Sight-Reading for Guitar

Sight-Reading for Guitar

The Keep Going Method Book and Video Series

Chelsea Green

Sight-Reading for Guitar

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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.

Introduction

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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.

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.

Open Strings, Basic Rhythms & The 4/4 Time Signature

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Introduction

In this unit you will learn three notes, six rhythms and the most common time signature. Every unit in this series consists of two sections. The first section is theoretical. You will learn to recognize and understand the symbols used in music notation, especially as they relate to the guitar. The second section is practical. You will pluck rhythms and play duets with a recorded guitar part. Why duets? Duets inspire you to continue playing, or keep going, if you make a mistake. According to many studies, as well as my experience as a musician and educator, this method is the most efficient and fun way to become a great sight-reader. Let’s get started!

Notations

Basic Symbols

The Staff
The staff consists of five equally spread out lines, which create four empty spaces. Pitch names are determined by the position of notes on the staff. Notes placed higher on the staff are higher in pitch than notes placed lower on the staff.
The G-Clef 
This symbol is called a G-clef. When it is placed on the staff in the manner of the example it is referred to as a treble clef. The treble clef is positioned at the beginning of each staff. Guitar music is written in treble clef, although it sounds an octave lower than written.

Notes

The Note ‘B’
The note ‘B’ is in on the middle line of the staff. Think of in-be-tween. It is played as the second string open.

The Note ‘D’
The note ‘D’ is directly below the staff. Think of ‘D’ for down because it is down below the first staff line.  It is played as the fourth string open.

The Note ‘E’
The note ‘E’ is below the third leger line. The extra lines below the staff are called leger lines. Notice that they are evenly spaced and are meant to be an extension of the staff. The note ‘E’ is played as the sixth string open. To remember the pitch ‘E’, imagine a vertical line placed to the left of the three leger lines. Notice how it makes an upper case letter ‘E’ (as shown below).
String Numbers
The strings on the guitar are numbered 1 through 6 from the floor upward. For example, the note ‘B’ is played as the second string open.


Rhythms

Whole Note
A whole note sustains for 4 beats. The whole note consists of an oval shape that is not colored in.

Whole Rest
A whole rest creates silence for 4 beats. The whole note rest looks like a top hat placed upside down.

Half Note
A half note sustains for 2 beats. The half note consists of an open note head and a stem.

Half Rest
A half rest creates silence for 2 beats. The half-note rest looks like a top hat right side up.

Quarter Note
A quarter note sustains for 1 beat. The quarter note consists of a note head that is filled in and a stem.

Quarter Rest
A quarter rest creates silence for 1 beat. The quarter note rest is a somewhat squiggly line.

Note: I have used the note ‘B’ in the pitched examples above for the whole, half and quarter notes.  However, any pitch can have any rhythm. Pitches and rhythms are the main building blocks of standard music notation and are combined in countless ways. To be an excellent sight-reader, it is important to be quick at recognizing, processing and playing pitches and rhythms.

How to Count

Most songs have a steady beat. Composers typically clump the beats into groups of 2, 3 or 4, with an accent placed on the first beat of the group. The following symbols and concepts are essential to understanding rhythm in standard notation.

Bar Line and Measure

Bar lines divide the staff into measures. A measure is the space between two bar lines. Measures are important because they contain the groups of beats. If the song is grouped into four beats per measure, that means each measure must add up to four beats—no more, no less.

4/4 Time Signature

The time signature is placed at the beginning of  a piece. It contains two numbers. The top number expresses how many beats are in a measure. The bottom number expresses what type of  note value usually receives one beat. Think of the bottom number as a fraction with the number 1 on top. For example, in the case of the time signature to your left, 1/4 refers to a quarter note. Therefore, a 4/4 time signature = 4 x 1/4 notes per measure. Or, put another way, a 4/4 time signature contains four quarter notes per measure.

Double Bar Line

The double bar line marks the end of a musical section. Notice that both vertical lines are the same width.

Ending Bar Line

The ending bar line marks the end of an entire composition. Notice that the second line vertical line is thicker than the first.

 

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tips

Knowledge of music notation is critical, but knowledge is not enough. Physical posture, mental attitude and good habits contribute to sight-reading successes as well. Throughout the series you will receive sight-reading tips, quotes, proverbs, poems and aphorisms to inspire keep going sight-reading.

Physical Posture

Make sure your guitar-playing posture maintains a relatively steady guitar. When your guitar is steady you don’t have to look at your hands very often. To be a good sight-reader your eyes need to be focused on the score, not on your hands. Also, make sure your guitar-playing posture doesn’t unnecessarily strain your muscles or joints. If you have trouble with posture, I suggest you work with a teacher and/or do more careful research on the topic before launching into this series.

Attitude

The most important attitude for sight-reading is what I call the keep going attitude. The keep going attitude is more concerned with keeping the pulse than perfecting pitches and rhythms. Remember, you are playing exercises. The exercises in this series are not precious. You are playing them for your personal growth, not for a performance. So, don’t worry if the music sounds messy or ugly! The only thing you must actively strive to do is to stay with the pulse.

Have fun! If you make a mistake, I suggest you laugh. Sight-reading does not have to be drudgery. Discovery, irony and even a bit of recklessness are the right attitudes for keep going sight-reading. My mentor, Theodore Norman, used to good-naturedly tease my bad sight-reading with ridiculous descriptions intended to lighten the mood, and it helped. He also advocated that guitarists respond to mistakes by nodding the head up and down, instead of left to right, to create a sense of confidence.

One way to make sight-reading more fun is to do it with another musician. I suggest you do this series with a friend. If that is not possible, treat yourself like a friend.

Good Habit: Count Each Beat Out Loud

Count the beats 1-2-3-4- out loud, regardless of what the music demands. In other words, count throughout the entire exercise, even when you have rests. Some students experience difficulty counting out loud and playing at the same time. If you find it difficult, don’t give up! You will be able to master this skill with a bit of practice. Once you have mastered counting out loud while sight-reading, you can easily count silently, in your head.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

It’s time to put this knowledge to practice. Every unit begins with a few play-along exercises that require you to sight-read a variety of rhythms while plucking only one pitch. Click on the blue phrase with the word Score to open the musical notation in another window. Then, click on the play button under Audio to start the play-along track.  Wait for the count-in to start the song. Remember, it is critical that you keep up with the beats, even if you make a mistake. Don’t forget to count out loud.

Attitude Tip

In order to play well, you have to permit yourself to play badly. –Theodore Norman

Exercise 1.1: Score

Exercise 1.1: Audio

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Exercise 1.2: Score

Exercise 1.2: Audio

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Exercise 1.3: Score

Exercise 1.3: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

At the end of every unit, we will play duets. The duets encourage you to keep up with the beat. In my experience, students who stop to fix mistakes in the middle of an exercise take a long time to learn to sight-read. However, students who keep going with the beat, especially when they make mistakes, learn to sight-read quickly.

Attitude Tip

Fall down seven times, get up eight times. –Japanese proverb

Duet Notation

Duet notation is different from solo notation. Duet notation includes a brace that joins two staves. The word staves (rhymes with caves) refers to more than one staff. When two ore more staves are joined by brace, the unit is called a system. The system indicates that the music on both staves are to be played at the same time and according to the same pulse.

Notice the top staff is labeled Guitar 1 and the bottom staff is labeled Guitar 2. You, the student, will read from the Guitar 1 staff while I play from the Guitar 2  staff  in the prerecorded, play-along tracks below. Throughout this series, you are only expected to play Guitar 1. The notation for Guitar 1 has been carefully designed to progressively build upon the concepts introduced in each unit.

Exercise 1.4: Score

Exercise 1.4: Audio

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Exercise 1.5: Score

Exercise 1.5: Audio

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Exercise 1.6: Score

Exercise 1.6: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

More Open Strings, Rhythms & Time Signatures

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Introduction

In this unit you will learn three more notes, eighth-note rhythms and two more time signatures. We will continue to follow the same procedure in which you learn symbols and then sight-read them in the Let’s Play section below. Let’s begin!

Notations

Notes

The Note ‘E’
‘E’ is in the top space of the staff. It is played as the first string open.
The Note ‘G’
‘G’ is on the second line of the staff.  It is played as the third string open.

The Note ‘A’
‘A’ is on the leger second line. It is played as the fifth string open. To remember the pitch A, imagine two diagonal lines that touch at the top and run tangentially along the note head. Notice how it makes an upper case letter A.

 

Rhythms

An eighth note sustains for half of a beat. The eighth note can be written in two ways: either with a beam or a flag.

Eighth Notes Beamed
When eighth notes are grouped, each note consists of a note head that is filled in, a stem and a beam. Notice that the beam connects two eighth notes.
Eighth Note Flagged
When eighth notes are not grouped each note contains a flag(instead of a beam).
Eighth Rest
The eighth rest creates silence for half of a beat. It consists of a diagonal line with a small flag.

 

How To Count Eighth Notes

The first half of the beat receives a number that represents the beat’s placement in the measure. The second half of the beat receives the word and (represented by the symbol &). Whenever music contains eighth-note rhythms I suggest you count with ‘&’ throughout the entire piece, even when you encounter quarter, half and whole-note rhythms. This will help you maintain a steady beat.

Time Signatures & Meter

2/4 Time Signature

The 2/4 time signature = 2 x 1/4  notes per measure. In other words, there are 2 quarter notes per measure. When measures contain two beat groupings, musicians refer to the music as being in duple meter. It is important to allow yourself to feel the groupings of twos and accent certain sounds accordingly.

3/4 Time Signature

The 3/4 time signature = 3 x 1/4 notes per measure. In other words, there are 3 quarter notes per measure. When measures contain three beat groupings, musicians refer to the music as being in triple meter. It is important to allow yourself to feel the groupings of threes and accent certain sounds accordingly. By the way, 4/4 time is considered quadruple meter because the measures contain four beat groupings.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tips

Rhythmic Feel

A recent study suggests that sight-reading improves when musicians focus on the feel of the meter, instead of individual beats.Penttinen, Marjaana and Huovinen, Erkki. "The Early Development of Sight-Reading Skills in Adulthood: A Study of Eye Movements." Journal of Research in Music Education, vol. 59, no. 2, 2011, pp. 196-220. To play with the feel of the meter, start by emphasizing the first beat of each measure more than the others.

If you want to learn more about time signatures and meter please visit: http://openmusictheory.com/meter.html

Patterns

For the last few decades, music educators have studied a phenomenon called chunking. Chunking is when musicians visually perceive patterns rather than individual notes. It turns out that skilled sight-readers chunk.Gromko, Joyce Eastlund. "Predictors of Music Sight-Reading Ability in High School Wind Players." Journal of Research in Music Education, vol. 52, no. 1, 2004, pp. 6-15. 

You all chunk when you read words. Most of you see the letters d-o-g and immediately say dog. This is an example of chunking. But, remember what it was like when you had to sound out each individual letter: dee-oh-gee? That is pre-chunking.

The exercises under the heading Let’s Play Patterns are designed to help you process individual notes into patterns as quickly as possible. It is important to trust your instincts. I would rather you attempt to play a pattern and make mistakes than to not try at all.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

Do not fear mistakes, there are none. –Miles Davis

Exercise 2.1: Score

Exercise 2.1: Audio

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Exercise 2.2: Score

Exercise 2.2: Audio

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The next exercise will have a two beat count-in because there is a 2/4 time signature at the beginning of the score. Since the smallest rhythmic value in Ex. 2.3 is an eighth note, you need to count 1&2&. From now on, please remember that the count-in always corresponds with the time signature.

Exercise 2.3: Score

Exercise 2.3: Audio

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The next two exercises will have a three beat count-in because there is a 3/4 time signature at the beginning of the each score. Since the smallest rhythmic value in Ex. 2.4 is a quarter note, you simply need to count 123. However, since the smallest rhythmic value in Ex. 2.5 is an eighth note, you need to count 1&2&3&.

Exercise 2.4: Score

Exercise 2.4: Audio

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Exercise 2.5: Score

Exercise 2.5: Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. –T.S. Eliot

The Let’s Play Patterns category will help you develop the ability to chunk. The exercises in this category are presented as guitar duets.

Exercise 2.6: Score

Exercise 2.6: Audio

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Exercise 2.7: Score

Exercise 2.7: Audio

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Exercise 2.8: Score

Exercise 2.8: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

The day you decide to do it is your lucky day. –Japanese proverb

The exercises in this series are progressive and cumulative. They contain information you learned in this unit as well as previous units. As a result, you may need to review the symbols you learned in Unit 1.

Exercise 2.9: Score

Exercise 2.9: Audio

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Exercise 2.10: Score

Exercise 2.10: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

Notes on the First String & Tempo

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INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn two fretted notes on the first string and a variety of tempo indicators.

Notations

Notes

The Note ‘F’
‘F’ is on the top line of the staff. To play ‘F’, fret the first fret on the first string.
The Note ‘G’
‘G’ sits directly on top of the staff.  To play ‘G’, fret the third fret on the first string.

Tempo

Tempo is the speed, or pace, of a piece. It can be conveyed in two ways: in beats per minute (BPM) or with descriptive words.

Beats Per Minute (BPM)
BPM is the most precise way to convey tempo. A rhythmic value is equated to a number that represents beats per minute. In the example, a quarter note equals 120 beats per minute, which means that the pace will unfold as two beats per second. To find an exact BPM, you can purchase a metronome or visit this free site: https://www.metronomeonline.com/.

Descriptive words

Prior to the invention of the metronome, composers used descriptive words to indicate tempo. Many composers continue to employ these words along with or instead of metronome markings. Below is a list of ten commonly used tempo indicators. Italian words are traditionally used. You will probably encounter other words (in Italian, French, German and other languages) that are not listed here. Most of the time, the definition can be found with an online search.

Tempo How to Play Approx. BPM
Largo broadly 40-60
Lento slowly 45-60
Larghetto a little faster than Largo 60-66
Adagio moderately slow 66-76
Andante walking pace 76-108
Moderato moderately 108-120
Allegro happy, or fast 120-168
Vivace
lively and fast 168-176
Presto very fast 168-200
Prestissimo faster than Presto higher than 200

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

If you drop the rhythm—meaning you lose your place while sight-reading—I suggest you play only the first beat of each measure. This will allow you to mentally keep your place in the rhythmic scheme. When that becomes manageable, play only the first and third beats of examples in 4/4 time. Finally, when that becomes manageable, play the entire exercise.

Theodore Norman advocated this method and many guitarists have used it to become great sight-readers. However, this is but one creative solution to a sight-reading obstacle. All great sight-reading guitarists engage in creative problem solving. Think of an obstacle as an opportunity to invent a creative solution. Then, create a solution and put it into action.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

To practice is not to collect things and put them in your basket, rather [it is] to find what is up your sleeve. –Shunryu Suzuki

Exercise 3.1: Score

Exercise 3.1: Audio

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Exercise 3.2: Score

Exercise 3.2 Audio

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Exercise 3.3: Score

Exercise 3.3: Audio

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Exercise 3.4: Score

Exercise 3.4 Audio

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Exercise 3.5: Score

Exercise 3.5: Audio

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Exercise 3.6: Score

Exercise 3.6 Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. –Albert Einstein

Exercise 3.7: Score

Exercise 3.7: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

Everything is perfect, but there is a lot of room for improvement. –Shunryu Suzuki

Exercise 3.8: Score

Exercise 3.8: Audio

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Exercise 3.9: Score

Exercise 3.9: Audio

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Exercise 3.10: Score

Exercise 3.10: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

Notes on the Second String, Articulations & Voicings

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INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn two fretted notes on the second string and articulations.

