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Reading Standard Notation - Getting Started with Reading Music

Published April 20th, 2007. © Chris Juergensen/chrisjuergensen.com. All Rights Reserved.

This lesson has been revised and published in THE INFINITE GUITAR. Info >>>


Introduction to reading standard notation - Although there are many great guitarists that can't read music, it definitely comes in handy if you want to communicate musically with other musicians. It also is useful for writing down musical ideas and compositions so you don't forget them later on. Tablature is very popular and sometimes helpful when you need to learn specific fingerings but standard notation is more precise and is understood by all musicians, not just guitarists. You will also find that being a good reader will open many doors for you as far as musical employment.

Practicing the examples in this chapter - Practice the rhythmic exercises by clapping your hands, tapping your fingers (when you are on the train), or by playing notes or chords. Where chords are not given for the reading exercises, see if you can harmonize them using the techniques you learned in the last chapter. They are mostly diatonic so it should be an easy and fun way to get your composing skills together. I've also written most of the reading exercises as duets so you don't have to practice them alone.

Notes and Rests - Notes tell you what pitch to play and how long to play it. Rests tell you how long to not play. The big round note below is a whole note and it lasts for four beats. Tap your foot and count to four, keep counting and tapping and play a chord and let it last the whole four beats. A half note, as you may have grasped by its name, gets two beats a piece. A quarter note gets one beat each; so each time you tap your foot, play a chord on each beat. The pattern continues with eighth notes, sixteenth notes, thirty-second notes, sixty-fourth notes, and so on, each type of note being half the length of the previous type.

Whole Note
Half Note
Quarter Note
Eighth Note
a

 

Whole Rest
Half Rest
Quarter Rest
Eighth Rest
a

Rhythmic Exercises - Play or clap the following rhythms. Remember, it is important to look ahead while reading. If you find the examples simple, turn the page upside down and read them again:

Ex.1)

a

Ex.2)

a


Ex.3)

a

Ex.4)

a


The notes in open position on the first and second string

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(Keep in mind, music written for guitar is played an octave lower than written)


Reading Exercises - Play the following exercises in a tempo comfortable for you. Use a metronome and try looking ahead. Record the chord changes or have someone accompany you:

Ex.1)

a



Tied Notes - Tied notes are written with a curved line connecting each note. Notes of any length may be tied together, and more than two notes may be tied together. The two tied notes will sound like one note of the combined lengths. Although dotted notes can be used to produce the same results, tying notes is the only method to lengthen notes over bar lines.

a

Rhythmic Exercises - Play or clap the following rhythms. Remember, it is important to look ahead while reading. If you find the examples simple, turn the page upside down and read them again:

Ex.1)

a


Ex.2)

a


The notes in open position on the third and fourth string

a


Reading Exercises - Play the following exercises in a tempo comfortable for you. Use a metronome and try looking ahead. Record the chord changes or have someone accompany you:

Ex.1)

a


The notes in open position on the fifth string

a

 

Reading Exercises - Play the following exercises in a tempo comfortable for you. Use a metronome and try looking ahead. Record the chord changes or have someone accompany you:

Ex.1)

a


Dotted Notes - A dot placed next to a note or rest increases its value by exactly half.

a

Rhythmic Exercises - Play or clap the following rhythms. Remember, it is important to look ahead while reading. If you find the examples simple, turn the page upside down and read them again:

Ex.1)

a

Ex.2)

a


Ex.3)

a



The notes in open position on the sixth string

a

Reading Exercises - Play the following exercises in a tempo comfortable for you. Play each as a duet with another guitarist or try to play both parts together as a fingerstyle piece:

Ex.1)


a


Rhythmic Exercises - So far all the songs and exercises we have practiced so far have been in "common time" or 4/4. The following rhythmic exercises will introduce 3/4 time meaning that there will be three beats per measure rather than four:


Ex.1)

a


Ex.2)

a



The notes in second position in the key of C major

a

a


Reading Exercises - Play the following exercises in a tempo comfortable for you. Play each as a duet with another guitarist or try to play both parts together as a fingerstyle piece:

Ex.1)

a


Triplets - a triplet sub-divides one note into equal thirds. When you tap your foot, you should play three notes per one beat.

a

Rhythmic Exercises - Play or clap the following rhythms. Remember, it is important to look ahead while reading. If you find the examples simple, turn the page upside down and read them again:

Ex.1)

a

Ex.2)

a


Ex.3)

a


Reading Exercises - Play the following exercise in a tempo comfortable for you. Play it as a duet with another guitarist or try to play both parts together as a fingerstyle piece:

Ex.1)

a


What to do from here - Try reading anything and everything you can. Move in to the next key either direction in the circle of 5th (G or F). This lesson was taken from my book THE INFINITE GUITAR which has dozens of more reading exercises.

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