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Sight Reading for Guitar

sheet music

A lot of people think that sight-reading on the guitar is a difficult if not impossible task. It's not. The key is to get good at positional playing, and of course to follow the usual guidelines that players of other instruments follow.

This guitar lesson outlines the thought process I go through when I sight-read a new piece of music that's written in standard notation.

First things First

Check the obvious things. It's surprising how easy it is to forget to do this.

  1. Time signature -- we get so used to playing in 4/4 time that we can mistakenly assume a piece is in 4/4 without looking. But there are many songs in 3/4, and occasionally other time signatures. So don't forget to check.
  2. Tempo markings -- check if there is an indication as to what the tempo of the song might be. There might be an indication of the beats-per-minute for each quarter note, or there may be something more loosely guiding you to the tempo, like “fast,” or “moderato” etc.
  3. Key Signature -- Check the key signature and then scan the first few bars of music to get an idea if the song is in the minor key or the major key.
  4. Funny Stuff -- Scan through the page to look for any “funny stuff.” That's what I call accidentals, repeats, key changes, or any other markings that you will need to watch out for. Scanning ahead just puts them into the back of your mind and doing so makes it much easier to play. You won't be caught off guard....

Read more: Sight Reading for Guitar

10 Signs you Need a Better Guitar Teacher

I have heard many stories from current students about their past guitar teachers and these stories often leave me shaking my head. The good thing is that it helps me to know why it is that my students continue lessons with me.

10 Signs You Need a Better Guitar Teacher

  1. Your teacher can't remember what you learned last week, or even what level you are at. He or she asks you at the beginning of each lesson: "So what do you want to learn today?"

  2. Your teacher has no plan for the lesson, and no structured plan for your long-term development as a guitar player and musician. He or she may even be oblivious to the kinds of music that you want to learn.

  3. Your teacher offers little or no encouragement.

  4. You leave your guitar lessons feeling uninspired, and don't want to practice

  5. Read more: 10 Signs you Need a Better Guitar Teacher

The Weary Kind chords and tab

I have seen many incorrect tabs and chords for this song on the Internet and I've had requests for it from some of my students. The chords are easy enough, it's mostly the picking pattern that is a little tricky. But once you get the hang of it, the fingers should just roll through it.

If you like classical notation, the right hand fingering on the patterns below should be: m p a m p i

"The Weary Kind" - Ryan Bingham

From the movie "Crazy Heart" with Jeff Bridges
Chords and Tab

Figure 1

Picking pattern: This is a two-beat pattern so play each pattern twice to fill one whole bar.

D                           A
|--------2-----------|     |--------0-----------|
|---3-------3--------|     |---2-------2--------|
|.---------------2--.|     |.---------------2--.|
|.----0-------0-----.|     |.----2-------2-----.|
|--------------------|     |--------------------|
|--------------------|     |--------------------|

G                           Bm
|--------3-----------|     |--------2-----------|
|---0-------0--------|     |---3-------3--------|
|.---------------0--.|     |.---------------4--.|
|.----0-------0-----.|     |.----4-------4-----.|
|--------------------|     |--------------------|
|--------------------|     |--------------------|

Figure 2

In the chorus, the chord A7 has this common variation. Use the same picking as figure 1, but each of these chords gets only half a bar, so the whole sequence of four chords fills two bars.

A7:      x02020
A7sus4:  x04030
A7 (v2): x05050
A7sus4:  x04030

What's stopping you?

Blue Morris guitar photo by Voodoo Bill

The only difference between people who can play guitar and those who cannot is this: the people who can play guitar DO IT.

You can too.

I often wonder how many guitars are purchased each year only to be abandoned in the closet shortly thereafter. A guitar was meant to be played. A guitar wants to be played. Your guitar wants you to pick it up and play something... anything. When left alone for long periods of time, guitars get lonely. They feel neglected. Please don't let your guitar feel neglected.

Think you don't have enough time?

If you want to do something inspiring in your life but feel that you don't have enough time, take a close look at the things that you do each week that are not fulfilling and stop doing them so you have more time to do what matters to you.

Read more: What's stopping you?

Buying your first guitar

Here are what I believe to be the six most important things to consider when buying your first guitar.

Most beginning guitar students start with a steel-string acoustic guitar since it's so versatile. You can use it to play rock, blues, folk, country, jazz, and everything in between. Plus, you don't have to buy an amplifier and cables as you would if you purchased an electric guitar.

So the advice below is geared mostly to people who are considering purchasing this type of guitar. And I am assuming you are buying a new guitar. If you want to buy a used guitar, there are additional considerations you will want to be aware of to ensure the guitar is in good condition (see bottom of this article).

1. Brands

There are so many brands of guitars today, and many of them are of questionable quality. It really does help to buy a better quality guitar if you can afford it because a good guitar is easier to play and sounds better.

However, if you are on a budget, there are a few brands of guitars that are well enough made, even at the $300-$400 range. The two brands I recommend in that price range are Seagull, and Simon & Patrick, partly because they make reasonable quality guitars at decent prices, but also because they are Canadian companies, which is nice.

Guitars in the $800-$1500 range tend to be easier to play because they are constructed better. If you can afford a little more money, my favourite brand right now for acoustic guitars is Larivee. They are so easy to play and sound fantastic, and they don't cost that much more. And they are also Canadian made!

Read more: Buying your first guitar