NOTATION

Notes

The Note ‘C’
‘C’ is in on the third space of the staff. To play ‘C’, fret the first fret on the second string.
The Note ‘D’
‘D’ is on the fourth line of the staff. To play ‘D’, fret the third fret on the second string.

Articulations

Articulations direct musicians to vary the emphasis of notes, and control the endings as well as the beginnings of the sounds. A phrase is a collection of notes that can be perceived as a coherent idea. Articulations alter one or more of the following aspects of a note or phrase: dynamic (loud or soft), duration (long or short) or relation to neighboring notes. Some of the most common articulations are described below.

<tr “>Tenuto
The tenuto is a straight line. It directs you to sustain the note for the full duration of its indicated rhythmic value, or even slightly longer.

Accent
The accent is a sideways wedge. It directs you to play the note louder than its surrounding notes.
Marcato
The marcato is an upward wedge. It directs you to play the note even louder than a note with an accent mark.
Staccato
The staccato is a dot. It directs you to play the note shorter than its rhythmic value indicates, without speeding up.
Fermata
The fermata is a semi-circle with a dot in the middle. It directs you to sustain the note(s) for longer than its indicated value, and in accordance to your musical taste. NOTE: Throughout this series, a note with a fermata symbol will be held for twice its indicated duration.
Mezzo-Staccato
The mezzo-staccato (AKA portato or articulated legato) is a combination of a tenuto and staccato (over one note) or a slur and staccato (over more than one note). It directs you to play the phrase with a smooth yet pulsing articulation.
Breath
The breath is a comma. It directs you to pause after its preceding note, without interrupting the flow of the tempo.
Slur
The slur is a curved line that connects two or more notes. It directs you to play legato. Legato means to play the notes as a smooth and connected phrase. Sometimes the word legato will appear below the phrase.
Pull-Off
The pull-off is a type of slur. It directs you to pluck the string to sound the first note of the group and pull the fretting finger(s) off the string to refresh string vibration for the remaining note(s) of the group. The word pull is misleading since to sound the second note, the fretting finger actually plucks the string, in a downward direction. Pull-offs are usually implied when a slur connects a higher note to a lower note. Sometimes, the letter ‘P’ is placed above the slur.
Hammer-On
The hammer-on is another type of slur. It directs you to pluck the string for the first note of the group and hammer the fretting finger(s) onto the string to refresh string vibration for the subsequent note(s) of the group. Hammer-ons are usually implied when a slur connects a lower note to a higher note. Sometimes, the letter ‘H’ is placed above the slur.

Voices & Stem Direction

The guitar is one of the only instruments that can consistently play multiple notes at once. As a result, one guitar can produce different conceptual elements—such as a bass line, harmony and melody—at the same time. In some genres of guitar music—such as the fugues of J.S. Bach—one guitar can produce concurrent melodies. These different musical elements are referred to as voices. Music notation strives to convey distinct voices on one score by assigning down stems to lower voices (bass) and up stems to higher voices (usually the main melody). The practice of using stem direction to show different voices is meant to help guitarists make sense of the notated musical material.

The notation above suggests two voices: a sustained bass note and a melody. Both parts are written in the same measure. The different stem directions set the voices apart. The down stem on note ‘A’ suggests it belongs to a sustained bass note. The up stem on note ‘C’ suggests it belongs to the melody. The quarter rest that precedes ‘C’ belongs to the melody too. Notice that each voice adds up to 2 beats.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

Cultivate a calm demeanor. It is normal to experience uncomfortable emotions while sight-reading, especially for beginners. Nervousness, frustration, anger, panic, confusion and shame are just a few of the many feelings that arise. Allow calmness to enter into this assortment of emotions, like a ray of light piercing a stormy sky.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

Calmness of mind does not mean you should stop your activity. Real calmness should be found in activity itself. We say, “It is easy to have calmness in inactivity, it is hard to have calmness in activity, but calmness in activity is true calmness.” –Shunryu Suzuki

Exercise 4.1: Score

Exercise 4.1: Audio

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Exercise 4.2: Score

Exercise 4.2: Audio

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Exercise 4.3: Score

Exercise 4.3: Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

Take it easy, but take it. –Woody Guthrie

Exercise 4.4: Score

Exercise 4.4: Audio

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Exercise 4.5: Score

Exercise 4.5: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

Jump off the cliff and learn how to make wings on the way down. –Ray Bradbury

Exercise 4.6: Score

Exercise 4.6: Audio

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Exercise 4.7: Score

Exercise 4.7: Audio

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Exercise 4.8: Score

Exercise 4.8: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

Notes on the Third String & Dotted Rhythms

5

INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn two fretted notes on the third string and two types of dotted rhythms. You will also be introduced to the concept of syncopation.

NOTATIONS

Notes

The Note ‘A’
‘A’ is in the second space of the staff. To play ‘A’, fret the second fret on the third string.
 The Note ‘B’
You already learned to read this note as the open second string. However, this same pitch can be played on the fourth fret of the third string as well. When you see this note in music notation you can choose whether you want to play it as the second string/open (AKA no fretting) or the third string/fourth fret.

Rhythms

The rhythmic concepts learned in this unit often create an energizing and exciting musical effect known as syncopation. To understand syncopation you must first understand the terms onbeat and offbeat. Remember how to count eighth notes in 4/4 time?

In this example, the onbeats occur on the numbers 1,2,3,4 and the offbeats occur on the &‘s. Onbeats usually get more strength and emphasis than offbeats. The listener expects to hear emphasis on the onbeat. Syncopation plays with those expectations. When syncopation occurs, musical emphasis is either partially, or completely, placed on the offbeats rather than the onbeats. Syncopation can occur for a few beats, or for the entire piece. The following dotted rhythms often facilitate syncopation.

Dotted Half Note
The dotted half note sustains for 3 beats. The dotted half note consists of a half note with a dot positioned close to the notehead.
  Dotted Half Rest
The dotted half rest creates silence for 3 beats. The dotted half rest consist of a half note rest with a dot positioned to its right.
Dotted Quarter Note
The dotted quarter note sustains for 1.5 beats. The dotted quarter note consists of a quarter note with a dot positioned close to the notehead.
  Dotted Quarter Rest
The dotted quarter rest creates silence for 1.5 beats. The dotted quarter rest consists of a quarter note rest with a dot positioned to its right.

The Pickup

The pickup (AKA anacrusis) is a note, or small collection of notes, preceding the first downbeat in a musical section.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

Most people experience difficulty when learning to sight-read syncopated rhythms. Find scores that contain syncopated rhythms and pluck the rhythms only. In other words, ignore the changing pitches and choose only one pitch to play so that you can focus all your attention on sight-reading rhythms. You can apply this approach to the duets in this series.

However, for a more comprehensive resource, I recommend using the book, Modern Reading Text in 4/4 for All Instruments by Louis Bellson and Gil Breines. Make sight-reading rhythms a part of your daily practice. It will increase your confidence and effectiveness in a matter of days!

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

Problems worthy of attack prove their worth by fighting back. –Piet Hein

Exercise 5.1: Score

Exercise 5.1: Audio

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Exercise 5.2: Score

Exercise 5.2: Audio

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Exercise 5.3: Score

Exercise 5.3: Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

There are two kinds of worries–those you can do something about and those you can’t. Don’t spend any time on the latter. –Duke Ellington

Exercise 5.4: Score

Exercise 5.4: Audio

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Exercise 5.5: Score

Exercise 5.5: Audio

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Exercise 5.6: Score

Exercise 5.6: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. –Albus Dumbledore (J.K. Rowling)

Exercise 5.7: Score

Exercise 5.7: Audio

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Exercise 5.8: Score

Exercise 5.8: Audio

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Exercise 5.9: Score

Exercise 5.9: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

Notes on the Fourth String, Ornaments & the Tie

6

Introduction

In this unit you will learn two notes on the fourth string, ornaments and the tie.

Notations

Notes

The Note ‘E’
‘E’ is on the first space of the staff. To play ‘E’, fret the second fret on the fourth string.

The Note ‘F’
‘F’ is in the first space of the staff. To play ‘F’, fret the third fret on the fourth string.

Ornaments

Ornaments typically embellish melody. However, ornaments can embellish harmony as well. Notice that many of the ornaments described below demand consideration of both pitch and rhythmic duration. 

Acciaccatura
The acciaccatura is a note grouping in which a grace note with a line through the stem ties to a principal note. The grace note is played slightly before the downbeat of the principal note.

Bend
The bend is usually notated as upward curving line, sometimes with an arrow on the end. This symbol leaves the exact pitch of the bent note up to the performer. It can also be notated as two conjoining diagonal lines. This symbol specifies the exact pitch of the bent note. The bend directs you to either push the vibrating string toward the ceiling or pull it toward the floor. Both actions raise the pitch of the vibrating string.

Bend and Release
The bend and release is usually notated as upward and downward curving line. It can also be notated as three conjoining diagonal lines. It directs you to pluck, bend and return the string to its starting pitch.

 

Glissando
The glissando is commonly written as either a wavy or straight diagonal line connecting two notes. Sometimes the abbreviation ‘gliss.’  for glissando sits atop of the line. The glissando is a continuous slide from the starting to ending note.

Slide (AKA Portamento)
The slide (AKA portamento) is commonly written as a diagonal line. Sometimes the abbreviation “sl.” for slide or “port.” for portamento sits atop the line. Slides can connect two specified notes with a continuous motion, in the manner of a glissando. Yet, sometimes only one note is specified and the performer can determine the other note. Typically, the performer can choose the rhythmic nuance of a slide as well.

Appoggiatura
The appoggiatura is a note grouping in which a grace note (the note in small font) ties to a principal note. The grace note is played on the downbeat of the principal note and takes approximately half its rhythmic value.

The Tie

Tie
The tie is a curved line that connects notes of the same staff position and name. Tied notes sustain for the sum of their rhythmic values. Usually, the tie connects two notes across a barline. For guitarists, the tie directs us to initiate the sound by plucking only the first of the two notes and allow the second of the two notes to sustain for its stated duration. In other words, we only pluck once, not twice.
The Tie vs. The Slur
The tie may look like the slur but they function in dramatically different ways. The tie alters rhythm whereas the slur alters articulation. To tell them apart, remember the following: the tie connects two notes of the same pitch whereas the slur connects notes of different pitches.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

Embrace the unexpected. Sometimes the most innovative sounds and meaningful insights arise during sight-reading. You only get one chance to have a first musical encounter with a piece. Open yourself up to the possibility of an inspiring first impression. 

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

A baby sparrow…
hopping
with curiosity
to watch my brushwork S.M. Scott, editor, Yin Yang: A Zen Guided Journal (White Plains: Peter Pauper Press, 1998)
–Shoha

Exercise 6.1: Score

Exercise 6.1: Audio

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Exercise 6.2: Score

Exercise 6.2: Audio

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Exercise 6.3: Score

Exercise 6.3: Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

Not seeing
The room is white
Until that red apple William J. Higginson, The Haiku Handbook (New York: Kodansha International Ltd., 1989), 6. 
–Anita Virgil

 

Exercise 6.4: Score

Exercise 6.4: Audio

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Exercise 6.5: Score

Exercise 6.5: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

Things turn out better by accident sometimes, but you can’t organize accidents. –Jeff Beck

Exercise 6.6: Score

Exercise 6.6: Audio

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Exercise 6.7: Score

Exercise 6.7: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

Notes on the Fifth String, More Navigation & Ornaments

7

INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn two fretted notes on the fifth string, the repeat, first & second endings and a variety of common ornaments.

NOTATIONS

Notes

The Note ‘B’
‘B’ is directly underneath the first leger line below the staff. To play ‘B’, fret the second fret on the fifth string.

The Note ‘C’
‘C’ is on the first ledger line below the staff. To play ‘C’, fret the third fret on the fifth string.

 

Navigation

Repeat Sign

The repeat sign is comprised of two vertical lines and two dots. Notice how the dots of the two repeats face one another. When the dots of two repeat signs face one another, all the music in between them must be repeated. If the score has one repeat sign alone, you are expected to play from the beginning to the repeat sign then jump back to the beginning and play the same musical material again. When you encounter the repeat sign a second time, ignore it and continue playing through the score.

First & Second Endings (AKA Prima & Seconda Volta)

Often, repeated sections of music will feature a first & second ending (AKA prima & seconda volta). The first ending consists of the measure(s) under the line labeled ‘1.’ Similarly, the second ending is the measure(s) under the line labeled ‘2.’ The first time through the music, play the first ending. The second time through, skip the first ending and jump directly to the second ending.

Ornaments

Vibrato
The vibrato is a jagged line. It directs you to produce a rapid and slight variation of pitch.

Upper Mordent
The upper mordent is a short, horizontal squiggle. It directs you to produce a quick, single alternation between the indicated note, the note above it in the scale and the indicated note again.

Lower Mordent 
The lower mordent is a short, horizontal squiggle bisected by a vertical line. It directs you to produce a quick, single alternation between the indicated note, the note below it in the scale and the indicated note again.

Trill
The trill is a long, squiggly line. Sometimes it is simply the letters ‘tr.’ It directs you to rapidly alternate between two adjacent notes for the duration of the notated rhythm.

Turn
The turn looks like a horizontal ‘S.’ It directs you to play four notes: the note above the indicated note in the scale, the note indicated, the note below the indicated note in the scale and the note indicated again.

Tremolo
The tremolo consists of slashes through a note stem. It directs you to rapidly repeat the notated pitch. A variety of guitar techniques can produce a tremolo. The most common tremolo consists of three slashes through the stem. However, some notation employs more slashes for a faster tremolo (or longer duration) and fewer slashes for a slower tremolo (or shorter duration).

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

Mentally scan the score before playing. Quickly pass your eyes along the score—from left to right—making sure you understand the feel created by the meter and tempo. You can envision a scenario or adjust the rate of your breathing to prepare your mind and body to match the feel of the piece. I know a guitarist who visualizes herself on a surfboard in the Pacific Ocean, eager to catch the perfect wave. When a piece requires a lot of energy and rhythmic intensity, I sometimes imagine a train propelling onwards. If you have time, quickly scan the score again. Look for any recurring or unusual rhythmic patterns, articulations or ornaments. Make the quick-scan a habit. It will help you to expect the unexpected.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

You will notice that the following scores no longer contain advice about proper counting. At this point in your sight-reading development, you must be able to determine the proper way to count. When you do the quick-scan, as discussed in the Sight-Reading Tip above, decide how to count based on the composition’s smallest rhythmic unit and meter. For example, if the smallest rhythmic unit in a common-time piece is an eighth note, then I suggest you count: 1&2&3&4&. However, if the smallest rhythmic unit in a common-time piece is a quarter note, then you can simply count: 1234.

Attitude Tip

We pick up the scent as we wander about, not as we sit idly by. –Vincent Van Gogh

Exercise 7.1: Score

Exercise 7.1: Audio

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Exercise 7.2: Score

Exercise 7.2: Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

Begin anywhere. –John Cage

Exercise 7.3: Score

Exercise 7.3: Audio

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Exercise 7.4: Score

Exercise 7.4: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

You can’t wait for inspiration; you have to go after it with a club. –Jack London

Exercise 7.5: Score

Exercise 7.5: Audio

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Exercise 7.6: Score

Exercise 7.6: Audio

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Exercise 7.7: Score

Exercise 7.7: Audio

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Exercise 7.8: Audio (Estampie V) – TBA

 

Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

Notes on the Sixth String & Dynamics

8

INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn two fretted notes on the sixth string and dynamics.

NOTATIONS

Notes

The Note ‘F’
‘F’ is on the third leger line below the staff. To play ‘F’, fret the first fret on the sixth string.

The Note ‘G’
‘G’ is underneath the second leger line below the staff. To play ‘G’, fret the third fret on the sixth string.

