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Do I Need to Learn How to Read Music to Be a Successful Guitarist?

I often get asked the question: “Is it important to learn how to read standard notation to be a successful guitarist?” While learning how to read music can be an important tactic for many people, this question is actually a bit more complicated than it initially seems.


How to Read Music as it Relates to a Guitarist

The truth is that this is a very complex question that requires an individual to know their exact goals. Do you want to learn how to play classical guitar? Do you want to be able to play in your high school’s jazz band? Are you preparing to audition for or enter a music college? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then the answer is a resounding “Yes” to if you should learn how to read music on your road to becoming a successful guitarist! You do need to learn standard notation in order to progress accordingly on your journey to the above goals.


When is it Okay to Not Learn How to Read Music

Another way to look at the question is, do I need to learn standard notation to be a successful professional guitarist? In this scenario I would argue no.

As a former college professor, I only teach standard notation when the student requests it, if the student wants to learn classical guitar, if the student attends a music focused high school, or if the student attends or plans to attend a music college. However, I always stress the ability to read chord charts. Chord charts are far more prevalent in a professional scenario than standard notation.


The Choice is Ultimately Yours

From my experience as a session guitar player there has only been one instance of someone coming in with standard notation for me to read. More often than not the client will come in with a chord chart. However, most of the time I am expected to learn parts by ear. For this reason, I would always advise any guitarist to “train your ear.”

Whether you are looking to take some guitar modes and scales courses or simply trying to take your playing to the next level, Alex Donaldson can help you achieve your goals. Sign up for lessons or contact us today to learn more.

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