• Josh

Do I need to learn to read music?

I get asked this question a lot. It’s a great question and it’s worth exploring a bit. Reading music is an incredible useful skill that makes it easier to learn certain types of music and greatly increases ones ability to understand harmony and rhythm. It also helps greatly in learning the names of the notes on the guitar neck. A lot of intermediate guitar players hit a wall in this regard because they skipped this part of learning music. I feel strongly, if you’re under the age of thirteen and you’re taking private lessons, part of the lesson time should include learning to read traditional music notation. That said, there are certain types of music that aren’t conducive to being notated if they are to be played authentically.

Most rock and blues music was written without putting a pen to paper. The songs were/are generally conveyed to the other musicians in a band by demonstrating the parts and verbally explaining nuances. Still, some knowledge of chord structure and rhythm is necessary. Having an ability to communicate these concepts verbally greatly helps in the exchange of ideas when playing music with other people.

Another type of notation specific to guitar is tablature (TAB). TAB is an easy way to learn to read notes on the guitar. When I say easy, I mean almost anyone can learn this at its most basic level in just a few minutes! There are seemingly endless examples of songs available in TAB form (for free) on the internet. The accuracy of these TABS varies greatly.

A good teacher can help you sort through them:)

I’m a big believer in having a cursory understanding of rhythmic notation. Rhythmic notation is the rhythmic aspect of traditional notation, minus the harmonic notes. It’s especially helpful when learning to strum different rhythms on the guitar. I’ve had a lot of success teaching rhythmic notation to students of all ages and so I always recommend working towards learning it to some degree.

These are the basics as I see it when it comes to reading music with respect to guitar. If you’re going to learn guitar, you’ll learn some aspects of reading music. The more you learn, the more it will help you in the long run. Even a small amount of practice time learning to read music in some way, will pay dividends if done consistently over time. Speaking of practice time, I’ll talk more about budgeting time for practice in my next blog post. Until then, have fun and keep playing!

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  • Josh

Hello everyone, I wanted to talk a little bit about play along tracks both in terms of what they are and how they can benefit your practice routine. I first learned about this type of recording in college when they were called ‘minus one’ recordings. These are recordings of songs that are absent the instrument the student plays. In our case these will be guitar play along tracks. The idea is that you will learn the song and then practice along with the recording. This can simulate the experience of practicing with real musicians. This is particularly useful when you are working on improvisational music. Examples of that could include very basic pentatonic blues based improvisation or very advanced modal jazz. There are a lot of examples of these recordings available on YouTube. They are easily searchable by key, tempo and feel. So for example you might search for: Blues guitar play along track, key of A, shuffle. You’ll find lots of examples if you try this. Some will be better than others in terms of production value. One aspect of these recordings I’m most concerned with is the use of a real drummer instead of programmed drums. This makes the experience of playing along with these tracks much more enjoyable and closer to the experience of playing with actual human beings, which is really the goal here. While no play along track will replace the experience of playing music with other people, the tracks can really help move things along for students, especially during this time when so much of what we’re doing is remote. Please have a look at this website under the resources sections for links to a few play along tracks to help you get started.

Until next time, please stay safe and keep playing.

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Updated: Aug 16, 2020

Welcome to our first blog post! I’ll be posting here from time to time to talk to you about things I’m working on to help you learn guitar. I’d like to start by telling you about our remote guitar lessons and how they’ve been evolving. We switched to an entirely remote platform back in March. When it’s safe to go back to meeting together in person, we will do so again. Until then, we can work together online. Since so many of us are now doing different types of work online, it’s been a very natural transition into live video guitar lessons.

The thing I’m most excited about at the moment is the integration of Google Classroom with our lessons. If you haven’t heard of it or used it before, I’ll tell you a bit about it now. It is free service provided by google that allows a teachers to share and distribute lesson materials in a way that’s very simple and organized. Every student has their own classroom. When you’re viewing the ‘classroom’, you’ll see the page divided into sections. There are sections for Songs, Scales, Exercises and Method Books. Within each section you’ll find things like PDF’s of songs, chord charts, scale books, instructional videos and web links. At the top of the page you’ll find a summary of what you’ll be working on between each lesson. There is an excellent mobile app for Google Classroom and it’s available on desktop as well. It has really helped streamline the virtual guitar lessons experience for me as a teacher and for all of my students.

Another aspect of teaching guitar lessons online that has been very helpful is the ability to share my screen during a lessons. This really helps when discussing specific areas in a song that we’re focusing on. It’s very similar to physically pointing to something on a page if we were in the same room together and helps eliminate a lot of confusion during an online guitar lesson.

Moving forward I’ll be looking at new ways to help make the remote guitar lesson platform as close to being in the same room together as possible. Check back here next week when I’ll be discussing how play-along tracks and videos can help make practicing a lot more fun and effective.

Until next time, stay safe and keep playing!

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