Do beginners have to read music to play guitar part 2


In the first article, we went over all of the benefits of learning how to read music on guitar as a beginner.  In this article, we will go over all of the challenges and cons of learning how to read music right from the beginning and why most guitar teachers should NOT focus on teaching students how to read music right from day 1.


You have to take your eyes off your hands so it’s harder to learn guitar in the beginning.

Let’s face it, learning guitar is a challenge.  You have two hands, doing completely separate tasks at the same time, and somehow they have to come together and make music.  In the beginning, it is critical that beginner students take the time to observe their hand position and movements so that they learn the optimal technique.  That way, learning the guitar is easier, and progress is made faster.


You can not do that when you are trying to ALSO learn how to read music.  At any moment, you have to look at either the picking hand, the fretting hand, OR the music, and you can not do all 3.  This leads to a bunch of technique mistakes because you are trained to watch the paper, not your hands.  This leads to a lot of unnecessary mistakes and frustration.



Takes a lot of consistent regular practice to learn the notes on the staff.

Learning how to read the notes on the staff is quite literally like learning a new alphabet.  You have to spend a lot of regular practice time reading, remembering, and studying the notes that you are playing on the paper so that over time, you will instantly recognize which note is which on the music staff.  This is time consuming, slow, and takes a long time to pay off.



There are multiple ways to play each note on the guitar so it’s not always clear which note to play

If you play piano, you know that Center C is the the middle note on the piano and is where pretty much every single piano student begins.  On piano, there is ONE middle C note and only one way to play it.  Did you know that there are 5 ways to play that exact same pitch on the guitar?  A good instructor can lead you down the path without getting confused, but when you start reading more and more music, you realize that reading music on guitar can often lead to multiple ways of playing the same piece of music.  This is often confusing and challenging for beginner guitar students to get down.


Learning guitar is often boring because the music you can play and read at the same time is very very simple, boring music.


In order to get good at guitar AND reading music, you have to play and read music at the same difficulty level.  Since both skills are difficult on their own, let alone when you combine them, you often play very very boring simple music for quite a long time before you actually get to anything cool.  Here is an example:  Sweet Home Alabama is one of the most well recognize and easy guitar riffs to play.  With tablature, it’s a couple of numbers, and pick strokes and your down.  A friend could easily show you how to play it in a few minutes even as an amateur teacher.  However, learning how to play Sweet Home Alabama by reading music is an entirely different story because you have to decipher the rhythms, the notes, while also positioning both hands correctly.  Then you have to practice it, interpret it, and perform it all while not looking at your hands.  Most books on reading music for guitar start with nursery rhythms, and single string exercises that have no melody.  This can be very boring, slow, and discouraging for beginner guitar players.


In summary, learning how to read music on guitar is an incredibly valuable skill that once solidified, will help a student reach high levels of musicianship and fluency, while helping their ear, music theory knowledge, and rhythmic ability.  It will open up their horizons to be able to play music straight off the paper without having ever heard the piece of music.  


However, it’s a long and slow road, it takes a long time to get good at it, and it forces you to take your eyes off of your hands which causes many more mistakes when playing in the beginning.  If you are on it for the long haul, and want to learn everything, learning how to read music might be for you.  If you are just trying to learn a couple cool jams here and there without really devoting yourself to the study of music, stick to teachers, tablature and videos.