret with the middle finger, notes on the third fret with the ring finger and notes on the fourth fret with your little finger.

What then are the left hand fingering advantages? Can't you play every melody with your left index finger and forget about all this fingering stuff? Well, of course you can play melodies with your index finger but your progress will be very limited beyond just playing easy melodies. You'll have to move your left hand all the time as you change frets and, most importantly, when reading sheet music, you'll have to look at the guitar fretboard all the time instead of looking at the sheet music which means that it will be hard to sight read music.

The important thing when learning to play the notes on the guitar is to make a conscious effort to learn the notes and not to work on to many notes at the same time!