This is the second part in what will probably turn out to be several posts about reading music. In my previous post about reading music, I talked about how becoming proficient at reading music seems to make the process of learning new music go much faster, allowing you to spend your practice time more productively. In this post I would like to examine what I think is another benefit: The process of learning to read develops your other guitar playing skils in a more synergistic manner than other methods.
In my other post, I mentioned that one reason a lot of guitarists may not bother learning to read music is because there is a lot of material available for guitar that doesn’t require reading skills. Among these meterials, are many books that deals with developing your knowledge of the fretboard. An example of such a book is Fretboard Logic By Bill Edwards. There are many other examples but this is one of the most popular. Fretboard Logic presents a method of learning chords, scales and arpeggios called the CAGED system. It starts with learing five basic moveable chord shapes and how these shapes interlock. These shapes provide landmarks by which you learn various arpeggio and scale patterns. It’s actually quite a good book, and the knowledge it presents is something most guitarists should know. Also, it doesn’t require any music reading ability.
Ok, then, so if it is such a good book, what’s my point? Well, my point is, that most of what Fretboard Logic contains are things you will learn automatically while you are learning to read music. As you learn to read music, you learn to recognize notes on the staff, and at the same time where that note is on the fretboard, so the knowledge of where notes are on the fretboard arises naturally. You learn to read various key signatures, and you learn to read vertically as well as horizontally –chords as well as single notes. Thus the knowledge of scale patterns and chord shapes develops along with your ability to read. As learn to read music in different positions and different keys, you see how those patterns relate.
Contrast that with the CAGED method. You essentially learn all the same stuff, but you kind of learn it in reverse. Instead you start by learning patterns, which you have to become very familiar with before you can really start thinking of them in terms of notes. For example you might learn various patterns for a major scale, and practice them repeatedly until they are automatic. Learning what notes make up a particular scale is really a seperate process from learning the pattern. This to me feels more like swimming upstream when compared to how all these skills build together when learning to read music.
In reality, it is probably a good idea to look at both methods, since the more ways you have of thinking about the same thing, the better your knowledge of the guitar will be. Also, everyone has their own way that they learn best. But a lot of people starting out in guitar are hesitant to learn to read music, possibly because it looks like it is a very difficult thing to do. But it really isn’t that difficult, but as I said before, it does require a commitment, and as a bonus you develop a lot of other skills for free which otherwise require extra effort, so it is time well spent.
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