READING MUSIC. DOES this topic strike you with dread, disinterest or with a degree of enthusiasm? It’s certainly a widely discussed topic among guitarists, mirroring the fact that people come to play the guitar from a wider spread of backgrounds than pretty much any other instrument. Whatever your perspective, we felt it was time to address this aspect of music making with a series on how to become a strong music- reading guitarist. To do this, there are three main areas to get to grips with: fretboard knowledge; understanding music notation; and fluency when combining the two. Fretboard knowledge is covered in the opening article from Rockschool’s Charlie Griffiths. In it, he talks of using a metronome for test purposes. This is popular for many guitarists ( including Joe Satriani); you decide on a note, set a metronome going, then play one note per click. You can choose to make this easier ( one note every two clicks) or harder ( two notes for each click). Rather than aiming to play, say, all E notes on the fretboard as fast possible, we’d recommend you tackle a different note every practice session to maintain variety.
There are two popular ways to playing the same note all over the fretboard; ‘ positional’, or ‘ each string’. Positional draws on your chord knowledge; for example, an F barre chord at the 1st fret ( E shape) will provide you with three F notes ( sixth, fourth and first strings). Ascending to the next available F chord places you at the 3rd fret ( D shape) where two F notes can be found ( fourth and second strings), etc.
Alternatively, you may favour a regimented string- by- string approach. For example, there are two F notes on the sixth string ( 1st fret, 13th fret) and two F notes on the fifth string ( 8th fret, 20th fret). Here’s a good tip: for the higher octave, add the original fret number to 12; for F, 1 + 12 = 13 providing F at the 1st fret and the 13th fret.
I’ll leave you with some words from our new writer, the A- list UK session guitarist, Mitch Dalton. “Unless you intend to spend your career as a member of a permanent touring and recording band where there is time a- plenty to learn and practise a fairly limited repertoire by ear, then I strongly advise you to bite the bullet, get it together and learn to read. It is an absolutely essential tool of the trade for a professional ( or aspiring pro) musician.” Happy fretboarding!