Introduction

Sight-Reading for Guitar: The Keep Going Method Book & Video Series teaches and trains guitarists from all musical backgrounds to understand, read and play modern staff notation in real time. Sight-reading is a juggling act. Good sight-reading demands that we see, understand, process and physically react to notation with speed and accuracy. If we linger too long on any mental, emotional or physical response, all the balls come tumbling down. This method imparts and reinforces the knowledge, skills, behaviors and attitudes needed to overcome sight-reading challenges in a fun and effective manner.

Sight-reading is especially difficult to master on the guitar, for a variety of reasons. Each reason is carefully addressed in this series. The first reason is due to the unique design of the instrument. The sight-reading guitarist must be able to: (A) play multiple pitches at the same time, (B) find multiple locations for the same pitch and (C) not look at her hands while reading notation.

The second reason has to do with attitude. Learning to sight-read can be emotionally uncomfortable. Since most guitarists learn to sight-read alone, they can mistakenly believe their frustration is a reason to quit. Bear in mind that all good sight-readers have experienced frustration. They are good at sight-reading, in large part, because they developed the right attitudes and behaviors to overcome discomfort.

The main obstacle, however, is that most guitar methods don’t emphasize the most important thing about sight-reading, which is to keep going. In order to develop the synthesis of seeing, understanding, processing and reacting to information in real time, students must train in playing to the end of the piece without stopping, regardless of mistakes and other distractions.

Beginning sight-readers learn quickly when paired with experienced sight-readers. This is why duets (songs for two instruments) are at the heart of this method. Every unit contains exercises and compositions with play-along duets. You, the student, will play the Guitar 1 part of the duet along with the recording. The recording contains the Guitar 2 part, which is played by the more experienced sight-reader. The recording will not stop playing when a mistake is made, which will inspire you to keep going.

What to Expect

The series consists of twenty-two units in total. It starts at a beginner level and progresses to an intermediate-advanced level. Each unit contains two sections: theoretical and practical. The theoretical section presents descriptions of musical symbols. This information can be learned from the video at the beginning of each unit, or from the written content directly below the video. Knowledge gained in the theoretical section is applied in the practical section, which contains sight-reading tips, attitude tips and play-along duets. Along the way, you will encounter hundreds of stylistically diverse duets and dozens of original compositions created for this series by an internationally diverse group of composers!

Outcomes

At the completion of this series, guitarists will be able to sight-read most of the notes playable on the guitar, intervals, basic chords, time signatures, key signatures, challenging rhythms, ornaments, expressions, articulations, navigation symbols, dynamics, tempi, notations for specialized guitar techniques and much more. More importantly, guitarists who have successfully completed the series will cultivate useful attitudes and behaviors for sight-reading. This method does not teach every notation applicable to guitar music. However, it does impart enough theoretical knowledge and practical skill for guitarists to successfully guide themselves toward a comprehensive understanding of guitar notation.

Requirements

No prior knowledge of music theory or modern standard notation is required. In other words, when it comes to music theory and sight-reading experience, you can be a complete beginner. Of course, you will need a guitar. All types of six-string guitars in standard tuning can be used: electric, steel-string or nylon-string. You can use a pick or fingers to play the exercises and compositions.

A minimum level of intermediate playing technique is required. You are ready for this series if you can play scales and switch chords in medium-fast tempi (see the video above for a demonstration of minimum requirements). This series does not teach guitar playing technique. However, links to existing resources about relevant techniques or music theory are included for further study.

Recommendations

I strongly advise you to print the scores and sight-read from hard copies. The collection of exercises and compositions, entitled Keep Going Scores, is available in the Appendix. Sight-reading is easier to develop when scores are at eye level, preferably on a music stand. This placement ensures good posture, easy page turning and consistent skill acquisition. If printing is not an option then you can sight-read from soft copies, which are available in each unit.

Two Types of Users

Two types of learners can use this series.

  • Self-learners are individuals attempting learn on their own. If you are a self-learner, please strive to maintain a positive attitude and accurate self-assessment.
  • Guided-learners are students under the guidance of a teacher. If you are a guided-learner, please play the duet exercises and compositions with your teacher in place of the play-along recordings. Teachers are encouraged to make assessments and further recommendations.

Redundancies

This series is designed for a variety of learners in a variety of contexts. As a result, some content is available in several forms.

  • Theoretical information exists in video and written form at the beginning of each unit. I advise you to learn from the video and use the text as a reference.
  • Scores for the play-along exercises and compositions can be accessed as a printable collection in the Appendix and can be viewed online in each unit. I strongly advise you to sight-read from the hard copies.
  • Audio files of the play-along exercises and compositions can be accessed at end of each unit and as a downloadable collection in the Appendix.

License

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Sight-Reading for Guitar by Chelsea Green is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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