In a nutshell. Decades ago now a mentor quipped to me 'it's all just pattern recognition mate, and there's just not that many patterns. So "just keep your eye moving along with the tempo of the song and concentrate, keep reading and you will become a better reader. Promise."

... keep your eyes moving along in tempo :)

Sharing. Writing music down, and to a good degree how we write our music down, is really about a way to share what we've got to say as artists. The 'how' of how we write a piece of music is simply about, 'what symbols will be the easiest to read to recreate, and bring to life and capture, the magic of this melody and song.

Quarter notes. 'Four to the bar' might just swing the hardest, quarter notes on the beat, just choppin wood, the 'big 4' and the boom boom boom ... of it all. Ready to play along and read too ? Cool, got your ax ready ? Just click the music for playback and commence to read along. Repeating 10 times, read to the end of the phrase then back to its beginning, following the notes along and their symbols moving through time. In 'C' major ...

First a leap and then resolution. Now in 'A' minor, four times through a four bar phrase heading to the Fair.

Learning to read standard notation. Even developing a rudimentary reading ability opens up a vast library of music to the evolving artist. In most cases, it's just about learning new ideas. Do readers get more pro work? Unless we're a star and the feature, or a sideman with such an artist, readers generally get more calls.

Start with quarter notes. We can learn how to and strengthen our abilities to read music notation simply by reading. It's just another version of rote learning mostly. Here's the basics of pitch letter names as written on the treble clef with a steady quarter note pulse, four beats to the bar. Rote learn them here if need be. Click the music, hear the pitches and sing / count along please, with the 'big four' rhythm. Example 1.

The pitches of C major. Look familiar ? Brand new to you ? Do you know where 'C' is, how to sound a 'C' note on your chosen instrument? Need help ?

Rests. In our notation library of symbols, we've got everything. Every nuance we might conceive of with a musical note is notable with a symbol. To add to the interpretations, we have conductors for large ensembles that help determine how music will go. And while we can notate the sound of a note, we can also notate it's silence in the score, so as to keep our beats and numbers flowing along. Examine the rest symbols. Example 2.

Cool ? Pretty clear huh ? Yea, we've had this way of notation for around 1000 years now. It has evolved of course through the centuries, but the basics are the same; just a written recording of musical sounds moving along in a metered time. And by learning the symbols we each can join in this tradition of creating community.

Launch points. A second super common spot for the rests are in creating a 'pickup' into a melodic idea. For as musical time moves along, some riffs have a lead in note or two, wants to start in the middle of a measure. Generally called a 'pick up', an 'anacrusis' in classical vocab, we get a few notes to jump start our melody notes, give it a bit of a head start into the beat and rhythm of a song. And using the rest symbols is the way we notate the rhythm of the lick, giving it its character rhythm magic for the telling of its story.

Dynamics. Is simply about the soft to loud range of sounds we apply to crafting our music. 'Piano' meaning soft and 'forte' which is loud, perhaps to simply think of our musical dynamics as with our speaking voices, to avoid the monotone so often dreaded that sets us to a snoozin', we change the volume of our voices to help carry the nuance of our message :)

With performing music that is written, the dynamic markings are usually written in the score under the staff and correspond to the wishes of the composer. Examine the dynamic markings in the following music, from a piano soft to forte loud. Example 3.

Cool ? As improving musicians, a lot of what happens dynamically, modulating soft to loud volumes, is achieved on the bandstand done by hand and visual cues. Also at the top of a new chorus, or change in soloist, or the vocal part returns with the melody, watch and listen for a change in volume or visual cues. Getting 'underneath' the vocals or soloist in volume is the mark of a mature and sensitive performing musical artist.

Now find a melody. With pitches in hand, start reading our Americana melodies. The ones included come from the Let Music Ring series for public school. So major key, lots of triads, motion to Four and Six, and songs we might know by heart to begin with. Just gotta find that first one, rote it up deep and keep on keepin' on :)

Print music paper. Even developing a rudimentary reading ability opens up a vast library of music to the evolving guitarist. Same goes for writing music. Print some staff paper and just start by copying a song. Helps to put the 'dots in the spots.' In the old days, before printers etc., there was a lot of work as a copyist. Probably still is, not sure where though. Seek and find :)

Review, just read a bit every day or alot, it helps. If you like to read, read music, figure out puzzles, push buttons by 'the book' and make nice music, keep on ! And know that even developing a rudimentary reading ability opens up a vast library of music to the evolving artists and guitarist. In most cases, it's just about learning new ideas. In performance and professional situations, chances are there is no tab for the guitar part, which often is a doubling of another instrument in the group. This 'standard notation', notes and rests etc., have been around for a while now, so the bugs have been worked out. Do good readers get more pro work? Unless we're a star and the feature, a monster soloist or a sideman with such an such an artist, then yea readers get more calls.

Reading music notation is challenging and fun. For there's often one or more ways to get to a pitch, and the rhythm is often the determining factor in how a phrase gets read. So all just a bit of a puzzle really and there's some pretty set in stone ways of doing it, which makes it easier to share. Can you point out and name the eight or so different symbols in these measures ?

Read a bit every day for a while and the symbols become rote memorized. Any strengthening in reading notation or clapping out rhythms first then adding pitches, opens a vast trove of music. For near everything written in treble clef is readable for guitar. When learning new songs, play the root pitches of the chords as a bass line to get a sense of the 'storyline' of the song.

"Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results."

"Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results."

"Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results."

wiki ~ Willie Nelson

Sound about right ?

Three times still a charm ... ?

This should be a chant ?

Please, somebody right this tune :)

References. References for this page's information comes from school, books and the bandstand and made way easier by the folks along the way.

References academia Alaska. And when you need university level answers to your questions and musings, and especially if you are considering a career in music and looking to continue your formal studies, begin to e-reach out to the Alaska University Music Campus communities and begin a dialogue with some of Alaska's own and finest resident maestros !