My Thoughts on Learning How to Sight Read on the Guitar
- If the student is going through a beginner guitar method book make sure to supplement it with a book that has some familiar songs that he or she (the student) is familiar with. Learning to read the melodies of a pop or rock song that the student is familiar with will keep boredom from setting in. Hopefully this will keep the student motivated to stick with their reading studies and not give up on it so quickly.
Here are some book recommendations that the beginner guitarist can use in conjunction with their regular reading studies or method books.
The advance stage of sight reading on the guitar:
Reading in Positions on the Guitar Fret Board
Once the guitar student has mastered to read in open position on all 6 strings, it’s time to move on and start to learn how to read on the other parts of the neck. This will be known as reading in a position or a certain part of the neck such as the 7th or 12th fret. Reading in positions on the guitar neck will have no open strings. Learning to read in different postions of the neck is also a great way to learn the names of the notes on the fret board.
Some advice if you are just starting to advance in this area with your reading abilities:
Don’t go crazy and try to read every position on the neck when you are staring out. 3 or 4 positions will do. The positions that I started out with were the 5th, 7th and 12th positions. After you get proficient enough with reading the notes in those positions you can move on to master other positions. (Tip: remember the 1st finger determines the position you will be reading in) So for example, if you are reading in A major in the 2nd position your pinky will start on the 5th fret of the 6th string. If you look at the tab below you can see the 1st finger will strike all the notes on the 2nd fret. So the rule is wherever your 1st finger hits 90 to 100 percent of the time will determine what position you are sight reading in. Sometimes you will have to accommodate a note that is not in the position by stretching out of position with either your 1st or 4th finger. In the tab below the 4th finger in brackets is on the 4th string of the 6th fret which indicates the 4th finger will be stretching out of position.
An excellent book that I highly recommend is: has studies and exercises that will help you get familiar with the first 7 positions on the neck. Once you get the hang of the first 7 positions, you should be able to figure out the 8th position and up on your own.
Reading Studies for Guitar: Positions One Through Seven and Multi-Position Studies in All Keys By: William Leavitt
I highly recommend this book because it’s an excellent book that will help you improve reading and your ability to read in any of those 1st 7 positions on the guitar.
Once you have mastered and learned how to read in a few positions on the neck it is time to move on to the next step: Learning how to read melodically with a variety of syncopated rhythms. This will help you with many styles of music and learning how to read these types of rhythms should benefit your improvising skills also. Another book that will aid you in your development is: Melodic Rhythms for Guitar. This book is also written by Willam Leavitt. Don’t forget to supplement your melodic and rhythmic development by finding other material to read.Sight reading jazz standards, Bossa Nova’s, Latin and funk heads are other styles of musical material that can help improve your reading. For metal or rock players you might want sight read violin studies which doesn’t have much syncopated rhythms, but is great for learning how to read long eighth note lines and great for speed and technique.
Hopefully this article will shed some light on how to get started with learning how to read on the guitar. The key thing you should take away from this is to make it interesting and fun. Try practicing your reading 15 to 30 minutes a day. Every few months try to introduce new material to keep boredom from setting.
The Guitar Trix & Tips Blog is associated with Guitar 6 School of Music