This lesson contains several reading studies for you to gain experience in the process of reading music. I think that reading guitar music is actually three separate skills: (1) naming notes on the staff, (2) finding those notes on your guitar and (3) sounding out the rhythms of those notes.
One String Duets
The duets below will give you good practice in developing your ability to read music. The music sounds good, is fun, interesting, challenging and designed to get you thinking not only about reading music but writing it as well. Earlier in the course, we discussed some helpful tools for you to use every time you read music. First of course, sound out the rhythms of the notes in your head using one syllable. As you are playing remember to look ahead whenever possible and to treat the rhythm of each measure as a well-known and easily recognizable vocabulary word.Before you hit the play button, challenge yourself by doing things the old school way and seeing if you can figure out exactly what those melodies sound like just using the sheet music. When playing along with the recordings you will be able to judge your current level of comprehension and reading ability based on how accurately you were able to play the examples before having heard them.
Each of the musical examples below uses only one string as is common practice at this stage of the game and is one of the things about the old school method that I still agree with. Each of the examples is played twice, the first time you’ll hear counting in the background the second time you won’t hear counting. In the first example of the notes are on the high “E” string, every note in the second example is played on the second string, the “B” string. Example 3 is played exclusively on “G” , string three.
Duets On The Top Three Strings
Consider now two musically complete, longer length duets which use all of the notes you have learned on the top three strings. When you play along with the recording, it is important that you go from beginning to end, in time, even if you are missing notes, your eyes are moving steadily across the page and you are consistently counting the beat. just keep hanging in there. This technique of starting a piece and continuing on to the end, in time, irregardless of mistakes will improve your reading by leaps and bounds.
“Aura Lee”is an homage to a beautiful young girl written during the American Civil War. This piece is another staple in any music teachers bag of tricks. Elvis Presley’s hit song “Love Me Tender” is simply new lyrics on that original civil war song. Another version, “Army Blue”, has long been associated with the United States Military Academy.
“Au Clair de la Lune” or “By The Light of the Moon” is a simple 18th century French folk song of unknown authorship. Because the melody is beautiful, simple and memorable, “Au Clair de la Lune” is taught the world over as a sight reading example and has been quoted in classical masterworks. You can increase your accuracy with all of these exercises, by trying to first play them by yourself, without the recording.
When you have learned to smoothly and accurately sight read all of the material in this lesson, you will have completely understood and absorbed most of the benefit to be gained from the traditional method of learning to read guitar music using the book available at the corner store. Of course, this mastery may take quite a bit of repetition and practice. It might be all well and good to stop right there or it may be equally as good to think things through in greater detail.
Not only is music full of rules, it is very repetitious and pattern oriented. One of the most interesting rules is called the ‘Law Of Melody’ which states that notes in a melody are drawn to their immediate neighbors. That means that, for the majority of the time, the notes in most melodies are moving backwards and forwards in alphabetical order (or reverse alphabetical order) with the inclusion of the occasional leap -skipping over one or more of the notes, or breaking alphabetical order. Of course, in music rules are only made to be broken but the ‘Law Of Melody’ is an excellent one to know because stepwise movement is usually what is happening. The dead giveway to stepwise or direct alphabetical movement is when notes are arranged in line – space – line – space fashion, that tells you the music is only following the alphabetical steps as is illustrated below. Anyone armed with this knowledge will find this journey much easier.
To conclude this lesson play the notes you see directly above on your guitar, saying the name of each note as you do. Do this backwards and forwards a few times while keeping this concept of stepwise movement, or what I have called alphabetical movement, in mind. It would be a tremendous help to you to get very good at reading and comprehending that graphic.