Reading Music: Part Two

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.

Fretboard Logic SE:  The Reasoning Behind the Guitar\'s Unique Tuning + Chords Scales and Arpeggios Complete (The Fretboard Logic Guitar Method Parts I and II) (Fretboard Logic Guitar Method Ser)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.

Thanks for reading, and any comments you might have are welcome. Just use the comment form at the bottom of this article.

Books Referenced in article:

Fretboard Logic SE: The Reasoning Behind the Guitar\’s Unique Tuning + Chords Scales and Arpeggios Complete (The Fretboard Logic Guitar Method Parts I and II) (Fretboard Logic Guitar Method Ser)


2 thoughts on “Reading Music: Part Two

  1. Hey there,

    I found your site on delicious.

    I’m pretty crummy at reading music. Sometimes I mess up Gs and Bs or Ds and Fs, especially in chords. But, I still manage. Playing along with a recording helps a lot because its obvious when you have made a mistake.

    When you are learning a new song you’ve probably heard it before. Its more like “hey, that sounds cool, i wanna play it” rather than “hey, look at the typography of the sheet music, i wanna play it”.

    Yes you don’t have to be super duper good at reading music. It shouldn’t be the only way of learning a song.

    Anyway, keep on writing.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you found the site.

    I agree that standard notation shouldn’t be the only way of learning a song. I think it’s good to have a choice.

    The main purpose of the article was point out what I think some of the benefits to reading music are, not to say that it should be the only way.

    I think a lot of people see tablature and think, “that must be easier than learning to read music.” So they never even try, but if they did try, they might find it isn’t as hard as they might think, and some things might be easier.

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