Gohar Vardanyan (via sponsor Strings by Mail) gives a lesson on Basic Sight Reading Tips. This comes via her YouTube channel where she posts many great lessons. Good advice for beginners trying to get a handle on the reading over the fingerboard. I was just going to post this video quickly but then I kept oozing text below!
How do I usually teach my students?
- I use my two method books and encourage daily sight reading of very easy music, there’s no substitute for that. Go through multiple beginner method books until it’s easy for you.
- Memorize single-string chromatic scales. There are only 6 strings and if you know your musical alphabet it’s easy to learn the entire fingerboard. One string a week is easy to memorize even for youth students so in six weeks they have a pretty solid grounding. Also play tons of any kind of scale and say the notes out loud so you aren’t just using fingerings. Not in your head, say the note names out loud!
- A great starter book I use with my students is Sight Reading for the Classical Guitar by Robert Benedict as it covers a variety of melodic and harmonic textures, form, phrasing, dynamics, and rhythmic skills. I love this book because the small examples are like having the student play tons of different pieces in half the time.
- For a more methodical study, my students learn all the moveable major scale patterns and the C Major pages only from Scale Pattern Studies by Aaron Shearer which has great scales with melodic sight reading after. After learning all the C Major pages (a long task) they can play over the entire fingerboard with some confidence. Then it’s on to the entire book page by page (the forever plan).
- Jazz guitar and jazz method books. These are often very useful for understanding music on the fretboard without the reading aspect getting in the way. After even some very basic jazz coverage students are really all over the fretboard and can see triads, scales, and chord patterns all over. If they can see the pattern they can make connections to the notation versions of the same patterns. Takes time though.
- Music theory and musicianship classes usually take over at this point which help students make the connections between reading and the guitar on their own. I can’t stress how important this step is. It’s the only way to really do it right.
- At more advanced levels I use some specialty books such as Rhythmic Training by Robert Starer which is not a guitar book but is filled with intense rhythmic studies. I need to carefully work with them on these as they are difficult to do without help.
- At the most advanced stages students need to go through many different method books clearly understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. If they’ve taken theory and musician classes and completed a solid number of methods they can probably devour content at this point so that’s what they need to do: devour all!
Reaching advanced levels: Theory and musicianship classes are beyond important. Remember that pros have almost certainly taken theory and musicianship classes (that don’t involve the guitar). That means that they understand how music works and they speak and read the language of music. Musicianship classes and choir singing have enabled them hear or sing the music on the page so their mind knows how to translate music. Once you can do that the guitar is far less of a mystery and just the tool of musical delivery. There is no book or easy do-it-yourself way for this. You need good teachers, classes, advice, and practice. It takes years and you can’t skip steps if you want to reach advanced levels.