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Guitar Lesson: Learn To Become A Sight Reading Guitarist

Aug 18, 2007
It's time for you to reap the benefits from all sheet music that has been written by good composers. Let's see how you can improve your sighreading skills.

I know by own experience that many guitarists at first find it hard to read sheet music. Why is that?

A guitar is a fantastic instrument in many ways. One interesting feature is that you can find the same note on differents strings. It makes for interesting effects if you want.

However, the same feature can make it hard to read a sheet music note as you can find it on more than one place on a guitar. Many beginners on classical guitar master the notes in the first position on the guitar. That is, the first four frets on the fretboard.

I suggest that you also learn to find the notes you know on the first four frets on your guitar on the higher frets. For example, the C on the first fret on the second string can also be found on the fifth fret on the third string and on the tenth fret on the fourth string.

A fun little exercise you can use to become a little more familiar with the entire guitar fretboard is to work on finding a note on all six strings on the guitar. You will of course have to play the note in various octaves on the strings.

For example, try to play the note G on all six strings beginning with string six down to the first string and back again until you can find the frets without to much thinking.

Another reason why it can be hard to read guitar sheet music is the habit to always look at the fretboard to find the right place to put your fingers. How can you avoid looking at the fretboard all the time?

One reason for looking at the fretboard is that it has become a habit probably initiated at your beginning endeavors when you really had a hard time finding the right places on your guitar.

To overcome this habit I suggest that you practice reading very easy guitar sheet music in the first position. Here your fingers already know how to find their ways without the aid of your eyes if you pay attention to correct fingering.

Trying to avoid looking at the fretboard will also improve your posture preventing you from muscle injuries in your neck for example.

A good ear is a great asset for a guitarist. It will help you play the music you hear in your head or with your ears and this ability is really something worth developing.

However, a good ear can be your enemy if you don't watch up. That is, when you learn to play sheet music.

I myself as a beginning guitar student had a good ear and like many other such students developed my own strategies to find the frets to play by looking at the sheet music and listening my way around the fretboard.

This strategy really works but you will not really learn the notes on the fretboard and subsequently will not develop your sight reading skills.

You will have to make a conscious effort to learn the guitar fretboard in order to be able to find the notes fast enough to sight read sheet music.

One way to develop your sight reading skills is to put sheet music in front of you trying to play the music you see. Be aware though that you probably cannot use the same piece of music more than once. At least not for practicing sight reading. You need fresh pieces to play.

One way to get fresh pieces is of course to write them yourself. This will develop your sight reading skills from two directions. The concentrated effort to notate easy guitar pieces will also help you learn sheet music notation.
About the Author
Peter Edvinsson invites you to download your free guitar sheet music, guitar tabs, ebooks, music lessons and read his music blog at http://www.capotastomusic.com
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