Dynamics

The word dynamic refers to variations in loudness. Since music notation developed over a vast period of time and place (and continues to develop) there are a few ways to notate dynamic. The dynamics in this section relate to the Italian words piano (soft), forte (strong) and mezzo (half). The list below includes the symbol, its Italian name and its musical direction. It is organized from the softest to the loudest dynamic.

Symbol Italian name Musical direction
ppp pianississimo extremely soft
pp pianissimo very soft
p piano soft
mp mezzopiano moderately soft
mf mezzoforte moderately loud
f forte loud
ff fortissimo  very loud
fff
fortississimo extremely loud
 

Gradual Dynamic Changes

Crescendo
The crescendo, directs you to grow louder. The word means “increasing” in Italian.

Decrescendo
The decrescendo directs you to grow softer. The word means “decreasing” in Italian.

Diminuendo
The diminuendo directs you to grow softer. The word means “diminishing” in Italian.

Hairpin Crescendo
Hairpins direct you to either grow louder or softer over time. They are usually placed under the staff and relate to the notation directly above. A hairpin crescendo that widens from left to right directs you to grow louder.

Hairpin Decrescendo
A hairpin decrescendo that narrows from left to right directs you to grow softer.

 

Sudden Dynamic Change

Sforzando
The sforzando involves a sudden and loud accent. It is short for subito forzando, which means “suddenly, with force” in Italian.

Dynamic Modifiers

Molto
The molto is a modifier that is usually paired with another dynamic (as in the example above). The word means “much” in Italian. It directs you to enact a more dramatic change of dynamic.

Poco
The poco is a modifier that is usually paired with another dynamic (as in the example above). The word means “little” in Italian. It directs you to enact a more subtle change of dynamic.

Subito
The subito is a modifier that is usually paired with another dynamic (as in the example above). The word means “suddenly” in Italian. It directs you to instantly change dynamic.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

Dynamic changes force us to listen to the acoustic space, other players and our own playing. Attentive listening can create relaxation and exhilaration at the same time. Become acquainted with the diverse effects of careful listening as you sight-read.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

The most important thing I look for in a musician is whether he knows how to listen. –Duke Ellington

Exercise 8.1: Score

Exercise 8.1: Audio

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Exercise 8.2: Score

Exercise 8.2: Audio

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Exercise 8.3: Score

Exercise 8.3: Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

Time passes. Listen. Time passes. Come closer now.Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood (New York: New Directions, 1954), 3. Congratulations!You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played 60-70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading. –Dylan Thomas from Under Milk Wood

Exercise 8.4: Score

Exercise 8.4: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

In music, silence is more important than sound. –Miles Davis

Exercise 8.5: Score

Exercise 8.5: Audio

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Exercise 8.6: Score

Exercise 8.6: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

Simple vs. Compound Meter

9

INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn simple and compound meters. You will also begin to sight-read compositions created especially for this series!

NOTATIONS

Simple vs. Compound Meter Explained

In Unit 2 you learned to describe meter in terms of how a measure is broken down into beats. Duple meter is broken into two beats per measure; triple meter into three beats per measure; and quadruple meter into four beats per measure.

The terms introduced in this unit—simple and compound—describe how a beat is broken down into smaller subdivisions. Simply put, beats are typically subdivided (AKA broken down) into twos or threes. Meters that subdivide most of the beats into two equal parts are called simple meters; meters that subdivide most of the beats into three equal parts are called compound meters. This seemingly small distinction makes huge difference in feel.  For me, music in simple meter feels angular, whereas music in compound meter feels round. Let’s explore this distinction further.

Both examples below consist of four beats per measure and are therefore in quadruple meter. However, the first one is in simple quadruple meter and the second is in compound quadruple meter.

Simple Meter Example

Here is an example of simple meter because each beat is broken into two equal parts. Another way to express the same idea is that each beat is represented by a quarter note.

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Compound Meter Example

Here is an example of compound meter because each beat is broken into three equal parts. Notice how the eighth notes are beamed in groups of three. Another way to express this idea is that each beat is represented by a dotted-quarter note.

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Six Types of Standard Meter

Similarly, duple and triple meters can be expressed in simple and compound as well. Thus, there are six types of standard meter in Western music:

Simple Duple

In simple duple meter most beats divide into eighth notes. There are two beats per measure and each beat is a quarter note.

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Simple Triple

In simple triple meter most beats divide into eighth notes. There are three beats per measure and each beat is a quarter note.

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Simple Quadruple

In simple quadruple meter most beats divide into eighth notes. There are four beats per measure and each beat is a quarter note.

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Compound Duple

In compound duple meter most beats divide into three eighth notes. There are two beats per measure and each beat is equivalent to a dotted-quarter note. This meter can be counted in a variety of ways. The graphic below presents two options. I recommend using the second option because it emphasizes the duple feel.

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Compound Triple

In compound triple meter most beats divide into three eighth notes. There are three beats per measure and each beat is equivalent to a dotted-quarter note. This meter can be counted in a variety of ways. The graphic below presents two options. I recommend using the second option because it emphasizes the triple feel.

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Compound Quadruple

In compound quadruple meter most beats divide into three eighth notes. There are four beats per measure and each beat is equivalent to a dotted-quarter note. This meter can be counted in a variety of ways. The graphic below presents two options. I recommend using the second option because it emphasizes the quadruple feel.

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The Hemiola

The hemiola is an exciting device in which rhythmic accents switch from two beats subdivided in three parts to three beats subdivided in two parts (or vice versa). Hemiolas happen in compound meter (see the first example below) and in simple meter (see the second example below). I suggest you emphasize the change in accent whenever you encounter a hemiola. It creates excitement and energy.

Simple vs. Compound Meter Time Signatures

Top Number of the Time Signature

To determine meter, you can employ the following short cut. Look to the top number of the time signature.

Simple duple 2
Simple triple 3
Simple quadruple 4
Compound duple  6
Compound triple  9
Compound quadruple 12

 

Bottom Number of the Time Signature

Simple Meter

As you learned in Unit 2, the bottom number of the time signature, in simple meter, corresponds to the type of note that becomes a single beat (AKA pulse, in this case). Therefore, if the bottom number is ‘4,’ then each beat is represented by a quarter note. It’s pretty simple, which is why it is called simple meter.

Compound Meter

In compound meter, the bottom number of the time signature corresponds to the type of note that becomes a one-third division of the beat (AKA pulse, in this case). If compound meter is notated such that the dotted-quarter note is the beat/pulse (as in our examples above) the eighth note is the one-third division of the dotted-quarter. Hence, the number “8” takes the place of the bottom number of the time signature.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

Sight-reading empowers you to engage with music you may have never heard before. Many musicians derive oodles of joy from bringing music notation to life for the first hearing. It is like unwrapping a present! Further, sight-reading creates an opportunity to decide whether a piece is worth investing the time needed to make it performance-ready.

When I started sight-reading for the purpose of scouting new performance repertoire, I finally stopped confusing the act of sight-reading with the act of performing. When I sight-read, my goal is to get a sense of the shape, character and difficulties of a piece. Sometimes, mistakes do not get in the way of achieving that goal, which is why they can be ignored. However, when I prepare for performance, my goal is to master the shape, character and difficulties of a piece. In this case, mistakes are crucial to goal attainment. Mistakes are obstacles that, when overcome, clear the path to greater mastery.

I want you to experience the difference between a sight-reading attitude and a performance-preparation attitude. This was one of my motivations for commissioning composers to write over thirty original duet compositions for this series. You do not have to perfect these compositions. All you have to do is sight-read them. If you don’t like the piece, feel free to continue through the series without mastering it. However, if you do like one or more of the compositions, I encourage you to shift from a sight-reading attitude to a performance-preparation attitude so you can add them to your performance repertoire. The original compositions are available in the Appendix as a collection entitled The Obelisks.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. –Albert Einstein

Throughout this unit the count-in click for pieces in compound meter will include the eighth note subdivision of each beat. An emphasis will be placed on the beginning of each beat to help establish the compound meter feel .

Exercise 9.1: Score

Exercise 9.1: Audio

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Exercise 9.2: Score

Exercise 9.2: Audio

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Exercise 9.3: Score

Exercise 9.3: Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious. –Albert Einstein

Exercise 9.4: Score

Exercise 9.4: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. Dorothy Parker

Exercise 9.5: Score

Exercise 9.5: Audio

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Exercise 9.6: Score

Exercise 9.6: Audio

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Exercise 9.7: Score

Exercise 9.7: Audio

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The Obelisks

The compositions composed for this series are complied into a collection called The Obelisks. The collection is available for viewing and downloading in the Appendix (forthcoming). I hope you are inspired to perform these pieces and learn about the composers who contributed to this series.

Let’s Play Compositions

Note: These compositions are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Attitude Tip

Curiosity is the engine of achievement. –Sir Ken Robinson

The First Time Alone by John Baboukis: Score

The First Time Alone: Audio

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Before, No. 1 from Brief Moments by Mark Popeney: Score

Before, No. 1 from Brief Moments: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

More Notes, Accidentals & the Eighth-Note Triplet

10

INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn more notes on the first string, accidentals and the eighth-note triplet.

NOTATIONS

Accidentals

Accidentals are symbols that pair with a notes to create new notes. Three common accidentals are: the sharp (♯), the flat (♭) and the natural (♮).

Name Symbol Effect
Sharp  ♯ The sharp raises pitch up one fret.
Flat The flat lowers pitch down one fret.
Natural The natural cancels the effect of a sharp or flat.

 

Sharp
In this example, ‘F’ is played as the first fret/first string. ‘F♯’ is played as the second fret/first string. Since they produce different pitches, they are considered different notes.

Flat
In this example, ‘G’ is played as the third fret/first string. ‘G♭’ is played as the second fret/first string.

Natural
In this example, ‘F’ is played as the first fret/ first string; ‘F♯’ is played as the second fret/first string; ‘F♮’ is played as the first fret/first string again. The natural symbol cancelled the sharp of the previous note.

Notice how the placement of the accidental in speech and writing is different from the placement of the accidental in  music notation. For example, the sharp symbol follows the note when we say or write  ‘F♯,’ whereas the sharp symbol precedes the note in music notation.

Rules for Accidentals

Accidentals apply to successive notes on the same staff position for the remainder of the measure in which they occur, unless explicitly changed by another accidental. The effect of the accidental ends once a barline is passed (there is one exception to this rule, which will be discussed below, under the heading The Tie & Accidentals).

In the example below, the ‘F’ on beat one is played as the first fret, the ‘F♯’ on beat two is played as the second fret and the ‘F♯’ on beat three is played as the second fret as well. The note on beat three is indeed an ‘F♯’ even though the sharp was not added to it in the score.

In the example below, the ‘F’ on beat one is played as the first fret/first string, the ‘F♯’ on beat two is played as the second fret/first string and the ‘F’ on beat three is played as the third fret/fourth string. The note on beat three is an ‘F’ (not and ‘F♯’) because the ‘F’ on beat two is a different staff position than the ‘F’ on beat three.

Enharmonic Equivalents

Did you notice in the first two examples that ‘F♯’ and ‘G♭’ are both played as the second fret/first string? ‘F♯’ and ‘G♭’ create the same pitch. For that reason, we call them enharmonic equivalents. Enharmonics (for short) are notes that create the same pitch, despite being notated differently. If you are curious to know more about enharmonics, you may enjoy taking a music theory course. 

Notes

The Notes ‘F♯’ and ‘G♭’
F♯ and G♭are enharmonics. To play ‘F♯’ and ‘G♭’, fret the second fret on the first string.

The Notes ‘G#’ and ‘Ab’
‘G♯’ and ‘A♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘G♯’ and ‘A♭’, fret the fourth fret on the first string.

The Note ‘A’
‘A’ is on the first leger line above the staff. To play ‘A’, fret the fifth fret on the first string.

The Tie & Accidentals

The Tie & Rules for Accidentals

When a note that has been altered by an accidental ties to the same note across a barline, the accidental is carried through. However, subsequent notes at the same staff position in the second bar are not affected by the accidental that was carried through with the tied note.

In this example, the tied note on beat one/measure two is an F♯. However, the note on beat two/measure two is an F natural. Some scores will include the natural as a helpful reminder. This is called a courtesy accidental. Bear in mind that some scores do not include courtesy accidentals. In this case, you are expected to know the rule and play the correct pitch.

The Triplet

Triplet

In Unit 2 you learned to subdivide the quarter note into two equal parts using eighth notes. In this unit, you will learn the eighth-note triplet, which subdivides a quarter note into three equal parts. The example above features an eighth-note triplet. Notice that three eighth notes are beamed together along with a hovering number 3. The number 3 is what alters the math of the eighth note. In a triplet, each eighth represents one-third of a beat.

Triplet Variations

Triplets can include a two-third/one-third grouping as well. In the example above, the quarter note sustains for two-thirds of a beat and the eighth note sustains for one-third of a beat.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

Practice Counting Triplets & Triplet Variations

It is important to develop the feel of the triplet subdivision through focused practice. I recommend counting triplets along with a metronome click. Set the metronome to quarter note = 80 BPM and count ‘ta-ki-te’  in the space of every click. Alternatively, you can count ‘1-trip-let, 2-trip-let.’ Make sure the subdivisions are equally spaced and that you say ‘ta‘ or the beat number at the same time as the click. Triplets have a unique feel. You will begin to intuitively transition from the triplet feel to the non-triplet feel and back after dedicated and focused practice.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

There are two rules in life: 1–Don’t give up; 2–Don’t forget rule 1. –Duke Ellington

Exercise 10.1: Score

Exercise 10.1: Audio

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Exercise 10.2: Score

Exercise 10.2: Audio

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Exercise 10.3: Score

Exercise 10.3: Audio

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Exercise 10.4: Score

Exercise 10.4: Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

The falling blossom doesn’t return to the branch. –Japanese proverb

Exercise 10.5: Score

Exercise 10.5: Audio

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Exercise 10.6: Score

Exercise 10.6: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

If things seem under control, you are just not going fast enough. –Mario Andretti
Exercise 10.7: Score

Exercise 10.7: Audio

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Exercise 10.8: Score

Exercise 10.8: Audio

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Let’s Play Compositions

Note: These compositions are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license  (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Attitude Tip

A known mistake is better than an unknown truth. –Arab proverb

Collage by Brandon Mayer: Score

Collage: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

More Notes, Color & Navigation

11

INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn more fretted notes on the second string, more navigation symbols and tone colors.

NOTATIONS

Notes

The Notes ‘C‘ & ‘D
‘C♯’ and ‘D♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘C♯’ and ‘D♭’, fret the second fret on the second string.

The Notes ‘D‘ & ‘E
‘D♯’ and ‘E♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘D♯’ and ‘E♭’, fret the fourth fret on the second string.

The Note ‘E’
You already learned to read this note as the open first string. However, this same pitch can be played as the fifth fret of the second string as well.

Navigation Symbols

The following symbols and Italian phrases direct you to repeat sections of music, often by jumping backward and forward in the score. Centuries ago, when paper was far more expensive than it is now, these symbols were cost effective. These symbols are still used today because musicians prefer to play from scores with minimal pages.

Coda
The Coda looks like an ellipse covered by a cross. It means “tail” in Italian. The Coda marks the starting point of the composition’s last section.
Segno
The Segno looks like an upper case “S” bisected by a diagonal line and dots. It means “sign” in Italian. Placed within the piece (not the beginning or ending), it marks a section to be repeated at a later point in the piece’s progression.
Dal Segno or D.S.
D.S. is the abbreviation of Dal Segno. It means “to the sign” in Italian. The phrase directs you to go back to the Segno symbol.

