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How to read guitar sheet music in 7 steps

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how to read guitar sheet music

How to read guitar sheet music in 7 steps

Do you know how to read guitar sheet music? Learning to read it is important for those who want to learn to play the guitar and be able to play their favourite music with the music sheet in front of them. 

It is true that you can also read guitar tablature and that there are diagrams to learn to play songs that can be much simpler for those who are just starting out with no prior knowledge of music or solfège. But we are going to teach you how to read guitar sheet music step by step because you can always find yourself with sheet music that you want to play at some point, and you don’t have it in tablature. 

Also, if you are going to play with a band, they probably only have the songs in sheet music on staves. Then you can decide whether you want to read the score that way or transfer it to guitar tablature, but that’s another matter.

7 steps to learn how to read guitar sheet music

1 – Recognize and differentiate between guitar sheet music and guitar tablature

Sheet music has five lines (usually) and represents the notes and their duration, whereas tablature is actually a representation of the fretboard of the guitar and where the notes are located so that they can be played.

2 – Memorize how each note is represented on the staff

  • Learn and memorize which note each line of the staff corresponds to.
  • Learn and memorize which note corresponds to the spaces between each line of the staff.

In treble clef, which is the one you are interested in for playing staff scores on a guitar, they are: E, G, B, D, F. And the ones in the spaces are: F, A, C, E.

3 – Identify in which key the piece or song is composed: the key signature

If you want to learn how to read guitar sheet music, you need to learn the symbols sharps, flats and naturals and how they are represented in the score. These groups of sharps and flats are known as key signatures. If you learn all the existing time signatures and memorize them, reading the score to play them on the guitar will be easier.

4 – Identify the rhythm by looking at the time signatures

The most common beats are 4/4 and 3/4. As you probably already know, they indicate how many beats there are in a bar of a quarter note.

5 – Learn the location of the vertical bars on the staff

What is this for? To identify each bar. Look closely at the numbers that usually accompany it, as these are the ones that indicate the time signature. Especially if you are going to play with other musicians, this will make coordination much easier.

6 – Recognize the notes

This is one of the most important aspects when you consider how to read a guitar score to know which note to play. If, as you can see in the previous steps, you have already memorized the location on the line or space of each note, now it will be very easy for you, you just have to recognize it. 

Of course, you must also identify what kind of note it is: whole note, half note or quarter note. Also if it is a rest, you know, a moment in which you should not play any note.

7 – Know the complex annotations of a guitar score

Sheet music has other notations that are more complex. To read a guitar score, it is important that you know and memorize them. This way, when you see them, you will quickly identify their presence and their meaning, so that you can take them into account when playing. 

Don’t get overwhelmed, it’s a matter of time and practice. You can make some cards with their graphics and meaning or make a poster with it to help you memorize it. It includes:

  • The repeat symbols at the end of a bar.
  • Bends.
  • The numbers assigned to specific notes to make it easier to read a score like tablature.
  • Hammer-ons and pull-offs.
  • The meaning of the numbers next to each note and which finger to play it with.

You already know how to read guitar sheet music! It can be overwhelming at first if you are still taking your first steps as a musician and learning. Don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds if you put in the time and practice, it’s only logical that it will take a while. Enjoy the learning process, it will help you become a better musician and if you need to, you can buy luthier guitars at to enjoy playing the guitar and creating your own music.

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