Skip to content
Notifications
Clear all

Sight Reading

Page 4 / 7

(@unimogbert)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 174
 

Standard notation starts with a key signature. That tells me - immediately - four or five fingerings that are probably really good ones. A glance down the page to see the high and low points - which jump right out, since they're on ledger lines - narrows this down to just one or two I'll rely on. I know what scale fingering I'm going to use before I actually read the first note; tab has no such clues.

Sorry I got here late but... this paragraph is the thing I've been looking for as I have made several half-hearted attempts to learn to read music over the years.

This is the WHY do it!

What books will help me work on it in this way?

I want my scales, positions and notes integrated because that's how they work together. I always suspected it but hadn't encountered any proof.

Maybe this is why TAB is so much more popular? Nobody has to play Mary Had A Little Lamb over and over in tab before getting to more satisfying material?

(Classic discussion. Consider making it a stick?)

Unimogbert
(indeterminate, er, intermediate fingerstyle acoustic)


ReplyQuote
(@kblake)
Reputable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 323
 

I don't believe Paul McCartney reads standard notation and it never hurt him :D

I know a little bit about a lot of things, but not a lot about anything...
Looking for people to jam with in Sydney Oz.......


ReplyQuote
(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

...and being short didn't keep Mugsy Bogues, Spud Webb or Early Boykins out of the NBA.

Since I've already listed my reasons for learning standard notation, I'll just review the common reasons for NOT learning standard notation.

1. Paul McCartney doesn't read (or any of hundreds of other names). True enough of Sir Paul - but it's also true he's tried on several occasions to overcome that. As his music has evolved, and he's gotten into writing for orchestras and choirs, he recognizes that he's got a serious handicap to compete in those fields. If he hadn't already established himself as a musician, it would be impossible for him to do what he does now.

It's entirely possible to succeed - at least in any non-licensed field - without having all the fundamentals. Food critic Trevor White can't cook. Michael Brown headed FEMA without any training in disaster management. Django Reinhardt was a great guitarist despite having two fingers that didn't work. And the guys I listed in the beginning were all very short for basketball.

The real question in a standard notation vs. tab debate is whether or not YOU should read standard notation... and any reference to anyone who isn't you simply doesn't apply. If Django could play with two fingers, that doesn't mean it's in your best interest to do the same.

Emulating someone you admire can help you succeed - it can motivate you, give you direction, and keep you interested. But it doesn't make any sense to emulate their weaknesses just because they had them. Your goal should be to match or better their skills... not to duplicate all their shortcomings.

2. Tab is more robust than standard notation. Folks often make the argument that tab shows you techniques that standard notation can't - slides, bends, artificial harmonics, what position to play something in, etc.

But they're wrong. Standard notation does all of that, and it does it at least as well as tab. Diagonal lines between note heads indicate slides; note heads in parenthesis show the targets for bends; position markings and string numbers can be used in standard notation (positions as Roman numerals, string numbers as numbers inside circles). Microtonal bends are awkward to note in tab - standard notation has developed microtonal symbols. And standard notation even includes instructions like "ponticello" - I have yet to see a tab that tells you to pick a phrase close to the bridge.

Granted, some of these symbols in standard notation are rare. Most sheet music for guitar won't have position numbers - with tab, the position is built in. But that's actually a strength of notation!

Music notation - of any kind - is an outline for performance. It's like a movie script. When an actor sees a line on a page, he or she chooses which words to emphasize, and how to deliver the line. Musicians do the same thing. Sometimes a script may indicate what's important - but usually it doesn't; it's up to the performer to live inside the part, understand it, and communicate their vision to the audience.

A typical line in music can be played in several places on the guitar. Tab says "here's where you do it" - but that's only one way to execute the phrase. Standard notation says "here's what it should sound like", and it's usually up to you to find the position that best expresses what you feel about the piece.

At an advanced level, any notation system is no longer about the mechanics of 'how' - it's a guide to the interpretation, the 'why' of the music. Like the words on a script, notation is only the outline of the whole package. Standard notation puts more of the control of the performance where it belongs: with the performer.

3. Tab is more common than standard notation. There's no doubt this is true - especially online. But you won't find guitarists (even me) saying you should not learn to interpret tab. What I and other pro-reading folks are saying is that you should have as many tools as you can.

Both tab and standard notation are written languages. You can travel the world speaking just one language and still arrive safely home. If you're bilingual, you can communicate with more people along the way.

4. Tab is easier. Yep, it's faster to learn. You can learn to interpret a basic tab in about 5 minutes. Learning to interpret a simple piece of standard notation will take you about a month of daily work, and learning to read single lines in all keys and positions will take you at least a couple of years. Reading harder stuff, like chord melody pieces, will at least double that. And if you want to go further, like reading symphonic scores, you'll need to learn other clefs and transpositions - so add another 2-10 years.

For many guitarists, that investment in time is prohibitive. But again, the question should be phrased "should YOU learn standard notation?", and only you can answer that.

