Magazine article Guitar Player

Reading Music

Magazine article Guitar Player

Reading Music

Article excerpt

WHEN IT COMES TO READING MUSIC, the most important things are to do it regularly--like every day, if you can--and to set a tempo and don't stop or slow down. Some other things we've discussed so far have to do with all the info you should take in whenever you're faced with a piece of music. Again, there is a tremendous amount of information in just about every single bar of written music you'll encounter, and you should be getting pretty good at recognizing it and assimilating it almost instantly.

Take a look at Ex. 1. Within the first two seconds (seriously), you should be able to grasp the time signature (4/4, like most of the time), key signature (one flat, B[flat], which means key of F, right?), tempo (120 beats per minute--think the theme song to 60 Minutes), the underlying harmony (there's a Dm chord symbol there, telling you we're dealing with the relative minor of F major, or D minor), the feel of the piece (see that word "Freely"? That means you can play this at the designated tempo but somewhat, uh, freely), and the fact that we have an incomplete bar that starts it all off, which we call "pickup notes." Wow! Can anyone really take in all that data in a just couple of seconds? Yep. For good readers it takes even less time. Like the Terminator, as a good reader you see everything, and it happens instantly. Think about an art critic who can look at a canvas and tell right away that the painter is influenced by impressionists, favors burnt umber hues, tends towards broad strokes, and has an overarching theme of melancholy and obtuse poignancy. Okay, so I just made most of that up, but that is the level of comprehension that is expected of you when you look at a chart. And isn't it a good feeling?

Full disclosure: I can't do all of this. Okay, that's not true. I can do it if I do it slowly. …

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