An Entreaty To Guitar Players, Part 2

Previously on the MSOM blog…

…Please approach the Guitar as a musical instrument! The world has enough would be stringbenders whose response to ‘Play an Eb ’ is to point at their shoe laces!

If you intend to play music- in a club, in a park, at a wedding, in a church, on the street, in a train station, on a rooftop, in a coffee house or  in a stadium take some time and learn to play the instrument. For all intents and purposes, if you are going through a process whereby you solely reproduce shapes and finger-patterns you are doing no more than executing a parlor trick. Albeit an amusing one if done well, but none the less primitive.

Please do not misunderstand – This is not to say every guitar player must be an ace sight reader – far from it. Sight reading music on the guitar is a difficult proposition. In many cases, the guitar has multiples of the same note in the same octave e.g. four (count ‘em four!) ‘G’s in the same octave! Pianos only have one of each note in any given octave and they all reside in the same place in each respective octave on the keyboard- not so with the guitar!

So, while it is not necessary (but extremely useful and rewarding) to be able to sight read guitar music it is useful to be able to read music if only in a prepared fashion. Standard notation is the language of music and the most efficient  written form we have of communication. While tablature is a useful tool – particularly in decoding what position one should play a piece or passage in- it is limited in the scope of information it can relay (traditional tab is completely deficient with regard to rhythmic notation). Moreover, once you develop a basic reading proficiency, reading standard notation will be faster than learning a song with tablature. The other added benefit is that you will be able to communicate with other musicians in an intelligent fashion (rather than the system of grunts and hand gestures we use to communicate with other guitarists).

Again, there is no problem with learning to apply the concept of moveable positions and finger patterns – in fact it’s essential to gleaning a thorough knowledge of the fretboard. Learning chord shapes allows one to read chord charts but if one takes the time to learn the location of notes on the fretboard and some simple theory with regard to intervals and chord building your musicianship will grow exponentially!

There are many more worlds to explore with regard to integrating these two concepts – the physical and theoretical on guitar but perhaps this essay has done enough to pique the curious and prod the complacent – if you want to play the guitar learn to be a musician too!

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