The most relevant question to get an answer would be "how far do I want to go with this?". If you're certain that you'll only play for your own enjoyment, learn whatever you need to enjoy the experience - anything else is optional.

But if there's even a small possibility you might want to go further, or into another area of music, you should learn standard notation. And the reason gets back to Paul McCartney.

Paul started out playing by ear. As he improved, he realized that not reading was a handicap, and he took piano lessons. But he found them frustrating, because he could already play much 'harder' stuff than the basic exercises. A few years later, he tried again, with the same result.

We have to walk before we can run, and with reading standard notation, that means playing very simple melodies. On Paul's third attempt to learn standard notation, he was frustrated again - because the melodies were still simple. They were simple because he didn't have any reading ability - and notation isn't about playing ability. In an interview, he complained that the teacher had him doing basic stuff "and I had already written Eleanor Rigby".

But as Paul continues working on orchestral stuff, I know he feels his handicap more and more. That's why he founded a charity five years ago to help fund music education in schools.

If you think you might EVER benefit from reading standard notation, the time to start is right now. The 'better' you get technically, the more boring the beginning exercises will be. If you're just starting out, your ability to read and your ability to play are evenly matched - so you'll find the music more challenging, and learning to read can actually be fun. The longer you wait, the more it becomes a chore.

When I work with complete beginners, most of them develop decent reading ability. At least 10% become 'sight' readers - right now I've got four students who can read rings around many pros, and the oldest of them is 14 (the youngest is 9!). I've had a fair share of experienced players come to me for lessons in how to read, and only the most dedicated become good readers.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


ReplyQuote
 cnev
(@cnev)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4478
 

There is no real argument to what Noteboat wrote but I wonder if subconciously most guitar players don't really see the connection between learning to read standard notation and correlating that to improved guitar playing so they tend to shrug it off as not necessary.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


ReplyQuote
(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

Actually, cnev, I think they see (misleading) evidence to the contrary.

You improve at what you practice. If you're spending time learning to read standard notation, that's time not spent on improving your technique. So if you see two guitarists starting out at the same time, and one is learning to read and the other isn't... the one who isn't reading seems like he's moving along at a faster speed.

That won't change for a while. A non-reader with about 4 years of experience will still seem 'better' than a reader, because he or she has focused more time on technical abilities. But in general, after about 10 years they'll seem an even match - there's a limit to what you can do technically, and the reader has finally invested enough time on the 'chops' side to close the gap.

Beyond that, it's no contest - given equal innate ability, the reader will be better. They'll have been exposed to more music in more contexts, and will have a better understanding of the music - theory is somewhat abstract, and its rooted in notation, rather than sound (for example, there's no aural difference between an augmented third and a perfect fourth).

I had a student a few years back who was about 7 when he started lessons. And at the same time he started with me, his next door neighbor of the same age started with another teacher who didn't teach reading. The two would jam together all the time, and my student's father expressed concerns that the neighbor was so much better.

But about two years later, my student's father told me he saw what I was talking about. He'd been listening to the kids play together, and he noticed that the neighbor played a lot of stuff very fast... but his son played stuff that "made sense".

While the other kid was busy working on learning songs and developing speed, we were busy working on musicianship... not just standard notation, but ear training, theory, understanding the form of songs (and solos), dynamics, timing, and so on. One kid was becoming a guitar player; the other was becoming a musician who played guitar. There's a difference.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


ReplyQuote
 cnev
(@cnev)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4478
 

That's exactly correct and I put myself in the guitar player category and realize the shortcomings of my decision and definitely agree everyone should learn to read especially if you are young and starting out.

For me being an old man and knowing that at most I might make it into a cover band or something I choose not to invest the time since I never really thought I'd have a situation where I would need to read, but even now I still debate whether or not I should take the plunge even if I do it at a very slow pace.

I did learn how way back in grade school when I ws in the band and played trumpet for a few years. I was decent at it considering I wasn't big on practicing back then so it may not be as daunting as I imagine it.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


ReplyQuote
(@notes_norton)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1497
 

<...>For me being an old man and knowing that at most I might make it into a cover band or something I choose not to invest the time since I never really thought I'd have a situation where I would need to read, but even now I still debate whether or not I should take the plunge even if I do it at a very slow pace.<...>.

They say learning another language is great to keep an old brain young. Here is your chance to exercise your brain and become a better musician at the same time.

If you decide to take the plunge, let me wish you good luck.

Notes ♫

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


ReplyQuote
 cnev
(@cnev)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4478
 

Actually when i started palying before I took lessons I did get a few books and started to read but then I realized kind of what Notebat described that I needed a lot of work on my technical skills and thought anytime away from having my fingers on the guitar was wasted time so I stopped.

But I do realize now the shortcomings of my ways even if it didn't translate into better guitar playing so I may make the plunge again if for no other reason than to work the old brain.