Da Capo or D.C.
D.C. is the abbreviation of Da Capo. It means “to the head” in Italian. The phrase directs you to go back to the beginning of the piece.

Fine
The Fine is written directly into the score. It means “the end” in Italian. It marks the end of the piece. Navigation symbols allow you  to jump around a score. Occasionally, a piece will end somewhere in the middle of the score.

Combinations of Navigation Symbols

D.C. al Fine
The D.C. al Fine directs you to go back to the beginning of the piece and play until the Fine.

D.S. al Fine
The D.S. al Fine directs you to jump to the Segno and play until the Fine.

D.C. al Coda
The D.C. al Coda directs you to jump to the beginning, play to the Coda, jump forward to the other Coda, and play to the end of the piece. Traditionally, two Coda symbols were placed in the score. However, in standard practice today the Coda symbol is often replaced by the actual words ‘To Coda’ and ‘Coda.

D.S. al Coda
The D.S. al Coda directs you to jump to the Segno, play to the Coda, jump forward to the other Coda, and play to the end of the piece. In this case, two Coda symbols (or words) will be placed in the score.

Tone Color

Tone colors are usually written in italics. Three tone colors are commonly used in guitar music notation.

Sul Tasto or ‘ST’
This phrase, which means “at the neck” in Italian, directs you to either pluck near the neck (for acoustic guitar) or engage the neck pick-up (for electric guitar) to produce a warm color.

Sul Ponticello or ‘SP’
This phrase, which means “at the bridge” in Italian, directs you to either pluck near the bridge (for acoustic guitar) or engage the bridge pick-up (for electric guitar) to produce a bright color.

Ord. or Norm. or Nat.
The words ordinary, normal and natural often appear as abbreviations, which direct you to cancel the non-standard technique that preceded it in the score. In the case of guitar, the ordinary way of playing involves plucking over the sound hole (for acoustic guitar) or engaging both pick-ups (for electric guitar) to produce a full and even tone.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

Many pieces contain repeated musical material. When you scan the piece prior to sight-reading, practice jumping your eyes from one section to another, according to the directions of the navigation symbols. Great sight-readers train their eyes to scan and jump around the score with rhythmic precision. Sight-reading forces us to react to information quickly and trust our instincts.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected. –Carl Sandburg

Exercise 11.1: Score

Exercise 11.1: Audio

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Exercise 11.2: Score

Exercise 11.2: Audio

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Exercise 11.3: Score

Exercise 11.3: Audio

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Exercise 11.4: Score

Exercise 11.4: Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Exercise 11.5: Score

Exercise 11.5: Audio

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Exercise 11.6: Score

Exercise 11.6: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

Just continue in your calm, ordinary practice and your character will be built up. –Shunryu Suzuki

Exercise 11.7: Score

Exercise 11.7: Audio

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The next piece contains many repeated sections and a D.C. al Fine. When you reach the D.C. al Fine and go back to the top of the piece, play the music within the repeat bars only once. This is standard practice.

Exercise 11.8: Score

Exercise 11.8: Audio

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Let’s Play Compositions

Note: These compositions are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license  (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Attitude Tip

The supple willow survives the tough pine in a snowstorm, for whereas the unyielding branches of the pine accumulate snow until they crack, the springy boughs of the willow bend under its weight, drop the snow, and jump back again. –Alan W. Watts

Around by Joan Greenwald: Score

Around: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

More Notes, Repetition & Fingerings

12

INTRODUCTION                       

In this unit you will learn more fretted notes on the third string, symbols for small-scale repetition and fingerings.

NOTATIONS

Notes

The Notes ‘G‘ & ‘A
‘G♯’ and ‘A♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘G♯’ or ‘A♭’, fret the first fret on the third string.

The Notes ‘A‘ & ‘B
‘A♯’ and ‘B♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘A♯’ or ‘B♭’, fret the third fret on the third string.

 

Small-Scale Repetition 

Simile

The simile means “in a similar way.” Sometimes it is seen in notation as the abbreviation sim. It directs you to continue playing in the manner previously marked. In the example below, the simile refers to the tenuto articulations.

One-Beat Repeat

The one-beat repeat is a diagonal line placed in the middle of the staff. It directs you to repeat the music from the preceding beat. It is important to mention that this symbol is often employed in jazz and popular music and suggests that you strum according to style or personal taste.

One-Measure Repeat

The one-measure repeat consists of a diagonal line with a dot on either side that is placed in the middle of an empty measure. It directs you to repeat the music from the preceding measure.

Two-Measure Repeat

The two-measure repeat consists of two diagonal lines with dots on either side that is placed on the barline between two empty measures. It directs you to play the music from the two preceding measures.

Four-Measure Repeat

The four-measure repeat consists of four diagonal lines with dots on either side that is placed on the barline between four empty measures. It directs you to play the music from the four preceding measures.

 

Fingerings 

Fingerings specify which fingers to use and where to place them. The plucking-hand and fretting-hand each have a unique set of symbols.

Plucking-Hand Fingering 

The plucking-hand fingering convention is universal. Each italicized letter corresponds with a Spanish word for a specific finger (with the exception of the pinky finger). See the example below.

Symbol Spanish English
p pulgar thumb
i indicio index
m medio middle
a
annular ring
e or x pinky


Fretting-Hand Fingering

The fretting-hand fingering convention is more complicated because it can involve up to three extra symbols per note. Fingerings can easily clutter the score with too much visual information, which is why I recommend playing from scores in which composers or editors apply fingering notations sparingly. Two fretting-hand fingering conventions are explained in this unit: the standard method and Norman method (named for its inventor, Theodore Norman). Both methods use Arabic numerals to represent fretting-fingers.

Symbol Finger
1 index
2 middle
3 ring
4 pinky

 

The Standard Method

In the  standard method, Arabic numbers (without circles) represent fretting fingers; circled Arabic numbers represent string numbers; and Roman numerals represent fret numbers. See the example of the standard method below.

Symbol Direction  
Arabic number 3 Fretting finger
Circled Arabic number 3 String number
Roman numeral IV Fret number

The Norman Method

In the Norman method, Arabic numbers (without circles) represent fretting fingers and Roman numerals represent string numbers. Fret numbers are typically not employed in the Norman method because there is only one place per string where a note of the same staff position can be played. Therefore, if you are given the string number you can determine the suggested fret number on your own. See the example of the Norman method below.

Symbol Direction  
Arabic number 3 Fretting finger
Roman numeral IV String number

 

Why the Norman Method?

I believe the Norman method is more effective than the standard method at reducing the amount of visual information on the score. It also fosters an intuitive approach to sight-reading. However, because the standard method is more common, it will be applied to most compositions and exercises throughout the series.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

If the score you intend to sight-read contains a lot of fingerings, do not feel inclined to follow them at first.  More often than not, an editor (not a composer) adds fingerings to a score as helpful suggestions. In this case, the editor’s fingerings are not mandatory. However, sometimes a composer will assign fingerings in order to achieve a particular timbre or phrasing. In this case, fingerings provide deeper insight into a composer’s musical intentions. In either case, fingerings do not need to factor into a first or second sight-reading encounter. Remember, too much visual information on the page can slow down mental processing.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

Don’t think; feel! It is like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory. –Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon

Exercise 12.1: Score

Exercise 12.1: Audio

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Exercise 12.2: Score

Exercise 12.2: Audio

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Exercise 12.3: Score

Exercise 12.3: Audio

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Exercise 12.4: Score

Exercise 12.4: Audio 

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else. –Shunryu Suzuki

Remember, Roman numerals represent string numbers.

Exercise 12.5: Score

Exercise 12.5: Audio 

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In the next exercise the ‘simile’ in measure 3 directs you to continue accenting in the manner of measures 1 and 2.

Exercise 12.6: Score

Exercise 12.6: Audio

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Exercise 12.7: Score

Exercise 12.7: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. ­–Lao Tzu

Exercise 12.8: Score

Exercise 12.8: Audio

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Let’s Play Compositions

Note: These compositions are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license  (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Attitude Tip

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships were built for. –John A. Shedd

The piece Texas  provides two sight-reading opportunities.  I suggest you sight-read the Guitar 1 melody first and the vocal melody second.

Texas by Brandon Mayer: Score

Texas: Audio

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Melpomene by Paweł Kuźma: Score

Melpomene: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

More Notes & Sixteenth Note Rhythms

13

INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn more fretted notes on the fourth string, sixteenth rhythms and dotted-eighth rhythms. You will also learn how to applied these rhythms in both simple and compound meters.

NOTATIONS

Notes

The Notes ‘D‘ and ‘E
‘D♯’ and ‘E♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘D♯’ or ‘E♭’, fret the first fret on the fourth string.

The Notes ‘F‘ and ‘G
‘F♯’ and ‘G♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘F♯’ or ‘G♭’, fret the fourth fret on the fourth string.

The Note ‘G’
You already learned to read this note as the open third string. However, this same pitch can be played as the fifth fret of the fourth string as well.

The Sixteenth Note in Simple Meter

In simple meter, a sixteenth note sustains for one-quarter of a beat. The sixteenth note can be written in two ways: either with two beams or two flags.

Beamed Sixteenth Notes
Four sixteenth notes are written here. The sixteenth note consists of a note head that is colored in, a stem and two beams. In this example, the beam connects four sixteenth notes. Four sixteenth notes add up to one quarter note.

Flagged Sixteenth Notes
In this example, the sixteenth notes contain flags instead of beams.

Sixteenth Rest
A sixteenth rest creates silence for one-quarter of a beat. The sixteenth rest consists of a diagonal line with two small flags.

Counting Sixteenth Notes in Simple Meter

The first sixteenth receives a number, which represents the beat’s placement in the measure. The second sixteenth receives the sound ‘ee.’ The third sixteenth receives the word ‘&.’ The fourth sixteenth receives the sound ‘ah.’ When you play music with sixteenth rhythms, I suggest you count with “1e&a…” throughout the entire piece, even when you encounter eighth, quarter, half and whole note rhythms. This will help you maintain a steady beat.

The Dotted Eighth Note in Simple Meter

Dotted Eighth Note
The dotted eighth note sustains for three-quarters of a beat. The dotted eighth note consists of an eighth note with a dot positioned close to the notehead.

Dotted Eighth Rest
The dotted eighth rest creates silence for three-quarters of a beat. The dotted eighth rest consists of an eighth rest with a dot positioned close to the symbol.

Dotted Eighth & Sixteenth Note Combinations

Since the dotted eighth holds for three-quarters of a beat and the sixteenth holds for one-quarter of a beat, they frequently beam together to form a group that adds up to one beat. The example above shows two combinations that frequently appear in music.

Eighth & Sixteenth Note Combinations

Eighth notes and sixteenth notes also frequently beam together to adds up to one beat. The example above shows three possible combinations.

Dotted Eighth and Sixteenth Notes in Compound Meter

In Unit 9 you learned that the beat in compound meter is usually subdivided into three eighth notes. Therefore, in compound meter the dotted eighth note sustains for one beat; the eighth note sustains for one-third of a beat and the sixteenth note sustains for one-sixth of a beat.

Counting Dotted-Eighth, Eighth and Sixteenth Notes in Compound Meter

Eighth & Sixteenth Note Combinations 

Eighth notes and sixteenth notes frequently beam together to form groups that add up to one beat. Here are three possible combinations.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

The score is a like map that leads you as an explorer to the site of musical treasure. Once there, you have to dig deep into the notation to unearth musical gems.

Some composers are explicit about the type of musical treasure they want you to find. For example, in this series, Mark Popeney, Bahaa El Ansary and Ashraf Fouad are detailed and precise about dynamics, ornaments and articulations. As a classical musician, I strive to achieve the composer’s vision by playing all the notations on the score. I encourage you to do the same.

However, it is important to note that some composers deliberately create scores free of extra notations. Typically, these composers entrust you to add dynamics, ornaments and articulations according to your artistic sensibility. It helps to know the composer’s influences or understand the genre’s stylistic features. For example, Brandon Mayer’s compositions suggest a bluegrass aesthetic and Emile Porée’s pieces evoke a jazz style.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

Do one thing every day that scares you. —Mary Schmich

Exercise 13.1: Score

Exercise 13.1: Audio

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Exercise 13.2: Score

Exercise 13.2: Audio

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Exercise 13.3: Score

Exercise 13.3: Audio

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Exercise 13.4: Score

Exercise 13.4: Audio

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Exercise 13.5: Score

Exercise 13.5: Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

To live is enough. —Shunryu Suzuki

Exercise 13.6: Score

Exercise 13.6: Audio

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Exercise 13.7: Score

Exercise 13.7: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

The scariest moment is always just before you start. —Stephen King

Exercise 13.8: Score

Exercise 13.8: Audio

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Exercise 13.9: Score

Exercise 13.9: Audio

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Let’s Play Compositions

Note: These compositions are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license  (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Attitude Tip

Productivity is being able to do things you were never able to do before. —Franz Kafka

Obelisk No. 1 by Ashraf Fouad: Score

Obelisk No. 1: Audio

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Throughout this series, you are welcome to play on any type of guitar you choose (nylon string, steel string, electric, etc.). However, if you would eventually like to perform this next piece, please note that the composer recommends using a steel-string guitar.

During, No. 2 from Brief Moments by Mark Popeney: Score

During, No. 2 from Brief Moments: Audio

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Cueurs Desolez Par Toutes Nations  is ultimately meant for voice with guitar accompaniment. However, the vocal part is perfect for your guitar sight-reading practice. Please play the vocal part on your guitar and if you like it, try singing along!

Cueurs Desolez Par Toutes Nations by Josquin Desprez: Score

Cueurs Desolez Par Toutes Nations: Audio

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Process I is a great piece for sight-reading variations on sixteenth rhythms. However, you may want to approach this piece a bit differently from the others on account of a few issues. The main issue is that the MIDI Guitar 2 audio (below) contains tremolos that sound more like technical glitches than actual guitar tremolos (note that a real Guitar 2 part will be added eventually). If the Guitar 2 part is too distracting, you may want to simply play Guitar 1 along with a metronome click. The secondary issue is that the piece is long. I suggest you sight-read the rhythms on one pitch first and then sight-read the whole piece (or a significant section of it).

Process I from The Art of Process by Bahaa El Ansary: Score

Process I from The Art of Process: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

More Notes, Expression & Tuplets

14

INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn more fretted notes on the fifth string, expression indicators and tuplets.

NOTATIONS

Notes

The Notes ‘A‘ and ‘B
‘A♯’ and ‘B♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘A♯’ or ‘B♭’, fret the first fret on the fifth string.

The Notes ‘C‘ and ‘D
‘C♯’ and ‘D♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘C♯’ or ‘D♭’, fret the fourth fret on the fifth string.

The Note ‘D’
You already learned to read this note as the open fourth string. However, this same pitch can be played as the fifth fret of the fifth string as well.

 

Expression Indicators

The following five words, or abbreviations, frequently appear in scores to make music more expressive.

Accelerando
The accelerando, or accel. for short, directs you to gradually increase tempo. If a line of dashes accompanies the command, increase tempo until you reach the end of the dashes. If the accel. appears alone, continue increasing tempo until you hit another indicator (usually a tempo).

Rallentando
The rallentando, or rall. for short, directs you to gradually decrease tempo.

Ritardando
The ritardando, or rit. for short, directs you to gradually decrease tempo. Debates abound regarding the subtle differences between rit. and rall.

A Tempo
The a tempo directs you to resume the original tempo or the tempo maintained prior to an accel., rall. or rit.

Rubato
The rubato directs you to lengthen and shorten the duration of beats at your discretion. This indication affords ample space for personal expression. Rubato can be applied in various ways, which is why you may want to explore the topic further.

Degrees of Expression

The following adjectives modify other musical commands.

