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Should You Learn To Read Music To Play The Guitar?

Can you play the guitar without reading music? Of course! You can become a brilliant virtuoso without reading a note, and there are many fantastic guitarists who have done just that. But that doesn’t mean that learning to read is a bad idea. One thing that I find a bit odd is the way that many guitarists seem almost proud of the fact that they can’t read music – as if they associate it with classical music (which they presumably see as a bad thing), and not something that ‘cool’ musicians do. This applies not only to notation, but to gaining an understanding of music theory in general.

To me this attitude is laughable. Regardless of your musical preferences, being able to read notation is adding a valuable string to your bow – it gives you access to a whole world of music that isn’t available to learn by ear (because recordings are difficult to obtain or non-existent). Sure, lots of guitar music is available in TAB form, but a lot isn’t, and anyway, TAB is incredibly limited when compared to notation. And if you want to do session work, you’d better be able to read both.

guitar musicAnd practical considerations aside, why would anyone not want to become better at what they profess to love? Most guitarists are pretty passionate about music. Why would they turn their noses up at the chance to deepen their understanding of their field, and become better rounded as musicians? I think some people take up the guitar because they care more about their image than about music itself – they want to ‘be seen’ as a musician, as the cool guy who plays in a band or whatever – and you can’t really expect someone like that to care about exploring too deeply or make the effort to learn anything beyond the basics.

But for those who love the guitar for its own sake, and who want to be the best players they can be, I think learning notation is nearly always a good idea. Some people would like to learn but are afraid that it looks difficult, or that it’ll take a long time to learn, but that simply isn’t the case – it really isn’t hard at all, and anyone can master it with a bit of perseverance (especially if you use a fun tool like Jayde Musica to help you learn). So if you’re on the fence on this issue, take the plunge and learn – you won’t regret it!

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