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Note reading

Note reading on the guitar has become more rare, killed by tab. Guitar books all have tabs below the notes, but nobody I’ve ever talked to looks at the notes.  Tab is quicker at helping you play the sound.


The problem with tabs

But tabs make you a slave to playing music the way the tab tells you to. Most guitar players that use tab exclusively don’t know that you can play the same thing in 3 or 4 different places on the guitar. Tabs don’t make you think. They just say “do it this way.” No choice.


But what if you could play it better somewhere else on the guitar?


The power of choice

Developing as a musician means making choices. It means being in charge of how you do things. This is difficult to get across to players brought up on tab. After all, you can develop a lot of technical skill using tabs. You can learn to sound great. But you don’t learn to think in a fluid way. Being a guitar player means more than being able to put your fingers in the right place at the right time.


Pitch names

Even if you use tabs exclusively, learn the names of the pitches at each fret location. When you’re improvising (as opposed to just playing a solo that you’ve learned), you need to know what note you’re heading for. If that note is in the chord, it will sound one way. If it’s not in the chord, it will sound another way.


Good improvisers understand this relationship between notes and chords. Because they understand, they’re able to quickly learn which notes are best for their own tastes.


Exploring other music

Aside from that, notes give you access to non-guitar books. Sometimes you want to learn a saxophone solo. Or, like John Petrucci, you might want to use piano music to improve your technique. Knowing your notes allows you to do this.


This may not be important to you. That’s ok. But you should know what you’re missing. Players that know their notes can do everything tab players can do. The reverse isn’t true.


If I haven’t totally alienated you, move on to the next post. I’ll go over some strategies for reading notes.


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