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 or physical response, all the balls come tumbling down.

Sight-reading on the guitar can be difficult to master for a variety of reasons. The first reason is because the design of the guitar imposes significant challenges. 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 that their frustration is a reason to quit. All good sight-readers have experienced frustration. The reason they are good at sight-reading is because they developed the right attitudes for overcoming frustration. The main obstacle to sight-reading on the guitar, however, is that most sight-reading methods don’t emphasize the most important thing about sight-reading, which is to keep going.

The Keep Going Method imparts and reinforces the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for sight-reading with fun, efficiency and encouragement. Duets (pieces to be performed by two instruments) are at the heart of the Keep Going Method. Beginning sight-readers learn most efficiently by playing duets with more experienced sight-readers. 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 more experienced sight-reader will not stop playing when a mistake is made, which forces both players to keep going. In order to develop the synthesis of seeing, understanding, processing and reacting to information in real time, students must train themselves to continue playing to the end of the piece, regardless of mistakes and other distractions.

What to Expect

Each unit contains two sections: theoretical and practical. The theoretical section contains  descriptions of musical symbols. Knowledge gained in the theoretical section will be applied in the practical section, which contains sight-reading tips, attitude tips and play-along duet exercises. The series contains twenty-two units that start at a beginner level and progress to an intermediate-advanced level. In total, the series features hundreds of duet exercises and dozens of original duet compositions by an international group of composers, of varying styles, created exclusively for this series!

Outcomes

At the completion of the series, guitarists will be able to sight-read most of the notes playable on the guitar, intervals, simple chords, time signatures, common key signatures, intermediate-advanced rhythms, notations for specialized guitar techniques and much more. More importantly, those 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 theory or modern standard notation is required. In other words, when it comes to sight-reading, you can be a complete beginner.  However, an intermediate level of guitar technique is required. You are ready for this series if you can play scales and switch chords in medium-fast tempi. This series does not teach guitar playing technique. Links to existing resources for further study will be included for those who are interested in learning more about technique or intermediate music theory. Of course, you will need a guitar. All types of six-string guitars in standard tuning apply: electric, steel-string, nylon-string, etc.

Recommendations

I recommend that you sight-read from hardcopies. Your sight-reading skills will develop quicker if you print all the exercises and compositions in the series (which are available as a collection in the Appendix) and put the scores at eye level, preferably on a music stand. The Appendix is forthcoming. This will ensure good posture and consistent skill acquisition. If printing is not an option, PDFs of the exercises and compositions are posted on in each unit can be read directly from the screen. (I may include a scrolling video of the score!)

Two Types of Users

This series can be used by individuals attempting learn on their own (self-learners) and students under the guidance of a teacher (guided-learners). Self-learners must strive to maintain a positive attitude and accurate self-assessment. Self-learners may also want to join the Keep Going community (TBA) to discuss their development with other guitarists using this series. Guided-learners are encouraged to play the duet exercises and compositions with their teachers in place of the play-along recordings. Teachers skilled in sight-reading will be able to make further recommendations for success.

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 a video and in written form at the beginning of each unit in the method book. I advise 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 collection of downloadable PDFs in the Appendix (which is designed for use as hardcopies) as well as embedded PDFs at the end of each unit. The Appendix is forthcoming. (I may include a scrolling video of the score!) 
  • Audio files for the play-along exercises and compositions can be accessed as downloadable MP3s in the Appendix (forthcoming) and as embedded files at the end of each unit. (I may include a scrolling video of the score!)

License

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Introduction by Chelsea Green is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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