Music Theory. What’s the point? Part 2: reading music

music theory blog guitar lesson note reading

What do Donald Trump, Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump have in common? That’s right, they can’t read music. …….Ok bad start. Maybe Mark Knopfler, Tommy Emmanuel and Jimi Hendrix? Well apart from knowing their way around a fretboard, they can’t/couldn’t read music either, not a note, not a dot…nuthin.

So sure, they have forged amazing careers and made millions, but who wants that really??…… Mmm, well anyway, one thing that they have never been able to do, and Ino doubt they’re absolutely devastated to know this, they would probably struggle if you were to throw a chord chart, solo classical guitar piece or a real book jazz standard in front of them.

In all seriousness, not being able to read music obviously hasn’t done their careers any harm, but for those aspiring to become a musician, or even someone happy being a campfire guitarist, learning to read music is a valuable skill to have under your belt.

Partake of various ensembles.

This is a big attraction for a lot of people in learning to read. Being able to comfortably sit in with ensembles of different styles of music can be tremendously rewarding. Learning to read music is a transferable skill, so being able to sit in with a big band means that one can also sit in with a traditional Irish band, an ensemble for a theatre show or any group that follows arranged sheet music. As a guitarist there is often an expectation to read notes but more often than not the job of a guitarist is to play a written chord progression!

Learning becomes more accurate.

One of the benefits of reading music in the learning process is the instant access one has to the correctly ‘officially’ notated version of a song. Learning by ear can’t always be relied upon, although that in itself is an important exercise, finding the original sheet music of a song or guitar solo will give you the confidence to know you’re learning something correctly. It’s also worth noting that sites such as ‘Ultimate Guitar’ will only give you the notes or chords to play without giving you any of the rhythm that the song uses.

The great feeling of achievement.
There are plenty of blogs and articles floating round the internet right now about learning an instrument and its relationship to brain development. On a basic level though there is for myself and many others a great sense of achievement in piecing together even the simplest melody read from a sheet of paper. Even in a half hour lesson, many beginner students reading notes for the very first time have been able to complete the A section melody line from the Beethoven classic ‘Ode To Joy’. Having a singular goal such as that has been known to focus students a great deal, just seeing in front of you that there is only 3 bars to go before you’ve completed your first melody can spur many people on to practise in a way that learning mere chord progressions doesn’t.

So go ahead get sight reading, get into your theory books and let me know your progress.

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