How much do you emphasize teaching note reading?

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by Bergy, May 20, 2019.

  1. Bergy

    Bergy Tele-Meister

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    I think I can detect my own ambivalence towards reading standard notation in my students. How concerning should I find this?

    I can read okay for a guitarist. Unless I’m doing something academic, it hasn’t often been terribly useful for me. If I know a student is taking a music class in school or something, I’ll do my best to cross pollinate with that class. But for adults who have full time jobs and kids that really just wanna rock, why beat them over the head with note reading exercises they will potentially dread and/or never use? I’m surprised at how often parents of students can make it harder to promote traditional note reading. In those cases, I often relent pretty quickly to their sentiments.

    Perhaps that has more to do with the dryness of the traditional note reading repertoire. Ode to Joy and Au Claire De La Lune probably do need a rest. Alfred’s even went to goofy lengths to attempt to remedy this. Go ahead and count how many exercises in Alfred’s Basic Guitar Method (white cover with a guitarist clad in black leather) arbitrarily use the word “Rock” in the title to make note reading seem cool and fun. I hafta grin at the irony that I can’t recall the last rock musician I played with that could actually read notes.

    I understand standard notation allows for very clear and quick communication between professional players of different instruments...that is a surprisingly rare event in many parts of the musical wilderness. That won’t happen for every student I teach. I want them to still find some joy in making music on the guitar. Maybe I should just increase my persistence like 10% for a while and see how it goes?

    Do ya’ll have any clever tricks for increasing a students willingness to read standard notation? I’ve got a few good readers, but I think too many of my students are stalling out on the note reading at roughly the 4th string. I’ve started using snare drum exercises to introduce some rhythms for clapping then strumming. Down strokes on 1,2,3,4 and upstrokes on all the “ands.” So far, that seems to alleviate some the monotony of grinding it through all 6 strings.
     
  2. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    I always offered to teach reading, since it is useful in so many ways, not just guitar. I also know that they will want to learn chords: cowboy, rock, and jazz. Along with improv, chord melody, and right hand techniques, we had a lot of options to choose from.

    The most common method was to concentrate on any one or two of the playing aspects above. If they catch fire on something, then we continue to stoke it. If they don't really seem enthused about something, we replace it with another activity. Not all activities have to be done in the same sequence.

    Also, when kids are the students, you have two bosses (parents, kid) who both need to be pleased (or calmed down).

    In a more general sense, try to leave the student an out, an avenue of escape. No one wants to be stuck doing something they dislike. Maybe you have to negotiate deals (we do this for two weeks, then we do that), or maybe you completely abandon something that is starting to cause bad feelings to fester. Stay away from bad feelings that fester. Keep 'em in control and enthused about their options and choices.

    Many times, the kid is kind of young and doesn't have an opinion (that I could tell), and the parents don't know anything, other than believing that music lessons must be good for the kid. In that case, I just start down the path of Alfred 1 and see what they enjoy playing. Rarely, I have had a teenage student who is completely shut down in the presence of the parents. A kid like this generally doesn't jump at the chance to make his own decisions and try something new. They just want to get through it. My job is to try to make the lessons more than that, but sometimes I wasn't able to do much more than get such a kid to smile once in a while.
     
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  3. BattleAXE39

    BattleAXE39 TDPRI Member

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    After trying really hard to learn some notations , I found a method that works for me .

    It does not even look that hard . You just arrange the sheet music like this , mark the fret board notes underneath the notations and start practicing .

    [​IMG]

    I am trying to learn that .Only started yesterday night :)
     
  4. GorgeousTones

    GorgeousTones Tele-Meister

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    I think it's better.. or perhaps more important, to evaluate the students individual goals/aspirations as well as your students own desire to learn "standard notation" or to sight read (two very different things!).. The fact is developing an ability to read at a high level, certainly doesn't correlate to a playing at high level. As you pointed out, guitar players are unique in that the usefulness of standard notation can have its limits. So I wouldn't necessarily judge yourself too harshly for not wholeheartedly embracing a classical training method. I've come across guitar teachers who will ONLY teach Mel Bay Book 1. Book 2 etc.. And I sincerely believe that they're turning potentially incredible players off to music doing this.

