Carl Verheyen on Performance: Three Tips for Improving Your Reading

By Verheyen, Carl | Guitar Player, March 2014 | Go to article overview

Carl Verheyen on Performance: Three Tips for Improving Your Reading


Verheyen, Carl, Guitar Player


AS A SELF-TAUGHT GUItarist, I never had the formal music-school training that many of today's younger players experience. That was okay--I learned from records, guitar lessons, and, most importantly, by sitting in the front row at clubs and watching. All this informal training was great, except for a major deficiency in one important area: sight-reading music.

Of course, in order to compete with professional session guitarists in a highly competitive scene, I had to teach myself how to read. It was hard--especially when I would be alone in a room with a metronome and a black-and-white page full of sixteenth notes. I eventually came to the realization that every time I screwed up a bar, I would stop to figure out why, and the act of stopping was detrimental to training my eyes to keep moving. Here are three things I learned in order to keep my eyes on the page and my fingers moving.

* Always read a key signature in the position where a scale pattern occurs with no stretches or position changes.

If the piece is in the key of G, read in the second position or the seventh position. In both of those positions, you have a naturally occurring scale pattern starting from the root or the third, respectively. The notes will be "under your hands." If you attempt a G major piece in the fifth position, you'll need to change positions to make all the notes--which is cumbersome. An added value of key-specific position reading is that if you encounter an accidental such as Ab or D#, you'll know they are outside your familiar G-major scale pattern and usually a half step away from the notes under your hands.

* Remember, there are-only so many rhythm patterns. It may seem like a lot, but in 95 percent of contemporary music there are just a handful of syncopated patterns that occur all the time. …

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