Who reads music?

Discussion in 'Fred's Barcalounge' started by NowEarThis, Sep 11, 2021.

My music reading is

  1. Very proficient

    11 vote(s)
  2. I'm ok with it

    33 vote(s)
  3. Not good

    21 vote(s)
  4. Never bothered to learn

    14 vote(s)
  1. NowEarThis

    NowEarThis Gretschie

    Jun 23, 2021
    Northern Rivers NSW Australia
    Here's a question I'd like to throw out there to gauge how many guitarists can or can't read music, either proficiently or otherwise. I'm talking about fly stuff , not chord charts.

    For myself, it's been an on and off affair. I never took it seriously in my younger years and didn't put enough effort and time in, so never advanced past what I'd call beginner level. Maybe some of you out there might share tips or methods that made reading easy for you.
    JeffreyLeePierre likes this.
  2. MrWookiee

    MrWookiee Country Gent

    Jun 17, 2020
    SoCal, USA
    Long before becoming a student of guitar I was a horn player, starting in the 4th grade "kiddie band". As a result I've been learning "what notes are where" on the fretboard as a matter of course. The only way to become proficient at reading - I assume you mean "sight reading" - is to do it a LOT.

    I actually have the opposite problem. Playing by ear on my own isn't too tough, regardless of instrument, but I really need to practice playing by ear with others (or with recordings). Maybe that's why I'm happier to support soloists, than to be one.
    NowEarThis likes this.
  3. Scamp

    Scamp Gretschie

    Feb 22, 2018
    I was in 7th grade, beginning band I played oboe. When I started playing guitar I could already read music in fact today I have a hard time with Tab.
    I picked up Alfred's Basic Guitar Book 1 and learned how to play guitar then started lessons. I think if someone wants to learn to read music as well as how to play guitar Alfred's book is very good. Every string you learn you learn the musical notes for that string and as aspect of music. He has little songs you can play using what you learned My neighbors 8 year old son just learned to play reading music using that book. He plays a lot of his Mom's piano songs. Sometimes it can be hard to find music that isn't tab so you have to get piano music.
    To this day if you put the music in front of me I can play it but if you put Tab in front of me it confuses me. I keep looking at the Tab as music notes and that doesn't work very well. LOL
    NowEarThis, Flouswa and MrWookiee like this.
  4. Highroller

    Highroller Country Gent

    Jun 11, 2015
    Portland, OR
    I can read it, but not well. I can't sight read - that ability to instantly transfer to my fingers what my eyeballs read. For me, it's a long painful process of mentally transcribing what I read to something I can actually use.

    Does seem that most commercially available sheet music is geared for piano, sometimes that's of limited value to guitar players. In more recent years, more publishers have started including tabs under the staffs, that's pretty helpful, but still kind of rare.

    I'm glad I have what minimal reading skills I have, but I don't rely on them to learn songs. I'd be sunk if I did.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2021
  5. Scott Fraser

    Scott Fraser Country Gent

    Jan 14, 2012
    Los Angeles
    I can read & follow incredibly complex classical orchestral scores, as part of my job description, but put a written guitar part in front of me to play & I become functionally illiterate.
  6. I always thought it worked a lot better if you listen to it.
  7. GlenP

    GlenP Country Gent

    Jul 23, 2019
    After playing guitar for years by ear and with lyric/chord/tab sheet music, my kid started taking Suzuki violin and since parents have to coach the kids to help them learn the songs I had to learn a bit of reading too. I also got the guitar books and the teacher accompaniment books, so I could play the teacher parts on guitar along with the student parts. Most of the guitar songs are in G and the violin books are in A, but it was not too hard to transpose or just capo up. I am not that proficient, and still have to make my own annotations above the notes, but I can muddle through simple stuff.

    It came in handy for a song we did in church choir that had no guitar oriented music, it was only standard notation for piano and harp, so I had to figure out the bass and treble clef notes and come up with my own chords, it was a laborious process, but I had a recording of the song to learn how to play along with it. For example:

    recorded from the board at the service:
    https://asdiwa.ch.files.1drv.com/y4mmdjjBVwfuZP17YrWbu5OiSNhDP40vMMlAbrxjkKBqb3AAXi2cpcrc6oyNnzi3UQgYTIWHSXASiRRZkJgTc_fl8Nr6x1pg1rHl_-ufEvWe5CEqTl49mmZZueYpNxkcD_KB74Dy9W_ba32G3x5gQP7Eux-LScsxmWEUoDUkQYSlJDuErBnRiOMu5SJ8UvPI1aQ/Mary's Lullaby.mp3
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2021
    MrWookiee likes this.
  8. wabash slim

    wabash slim I Bleed Orange

    Feb 10, 2010
    lafayette in
    I had a couple of months of piano lessons, and learned to read music notation. I discovered that I could just play music without bothering with it all. Didn't need it. Teacher told my Dad that I was basically unteachable as I play by ear.
  9. RRGuitarCo