    My own personal opinion is that reading music shouldn't be taught unless the student meets the following criteria;
    *There's already a decent foundation physically as well as an understanding of the instrument, & music theory beyond the intermediate level.
    *The student's primary interest lies within the Jazz or Classical idioms (there's exceptions to this one)
    *And most importantly, The student has clearly expressed his own wish, enthusiasm, or at least willingness to learn standard notation reading..
     
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  5. GorgeousTones

    GorgeousTones Tele-Meister

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    ^Im in complete agreement with this
     
  6. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

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    I would never dissuade anyone from teaching or learning to read musical notation, but then again, I know a sax player who can read music quite well but his performance sounds more like someone reading from a menu at a restaurant.

    Point being: Music is not dots on a piece of paper but sounds in the air, and, as long as each person remembers that, then whatever method one chooses which effectively achieves the best results for each individual is the one to follow...



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    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
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  7. twangjeff

    twangjeff Tele-Afflicted

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    It depends if the student just wants to rock, or if they want to be a musician. Not everybody has the same set of goals. For someone that just wants to strum along to a few songs at open mic night or go to their local blues jam and play Sweet Home Chicago then there's no point to belabor reading.

    If you want to be an actual musician, then you have to learn how to read. I have heard all the reasons not to and they all come back to the same thing, "I'm lazy." How do you learn the fretboard without learning to read? How do you learn rhythm without also learning how to read rhythms? Surely we can all agree that at a bare minimum any competent musician should know their instrument and understand rhythm. Well if you put those things together you end up with reading!

    I'll also jump ahead of the inevitable, "Jimi didn't know how to read!" and, "Wes didn't know how to read!" nonsense...
    1.) You are not Jimi.
    2.) You are not Wes.
    3.) Even if they didn't why would you deprive yourself of something advantageous to you? If Jimi didn't drive a BMW would that keep you from buying a BMW?
    4.) Jimi and Wes were stars in and of themselves and didn't have to constantly work and get gigs. Jimi Hendrix didn't have to go play orchestra gigs, and teach, and arrange, and play musicals, etc. in order to make a living.

    Rant over. Lol.
     
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  8. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

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    I generally see a resistance towards learning to read music (a major component of "Music Theory" by the way) as a rather shortsighted decision on the part of a typical musical novice. In my experience this not only diminishes one's ability to learning how to play music more quickly, but also inevitably leads to the all too common question: "What scale do I play with what Chord"?

    Reading music and music theory work hand-in-hand to help people understand how music works!

    Of course it takes a lot of effort (on top of just physically learning how to play an instrument correctly), but if a person begins with the mindset that they will learn both from the start, then it will eventually payoff exponentially in the long run...

    ...it did for me anyways...



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    Last edited: Jun 19, 2019
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  9. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

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    ...I'd also like to add this:

    My fascination with music drove me to learning music theory soon after getting my first "real" guitar when I was fifteen years old. I just instinctively knew was that music theory somehow held the key to understanding what made music tick, and I was right.

    Anyway, I highly recommend looking into it. I have yet to hear anyone say that they regret all the time they wasted learning music theory...


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  10. fretWalkr

    fretWalkr TDPRI Member

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    When I was teaching, the first thing I would do is find out what the student wants to learn. If the student is learning what they like and they stand a much better chance of sticking with it. I didn't push reading standard notation but I let them know it was an option. Their choice.

    When I first started lessons as a kid, the teacher insisted I learn to read from the Mel Bay book. I hated spending a week on "Little Brown Jug" and quit. But, he did show me the basics of reading. Later I found a teacher that figured out I wanted to play what I heard on the radio. I already had enough facility to get going so hn had me bring in recordings and he'd listen, write out the chords and show me how to play it. From that I learned a bit about ear training and how to listen. Once I could figure songs out on my own, I quit lessons and I joined a band. Later I went back later and learned how to read when I wanted to get in jazz. The approach the second teacher took was my model when I started teaching. I asked myself if I was short changing students but decided getting them to enjoy and stick with it were more important.
     
  11. chulaivet1966

    chulaivet1966 Tele-Afflicted

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    That's the ultimate decision maker as to whether to the note reading of music is offered.
    I've given several people guitar lessons years ago.

