Q: How do you get a guitar player to stop playing?
A: Put sheet music in front of them!
It’s an old joke that nods to a common misconception about guitar players – that we can’t read music. Not only that, I pride myself on the fact that you don’t have to read music in order to work through my lessons and courses.
I actually can read music, though I’m not a “sightreader” by any means.
The reality is, in the modern era guitar tablature, or TAB, has all but taken over written music for the guitar.
But… there are 2 really important reasons:
First, it’s much easier to read a number than a dot… (TAB is numbers, music is dots)
Second, with TAB there is no possibility of error. You are given a fret and a string, and that can only
In the modern era, guitar tablature, or TAB, has all but taken over written music for the guitar. And, to be honest, there are 2 really important reasons:
First, it’s much easier to read a number than a dot…
Second, there is no possibility of error. You are given a fret and a string, and that can only be played in one way.
With most notes on a standard music staff, there are anywhere between 1 and 4 or 5 ways to play them, depending on which position and which string you choose.
However, there are a couple of disadvantages to TAB as well:
For one, rhythmic notation is usually not included. If you want it, you have to use the standard notation in the staff above. Sometimes it is approximated in the TAB, but without noteheads, it can be a challenge.
Secondly, note names are never considered. While that may not seem like any big deal, at some point note names and being aware of what note you are playing at all times becomes an important thing. So, for beginners not so much, but for more advanced players it becomes more of an issue.
Regardless, most of us realize that at least a basic, working knowledge of standard musical notation makes us better musicians. Or, at least, more well-rounded musicians that are better able to communicate with other musicians who don’t use TAB and must rely on standard notation.
So, do you need to learn to read music?
A basic proficiency will help you in all areas of music, not the least of which being better at your counting and timing, and understanding how something will sound just from the page without having to hear it.
If you’re a beginning guitarist, don’t worry about it right now, there are other issues to handle. But if you’re getting more intermediate/advanced, you would probably be well advised to get a working knowledge of how to read music.
And, to that end, I’ve created a course called How To Read Music On Guitar – you might want to check that out 🙂