Poco
Poco means ‘a little’ in Italian. For example, poco accel. means to accelerate a little.

Molto
Molto means ‘very’ in Italian. For example, molto accel. means to accelerate a lot.

Tuplets

Tuplets are groups of rhythms equally subdivided across a specific duration in a way that is irregular  in the context of the time signature. You already learned a tuplet. Remember the eighth-note triplet discussed in Unit 10.

Eighth-Note Triplet

The triplet is considered irregular because the three eighth notes of a triplet add up to one quarter note. Bear in mind that the regular  rules of rhythm dictate that three eighth notes should equal a dotted half note. The number ‘3’ (placed either above or below the triplet) temporarily alters the rules regular  to irregular.  According to irregular rules, each eighth note in the triplet equals one-third of a beat.All tuplets, like the triplet, have a number placed either above or below them to signal the shift from regular to irregular rules. Here are two more common tuplets.

Sixteenth-Note Quintuplet

The example above is in simple duple meter. In this meter, the quarter note gets the pulse. The second beat is a sixteenth note quintuplet, which indicates five equally spaced rhythms across the duration of a quarter note.

Eighth-Note Duplet

The example above is in compound duple meter. In this meter the dotted-quarter note gets the pulse. The second beat is an eighth note duplet, which indicates two equally spaced rhythms across the duration of a dotted-quarter note.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

Expressive sight-reading is fun! Use your intuition to play with feeling and musicality, even if you are playing a piece for the first time.

A fluid pulse can enhance expressive playing. Indulge in the human tendency to create a pulse that waxes and wanes. It is tempting to think that excellent musicianship is achieved by playing with a metronome. However, in my experience, the most exhilarating (and excellent) musical experiences happen while playing with other musicians, not a metronome or a click.

The expression indicators introduced in this unit are often impossible to implement while playing with a click. If possible, I recommend that you sight-read this unit’s exercises with another musician. If it is not possible, then play with the pre-recorded tracks below but be aware that, in some cases, you will not be able to follow the expression markings.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

A sponge to wipe away the past; a rose to sweeten the present; a kiss to greet the future. —Arabian Proverb

Exercise 14.1: Score

Exercise 14.1: Audio

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Exercise 14.2: Score

Exercise 14.2: Audio 

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Exercise 14.3: Score

Exercise 14.3: Audio

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Exercise 14.4: Score

Exercise 14.4: Audio 

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

Mastery – the sense of purpose and expressive intent – does not improve, and may be invoked at the outset, and at every succeeding moment. In the meantime, the resources available to communicate it broaden and deepen. –Peter Yates

Exercise 14.5: Score

Exercise 14.5: Audio

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Exercise 14.6: Score

Exercise 14.6: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

The path from pretty to beautiful passes through strange. —Peter Yates

Exercise 14.7: Score

Exercise 14.7: Audio

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Exercise 14.8: Score

Exercise 14.8: Audio

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Exercise 14.9: Score

Exercise 14.9: Audio

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Let’s Play Compositions

Note: These compositions are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license  (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Attitude Tip

All performances combine the familiar and the strange, only in different orders and proportions. —Peter Yates

Obelisk No. 3 by Ashraf Fouad: Score

Obelisk No. 3: Audio

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Waves by Joan Greenwald: Score

Waves: Audio

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Keep Moving by John Baboukis: Score

Keep Moving: Audio

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The standard method of fingering applies to the next composition. The composer, Bahaa El Ansary, chose to represent string numbers with circled Arabic numerals .

Process II from The Art of Process by Bahaa El Ansary: Score

Process II from The Art of Process: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

More Notes & Meter

15

INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn more fretted notes on the sixth string and a few unique meters.

NOTATIONS

Notes

The Notes ‘F‘ and ‘G
‘F♯’ and ‘G♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘F♯’ or ‘G♭’, fret the second fret on the sixth string.

The Notes ‘G‘ and ‘A
‘G♯’ and ‘A♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘G♯’ or ‘A♭’, fret the fourth fret on the sixth string.

The Note ‘A’
You already learned to read this note as the open fifth string. However, this same pitch can be played as the fifth fret of the sixth string as well.

 

Meters

Meter with a Dotted Half Note Beat

The meter above is in compound duple. Each beat is equal to a dotted half note and is subdivided into three equal parts. Each subdivision is represented by a quarter note. It has the same feel as 6/8 meter. You can practice this meter in Capriccio.

Meter with a Half Note Beat

The meter above features three beats per measure. Each beat is represented by a half note. The half note beat often corresponds with a slower tempo. Further, half notes have the potential to be subdivided further than quarter notes. As a result, meters with a half note pulse often showcase highly-ornamented melodies, as is the case in European dance music from the Baroque era. You can practice this meter in Courante.

Old Meter

The meter above features one beat per measure. Each beat is a half note. This meter can apply to some European music from the Renaissance, but is rarely used today. You can practice this meter in Con qué la lavaré?

Mixed Meter

The example above is in mixed meter. A piece in mixed meter will feature two or more different time signatures in the same piece. New time signatures appear at the beginning of a measure. Subsequent measures continue in the previous time signature until a new time signature is introduced. You can practice this meter in Mark Popeney’s Brief Moments, After.

Complex Meter

Meters that do not fit into the duple, triple or quadruple metric groupings are referred to as complex. Often, the beats in complex meter are grouped asymmetrically.

The samaie (samai’i), from the Turko-Arab tradition, will serve as an example of complex meter. Its 10/8 time signature indicates ten subdivisions per measure. Notice how the composer breaks the 10 subdivisions into groups of 3+4+3 via dotted bar lines (from Unit 18’s Guitar Samaie). It is further implied that rhythmic emphasis should be placed on the first eighth note of each group. As a result, you will count either:

ONE, two, three, FOUR, five six, seven, EIGHT, nine, ten

ONE, two, three, ONE, two, three, four, ONE, two, three

Meter with Additive Rhythms

Meters with additive rhythms feature a time signature in which the top number can be broken into two or more asymmetrical beat groupings. Sometimes the top number of the time signature is written as an addition equation to reference the exact subdivisions.

Many musical traditions feature song forms in additive meter. Much of the world’s music was (and is) orally transmitted. Musicians in these traditions rely on memory and their knowledge of the style, not notation. A few of these traditions have recently adopted music notation. However, music notation often falls short of communicating the stylistic nuances of a tradition. If a piece is inspired by an oral musical tradition, I suggest you research its style, culture and form.

The paidushko, from the Balkan tradition will serve as an example of this phenomenon. Its 2+3/8 additive time signature indicates two pulses per measure, shown as sub-groups of 2 eighth notes + 3 eighth notes. You can practice this in Paidushko. Notice how the beaming patterns and placement of ornaments reinforce the 2+3 feel. As a result, you will count either:

ONE, two, THREE, four, five

ONE, two, ONE, two, three

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

The meters introduced in this unit are not as complicated or challenging as they may appear at first glance. Many of them are associated with dances. A piece in mixed, additive or unusual meter can seem difficult when looking at its notation, but is actually intuitive when you find its groove. Often a piece’s rhythmic logic just needs to get off the page and into the body. Before you start sight-reading a piece, spend time moving and singing with the groove of its meter.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

The goal entices precisely because it eludes. —Peter Yates

Exercise 15.1: Score

Exercise 15.1: Audio

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Exercise 15.2: Score

Exercise 15.2: Audio

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Exercise 15.3: Score

Exercise 15.3: Audio

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Exercise 15.4: Score

Exercise 15.4: Audio

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Exercise 15.5: Score

Exercise 15.5: Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward. —Martin Luther King Jr.

Exercise 15.6: Score

Exercise 15.6: Audio

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Exercise 15.7: Score

Exercise 15.7: Audio

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Exercise 15.8: Score

Exercise 15.8: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

Identifying the problem is half of the solution. When the goal is at hand, the method will appear. —Peter Yates

Exercise 15.9: Score

Exercise 15.9: Audio

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Exercise 15.10: Score

Exercise 15.10: Audio

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Exercise 15.11: Score

Exercise 15.11: Audio

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Exercise 15.12: Score

Exercise 15.12: Audio

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Exercise 15.13: Score

Exercise 15.13: Audio

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Let’s Play Compositions

Note: These compositions are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license  (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Attitude Tip

Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habit. —Lao-Tzu

Obelisk No. 2 by Ashraf Fouad: Score

Obelisk No. 2: Audio

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Obelisk No. 5 by Ashraf Fouad: Score

Obelisk No. 5: Audio

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The Guitar 1 part of the next exercise was originally a vocal melody. Play the melody on the guitar first and then, if you want, try to sing it too.

Con qué la lavaré? by Miguel de Fuenllana: Score

Con qué la lavaré?: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

More Notes, Key Signatures & Cut Time Meter

16

INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn more fretted notes on the first string, key signatures and cut time meter.

NOTATIONS

Notes

The Notes ‘A‘ and ‘B
‘A♯’ and ‘B♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘A♯’ or ‘B♭’, fret the sixth fret on the first string.
The Note ‘B’
‘B’ sits on top of the first leger line above the staff. To play ‘B’, fret the seventh fret on the first string.
The Note ‘C’
‘C’ is in the second leger line above the staff. To play ‘C’, fret the eighth fret on the first string.

Key Signatures

Key signatures serve two important functions. First, they free the score of too much visual information, which in turn aids sight-reading. Second, they designate the key of the piece. A theoretical understanding of keys is useful, but not necessary for sight-reading. As long as you understand the rules outlined below you will be able to play music with key signatures. However, if you want to learn more about music theory, I advise you to enroll in a music theory course, or teach yourself via MusicTheory.net.

Rules for Key Signatures

The key signature is situated directly to the right of the treble clef. It usually contains a set of one or more sharps or flats. The key signature establishes the following rules:

  1. Each accidental in a key signature alters notes at all pitch registers of corresponding staff positions throughout the piece (or section).
  2. If an altered note needs to be temporarily ‘undone,’ then a natural symbol will precede the note in the score to indicate the change. The change caused by the natural will last for the duration of the measure.

Rule 1

The key signature above contains two sharps. The center points of the sharps are positioned where ‘F’ and ‘C’ are placed on the staff. This means that all ‘F’s and ‘C’s, in all pitch registers, are to be played sharp, even though sharp signs will not precede the notes in the score. In the example above, the notes to be played are F♯, F♯, C♯ & C♯.

Rule 2

The key signature above demands that all ‘F’s and ‘C’s are to be played sharp, unless ‘undone’ by a natural symbol. Notice the natural on beat two. The notes you must play in the example are: F♯, F-natural, C♯ & F♯.

More Key Signatures

Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the key signatures below. Please note that key signatures usually contain either all sharps or all flats. Also, a key signature does not have to contain sharps or flats. Two of the most common key signatures are entirely free of accidentals.

Key Signatures with Sharps

Key Signatures with Flats

Cut Time Meter

Cut time is a fairly common meter. It typically appears in the time signature as a ‘C’ pierced by a vertical line.

Cut time can also be represented by a 2/2 time signature (or with the phrase alla breve ).

Cut Time vs. Common Time

The rhythmic notation in cut time can look like the rhythmic notation in common time (AKA simple quadruple meter). However, the main difference between them has to do with rhythmic emphasis.

In the example above, notice how the beat accent falls on every half note in cut time and on every quarter note in common time. Think of cut time as having 50% fewer pulses than common time. Further, cut time often corresponds with a faster tempo. Finally, the difference in feel between cut time and common time is significant. Play the two following examples to get a sense of the difference in feel.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

Remember to look at the key signature and time signature before you start sight-reading. Beginning sight-readers may forget to alter notes displayed in the key signature. With practice, it will become easier to remember which pitches to alter. Start with key signatures that have between 1-3 sharps or flats and then work your way up to key signatures with 4-7 sharps or flats. Before starting a piece, I recommend improvising in its key. This habit will train your mind and fingers to execute the altered notes with intuitive ease.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

The most important decision you make is to be in a good mood. —Voltaire

The following exercise is in a cut time meter. Since there are two half note pulses per measure, the count-in bell will be struck two times.

Exercise 16.1: Score

Exercise 16.1: Audio

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Remember to check the key signature before you sight-read! The next exercise contains a B-flat in the key signature.

Exercise 16.2: Score

Exercise 16.2: Audio

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The next exercise is in mixed meter. Take a moment to understand the logic of the changing meters before you sight-read. I’ve added suggestions for counting on the score. Notice the repeat signs as well.

Exercise 16.3: Score

Exercise 16.3: Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

People are all alike in their promises. It is only in their deeds that they differ. —Moliere

The next exercise contains an F-sharp in the key signature.

Exercise 16.4: Score

Exercise 16.4: Audio

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The next exercise contains a B-flat in the key signature.

Exercise 16.5: Score

Exercise 16.5: Audio

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The next exercise contains an F-sharp and a C-sharp in the key signature.

Exercise 16.6: Score

Exercise 16.6: Audio

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The next exercise contains a B-flat and an E-flat in the key signature.

Exercise 16.7: Score

Exercise 16.7: Audio

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The next exercise contains an F-sharp, a C-sharp and a G-sharp in the key signature.

Exercise 16.8: Score

Exercise 16.8: Audio

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The next exercise contains an F-sharp, a C-sharp, a G-sharp and a D-sharp in the key signature.

Exercise 16.9: Score

Exercise 16.9: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it. —Moliere

Exercise 16.10: Score

Exercise 16.10: Audio

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Exercise 16.11: Score

Exercise 16.11: Audio

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Notice the key signature of the next piece. From now on, it is up to you to notice the key signature at the beginning of each exercise and composition.

Exercise 16.12: Score

Exercise 16.12: Audio

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Exercise 16.13: Score

Exercise 16.13: Audio

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Exercise 16.14: Score

Exercise 16.14: Audio

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Let’s Play Compositions

Note: These compositions are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license  (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Attitude Tip

More can be accomplished by alternating between instinct and intellect than by using either one alone. Like two legs, they tirelessly propel step-by-step development. —Peter Yates

Adriane’s Pavana by John Baboukis: Score

Adriane’s Pavana: Audio

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Duélete de mí, Señora by Miguel de Fuenllana: Score

Duélete de mí, Señora: Audio

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The indication ‘l.v.’ in the  upcoming Guitar 2 part is short for “let vibrate.” Pluck or strum the note in accordance with the notated rhythms. However it is okay to let the note(s) ring longer than notated.

Travis Pick Chorale by Brandon Mayer: Score

Travis Pick Chorale: Audio

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Triplets by Emile Porée: Score

Triplets: Audio

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The asterisks (*) in the next piece take you to the composer’s prose directions at the bottom of the score. Make sure to read and understand these directions before sight-reading the piece.

After, No. 3 from Brief Moments by Mark Popeney: Score

After, No. 3 from Brief Moments: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

More Notes & Extended Techniques

17

INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn more fretted notes on the first string and a few common extended techniques. Generally speaking, extended techniques produce distinctive pitches, noises and colors. They broaden the guitar’s range of expression.

NOTATIONS

Notes

The Notes ‘C‘ and ‘D
‘C♯’ and ‘D♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘C♯’ or ‘D♭’, fret the ninth fret on the first string.
The Note ‘D’
‘D’ sits on top of the second leger line above the staff. To play ‘D’ fret the tenth fret on the first string.
The Notes ‘D‘ and ‘E
‘D♯’ and ‘E♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘D♯’ or ‘E♭’, fret the eleventh fret on the first string.