But I thought there was some method to what I was doing but it's becoming somewhat of a dead end. When i started with my current teacher I had just moved back to CT and hooked up with a buddy of mine who played bass, another guitar player and a drummer. We started right away working on covers so that's what I concentrated on with my teacher learning to play the songs correctly so they sounded good ( we try to do covers as close as reasonably possible to the original)

But here I am about 2 years later and yea I can play a lot more songs (Horizontal growth) but I'm not sure I've made any headway into being a real musician or even an accomplished guitar player, so obviously there is something mising in my plan.

But that leaves me with a dilemma. If I stop working on songs with my teacher and moved to pure technical stuff and maybe ear training, sight reading etc. how will I learn new songs? From internet tab? That's not going to happen since most are wrong so what would I need to do hunt around looking for tabs and trying to tweak them so they are correct? I don't have the time to waste doing that.

I can take one my instructors transcriptions (which is a mix of tabs with all the rhythm notations etc) and play most songs within a couple hours which keeps me up with the band.

I'm afraid if I got away from it I would fall behind in learning new songs.

But I have to admit having him just tab out songs isn't really worth it nor is it really helping me become a better musician.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


ReplyQuote
(@davidhodge)
Member Moderator
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 4485
 

Why not alternate your lesson plan? One week on tabs, next on technique next on sight reading, etc.? Or make a mix that that suits your needs? There's no reason to turn it into an "either / or" scenario.

Peace


ReplyQuote
 Nuno
(@nuno)
Famed Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 3998
 

First, I think reading music is good. As I said I am able to read easy scores. Certainly I did read much better some years ago while I was learning to play keyboard (or piano). Practice is important. I am practicing now and I will be able to read. My attitude here (and also in many other things) should be "why not".

Now, this is a link to youtube with an interview to Paul McCartney about music reading. I found it some days ago and I got surprised, I didn't know it.


ReplyQuote
 cnev
(@cnev)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4478
 

David the only reason i don't do that is I get impatient and feel like I fall behind learning new songs when I do that. Originally we split the session in half working on technical things for the first half and then working on a song in the last half.

I'd go two or three lessons and then I'd want to learn two or three songs in a row so we'd stop the technical stuff and just work on transcribing songs.

And with the technical stuff like all the different things we were working on were related to making me a better improve soloist but that doesn't come overnight it takes weeks/months to develop those so maybe I'm an instant gratification type of guy with a tab I'm playing a song pretty much as soon as I get home so there is some immediate sense of accomplishment.

With the technical stuff the development is much slower and sometimes it seems I need weeks to really work at it before I feel comfortable moving on, which then gets me impatient and wanting to work on a song.

If I didn't play in this pseudo band I'd probably be better but then if I didn't there wouldnt be a big reason to play I'm not really a solo guy.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


ReplyQuote
(@davidhodge)
Member Moderator
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 4485
 

I can understand that, Chris, but I still think there must be a way to work everything in together. How about working on at least one new song that involves some technical challenges in order to play it well or working out all the different guitar parts so that you can flip from rhythm to lead whenever you want to. I know that's not what you do for band, but maybe it will be good for you to be able to take whatever guitar part a song called for.

Again, these are just ideas. It just seems to me that if you truly want to get better at some of these things you don't have to sacrifice learning the others in order to do so.

Peace


ReplyQuote
 cnev
(@cnev)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4478
 

Dave 100% correct it's probably more about my time management than anything. But on many songs we have tabbed out more than one guitar part for exactly that reason. I do play some solo's and some harmony solo's witht he other guitar player but it's pretty easy stuff and not real challenging per se.

The last things we were working on were dominant 7th chords on the different string sets along with the corresponding scale pattern. I should be working on that at home but until about a month ago I had no way of recording any rhythm track to play to but I recently bought a loop pedal for that and I'll be honest i haven't used it as much as I should and really need to.

I'm a bit in one of those wow everyone is better than me moods right now. I was down at the local open mic which is more like an open jam but all it ends up being is every guitar player wanting to solo for 15 minutes straight and I'm not that good at that so I don't bother playing there but it seems like everyone can do it which frustrates me more because I'm pretty decent at most things I try but haven't mastered this yet.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


ReplyQuote
(@kent_eh)
Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1885
 

. If I stop working on songs with my teacher and moved to pure technical stuff and maybe ear training, sight reading etc. how will I learn new songs?
....
I'm afraid if I got away from it I would fall behind in learning new songs.

The better trained your ear is, the easier it is to learn songs by ear (end not need to rely on someone else's help).

It's something I really need to improve at too.

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


ReplyQuote
(@adrianjmartin)
Trusted Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 76
 

I hate music written out in score and tab.

I can read standard notation quite well - (IMO :P ). But when I see music with score/tab my eyes get dragged down to the tab line, rather than playing the score, and I have to look back at the score to get the rhythm anyhow!

Books wouldn't be any bigger if they included both in separate scores.

And how about this site should show score and tab separately? With a button to switch between the two?

Also, just because Paul McCartney cant read standard music score - is one of the worst arguments I have ever heard for you not learning to do it! I'll bet he doesn't use tab instead.....more like a scribbled C //// G //// than tab.


ReplyQuote
Page 4 / 7