Friday, January 13, 2006

Guitar lesson: The E F G of Learning To Play Guitar Sheet Music

Guitar lesson: The E F G of Learning To Play Guitar Sheet Music
By Peter Edvinsson

Is it really possible to conquer the guitar fretboard? Do you find the notes you want to find? Is tabulature cheating? Let me invite you to the guitar fretboard!

I suggest that you right now start to take command over your guitar. Usually when you are playing your first guitar sheet music melodies you will have to learn the notes in the first position on the guitar. To have a good grasp of these notes on the guitar I suggest that you learn them slowly and with concentration.

I usually begin by teaching the notes on the first string like E on open string, F on fret 1 and G on fret 3. On string two you’ll find B on open string, C on fret 1 and D on fret 3. With these notes you can play the song Mary Had A Little Lamb.

Using the previous notes the melody can be played as follows:


I hope you recognized the melody. This kind of music notation doesn’t give any hints as to how the rhythm is to be played but you already know the melody, right!

Is using tablature cheating? My father taught me some interesting things about learning to read guitar sheet music.

My dad was the only guitar tutor in the town where I lived and he taught mostly classical guitar pieces. His young students, I was one of them, learned those first guitar pieces very rapidly because he used a system similar to tablature showing the frets and strings to play, along with the sheet music. Tablature wasn’t common back then. I remember somebody remarking that his system prevented the children from learning to sight read sheet music.

His reply was that if somebody really wants to learn the notes they will anyway!

I agree with that and I have found that if a pupil is not motivated learning guitar sheet music they will not advance in this area whether they play with or without tablature.

Do you think your fingers has anything to do with guitar playing? I guess you'll answer yes!

A more important question is if the fingers you choose to use can have a bearing upon your guitar playing. Left hand fingering means which finger you use when playing a specific note.

Usually when playing the first pieces on the guitar on the first frets one plays the notes on the first fret with the index finger, notes on the second fret with the middle finger, notes on the third fret with the ring finger and notes on the fourth fret with your little finger.

Why mess up everything with this fingering stuff? Isn't it possible to play every melody with your left index finger and forget about fingerings?

Well, of course you can play melodies with your index finger but your progress will be very limited beyond just playing easy melodies.

Besides you’ll have to move your hand all the time as you change frets and, most importantly when reading sheet music, you’ll have to look at the guitar fretboard all the time instead of looking at the sheet music.

The important thing when learning to play the notes on the guitar is to make a conscious effort to learn the notes and not to work on too many notes at the same time.

Peter Edvinsson is a musician, composer and music teacher. Visit his site Capotasto Music and download your free sheet music and learn to play resources at

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