Extended Techniques

Mute
The mute is typically notated with an “x” in place of a notehead, suggesting a slightly pitched, mostly noisy, sound. The mute sound is produced when the fretting-finger applies less pressure on the string than normal.
Pizzicato (AKA Palm Muting)
The pizzicato is notated with the abbreviation, pizz. It is often used along with succession of dashes to indicate an entire pizzicato phrase or section. Typically, a pizzicato is produced by resting the exterior side of the plucking-hand on the string near the bridge. Many guitarists refer to this technique as palm muting.
Snap (AKA Bartok Pizzicato)
The snap is notated by writing the word snap into the score. The same technique can also be referred to as the Bartok pizzicato which is represented with a circle pierced by a vertical line. The effect is produced by gripping the string, lifting it away from the guitar face and releasing it to snap against the fretboard.
Tambora (AKA Tambour)
The tambora (AKA tambour) is typically notated with the abbreviation, tamb.. A tambora is produced by hitting the strings near the bridge, usually with the thumb of the plucking-hand.
Golpe
The term golpe originated in flamenco but is also employed in non-flamenco styles to indicate any type of percussive sound resulting from striking the guitar. Often, composers will specify distinct places on the guitar body where golpes should occur. In these cases, ‘x’ noteheads are positioned at different pitch levels on the staff. Most likely, the composer will write a statement to correspond with the score. The statement will include a description of where each x-pitched golpe is to be played on the guitar’s body.
Sounding Pitch Production Location
string VI, fret 5
string V, fret 5
string IV, fret 5
Harmonic
The harmonic is usually represented by a diamond-shaped notehead. The notehead is placed at the harmonic’s sounding pitch, not at the location of its production. The list directly below shows the sounding pitch and the production location of a few fifth fret harmonics. I suggest you memorize the sounding pitch and production location of these, and other, guitar harmonics. Link to a description of natural harmonics forthcoming.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

People learn to sight-read at different rates and in different ways. Do not be discouraged if you think you are taking too long to master a concept, or if you are taking longer than other guitarists. When it comes to sight-reading, there is no such thing as a normal  path of development. Sight-reading requires countless facets of a person’s physical, intellectual and emotional being. Perhaps the dynamic and holistic aspects of the skill account for the typical guitarist’s progression in unpredictable leaps of dramatic improvement followed by periods of agonizing stagnation.

Further, there is no point at which a guitarist can claim to have mastered the skill of sight-reading. The best sight-readers are the ones who strive to continually refine this skill. Sight-reading is always contextual. Today you might sight-read a sarabande by J.S. Bach with no mistakes, but tomorrow you might sight-read a siguiriyas by Paco de Lucía with difficulty. Therefore, the best goal for sight-reading practice is not some over-intellectualized concept of mastery. Instead, allow your goal to be revealed in practice, as you experience increasing ease of understanding, processing and playing notated music.

In the end, consistent practice is the only thing that distinguishes good sight-readers from average sight-readers. So resist the temptation to compare yourself to others and refocus that energy on your regular practice. Appreciate your unique path of development and celebrate the small successes along the way. If you continue in this manner, you will  eventually sight-read at the level you desire, and beyond…                                    .                                                                               

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

“Puss, though I own thy quicker parts,
Things are not always done by starts,
You may deride my awkward pace,
But slow and steady wins the race.”
–from “The Hare and Tortoise”  by Robert Lloyd

Exercise 17.1: Score

Exercise 17.1: Audio

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Exercise 17.2: Score

Exercise 17.2: Audio

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Exercise 17.3: Score

Exercise 17.3: Audio

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The next exercise requires two different types of golpes. Tap the face of the guitar for the lower note and the side of the guitar for the higher one.

Exercise 17.4: Score

Exercise 17.4: Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

What really matters is what we do after the mistake, and how we try to make things right again. –Fred Rogers

Exercise 17.5 – TBA

Exercise 17.6 – TBA

The next exercise is designed for you to play the fifth fret harmonics you learned in the text above.

Exercise 17.7: Score

Exercise 17.7: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

There are not shortcuts because there is no end. –Kyuzo Mifune

Exercise 17.X – TBA

Exercise 17.X – TBA

Exercise 17.X – TBA

Exercise 17.X – TBA

Exercise 17.X – TBA

Exercise 17.X – TBA

Exercise 17.X – TBA

Let’s Play Compositions

Note: These compositions are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license  (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Attitude Tip

The dragon cloud turns
into a bunny rabbit.
So, why worry?
–C. Green

Night Crawler by Peter Yates: Score

Night Crawler: Audio

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Nataraja by Paweł Kuźma: Score

Nataraja: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

More Notes, Thirty-Second Rhythms & Swing

18

INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn more fretted notes on the first string, thirty-second note rhythms and different methods for notating swing rhythm.

NOTATIONS

Notes

The Note ‘E’
‘E’ is in the third leger line above the staff. To play ‘E,’ fret the twelfth fret on the first string.
The Note ‘F’
‘F’ sits on top of the third leger line above the staff. To play ‘F’ fret the thirteenth fret on the first string.
The Notes ‘F‘ or ‘G
‘F♯’ and ‘G♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘F♯’ or ‘G♭’, fret the fourteenth fret on the first string.

The Note ‘G’
‘G’ sits on top of the fourth leger line above the staff. To play ‘G’ fret the fifteenth fret on the first string.

Rhythms

Thirty-Second Note in Simple Meter

A thirty-second note sustains for one-eighth of a beat in simple meter. The thirty-second note can be written in two ways: either with three beams or three flags.

Beamed Thirty-Second Notes
This example contains four thirty-second notes.. The thirty-second note consists of a note head that is colored in, a stem and three beams.
Flagged Thirty-Second Notes
In this example, the thirty-second notes contain flags instead of beams.
Thirty-Second Rest
A thirty-second rest creates silence for one-eighth of a beat in simple meter. It consists of a diagonal line with three small flags.

How to Count Thirty-Second Notes in Simple Meter

It’s impossible to count thirty-second notes in a methodical manner at a brisk tempo, simply because they proceed faster than most of us can count. Therefore, it is best to devote part of your practice to recognizing and playing different combinations of thirty-second and sixteenth notes. Aim to play them in relation to the pulse in an intuitive (not intellectual) manner. However, while developing this skill, it will help to slow down the pulse and count according to the method below. When this becomes manageable, speed up the pulse (little by little) until you count only the pulse, not the rhythmic sub-divisions of the pulse.

I recommend counting in the manner described below (view the video for a demonstration). The first eighth of the beat receives a number, which represents the its placement in the measure. The second eighth of the beat receives the sound ‘di.’ The third eighth of the beat receives the sound ‘ee.’ The fourth eighth of the beat receives the sound ‘da.’ The fifth eighth of the beat receives the sound ‘&.’ The sixth eighth of the beat receives the sound ‘di.’  The seventh eighth of the beat receives the sound ‘ah.’  The last eighth of the beat receives the sound ‘da.’

Bear in mind that thirty-second notes are usually ornamental. When applicable, it will help to recognize them as a trill, turn, mordent, etc. Further, ornaments are often played with a greater degree of expression and flexibility because they are not as structurally important as melody. Despite this fact, many composers request that musicians perform thirty-second notes and ornaments with rhythmic precision.

Dotted Sixteenth Note & Rest in Simple Meter

Dotted Sixteenth Note
The dotted sixteenth note sustains for three-quarters of a half of a beat. The dotted sixteenth note consists of a sixteenth note with a dot positioned close to the notehead.
Dotted Sixteenth Rest
The dotted sixteenth rest creates silence for three-quarters of a half of a beat. The dotted sixteenth rest consists of a sixteenth rest with a dot positioned close to the symbol.

Dotted Sixteenth & Thirty-Second Note Combinations in Simple Meter

The dotted sixteenth and thirty-second note frequently beam together to form recognizable groups. Here are two combinations (view the video for a demonstration).

Sixteenth & Thirty-Second Note Combinations in Simple Meter

Sixteenth and thirty-second notes frequently beam together to form recognizable groups. Here are three combinations (view the video for a demonstration).

Meters for Swing Rhythm

Many of you already know swing rhythm, as it is central to blues and jazz music. Swing rhythm involves a consistent and asymmetrical subdivision of the beat that (in most cases) can’t be accurately represented using the rhythmic symbols available standard notation. As a result, the notation used to represent swing is only an approximation of the rhythm itself. Nonetheless, musicians have attempted to notate swing rhythm in various ways for over a century. In nearly all cases, the word swing is written above the time signature.

Most musicians advocate to notate swing rhythm in simple meter, as in the example below from Swing by Emile Porée. In this piece each eighth-note grouping (as seen in Guitar 1) should not be played straight—with equal subdivisions of the beat. Instead, each eighth-note grouping should be swung—with asymmetrical subdivisions of the beat. The beat subdivision in swing is often described as long-short or doo-bah. View the video for a demonstration.

One type of swing rhythm that can be noted accurately is shuffle rhythm. Shuffle rhythm occurs when the asymmetrical subdivision of the beat adheres to a 2:1 ratio. This rhythm is typically notated in simple meter (like other forms of swing) with the word shuffle written above the time signature. However, in the example below from Crazy Vertical Blues by Joan Greenwald, shuffle rhythm (as seen in the Guitar 2 part) is notated in compound meter. View the video for a demonstration.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

If you are interested in developing swing rhythm, bear in mind that there are many ways to swing! Further, the swing feel is achieved by a combination of articulation, phrasing and rhythm. Therefore, I suggest you listen to great blues and jazz musicians, emulate their swing and eventually play in a way that feels right for you.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have. –Vince Lombardi

Exercise 18.1: Score

Exercise 18.1: Audio

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Exercise 18.2: Score

Exercise 18.2: Audio

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Exercise 18.3: Score

Exercise 18.3: Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. –Vince Lombardi

Exercise 18.4: Score

Exercise 18.4: Audio

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Exercise 18.X – TBA

Exercise 18.X – TBA

Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall. –Vince Lombardi

Exercise 18.X – TBA

Exercise 18.X – TBA

Exercise 18.X – TBA

Exercise 18.X – TBA

Let’s Play Compositions

Note: These compositions are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license  (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Attitude Tip

We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible. –Vince Lombardi

Swing by Emile Porée: Score

Swing: Audio

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Crazy Vertical Blues by Joan Greenwald: Score

Crazy Vertical Blues: Audio

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Obelisk No. 4 by Ashraf Fouad: Score

Obelisk No. 4: Audio

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The next piece contains a refrain. The refrain starts at the Segno (on the first page, third system) and ends at the Coda (on the first page, fourth system). Notice that the piece is divided into four major sections, labeled A, B, C and D. When you see the Segno/Coda symbols in Sections B, C, and D jump back to the beginning of the refrain in Section A. At the end of the refrain, when you encounter the Coda, jump back to the Coda in either the B, C, or D sections.

Guitar Samaie by Ashraf Fouad: Score

Guitar Samaie: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

Playing in Positions

19

Introduction

Skillful sight-reading involves knowing the many locations where one specific note can be played on the guitar. There are many ways to develop this skill. I will share two different approaches in this unit. The first is to play chromatic scales and the second is to play in high positions on the guitar neck. Before we begin, let’s take a moment to think about the guitar’s unique construction.

Notations

One Note; Multiple Locations

A distinct pitch (represented by a note) can potentially be played in multiple locations of the guitar. There are many possibilities. For example, some pitches can be played in five different locations, whereas other pitches can only be played in one location. Some examples are below.

This ‘E’ can be played in five locations.

This ‘G’ can be played four locations.

This ‘D’ can be played in three locations.

This ‘B’ can be played in two locations.

This ‘F’ can be played in only one location.

Chromatic Scales

The chromatic scale will help you identify the name of any note on the guitar. It has a fancy name but it’s actually quite simple. A chromatic scale occurs when adjacent frets are played in either an ascending or descending order. Consult the chart below to know how pitches follow one another, fret by fret.

The easiest way to produce a chromatic scale is to start with an open string and play up the neck, one fret at a time. Make sure to look at the correct notation for each note and say its name as you go. Ascend the chromatic scale using the sharp enharmonic of the pitch, as in the first example below. Then, ascend the chromatic scale using the flat version of the enharmonic, as in the second example below. Do this on every one of the guitar’s six strings, starting with the name of the open string. View this graphic if you need extra help or want to double check your work.

Ascending String V in Sharps 

Ascending String V in Flats

Playing in Positions

A position is way of expressing where fretting fingers are placed in relation to frets. In first position, for example, the first finger corresponds with fret one, the second finger with fret two, the third finger with fret three and the fourth finger with fret four. However, in second position, every finger is moved up by one fret so that the first finger corresponds with fret two, the second finger with fret three, the third finger with fret four, and the fourth finger with fret five. Note that the name of the position comes from the fret number that corresponds with the first finger. The majority of the previous play-along exercises are designed for playing in first or second positions. You will now encounter some exercises to be played in higher positions.

Bear in mind that positions are flexible. For example, you may have to shift your hand out of position to reach a really high note. Or, you may have to slightly extend a finger out of position, either up or down a fret. For the most part, playing in a position allows us to play with more speed and accuracy. Further, higher positions create an opportunity for us to sight-read familiar notes in new locations.

Fifth Position 

The following task is designed for fifth position, meaning your first finger corresponds to fret five, the second finger to fret six, etc. Notice the asterisk below. You will need to briefly extend your fourth finger out of fifth position to reach that note. The sharp and flat notes have been omitted from the graphic below to make it easier to view. However, if you refer to the chromatic scale you will be able to play the sharp or flat notes in fifth position. Practice this like a scale. Start on string VI and continue to play across the adjacent strings. Look at the notation and say the name of each pitch as you play.

Seventh Position

The following task is designed for seventh position, meaning your first finger corresponds to fret seven, the second finger to fret eight, etc. Practice this like a scale. Start on string VI and continue to play across the adjacent strings. Look at the notation and say the name of each pitch as you play.

Ninth Position

The following task is designed for ninth position, meaning your first finger corresponds to fret nine, the second finger to fret ten, etc. Practice this like a scale. Start on string VI and continue to play across the adjacent strings. Look at the notation and say the name of each pitch as you play.

Twelfth Position

The following task is designed for twelfth position, meaning your first finger corresponds to fret twelve, the second finger to fret thirteen, etc. Practice this like a scale. Start on string VI and continue to play across the adjacent strings. Look at the notation and say the name of each pitch as you play. This may be too awkward to play on some acoustic guitars. In this case, I suggest you play only the notes on the first three (treble) strings.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

Sight-reading is truly a study in time. It demands that we respond to the past, root ourselves in the present, and catch a glimpse of the future, all at once! This is why flexible and controlled eye movement is essential. In fact, recent studies of eye movement during sight-reading prove that the eyes of skilled readers regularly jump from the present note being played, to a future note a few measures ahead and back to the presentMadell, Jaime & Herbert, Sylvie. "Eye Movements and Music Reading: Where Do We Look Next?" Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Vol. 26. No. 2. December, 2008.. If you want to develop flexible and controlled eye movement consider the following:

Checklist for Sight-Reading 

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. –Mark Twain

Exercise 19.1

Exercise 19.2

Exercise 19.3

Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. –Mark Twain

The next exercise is designed for you to play entirely in fifth position.

Exercise 19.4: Score

Exercise 19.4: Audio

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The next exercise is designed for you to play entirely in fifth position. Notice the key signature.

Exercise 19.5: Score

Exercise 19.5: Audio

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The next exercise is designed for you to play entirely in seventh position.

Exercise 19.6: Score

Exercise 19.6: Audio

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The next exercise is designed for you to play entirely in seventh position. Notice the key signature.

Exercise 19.7: Score

Exercise 19.7: Audio

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Play the next exercise in ninth position. Take note of the key signature.

Exercise 19.8: Score

Exercise 19.8: Audio

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Play the next exercise in twelfth position. Take note of the key signature.

