Learn to Read Sheet Music and Forget the TAB – Advice for Guitarists

Reading sheet music can be very intimidating for a beginning guitarist. It is, after all, a brand new language composed of a lot of symbols that are new and alien. But Reading sheet music is a must for anyone who wants to be a serious guitarist and it will take your guitar playing well beyond anything that TAB will show you. Tablature is a crutch. It will only teach you how to play songs and compositions by rote. It is true that with Tab you will learn how to play a piece of music but in the process you are missing some of the real things that music, and being a musician are all about.

What is the goal of a guitarist?

Playing pieces of music is not the only goal of a guitarist. Growth in both technical ability and creativity are just as important. When you learn a piece of music by TAB you experience a certain amount of growth but as you master the piece your growth quickly levels off. You have learned the piece and you practice it only to keep it sharp. When you learn a piece of music with traditional sheet music you are not just learning the notes you are also learning another language. This exercising of your mind makes you more flexible, more capable, and more creative. With time and practice you recognize keys, chords, progressions and whole host of things you would never see with TAB.

Advantages of Reading Sheet music

Hearing the music -As your skill develops and your ears sharpen you will be able to pick up a piece of written sheet music and actually hear the notes without playing the guitar. It is a language that you have learned. For some this ability comes quickly and for others it takes years of practice.

Creativity – Learning a language exercises a new part of your brain. Everyday, as you apply yourself to learning this new language you will grow. And this growth promotes your creativity. You are given many more tools to work with and apply to your music composition and you gain a broader, and more colorful, understanding of music.

Sight Reading – – As you develop your skill in reading sheet music you will gain the ability to pick up a piece of music that you have never seen before and play it from sight. This ability makes you a competent musician and accelerates your ability to add pieces to your repertoire.

Breadth of Repertoire — Does your taste in guitar music deviate from the mainstream? It can be very difficult to find tablature for pieces that are not mainstream. But you can always find the sheet music. It is the language of music.

Cross-pollination with other instruments – – If you have heard a piece of music written for another instrument; like the piano, bass guitar, cello, or anything else where would you find guitar tab for it? If you are able to read sheet music you can get a copy of the music, understand it, and transcribe it for your guitar. This holds true for sub-genres of guitar. There is an enormous amount of music available to guitarists that are not written in tab. Music like classical guitar, flamenco, Spanish and progressive/experimental. Reading sheet music gives you instant access to all these flavors of guitar.

The Ultimate Reward –

As a guitar player, or aspiring guitar player, you know that it is not something that you study for a few weeks and are done. Playing guitar is a life long pursuit and learning tablature is just a short cut that enables you to play some songs. But learning to read sheet music is a skill that will have a more profound impact on your experience with the guitar and with the music. It will make you a better, more creative, and more capable player. It will enrich your experience with the guitar and with the music in ways that tab never can.