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  • Brett Lashley M.M.

Do Guitarists Really Need to Read Music?

Updated: Mar 3, 2020




Do Guitarists Really Need to Read Music?

Do you guitarist really need to read music?


In a word-Yes.


In a few more word... - it depends on how good you want to be. If you are happy riding the guitar struggle bus; I won't stop you.


While there are a handful of notable guitarists do not know how to read guitar sheet music in standard notation, these players are the exception to the rule.


Most, if not all studio guitarist do in fact read sheet music. Most guitar teachers are normally required to read sheet music to be hired at reputable music stores.


So essentially, not learning to read guitar sheet music means you either need to become that lucky one in several million guitarists who becomes commercially successful despite the odds, or learn to read music so you can work as a professional guitarist even if you never become a mega star.


There is very limited guitar music actually available in tablature when compared to vast amounts of music in standard notation. Not mention that most of the significant method books for guitar are written in standard notation, not tablature.


Today it is more important than ever to verify information. Reading music allows you to double check any information from other credible sources. If you don't think someones tablature sounds correct you can check the sheet music as well as other tabs.


Many tabs still do not contain any rhythmic information. While some more advanced ways of notating tablature have found ways to include rhythm, the majority of tablature still contains no way to tell when to play a note or how long to hold it. If you are not very familiar with a song before trying to play it, there is very little chance it will actually sound right.


Without reading notes it much more difficult to understand music theory. While many young guitarist get the idea in their head that music theory will stifle there creativity or originality, I believe just the opposite to be true. If you have no idea what came before you how can you be so certain of your originality?


Music theory is not a set of rules about what you have to do. It is simply an explanation of what common musical practices. Once you can identify and reproduce these ideas you can either use them or systematically avoid them, which has also already been done. Lookup Anton Webern Variations Opus 27 (or anyone belonging to the Second Viennese School of composers) if you want to hear what avoiding traditional music theory sounds like.) It is not great! Most of these music theory explanation involve terms that describe how the notes appear on the musical staff. So it can be nearly impossible to actually understand these terms without reading music. Also, if you have every used a chord or scale guess what... you are already using music theory.


So you should only learn to read guitar sheet music, if you want to play correct notes and rhythms, work as a guitarist, or want to write and play music people enjoy.

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