Exercise 19.9: Score

Exercise 19.9: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

Everybody’s a work in progress. I’m a work in progress. I mean, I’ve never arrived…I’m still learning all the time. –Renée Fleming

Play the next piece in fifth position.

Exercise 19.10: Score

Exercise 19.10: Audio

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The next piece is designed to play mostly in seventh position. At the end, however, you will play harmonics.

Exercise 19.11: Score

Exercise 19.11: Audio

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Play the next exercise in ninth position. Take note of the key signature.

Exercise 19.12: Score

Exercise 19.12: Audio

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Play the next exercise in ninth position. Take note of the key signature.

Exercise 19.13: Score

Exercise 19.13: Audio

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Play the next exercise in twelfth position. Take note of the key signature.

Exercise 19.14: Score

Exercise 19.14: Audio

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Let’s Play Compositions

Note: These compositions are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license  (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Attitude Tip

Ever Tried. Ever Failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. –Samuel Beckett

The next piece is best counted in eighth-notes. In fact, eighth-notes are referenced in the box at the beginning of the score containing the numbers “4+3+2+1.” The composer omitted the changing time signatures because it is easier to simply count in an eighth-note pulse, being aware of the groupings as you go. The count-in, therefore, consists of four eighth-notes.

Drawing 6 by Walter Marsh: Score

Drawing 6: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

Intervals, Chords & Strums

20

INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn intervals, chords and strumming notations.

NOTATIONS

Harmony

A harmony is two or more noted that sound simultaneously. Below are two types of harmonies played on the guitar: the interval and the chord.

Interval
The interval consists of two vertically stacked notes. The stacking indicates that the notes are to be played simultaneously, or nearly simultaneously.
  Chord
The chord consists of three or more vertically stacked notes. The stacking indicates that the notes are to be played simultaneously, or nearly simultaneously.

Strum Types

  Strum 
The strum consists of a wavy line that directly precedes an interval or a chord.
  Down Strum
The down strum consists of a wavy line with an arrow pointing to the top of the score that precedes an interval or chord. The arrow direction indicates that the strum should start with the low pitches and proceed to the high pitches. Alternatively, an arrow pointing to the top of the score can be placed directly above the interval or chord meant to be strummed. 
Up Strum
The up strum consists of a wavy line with an arrow pointing to the bottom of the score that precedes an interval or chord. The arrow direction indicates that the strum should start with the high pitches and proceed to the low pitches. Alternatively, an arrow pointing to the bottom of the score can be placed directly above the interval or chord meant to be strummed.
Rasgueado
The rasgueado is associated with flamenco guitar technique but is actually used in many genres. It is commonly notated in the following ways: with the abbreviation rasg., with the tremolo symbol or as a set of sixteenth notes in combination with up and down strum symbols.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

We open ourselves to judgement from others (and ourselves) when we play and perform music. These situations can build up character or take it down. On one hand, performing artists can develop resilience and healthy responses to criticism. On the other hand, performing artists can allow their creativity to be undermined by accepting judgement from people who can’t give informed and constructive criticism. Accepting criticism from the wrong source is like going to a Pakistani restaurant expecting to eat Mexican food. When hungry for feedback, consider the following before allowing another person’s judgement to have an effect on your artistic life. Is the person:

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

The true method is not methodical. If you tire of continual creative exploration, and yearn for certainty, tune your guitar. –Peter Yates

Exercise 19.1: Score

Exercise 19.1: Audio

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Exercise 19.2: Score

Exercise 19.2: Audio

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Exercise 19.3: Score

Exercise 19.3: Audio

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Exercise 19.4: Score

Exercise 19.4: Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

Patience is to be respected until it fails to produce, at which point impatience should demand a new approach. Interplay between these opposites allows progress to occur. –Peter Yates

Exercise 19.5: Score

Exercise 19.5: Audio

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Exercise 19.6: Score

Exercise 19.6: Audio

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Exercise 19.7: Score

Exercise 19.7: Audio

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Exercise 19.8: Score

Exercise 19.8: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

The savvy player will learn to anticipate passages that require careful attention to the hands. The rest of the time, she just plays the varied sounds that need to be heard. Life is short. –Peter Yates

Exercise 19.9: Score

Exercise 19.9: Audio

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Exercise 19.10: Score

Exercise 19.10: Audio

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The next exercise is transcribed for voice and two guitars. However, the play-along track contains only the Guitar 2 part. I included the vocal part in the score in case you aspire to perform this exquisite song with a singer and another guitarist!

Exercise 19.11: Score

Exercise 19.11: Audio

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Let’s Play Compositions

Note: These compositions are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license  (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Attitude Tip

By confronting music never before heard, wondering every day how it should go and whether it has merit, one takes on a flexible authority which is recognizable in the playing, and which cannot be achieved by playing only the certified, recorded and over-performed repertoire. –Peter Yates

Intervals by Emile Porée: Score

Intervals: Audio

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Love Skunk by Peter Yates: Score

Love Skunk: Audio

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Macaria is in 4/2 meter. Each measure contains four pulses (beats) and each pulse is a half note.  Since there are four half note pulses per measure, the count-in bell will be struck four times.

Macaria by Paweł Kuźma: Score

Macaria: Audio

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The Guitar 1 part of Efykay contains two voices, which makes sight-reading difficult. If you would like to simplify the sight-reading process, I suggest you sight-read Guitar 1’s top voice only, then Guitar 1’s bottom voice only, and finally, attempt to play both voices at the same time.

Efykay by Felix Salazar: Score

Efykay: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

More Enharmonics

21

INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn more about enharmonics.

NOTATIONS

More About Enharmonics

As you learned in Unit 10, enharmonics are notes that create the same pitch despite being notated differently. In other words, the notes are spelled differently but sound the same. You already know that every sharp note has a flat enharmonic. For example, ‘F-sharp‘ and ‘G-flat‘ are enharmonics. The enharmonics introduced in this chapter not nearly as common as the ones you already know. However, they do appear from time to time, which is why you need to understand two new symbols: the double sharp and the double flat.

Double Sharp
The double sharp looks like an ‘x.’
Double Flat
The double flat consists of two flat symbols.

Rules For Enharmonics

  1. Sharp means one fret higher in pitch.
    • For example, ‘E-sharp’ is one fret higher than ‘E.’ The note ‘F’ is also one fret higher than ‘E.’ Therefore, ‘E-sharp’ and ‘F’ are enharmonics.
  2. Flat means one fret lower in pitch.
    • For example, ‘C-flat’ is one fret lower than ‘C’. The note ‘B ‘ is also one fret lower than ‘C.’  Therefore, ‘C-flat’ and ‘B ‘ are enharmonics.
  3. Double sharp means two frets higher in pitch.
    • For example, ‘D-double sharp’ is two frets higher than ‘D.’ Therefore, ‘D-double sharp’ and ‘E ‘ are enharmonics.
  4. Double flat means two frets lower in pitch.
    • For example, ‘G-double flat ‘ is two frets lower than ‘G.’  Therefore, ‘G-double flat‘ and ‘F ‘ are enharmonics.

Double sharps and double flats may seem unnecessarily bizarre. However, music theory presents logical reasons for their usage in music notation. If you are interested understand why, and in what circumstances, double sharps and double flats are used, please view this video.

Comparison of Enharmonics

Each measure below contains notes that are enharmonics. In the first measure, ‘G-double sharp ‘ is the same as ‘A’, which is the same as ‘B-double flat.’  Despite the different spellings, all three of these notes can be played on the second fret of the third string.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

The study of music is a life-long adventure. You will most likely embark on a new musical endeavor upon completion of this series. But before you do, take a moment to reflect on your accomplishment. What has sight-reading developed in you? In what ways have you grown, not just musically, but in other aspects of your life as well? Take a moment to celebrate these new gifts! Well done!

Checklist for Sight-Reading 

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

The present changes the past. Looking back you do not find what you left behind. —Kiran Desai

Exercise 20.1: Score

Exercise 20.1: Audio

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Exercise 20.2: Score

Exercise 20.2: Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

The goal is connection; not perfection. —Bronwyn Saglimbeni

Exercise 20.3: Score

Exercise 20.3: Audio

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Exercise 20.4: Score

Exercise 20.4: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

When you do something you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself. —Shunryu Suzuki

Exercise 20.5: Audio

Exercise 20.6: Audio

Exercise 20.7: Audio

Let’s Play Compositions

Note: These compositions are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license  (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Attitude Tip

Discipline is creating the situation. —Shunryu Suzuki

Pigeon Dream by Peter Yates: Score

Pigeon Dream: Audio

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The next piece contains similar notes to Process II. However, now they appear on different strings. The standard method of fingering applies to the next compositions in which circled Arabic numerals represent string numbers.

Process III, from The Art of Process by Bahaa El Ansary: Score

Process III, from The Art of Process: Audio

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The next two pieces are at the level of advanced sight-reading. You may want to clap the rhythms first, sight-read Guitar 1’s upper voice second, Guitar 1’s lower voice third and the entire Guitar 1 part last.

Binary Repair by Felix Salazar & Eric Kiersnowski: Score

Binary Repair: Audio

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Sdüuit by Felix Salazar & Eric Kiersnowski: Score

Sdüuit: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

Refining Your Practice

22

INTRODUCTION

This is the last unit in the series. It consists of eight strategies to continue refining your sight-reading practice on your own. Most strategies discussed below include links to other relevant resources.

REFINING YOUR PRACTICE

Practice Sight-Reading Daily

Dedicate at least fifteen minutes of each practice session to sight-reading. Your sight-reading skills will continue to improve and you will experience the additional benefit of encountering new music. Take time to find good sight-reading repertoire. I’ve included some recommendations below to get you started.

Public Domain Scores

Other Scores

Play in Different Positions

In this series, you have been formally introduced to fifth, seventh, ninth and twelfth positions. Yet you probably realize that guitarists can play in other positions as well. To develop the advanced skill of sight-reading in various positions, I suggest the following:

Clap Rhythms

Listen to Quality Recordings While Viewing Scores

Listen to excellent performances of compositions and follow along with the scores. I prefer to use a hard copy. But if you prefer an online experience, listen and watch any of the countless YouTube postings of great musical performances combined with scores. I usually use the search terms ‘score’ or ‘scrolling score’ as well as the name of the composer and instrument(s) that interest me. For example, I found this while searching the terms: score, Villa-Lobos and guitar.

Improvise

One recent study theorizes that regular improvisation practice contributes to better sight-reading.Mcpherson, Gary E., et al. “Path Analysis of a Theoretical Model to Describe the Relationship among Five Types of Musical Performance.” Journal of Research in Music Education, vol. 45, no. 1, 1997, pp. 103–129. It is worth noting that some the best composers (and sight-readers) in the Western musical tradition, such as J.S. Bach and Beethoven, were famous for their skill at improvisation.

Develop Chord Reading

This series only touched the surface of chord reading. Most guitarists work for years to sight-read harmonies with relative ease. Consider the following while developing this skill.

Apply Music Theory on the Guitar

Knowledge of music-theory will certainly help sight-reading. You can practice scales and harmonies in different positions. For free, online and guided learning, I recommend MusicTheory.net as well as OpenMusicTheory.com.

Compose, Arrange, Transcribe & Notate Music

The best way to recognize musical symbols is to notate music by hand, or with notation software (Sibelius, Finale etc.). You can print free staff paper via this site. Take a few hours to notate some of your unique musical ideas. If composition is new to you, start by notating a melody or chord progression. If you are not drawn to composition, then notate an arrangement of your favorite song. Another useful activity is to create a guitar transcription. A transcription is a musical piece created for an instrumentation that differs from the original. Try turning a violin solo into a guitar piece.

Congratulations!

You have completed the series! I hope this experience dramatically enhanced your sight-reading ability, expanded your sense of wonder, forged new pathways to your creativity and augmented your capacity for resilience and poise, especially while under pressure. May these virtues continue to enrich your life.

Draft (Nadine)

23

smiley face

Attitude Tips

In order to play well, you have to permit yourself to play badly. – Theodore Norman

Fall down seven times, get up eight times. – Japanese proverb

The day you decide to do it is your lucky day. – Japanese proverb

Exercise 5.4: Score

Exercise 1.4: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 60-70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

Notation Formatting (Test)

24

Option A: 3-Column Table

General

The Staff

The staff consists of five equally spread out lines, which create four empty spaces. Pitch names are determined by the position of notes on the staff. Notes placed higher on the staff are higher in pitch than notes placed lower on the staff.

The Treble Clef

The treble clef is positioned at the beginning of each staff. Guitar music is written in treble clef.

Notes

The Note ‘B’

The note ‘B’ is in on the middle line of the staff. Think of “in-be-tween.” It is played as the second string open.

The Note ‘D’

The note ‘D’ is directly below the staff. Think of “D” for “down” because it is down below the first staff line.  It is played as the fourth string open.

The Note ‘E’

The note ‘E’ is below the third leger line. These extra lines below the staff are called leger lines. Notice that they are evenly spaced and are meant to be an extension of the staff. It is played as the sixth string open. To remember the pitch E, imagine a vertical line placed to the left of the three leger lines. Notice how it makes an upper case letter E (as shown below).

The Note ‘E’

String Numbers

The strings on the guitar are numbered 1 through 6 from the floor upward. For example, the note ‘B’ is played as the second string open.

Rhythms

Whole Note

A whole note sustains for 4 beats. The whole note consists of an oval shape that is not colored in.

Whole Note Rest

A whole note rest creates silence for 4 beats. The whole note rest looks like a top hat placed upside down.

Half Note

A half note sustains for 2 beats. The half note consists of a note head that is not colored in, as well as a stem.

Half Note Rest

A half note rest creates silence for 2 beats. The half note rest looks like a top hat placed right side-up.

Quarter Note

A quarter note sustains for 1 beat. The quarter note consists of a note head that is colored in, as well as a stem.

Quarter Note Rest

A quarter note rest creates silence for 1 beat. The quarter note rest is a somewhat squiggly line.

Note: I have chosen the note “B” to correspond to the rhythms shown above. However, any pitch can have any rhythm. Pitches and rhythms are the main building blocks of standard music notation and are combined in countless ways. To be an excellent sight-reader, it is important to be quick at recognizing, processing and playing pitches and rhythms.

Option B: Heading + Single Row Tables

The Staff

 The staff consists of five equally spread out lines, which create four empty spaces. Pitch names are determined by the position of notes on the staff. Notes placed higher on the staff are higher in pitch than notes placed lower on the staff.

Option C: Single Row Tables

The Treble Clef

The treble clef is positioned at the beginning of each staff. Guitar music is written in treble clef.

Notes

The Note ‘B’

The note ‘B’ is in on the middle line of the staff. Think of “in-be-tween.” It is played as the second string open.

The Note ‘D’

The note ‘D’ is directly below the staff. Think of “D” for “down” because it is down below the first staff line.  It is played as the fourth string open.

The Note ‘E’

The note ‘E’ is below the third leger line. These extra lines below the staff are called leger lines. Notice that they are evenly spaced and are meant to be an extension of the staff. It is played as the sixth string open. To remember the pitch E, imagine a vertical line placed to the left of the three leger lines. Notice how it makes an upper case letter E (as shown below).

The Note ‘E’

To remember the pitch E, imagine a vertical line placed to the left of the three leger lines. Notice how it makes an upper case letter E.

String Numbers

The strings on the guitar are numbered 1 through 6 from the floor upward. For example, the note ‘B’ is played as the second string open.

Option D: 2-Column Table

The Note ‘B’

The note ‘B’ is in on the middle line of the staff. Think of “in-be-tween.” It is played as the second string open.

The Note ‘D’

The note ‘D’ is directly below the staff. Think of “D” for “down” because it is down below the first staff line.  It is played as the fourth string open.

