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Why You Should Read Music on Guitar

Guitar Josh

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I have a hard time believing any jazz guitarist has actually asked about the need to be able to read music.
 
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You'd be surprised, with the amount of video lessons and tab out there these days, most people I talk do see the need. They know it would be cool to do, but unless they are in a reading band don't see the point beyond that. Different from when I came up and we all had to read everyday, in school, rehearsals, gigs, etc., guess that dates me a bit.
 

fenderlead

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4,609
One of the first things most Sax players do is to learn sight reading.

Some Sax players can read and have no clue about ear playing and soloing believe it or not, and I thought it was a bit weird but then I found out that their teachers are readers and a lot of them come through the school system.

I play some Sax as well as guitar, so I thought I should get into some sight reading on Sax seeing that most Sax players can sight read and it was pretty boring to me (like painting by numbers) and I got to the point where I could do it at a moderate level on Sax but still not be able to sight read much on guitar which doesn't bother me.
 
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788
Good point. I started reading on piano when I was very young, took up guitar more than 10 years after that. It definitely helped to understand note names, rhythms, that sort of thing, but then taking that info onto the guitar when reading was a different animal. All the fingering options make it tricky to learn, but with time it can be done.
 

JonR

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15,539
You'd be surprised, with the amount of video lessons and tab out there these days, most people I talk do see the need.
I suspect what Guitar Josh meant was that jazz guitarists would accept it as fundamental, so much so that they'd see no point in asking. They know why already. ;)

Still, maybe for jazz beginners, some might need encouragement. (Unless maybe they are already technical whizz kids with great ears)
 

gennation

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7,924
I just did a big band gig last night, that gig was nothing but reading except for a couple of improvised solo's (Woodchopper's Ball and Little Brown Jug). Since guitar is part of the rhythm section 95% of the gig is reading chords, but there are a TON of chords in these big band arrangements. For the notation reading I pretty much run through things after getting setup are before each set. I understand how to read like a pro but I'm still a horrible sight reader, and I'm fair at memorizing quickly. So, I use my preshow time to get some things in order.

Even on studio gigs there's setup time per tune almost, so I use that time to get things under my fingers.

I find understanding how to read has got me through a ton of hurdles and helps me get called back for more gigs, but still have issue sight reading after decades of reading and constantly playing reading gigs. The gigs are the real training. They've made me better in the sense of making me a bit more quicker.
 

Lephty

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1,598
Great list--one thing I personally would add to that list is that learning to read music also really helps you conceptualize music in a more coherent way in your own mind. It gives you a better understanding of timing, and a better understanding of how accidentals (notes from outside of the key) function in context.
 

ZeyerGTR

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I'm not a jazz guitarist by any stretch, but learning to read - even at the basic level I can - has improved my playing and musicianship in so many ways, many of which I didn't anticipate. The biggest thing was having access to all kind of music not written for guitar. It improved my ears, my hands, and the connection between them.
 
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The biggest thing was having access to all kind of music not written for guitar. It improved my ears, my hands, and the connection between them.
Yeah I love reading sax books, violin studies, even piano stuff and trying to sneak some left and right hand lines together on guitar. Always fun to explore other instruments, and reading definitely makes that possible.
 

cantstoplt021

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1,216
How many minutes a day would you recommend for someone to spend reading? I've heard anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. And do you break it up between single note lines and chord charts w/ many different voicings?
 

old goat

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I learned to read when I played clarinet in elementary school. When I took up guitar I learned fingerpicking--mostly Gary Davis style stuff--by reading. I briefly dabbled in classical guitar and that of course required reading. These days I play mostly country/alt country/country rock and if I want to learn something I can't figure out by ear it's almost always in tab, which I find much harder to use for playing lines; tab works fine for strumming chords. Reading music goes directly to the brain--you think musically--whereas tab goes to the fingers; you could be using tab to drill teeth or do surgery instead of playing music. At least that's the way it seems to me--musical notation is musical; tab is mechanical. Or maybe it's just that I started using tab much later in life. And unfortunately, my reading skills are gone.
 

guitarjazz

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23,124
How many minutes a day would you recommend for someone to spend reading? I've heard anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. And do you break it up between single note lines and chord charts w/ many different voicings?
Depends on how much you want to work. If you plan to make a career out of it I'd lean toward an hour or more.
Second question: yes
 






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