Does My Child Need to Read Music to Play Guitar? That’s a great question, and a lot of parents ask the Rock Dojo. The short answer is this, “Yes, you’re child must learn how to read music, but not the way you think.” If you’re scratching your head, don’t worry. I’m about to take a deep dive into the world of music literacy.
What Does it Mean to Read Music?
Let’s begin with the basics. There are many different ways to read music on the guitar, including chord diagrams, fretboard diagrams, chord charts, guitar tablature, and standard notation. When parents ask if students should learn to read music, they almost always refer to standard notation. That’s because many of them grew up studying the piano, so they’re used to seeing a system of notes on a five-line staff depicting what (pitch) notes happen when (rhythm). This musical notation system is known as standard notation.
Does My Child Need to Read Standard Notation to Play Guitar
On the guitar, learning to read standard notation is a long and tedious process. That’s because the same note repeats in at least five and sometimes even six positions on the guitar. The most significant limitation of standard notation is that it doesn’t tell you where to play a particular note on the guitar. Worse yet, it can take years to learn to read standard notation on the guitar fluently. On the other hand, most students can read the same pieces in guitar tablature in under five minutes!
What is Guitar Tablature?
Guitar tablature, or guitar “tab,” is a system of reading music that almost any child can learn to read in five minutes or less! Most students can learn to play their favorite songs in just a few minutes with guitar “tab” notation. That’s because guitar “tab” notation is a visual representation of music played on the guitar. Unlike standard notation, guitar tablature shows students where to place their fingers.
Guitar Tablature’s One Weak Note
While guitar tablature is the fastest and easiest way to learn how to read music on the guitar, there is one drawback: rhythm. Unfortunately, amateur musicians make many online guitar tabs that do not illustrate when to play the note, making learning to play songs on guitar frustrating for students who do not have access to the original recordings for rhythm reference.
However, the best guitar tablature combines rhythmic notation with pitch notation, which brings us back to standard notation.
Standard Notation is Great for Reading Rhythms on Guitar
Rhythm brings us back full circle to standard notation. While learning to read pitches in standard notation can be tedious, learning rhythms is an essential skill for every musician. That’s because music happens in time. Standard notation with guitar tablature is the fastest and easiest way to read music. Students see where to put their fingers in the guitar tab and when to play the notes in standard notation.
Yes, Your Child Needs to Learn to Read Some Types of Music to Play Guitar
In sum, there are many different types of music notation. Some are easy to learn, like guitar tab and others are tedious, like standard notation. The fastest and easiest way for beginners to learn how to play the guitar is to read the guitar tab along with the basic rhythms in standard notation.
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