Any non-reading guitarist who has ever been asked to accompany someone via reading their music, been asked to learn a song from written notes or been asked to perform by sight-reading a piece of sheet music knows the awkwardness that always accompanies the reply, “I can’t read".
Is it important for guitarists to be able to read music? Can seasoned players who don’t read music make the jump into reading (and I mean the notes … not tab)?
Any non-reading guitarist who has ever been asked to accompany someone via reading their music, been asked to learn a song from written notes or been asked to perform by sight-reading a piece of sheet music knows the awkwardness that always accompanies the reply, “I can’t read,” often followed by, “hum it for me and I’ll play it, or, can you give it to me on tape?” I have witnessed guitarists lose gigs following this scenario.
As a career jazz educator, I have encountered over and over again the phenomenon of guitar students appearing for their first college lesson, only to discover they cannot read music, or they read so slowly that they are not functional. Invariably, I will put an easy-to-read, bignote song in front of a new student and ask him or her to play it, in order for me to help gauge where we need to start work in the reading area.
The answer is often something like, “I can read … it just takes me awhile.” What this really means is that the student can name the notes on the staff, they can maybe locate the notes on the neck of the guitar, they might be able to tap out the rhythms, but they can’t put all three together. Guitar students who have come up through the band system playing a horn will often fare better in reading on the guitar, as horn players have historically recognized that the music world communicates in notes, not in tab.
Throughout the history of popular music in the U.S – which began with Minstrel shows in the 1840s – the banjo and guitar have predominantly been in roles where reading music was not so vital as it might have been for the other instruments. Oftentimes the music was passed on and performed in an aural tradition, especially in Dixieland, blues, jump swing, and rock styles. Thus, the history and system have made us lax, compared to our brass-wind and woodwind brothers and sisters who consistently read music in marching bands and orchestras.
Still, any guitarist can move to a higher plane of functioning, learning, and participating in the music community if he/she learns to read. Although this can prove to be a Herculean task after going through life without it, it can be done. Here are some suggestions for getting it started:
- Accept that it will take a long time and require a daily commitment in your practice schedule. Keep as your goal the idea that reading will open many doors, doors which will make you a stronger and more marketable player.
- Use easy reading intro guitar books – Mel Bay and other intro methods – to learn the notes on the staff and on the neck. Make sure you are reading and not memorizing the songs; play them in different places on the neck after you have learned them in the first position. Memorize the note names/locations on the neck of the guitar.
- Practice rhythms separately at first. Clap out the rhythms before trying to play them on the guitar. The hardest thing about reading music for guitarists is reading the rhythms!
- If you practice one hour per day, use 15-20 minutes of that time and work on reading. It is a tedious task that can have great results in your playing; accept this challenge.
Tune in next time when we will discuss the Jazz Guitar Hardball topic of “practicing”; what to practice, how to practice, and does it help.
A clinician and jazz educator, Jim Bastian is a 10 year veteran of teaching guitar in higher education. Jim holds two masters degrees and has published 6 jazz studies texts, including the best-selling How to Play Chordal Bebop Lines, for Guitar (available from Jamey Aebersold). He actively performs on both guitar and bass on the East Coast. An avid collector and trader in the vintage market, you can visit Jiim’s store at musicianshotline.com (dealer: IslandFunhouse).
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Mystery Stocking is coming soon! Sign up for PG Perks below so you don't miss it.
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About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.
The new finish, according to Lava Music, is “inspired by the beauty of the golden hour,” a shining time just before sunset and after sunrise when photographers covet to capture stunning pictures.
With bright and warm golden hues, the new finish adds a brilliant metallic glow to the surface of Lava ME 3, complementing its AirSonic 2 carbon fiber unibody which features L3 Preamp with FreeBoost 2.0, delivers industry-leading sounds by breakthrough acoustic technologies, and houses a multi-touch display powered by Lava-developed HILAVA system.
Speaking of the HILAVA system, Lava Music also added four new effects: Nebula, Desert Rose, Cassette, and Edge of Breakup. As unique as their names sound, they are very much different from what we normally know about effects. Programmed into the HILAVA system, each of the four is powered by the company’s latest ArctanDrive algorithm and incorporates effects like Pitch Shift, Delay, and Reverb. And every one of those incorporated sub-effects comes with various parameters that players can adjust to design unique, overdriven sounds by just tapping on the multi-touch display. That said, those effects enable users to play with overdriven tone on an acoustic-electric guitar without even plugging in any external gear.
LAVA ME 3 | Now in Golden Hour | LAVA MUSIC
Lava Me 3 in Golden Hour is now available starting from $999 on LAVA MUSIC, Amazon, and local guitar dealerships near you.
For more information, please visit store.lavamusic.com.