The Note ‘E’

The note ‘E’ is below the third leger line. These extra lines below the staff are called leger lines. Notice that they are evenly spaced and are meant to be an extension of the staff. It is played as the sixth string open. To remember the pitch E, imagine a vertical line placed to the left of the three leger lines. Notice how it makes an upper case letter E (as shown below).

The Note ‘E’ (pt. 2)

To remember the pitch E, imagine a vertical line placed to the left of the three leger lines. Notice how it makes an upper case letter E.

String Numbers

The strings on the guitar are numbered 1 through 6 from the floor upward. For example, the note ‘B’ is played as the second string open.

 Option E: Left-Aligned Images (prettier in editor than output)

Notations

The Staff

The staff consists of five equally spread out lines, which create four empty spaces. Pitch names are determined by the position of notes on the staff. Notes placed higher on the staff are higher in pitch than notes placed lower on the staff.

 

The Treble Clef

The treble clef is positioned at the beginning of each staff. Guitar music is written in treble clef.

Notes

The Note ‘B’

The note ‘B’ is in on the middle line of the staff. Think of “in-be-tween.” It is played as the second string open.

 

 

The Note ‘D’

The note ‘D’ is directly below the staff. Think of “D” for “down” because it is down below the first staff line.  It is played as the fourth string open.

The Note ‘E’

The note ‘E’ is below the third leger line. These extra lines below the staff are called leger lines. Notice that they are evenly spaced and are meant to be an extension of the staff. It is played as the sixth string open. To remember the pitch E, imagine a vertical line placed to the left of the three leger lines. Notice how it makes an upper case letter E (as shown below).

 

 

 

String Numbers

The strings on the guitar are numbered 1 through 6 from the floor upward. For example, the note ‘B’ is played as the second string open.

Rhythms

Whole Note

A whole note sustains for 4 beats. The whole note consists of an oval shape that is not colored in.

 

 

Whole Note Rest

A whole note rest creates silence for 4 beats. The whole note rest looks like a top hat placed upside down.

 

 

Half Note

A half note sustains for 2 beats. The half note consists of a note head that is not colored in, as well as a stem.

 

Half Note Rest

A half note rest creates silence for 2 beats. The half note rest looks like a top hat placed right side-up.

 

 

Quarter Note

A quarter note sustains for 1 beat. The quarter note consists of a note head that is colored in, as well as a stem.

 

Quarter Note Rest

A quarter note rest creates silence for 1 beat. The quarter note rest is a somewhat squiggly line.

25

INTRODUCTION

In this unit you will learn to recognize and play two fretted notes on the first string and a variety of tempo indicators.

Notations

Notes

The Note ‘G’

G is the note

The Note ‘G’

‘G’ sits directly on top of the staff.  To play ‘G’ on the guitar, fret the third fret on the first string.

Tempo

Tempo is the speed, or pace, of a piece. It can be conveyed in two ways: in beats per minute (BPM) or descriptive words.

Beats Per Minute (BPM)

BPM is the most precise way to convey tempo. A rhythmic value is equated to a number that represents beats per minute. In the example above, a quarter note equals 120 beats per minute, which means that the pace will be two beats per second. To find an exact BPM, you can purchase a metronome or visit this free site: https://www.metronomeonline.com/.

Descriptive Words

Prior to the invention of the metronome, composers used descriptive words to indicate tempo. Many composers continue to employ these words instead of metronome markings. Below is a list of the most commonly used tempo indicators. Italian words are traditionally used. However, you may encounter other words (in Italian as well as other languages) that are not listed here. Most of the time, the definition can be found with an online search.

Largo–broadly (approx. 40-60 BPM)

Lento–slowly (approx. 45-60 BPM)

Larghetto–a little faster than Largo (approx. 60-66 BPM)

Adagio–moderately slow (approx. 66-76 BPM)

Andante–walking pace (approx. 76-108 BPM)

Moderato–moderately (approx. 108-120 BPM)

Allegro–happy, or fast (approx. 120-168 BPM)

Vivace–lively and fast (approx. 168-176 BPM)

Presto–very fast (approx. 168-200 BPM)

Prestissimo–faster than Presto (approx. higher than 200 BPM)

Sight-Reading Tip

If you drop the rhythm—meaning you lose your place while sight-reading—I suggest you play only the first beat of each measure. This will allow you to mentally keep your place in the rhythmic scheme. When that becomes manageable, play only the first and third beats of examples in 4/4 time. Finally, when that becomes manageable, play the entire exercise. Theodore Norman advocated this method and many guitarists have used it to become great sight-readers. However, this is but one creative solution to a sight-reading obstacle. All great sight-reading guitarists engage in creative problem solving. Think of an obstacle as an opportunity to invent a creative solution. Then, create a solution and put it into action.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

To practice is not to collect things and put them in your basket, rather [it is] to find what is up your sleeve. –Shunryu Suzuki

Exercise 3.1: Score

Exercise 3.1: Audio

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Exercise 3.2: Score

Exercise 3.2 Audio

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Exercise 3.3: Score

Exercise 3.3: Audio

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Exercise 3.4: Score

Exercise 3.4 Audio

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Exercise 3.5: Score

Exercise 3.5: Audio

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Exercise 3.6: Score

Exercise 3.6 Audio

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Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. –Albert Einstein

Exercise 3.7: Score

Exercise 3.7: Audio

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Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

Everything is perfect, but there is a lot of room for improvement. –Shunryu Suzuki

Exercise 3.8: Score

Exercise 3.8: Audio

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Exercise 3.9: Score

Exercise 3.9: Audio

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Exercise 3.10: Score

Exercise 3.10: Audio

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Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played 60-70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

Formatting Guide New - old 'Standard Elements Formatting Guide'

26

Introduction (format: Heading 2)

Paragraph Text. (format: Paragraph)

Notations (format: Heading 2)

Basic Symbols (format: heading 3 and red)

Notes (format: heading 3 and red)

Rhythms (format: heading 3 and red)

Simile (format: heading 4 and black)

The Note ‘B’ (format: paragraph and bold)

The note ‘B’ is in on the middle line of the staff. Think of “in-be-tween.” It is played as the second string open. (paragraph)

The Note ‘D’

The note ‘D’ is directly below the staff. Think of “D” for “down” because it is down below the first staff line.  It is played as the fourth string open.

The Note ‘E’

The note ‘E’ is below the third leger line. These extra lines below the staff are called leger lines. Notice that they are evenly spaced and are meant to be an extension of the staff. It is played as the sixth string open. To remember the pitch E, imagine a vertical line placed to the left of the three leger lines. Notice how it makes an upper case letter E (as shown below).

The Note ‘E’ (pt. 2)

To remember the pitch E, imagine a vertical line placed to the left of the three leger lines. Notice how it makes an upper case letter E.

There should be a space here to differentiate sections.

Navigation

Repeat Sign (title of graphic heading 4 centered with the graphic)

The repeat sign is comprised of two vertical lines and two dots. Notice how the dots of the two repeats face one another. When the dots of two repeat signs face one another, all the music in between them must be repeated. If the score has one repeat sign alone, you are expected to play from the beginning to the repeat sign then jump back to the beginning and play the same musical material again. When you encounter the repeat sign a second time, ignore it and continue playing through the score

(text of paragraph aligned left.)

 

 

 

First & Second Endings (AKA Prima & Seconda Volta)

Often, repeated sections of music will feature a first & second ending (AKA prima & seconda volta). The first ending consists of the measure(s) under the line labeled ‘1.’ Similarly, the second ending is the measure(s) under the line labeled ‘2.’ The first time through the music, play the first ending. The second time through, skip the first ending and jump directly to the second ending.

Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip (heading 2)

Dynamic changes force us to listen to the acoustic space, other players and our own playing. Attentive listening can create relaxation and exhilaration at the same time. Become acquainted with the diverse effects of careful listening as you sight-read. (format: paragraph)

Checklist for Sight-Reading (heading 3 and red)

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip (Red)

The most important thing I look for in a musician is whether he knows how to listen. –Duke Ellington (black)

Exercise 8.1: Score

Exercise 8.1: Audio

An audio element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can listen to it online here: https://press.rebus.community/sightreadingforguitar/?p=907

Exercise 8.2: Score

Exercise 8.2: Audio

An audio element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can listen to it online here: https://press.rebus.community/sightreadingforguitar/?p=907

Exercise 8.3: Score

Exercise 8.3: Audio

An audio element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can listen to it online here: https://press.rebus.community/sightreadingforguitar/?p=907

Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

Time passes. Listen. Time passes. Come closer now.[1] –Dylan Thomas from Under Milk Wood

Exercise 8.4: Score

Exercise 8.4: Audio

An audio element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can listen to it online here: https://press.rebus.community/sightreadingforguitar/?p=907

Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

In music, silence is more important than sound. –Miles Davis

Exercise 8.5: Score

Exercise 8.5: Audio

An audio element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can listen to it online here: https://press.rebus.community/sightreadingforguitar/?p=907

Exercise 8.6: Score

Exercise 8.6: Audio

An audio element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can listen to it online here: https://press.rebus.community/sightreadingforguitar/?p=907

[1] Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood (New York: New Directions, 1954), 3.

Let’s Play Compositions

Note: These compositions are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license  (CC BY-NC 4.0).

 

Congratulations!

You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.

Random Bits

27

Example 3: Soleares

The 12/4 meter of the flamenco soleares indicates twelve pulses per measure. Each pulse (or beat) is represented by a quarter note. The following sub-groups are suggested: 3+3+2+2+2. Unlike previous examples, this example does not feature dotted bar lines, additive time signatures or mixed meters to reinforce the genre’s characteristic sub-divisions. However, the accent markings suggest that rhythmic emphasis is placed on the last beat of each group. Familiarity with the flamenco tradition helps to achieve a more authentic rhythmic feel. As a result, you will count:

one, two, THREE, four, five, SIX, seven, EIGHT, nine, TEN, eleven, TWELVE

Appendix

1

THE COLLECTIONS: SCORES AND AUDIO FILES

The Keep Going Method Scores – This is a collection of all the exercises and compositions included in the series. It is organized by unit and is intended for educational purposes.

[Insert one PDF combining all the scores here]

The Obelisks – This is a collection of duets composed by an internationally diverse group of composers. This collection can be used for performances as well as educational purposes.

[Insert one PDF combining all the compositions here]

The Keep Going Method MP3s – This is a collection of all the play-along audio files to be used in coordination with The Keep Going Method Scores.

[possibly add all MP3s to a Google Drive folder and link the folder here]

Accessibility Assessment

2

A note from the Rebus Community

We are working to create a new, collaborative model for publishing open textbooks. Critical to our success in reaching this goal is to ensure that all books produced using that model meet the needs of all students who will one day use them. To us, open means inclusive, so for a book to be open, it must also be accessible.

As a result, we are working with accessibility experts and others in the OER community to develop best practices for creating accessible open textbooks, and are building those practices into the Rebus model of publishing. By doing this, we hope to ensure that all books produced using the Rebus Community are accessible by default, and require an absolute minimum of remediation or adaptation to meet any individual student’s needs.

While we work on developing guidelines and implementing support for authoring accessible content, we are making a good faith effort to ensure that books produced with our support meet accessibility standards wherever possible, and to highlight areas where we know there is work to do. It is our hope that by being transparent on our current books, we can begin the process of making sure accessibility is top of mind for all authors, adopters, students and contributors of all kinds on all our open textbook projects.

Below is a short assessment of eight key areas that have been assessed during the production process. The checklist has been drawn from the BCcampus Accessibility Toolkit. While a checklist such as this is just one part of a holistic approach to accessibility, it is one way to begin our work on embedded good accessibility practices in the books we support.

Wherever possible, we have identified ways in which anyone may contribute their expertise to improve the accessibility of this text.

We also welcome any feedback from students, instructors or others who encounter the book and identify an issue that needs resolving. This book is an ongoing project and will be updated as needed. If you would like to submit a correction or suggestion, please do so using the Rebus Community Accessibility Suggestions form.

Webbook Checklist

Area of focus Requirements Pass?
Organizing Content Contents is organized under headings and subheadings Yes
Headings and subheadings are used sequentially (e.g. Heading 1, heading 2, etc.) as well as logically (if the title is Heading 1 then there should be no other heading 1 styles as the title is the uppermost level) Yes
 Images Images that convey information include Alternative Text (alt-text) descriptions of the image’s content or function Yes
Graphs, Charts, and Maps also include contextual or supporting details in the text surrounding the image Yes
Images do not rely on colour to convey information No
Images that are purely decorative contain empty alternative text descriptions. (Descriptive text is unnecessary if the image doesn’t convey contextual content information) Yes
 Tables Tables include row and column headers No
Table includes title or caption No
Table does not have merged or split cells Yes
Table has adequate cell padding Yes
Weblinks The weblink is meaningful in context, does not use generic text such as “click here” or “read more” Yes
Weblinks do not open new windows or tabs Yes
If weblink must open in a new window, a textual reference is included in the link information n/a
Embedded Multimedia A transcript has been made available for a multimedia resource that includes audio narration or instruction* n/a
Captions of all speech content and relevant non-speech content are included in the multimedia resource that includes audio synchronized with a video presentation n/a
Audio descriptions of contextual visuals (graphs, charts, etc) are included in the multimedia resource n/a
Formulas Formulas have been created using MathML n/a
Formulas are images with alternative text descriptions, if MathML is not an option n/a
Font Size Font size is 12 point (12pt=1em in this book) or higher for body text Yes
Font size is 9 point (9pt=0.75em in this book) for footnotes or endnotes Yes
Font size can be zoomed to 200% Yes

*Transcript includes:

Review Statement

3

Sight Reading for Guitar: The Keep Going Method Book and Video Series was produced with support from the Rebus Community, a non-profit organisation building a new, collaborative model for publishing open textbooks. Critical to the success of this model is including mechanisms to ensure that open textbooks produced with the Community are high quality, and meet the needs of all students who will one day use them.

As a result, this book has undergone peer review by 5 subject experts, each reviewing five units of the book. The reviewers were largely music teachers or music professors, at colleges and universities across North America. Reviews were structured around considerations of the intended audience of the book, and examined the comprehensiveness, accuracy, and relevance of content. See the Rebus Community Review Guide for more details.

Chelsea, Nadine, Maha, Ahmed, and the team at Rebus would like to thank the review team for the time, care and commitment they contributed to the project. We recognize that volunteering to review the book without compensation is a generous act of service on their part. This book would not be the robust, valuable resource that it is were it not for their feedback and input.

Acknowledgements

4

Center for Learning and Teaching at the American University in Cairo, Egypt 

CLT Project Lead: Maha Bali

CLT Project Manager: Nadine Aboulmagd

Video Filming and Editing: Hassan Labib and Ahmad ElZorkani

Student Technology Assistants: Farida Harouni, Mennatallah Khalil and AbdelRahman Diaa

Support: Tarek El Maghraby

The Rebus Community

Project Managers: Apurva Ashok and Zoe Wake Hyde

Beta-Testers

Youmna Zakaraya, Susan Jones and Shehab M. Mohamed

Peer Reviewers

Mark Popeney, Peter Yates, Walter Marsh, Alan Berman, John Baboukis, Alan Levine, Randy Rusk and more. (Apurva: would you mind asking them if they want to be acknowledged? Of course, there was an anonymous option when they were peer-reviewing, which is why I’m asking).

American University in Cairo 

The original compositions were commissioned with funds from a grant from the American University in Cairo.

Special Thanks

Frank Bartscheck, Mary Green, Jazz Hands, Mohamed Abou Rehab, Nick Romeliotis, Ahmed Hossam Refai, and more

Composers

Other

The theoretical content, musical arrangements, compositions and guitar performances are by Chelsea Green (unless otherwise attributed).