The Basics of Sheet Music - Guitarists Guide to Sheet Music

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You might ask me, why would you, a modern guitarist learn to play by sheet music. It is an old standard that people who play classical music use. I agree, but at the same time it is a very useful tool. Reading sheet music allows you to access an enormous library of music written throughout time. Additionally, and honestly more importantly, it lets you communicate musically with other musicians more accurately. Sheet music is quick, honest and accurate; therefore, it is almost always a requirement for session musician jobs.


Now let us look at some sheet music. With this lesson there is included a practice sheet you can download. I am going to assume that you have it in front of you while reading this, if not you will miss out.


Let’s look at the first line, also called a staff. For the first two staves I have included tablature, for the rest you will have to figure out how to play it yourself. Every note to play is symbolized by a black ball attached to a vertical line. That is called a Crochet and indicate that you should play them as quarter notes. Differences in how the notes are written help convey the rhythm, but we will cover that in another lesson.


The important thing for us, is that the vertical placement of the Crochet determines what note you should play there, this placement is determined by where it is on the horizontal lines of the staff. As you can see from the first staff, notes can both be on a line, and in between two lines. For the first staff, I have placed the note names over the Crochets, so you can use that as a guide for the rest of the page.


Now before you even start playing, read the sheet music aloud, take one note at a time. When you have worked through the sheet like that, turn it upside down, and read it again. Try reading it right to left instead. Right now, your goal should be recognized the notes. When you can do that, pick up your guitar and try playing them. Start by playing through the scale on the first bar. Then play the first melody, and try only to use the tablature sparingly. For the last 3 melodies, work your way through them slowly. Don’t even play to a metronome yet, right now you are exercising your brain’s ability to turn notes into action in your hands. Rather do it correctly and deliberately than fast and wrong.


I hope this lesson will be a starting point for your journey into the world of sheet music. If you enjoyed this lesson and want to learn more, there are many more lessons, covering many different topics here on