Reading Music

Learning to Read Music

“Do I need to learn to read music?” is a common question when it comes to taking guitar lessons.

The answer is simple. If you want to learn classical guitar then yes, you will learn to read music. For other styles of music, you will not usually need to learn to read music.

The reason for this is that virtually all classical guitar music is written in musical notation. Conversely almost no pop, rock or blues is written using notation.

The main exception to this is jazz. Like classical guitar, most jazz compositions are written using musical notation. However, as improvisation is a big component of jazz, you can still go a long way without being able to read music.

Is Learning to Read Music Difficult?

Many people worry that learning to read music is difficult. Really though, learning to read music is just like learning to read words.

Learning to read music needs to be done gradually, little-by-little. When the pace of learning is right, sight reading can be a pleasant experience; especially when you are simultaneously learning to play beautiful music.

Rhythm Reading

One aspect of reading music that all guitarists should learn, is how to read rhythms. Rhythm reading is 50% of learning to read music. It does not include pitches, but it does present all the information we need about when to play notes or chords, and for how long.

As with learning to read notation, learning to read rhythms is done gradually with well-known songs and repertoire throughout the learning process.

Booking a Guitar Lesson

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“Learning to read music is essential for classical guitar. For most other styles, reading rhythms is what matters. Apart from enabling us to play rhythms off the page, being rhythmically literate simply makes us better guitarists.”

– Stuart Bahn