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Do I Need to Learn to Read Music?

It turns out that many, or even most rock, folk, blues, funk, heavy metal, punk, and country
guitarists are not particulary good note readers. Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and John Lennon
are examples of skilled guitarists who read notes not at all or poorly. If you want to play like them,
you should begin as they did–learn to finger basic chords and to strum some of your favorite songs.

In the defense of note reading, it is deeply satisfying to play Tchaikovsky and Schubert,
or to flip open a book of old folk songs you’ve never heard and to read and play the melody.
Also, the technical demands of playing classical pieces are bound to increase a students overall
capabilities. Still, note reading is not necessary to play guitar. Guitar playing is not necessary
to live, either. Reading notes, guitar playing, and living are all worthwhile endeavors in and of
themselves, and I heartily recommend all three.

After you start rocking, by all means learn to read notes if you would like to. Don’t think
you have to read notes, though, because if your favorite guitarist isn’t reading notes, why should you?
I myself read notes better than the vast majority of rock stars, but then again I’m not a rock star–I’m a guitar teacher!

Dan Emery is dedicated to Coaching Personal Greatness, One Lesson At A Time. He is the founder of NYC’s friendliest and fastest growing guitar schools, New York City Guitar School, Brooklyn Guitar School, Queens Guitar School and NYC Guitar School, East, and the author of the Amazon best-selling Guitar For Absolute Beginners and six other books on learning guitar and deliberate practice. He coaches new entrepreneurs through the Entrepreneurs Organization Accelerator program and especially enjoys helping other Educational Entrepreneurs. He has a Masters in Education from Columbia University Teachers College, extensive performing experience as songwriter and guitarist for The Dan Emery Mystery Band, three kids, and some juggling equipment.

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