How to Read Guitar Music

How to Read Guitar Music

Relatively few guitarists actually learn to read music. Thanks to the prevalence of guitar tab, many guitarists simply don’t have to go to the trouble of learning to read music–they already have access to tabs for all the music they want to learn.

For other guitarists, however–including classical guitarists, advanced shredders and any guitarist interested in wielding the capability of learning any song they choose–learning to read music is indispensable.

If you are serious about learning to read music for the guitar, then check out this 8-week course on reading music for guitarists.

Reading music for the guitar is initially challenging, but there are some simple pointers that I’m going to share here to help you really get moving reading music for the guitar.

Before you dive into this section, make sure you’re familiar with the basics of reading standard notation. Check out my articles on how to read music to get started.

Reading Guitar Music is Simple

First off, you’ll have a lot more success learning to read music for the guitar if you get started with the right mindset.

Reading guitar music is simple. If you take your time and progress steadily from introductory studies into the harder music you want to learn, you’ll develop all the skills necessary to decipher any passage of standard notation.

Treble Clef is Your Friend

Standard notation for the guitar uses the treble clef. Here’s what it looks like:

For the most part, reading standard notation for the guitar works exactly as it works for any other instrument.

Guitar chords may initially appear more intimidating than they actually are. Here is the standard G chord in notation:

Watch Out for Fingerings

When you read music for the guitar, one of the most important things you’ll need to look out for is fingerings.

Since any given note on the staff often occurs on the guitar in multiple places, and since different musical passages often require unexpected or unconventional fingerings in order to make them playable, composers often include specific fingers that you’ll need to follow.

These fingers appear as numbers directly next to the notes in question.

Here is a passage of music written for the guitar that includes fingerings:

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of fingerings: 1) the fingerings that composers write in their scores to orient guitarists and 2) the fingerings you’ll write in to guide you as you play through the music you’re learning.

There’s Really Nothing To It!

And, really, that’s all you need to know as a guitarist to get started reading standard notation.

All the other rules of how written music works apply directly to music written for the guitar.

Be sure to check out the articles on this site that cover the fundamentals of learning to read music.

And if you are a guitarist serious about learning how to read standard music notation, then this 8-week course is for you.