    My introductory approach was just to ask them one particular question: "Why do you want to learn guitar"
    Their answer every time was: "I want to learn to play songs that I like"....that interest was their motivation to learn the instrument.

    So...I taught them chord/rhythm/timing and that their best success in learning guitar is their practice time between our private lessons and to play a little every day even if their finger tips can only take 20 minutes. :)
    They tell me what songs they wanted to learn (none were ever complicated) and I'd work them out.
    They wanted to learn their favorite songs....that goal, seemingly achievable to them, is what kept them interested and engaged.
    Not learning the notes or the staff in depth at this beginning stage.

    That's my take.....a good day to all.
     
  12. ASATKat

    ASATKat Tele-Afflicted

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    Tablature can totally help you read notation. In fact it's one of the best imo.

    Simply transcribe notation on the page into tab on another piece of paper. Not only does this make you read through analysis and transfer to tab where it acts as a great worksheet for figuring out the best fingering, should the E note be played 2nd string 5th fret (2/5) or should it be played at 3/9? Tab becomes a worksheet to figure best fingering.

    Just transcribe 20 solos or heads and see how that can forever change your skills at reading and understanding the neck. Now, do 100.

    Make it a fun hobby and not just a boring study.

    With YouTube's slower downer feature transcribing has never been easier.
     
  13. Toast

    Toast Tele-Holic

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    If I were a teacher, I would treat musical notation as a skill one could introduce at an intermediate level (if the student were interested). I would only introduce it after the student had spent the time to learn the notes of the fretboard and had a lot of experience working with a metronome. (I can't read musical notation very well. I'm also not a guitar teacher. So, take my comments with a grain of salt.)
     
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  14. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

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  15. Toast

    Toast Tele-Holic

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    I will add that learning to read simple sheet music songs on my guitar was really helpful for me when I first started learning. (In fact, it kind of makes me want to play some simple sheet music again.) It helped get me started learning the notes on the fretboard (still not done), particularly in first position. I also found it beneficial to drill down a bit into musical notation with respect to music theory. Playing some of the beginner sheet music can introduce you to a lot of musical ideas. Besides, plinking out Greensleeves on a fine instrument is just pleasurable, if you like listening to your guitar.
     
  16. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

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    its near impossible to comment without knowing the skill set or ability of the student. Its a language, some can pick it up immediately , some can pick it up with hard work and some will never pick it up.

    Buy they all can still play guitar ( or another instrument ) if they have a good ear.

    Some people don't read anything, some people read everything. The people that don't read watch TV or listen to the radio and still know whats going on in the world.

    A teacher that pushes students to learn to read notation is going down the wrong road. In some cases, students may have a better "ear" than the teacher.

    It all just depends. Reading notation can be a real boost while NOT reading music may have nothing to do with becoming a quality musician.

    Some formats require that we read proficiently, some doesn't require any proficiency what so ever, just a big amp and a Telecaster ! ( or a Les Paul )

    I am talking about sight reading notation, which is not the same as reading a chart and knowing a dozen or more chords and subs. I suggest it is very important to know and be able to read chord charts with more than a handful of chords and subs, which also requires knowing multiple root positions on the fretboard.

    Kinda like, "I don't read many books, but I do know how to read and do, when its necessary "

    I don't teach anymore, but when I did, I taught root positions and various chord forms from those root positions. Even at that, some walked because they didn't see the value, they wanted to learn a solo from XXX . Go home and learn the solo by yourself but realize that you still don't know why the solo "works" on the fretboard.

    Good luck !
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2019
  17. ASATKat

    ASATKat Tele-Afflicted

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    Tab to notation I say,,,
     
  18. ASATKat

    ASATKat Tele-Afflicted

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    Some of the best jazz musicians are crappy readers. Reading chord charts is no problem but reading notation and the rhythms on stage is a bit too much for me. I played in big bands playing modern arrangements back in college. We were good, we won the collegiate jazz competition in Berkeley for day bands. Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and Califoria,,, around 100 day jazz bands competing from all the colleges in those states. And I never once read the hard single note parts, just the chord chart, I sort of cheated. That was back in 83.
     
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