Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Case for Reading

Howdy, folks! And it is Wednesday again. A very good day.
OK, so you know you need to practice, and when you're not writing songs, or practicing scales,
you're trying that interval ear trainer....Right?? Well, perhaps you're getting burnt out doing that stuff, and you want to add something to your routine.

May I suggest something shocking. Something radical. Something that's uncool, but will help you be the ultimate cool.

How about...Learning to Read Music?

Most of us are tab junkies. It's easier, faster, and it doesn't involved the dreaded MUSIC READING! ("Please! No Etudes!") There's a glaring omission in guitar tab, however. A big ol' tear the the fabric of it's apparent perfection. There's no (efficient) way to read rhythms from it. Plus, it's incredibly instrument specific. It only works for the guitar!

There's several tremendous advantages of traditional music notation.

1. It's not instrument specific. A piano player can jam on the same stuff as a guitar. Neat!

2. It looks cool. (Ha ha, just partly kidding...They do have some nice ties with notation, tho.)

3. If you bury it in a time machine, and dig it up a century later, you'll be able to play it exactly the way the composer intended. Hey, how to you think they play Beethoven nowadays? From his demo tapes? (Tapes may be old, but they didn't even have records in Ludwig's time.)

4. This is possible, because the rhythm is part of the notation. In other words, the composer can specify the note duration, rhythm, beat, etc.

5. If you really want to learn J.S. Bach's "Invention #4", GOOD LUCK finding a tab for that! And if you do, you'll be at the mercy of the transcriber. (There's many different ways to play the same notes on the guitar, and you want to be able to choose which works best for you.)

Traditional notation is almost a universal language among musicians. Limiting yourself to reading guitar tab is stifling, indeed.

OK, now what? You're ready to learn, but where to start? A good book is helpful. And this article by an editor of mine is REALLY great. Check it out.

Most important, however, is finding a style that catches your interest. I've stumbled on several ways to learn, and of course, many more exist.

1. Classical. Practicing from a classically themed book, learning etudes, inventions, etc. Very proper, and very traditional.

2. Kiddie. Learning "Mary had a Little Lamb." Approachable, fun. But if it's not your thing, it's not your thing.

3. Jazz. This is the way that really got me hooked. Once I knew the notes, and their location on the guitar, learning jazz tunes from The Real Book sharpened my skills considerably. Music reading was fun, and most importantly, applicable to my playing.

I'm sure you can find a facet of this language that catches the light of your interest, and illuminates your journey.

Here's a few ideas for you. Are you a shredder? Learn some Bach pieces, and wail like Yngwie. (Don't forget the hairspray, and many hours of practice.)

Perhaps you're a black metal guitarist, interested in adding a Celtic interlude to one of your crushingly devastating songs. Check out some traditional celtic folk songs, especially the flute parts!

Maybe you'd like to rock in the style of the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Find some holiday charts, and arrange 'em for the guitar.

The possibilities are endless, because soon, the entire world of music will be open to you.

Enjoy the journey!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's a tip from a musician that's been around for a while:

The more you know, the further you'll go!!