There are a few words and phrases that make guitarists cringe. “So… I accidentally dropped your guitar”, “I think a fender is just as good as any tube amp”, “Have you heard that One Direction song?”, “Ernie ball sucks”, “Don’t worry it’s just a dent”.
I’m sure you’ve heard all these things and more, but the one thing that truly frightens a guitarist is just two words. Sight reading. Before I start let me assure you that the guitar is the most difficult instrument to learn how to sight read on. You don’t want ANYTHING coming between your reading practice, because you want to maximize your efforts. So I suggest getting a good sight reading book! One of my favorite ones being “Reading Studies For Guitar”. I love this book and it’s how most guitarists learned how to sight read. By far the easiest method to go about sight reading. I highly recommend it. I get questions all the time such as “Should I learn to sight read?” which is an entirely different question. But if you want to learn how to sight read then get this book, and I’ll tell you about how it works.
Opening up to page #1 you’ll see the first position, and this is where your gonna want to start. DUH, it’s page #1. If you see numbers such as 3, 2, 0, 3, 1, 0 – or whatever the numbers are, those are just the fingerings. So for 1 you’d finger the note with your first finger. I’d recommend only starting with the C Major, and F Major scales and I definitely wouldn’t worry about trying to tackle all the fingerings down too fast. Just take it slow, and just make sure your using the right fingers. And if you’ve never tried to sight read before, then do just start with C Major and F Major.
Turn the page and you’ll see some sight reading examples and a little Roman numeral 1 (I). That means first position. Your going to want to move through this at a constant pace, even if that is at 20 bpm. The key for sight reading is even if you miss a note just try and move on to the next one, and just try to get through a whole exercise. Even if you are messing up every single note, try and keep yourself accountable to the next note.
Now as you move forward you can see 2nd position. And the fingerings do change, because you are at a different part of the fretboard. We’ve moved up one position, and again I’d just stick to C Major and F Major if you’re a beginner, maybe even G Major. Then of course as you turn the page you’ll see 2 in Roman numerals, indicating that you’re in second position. It’s very consistent throughout the book, and it will always let you know what position you’re in. Obviously the key signature will be there, as well as the time signature. Basically just hit the metronome, and try to get through these exercises using the right fingerings on these position pages. So you don’t want to mix these up, because it is the absolute most effective way to play these positions. Like I said, it’s going to take some time for you to memorize all of them and each position, but hey nothing worth doing is easy! Just continue through this book on to 3rd position, 4th position and more all with their own figurings. Obviously the exercises become more advanced as you proceed, but they will always start the same way, and then they become INSANE. There’s even a nice little piece of motivation at the end of the book from the author Bill Levet, talking about how important it is to learn sight reading and that you can do it! He writes tons of great sight reading books from modern methods of guitar to reading studies of guitar, to even melodic rhythms of guitar. I’d check that one out too, it’s pretty awesome. Take a picture of the piece of encouragement and hang it up on your wall if you have to!
To conclude, I think that sight reading is definitely something that makes you a more well-rounded musician, and if you were thinking about wanting to be a session guitarist then it is DEFINITELY one of the most important things you need to be able to do. Besides, you’re never better or smarter because you don’t know how to do something. So just give sight reading a try! It could be your long lost passion. All it takes is 15 minutes to an hour a day and you’ll be a sight reading god in no time! Until next time guys! Keep shreddin!