    RRGuitarCo Gretschie

    May 23, 2021
    San Diego CA
    Learning to read can elevate your musicality like you never imagined. I highly recommend spending some time learning.
    For starters, it gets you on the level when you're in a recording session or sitting in for a gig. It gets everyone in the band speaking the same language.
    The biggest difference in my guitar playing was breaking my dependency on tabs. Especially because 95% of tabs have some sort of error. Reading really broadened my horizons.
    Let me know if someone needs some learning material in the form of PDF's. I got some good stuff.
  10. OzzPocket

    OzzPocket Synchromatic

    Aug 11, 2020
    I started in music, originally, as a trumpet player in 5th or 6th grade....then on into the various high school bands/orchestras....so it was a necessity.
    mbkri and DougWheeler74 like this.
  11. dougmon

    dougmon Synchromatic

    Jan 9, 2013
    I have pretty good skills when reading treble clef, but I stumble a lot reading bass clef. Reading both at the same time is painful.
    GoLeafsGo, bhatta and mbkri like this.
  12. swivel

    swivel Country Gent

    May 13, 2018
    I'm too slow at it to be of much use... but can read it.
  13. Viking Power

    Viking Power Synchromatic

    Jun 11, 2018
    Mountlake Terrace, WA
    I’ve been exposed to reading music at various times starting with band in 6th grade. Most recent was when I charged hard at learning bass guitar via the Hal Leonard method books. This was challenging and fun and I quit because I wanted to be a crappy guitar player rather than a good bass player. Still pondering that decision. Haha.
    capnhiho and MrWookiee like this.
  14. speedicut

    speedicut Friend of Fred

    Jun 5, 2012
    I took four years of piano but hated it and didn't really practice. I can read treble and bass clefs but painfully slow... might take me a minute to get through a single bar lol and that's on a keyboard... Can't do it at all on a guitar!
  15. Henry

    Henry I Bleed Orange

    Apr 9, 2014
    For music reading my standard is piano at which I am decent, but probably more proficient with guitar.
  16. senojnad

    senojnad Synchromatic

    Jul 13, 2008
    Lehigh Valley, PA
    When I started guitar lessons (age 10) my teacher used the Mel Bay series, so all my early years were focused on reading/sight reading. I was always limited to the treble clef. In my teens and early 20's I found I could play by ear so I got away from reading sheet music, etc.

    Fast forward several decades -- I am now working on relearning a lot of music theory, including brushing up on sight reading.

    I have never learned to read tabs. I don't they existed in my early years of playing. By the time I started seeing them, they looked like jibberish to me -- regular sheet music was easier. By that time I was doing everything by ear.
    NowEarThis likes this.
  17. bluenote23

    bluenote23 Country Gent

    Oct 17, 2009
    Montreal, Canada
    I have played piano for a long time so I can read notation for piano easily.

    But I play guitar by ear so I can't read at all for guitar.

    I am playing the violin and I find reading really helpful with that instrument (and it's easy read violin music as it is mostly just single notes!) as it allows access to the classical repertoire which is what I find most interesting with the instrument.

    I learn a piece of violin music at first by reading but then after, because the music is structurally quite simple (unlike the polyphony of, say, Bach piano music) I can then just remember the 'tune' and play without the score.

    It would be nice to be able to read with guitar and especially to know where I am on the fretboard as that would open up a lot of doors. But I spend all my time on the violin these days but maybe one day I'll teach myself how to read with the guitar.

    In my experience, knowing how to read can be really useful in terms of learning new repertoire, and understanding theory can really help to widen the horizons but playing by ear is at least as important. For an instrument like the guitar, unless you're wanting to play Bach transcriptions, I think that playing by ear is pretty essential, while reading and understanding the theory of the fretboard is also very important, hearing the notes is more important than seeing them.
    NowEarThis and new6659 like this.
  18. Pine Apple Slim

    Pine Apple Slim Country Gent

    Dec 14, 2011
    North Alabama
    I read like Jethro counts. Slowly and poorly.
  19. JC higgy

    JC higgy Gretschified

    Jun 6, 2008
    Belfast Norn Iron
    Can't read a note,to me it always just looked like birds sitting on a telegraph wire,waiting for the match to start !:D

    No,i am and always will be ,an ear player.

    I can read tab,but very slowly,much quicker by ear ,by far.
  20. MrWookiee

    MrWookiee Country Gent

    Jun 17, 2020
    SoCal, USA
    With bassoon, sometimes a composer hits you with alto or tenor clef as well, depending upon how sadistic s/he is/was. I still have to annotate those.
    KaHOnas and NowEarThis like this.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.