Here are some short cuts to sight-reading
on the guitar.
three main points are:
• Positions: Read where the
key of the piece occurs under a
well-known scale in that key.
• Rhythm and syncopation:
Realize there are a finite number
of rhythm patterns, and try to
recognize the popular ones in
all styles of music.
• Training the eyes: Even
when you screw up, let it go.
Keep reading ahead.
Here are a few more ideas
that will take some of the mystery
out of sight-reading on this
Connect the Dots
To elaborate on point #1
above, it’s important to realize
that not all music you’ll
encounter lies under a single
position on the neck. I once
played a chart starting at F# on
the low-E string with a melody
climbing up to a high F# on the
14th fret of the high-E string.
For this reason, it’s important
to practice connecting your scales
up and down the neck without
looking at the fretboard. Doing
this every day will soon give you
the confidence to read in multiple
positions without taking
your eyes off the paper—which
can be fatal! One of the harder
things I’ve ever had to do was
read notes on slide guitar. You
almost have to look every once
in a while to keep your intonation
together, and it’s easy
to lose your place on the page.
There’s an App for That
The iRealPro app for iPhone
and iPad is an amazing tool for
anyone who has grown up with
The Real Book of lead sheets. With backing tracks provided, I
can set the tempo slow enough
to read difficult Charlie Parker
heads and work on syncopated
melodies. It’s a great training
resource for those occasional
live-on-stage sight-reading gigs,
and a nice way to explore tunes
you’ve never heard.
Look to the Future
As your reading chops
improve, you’ll discover the
rhythm of training the eyes to
read ahead. The reality is you’re
actually playing beats one and two,
while you’re reading beats three
and four (in 4/4 time). This sets you up for what’s ahead, especially
with changing positions.
TAB Is for Sissies!
In an effort to constantly
deal with music on the written
page, I always write my musical
ideas down in standard notation.
Drummers, bass players, keyboard
players, string players,
and horn players won’t be able
to communicate with you—or
read your music—if all you know
is TAB. Read for an hour a day
with a fellow guitarist, and you’ll
be a good reader in two months.
The benefits are too numerous to
mention regarding “hire-ability” and knowledge input, but consider
this: You’ll have the mind-blowing
experience of being able
to tap into the mind of Bach, and
play things he heard in his head
and furiously scribbled down in
the early 1700s. The Sonatas
and Partitas for Solo Violin are
some of the heaviest licks ever!
Carl Verheyen is a critically
acclaimed, Grammy-nominated guitarist,
vocalist, songwriter, arranger,
producer, clinician, educator, and
tone master with 12 CDs, two
live DVDs, and two books released
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