May 24, 2023

Knowing how to read music notation

robert johnson playing his gibson l1 guitar

You'll find some "broccoli" mixed into the nachos here, having added a thread called "Reading Music".. (the picture of Leo Kottke is totally not related to this).. yes, you'll probably resent the taste of it, but it's good to know a little bit about reading music. This'll sound harsh, but thinking you don't need to read music to be a musician is a bit like thinking you don't need to read words to be a good storyteller. And there are examples of that, no doubt, Django Reinhardt signed his first record contract with an "X" because he was illiterate! But, it's not hard to make the argument that knowing how to read and write is worth doing.

With notes, it would be odd if things were different from words. Unsurprisingly, by most accounts, it isn't too different. As reading words isn't all about reading Shakespeare, reading music isn't all about being forced to play "Hip Funk in C" from "Exercise Book II" (buuut yes that still might happen..) You'd probably know more about Jack from The Shining if you read the book, versus just watching the movie, although I wouldn't know because I haven't read the book!

Actually, developing a skill-set for sight reading music can have a lot of positive and unexpected "side-effects" to your guitar playing. For example, you start knowing the note names of the neck; then, having a label in your head for each fret, it actually helps you web together a mental map of the fretboard — not just in your favorite positions. And that "across-the-neck" checkpoint is something a lot of guitarists want to achieve, but aren't quite there. Another "side-effect" is that you get speedier at reading multiple notes at once (so chords) and that forces your brain muscle to "light-up" multiple notes at once, in steady time, which pulls your brain muscles into new PR territory! Literally, when you're done reading a challenging passage in time, you almost feel like you finished a jog! Your brain feels like it's in cool-down mode, and you almost get a runner's high type of feeling when you really put yourself into it! Also, since sight reading lets the part of your brain that "invents" notes or rhythms take a breather, since it's all pre-written for you, you actually have more brain "space" to focus on your sound and your time, so that can improve unexpectedly.

Just like you don't have to spend every future moment of your life reading books, you don't have to spend every future moment with the guitar, reading music. But, if your goal is become an articulate storyteller, it's good to know how to read and write, and if your goal is to reach another tier on the guitar, you might find reading music helps also! This thread covers the basics on music notation, so that at least you're aware of the "grammar" for starters. More will come, and like board games you'll start picking it up once you start playing.

Posted by blah148

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