Guitar Players Who Can't Read Music

How good are you at playing a piece of music on guitar that's written out in traditional music reading, "standard notation" (No TAB)? If you're curious about how this works, stay tuned / this weeks "Guitar Blog Insider" is going to discuss, "Guitar Players Who Can't Read Music."

What I've found over the years, is that traditional music reading is an ability that only a small group of guitar players have studied and can actually do. Most guitarists use TAB, or they just play by ear. And, while that's okay for awhile, it eventually might cause a few small problems to certain players.

Watch the Video:

Now, I do realize that some amazing guitar players like; Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton never learned to read music. And, while there were times that they said it created a few uncomfortable situations in the studio, they were still able to enjoy incredible careers without learning the skill of traditional music reading on guitar.

Since we all know that there were (and there still are) plenty of musicians, (not just guitar players), who can't read music. The question comes down to why?

It's almost next to impossible to find a trumpet player who can't read. Or, a clarinet player who can't read. So, what is it about guitarists and music reading?

To get a better idea for how reading actually operates on the guitar's fingerboard, let's take a run through a short notated melody line and discover how the line operates on the neck.

Key of "C Major" melody:

If you studied how and where notes sit in the middle of the neck and you learned the finer details surrounding rhythm duration, this would be a very easy melody to perform. And, most certainly, if you were a decent trumpet or clarinet player, this melody would be incredibly easy to perform.

So, here's a question, why would this melody - if placed on a music stand in front of most guitar players - be met with utter dread and despair? Well, that question can have many different answers but before we go further down the rabbit hole with all that, in the video I show you how this melody could be performed in a few different ways along and across the neck. Such as in the 10th position and in the open position.

The exact same melody can be performed in several places on the guitar...

Why is this? Well, this is the problem that guitar players face. And, the term used to describe this is called, "Unison Notes." See the guitar, (due to its six strings and long fret-board range), can allow players access to the exact same note in several other places upon the neck.

We can generally have three places to be able to perform the exact same tone. Granted it depends on the pitch of the tone we're dealing with, but in general, we can play the same note in pretty much 3 places. So, what does this mean for a student of guitar, because it would appear to create a lot of confusion. Specifically confusion around, "Where" to perform notes.

How does a guitarist learn to read the range of a group of notes in a piece of notated music?

In the curriculum that I use, the neck is viewed as three segments. A "low range," a "mid-range" and an "Upper Range." Once you learn how notes operate in each fretting range, (and once you develop your ability for having good confidence with rhythmic duration, like; Quarter notes, eighth-notes and sixteenth-notes, along with syncopation), you'll be able to read most basic melodies on the guitar.

Granted that more advanced pieces will be a challenge, and you'll need some prepared reading time for those. There are a lot of excellent books available to help train your skills, one of my favorites is, "Jazz Conception for Saxophone Duets," by Lennie Niehaus. That is an excellent book for more advanced reading studies all over the guitar neck.

To read music, all it takes is practice time and dedication. Anyone can do it if they have the right reading course and they put aside the time and the effort.

So, there ya go... that's my explanation of guitar players who can't read music... If you want to learn more about what I do as an online guitar teacher, head over to my website at and get your FREE lifetime membership...

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As always, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on all of this in the comment section, thanks for your time, and we'll catch up again next week on my other channel, for another episode of the, "Guitar Blog Insider."



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