|Learning Guitar - Lesson Nine|
|Part 5: Sight Reading and More Essential Knowledge|
There comes a point in the development of a guitarist that he/she must decide if they're really interested in learning guitar. If the answer is "yes", then learning the basics of sight reading is essential.
Until this point, I've tried to keep the lessons as "fun" as possible, free from excessive technical exercises, musical theory, and sight reading. Although I'll continue to present the lessons in this way, the truth is, if you want to become a real musician, these are all important areas to explore.
Although in a perfect world, I'd be able to provide you with a great online resource for learning to sight read music on the guitar, the topic is just too broad in scope to be handled well online. Currently, there are no other resources on the web which do a good job of teaching guitarists to read music. So, I'm going to recommend a purchase - the excellent Modern Method for Guitar books, by William G. Leavitt.
Often referred to as "the Berklee books", this series of inexpensive (usually about $20) publications is a valuable resource for working on sight reading, and honing your technical skills on the guitar. Leavitt does not hold your hand through the learning process, but with some focused practice you'll learn to read music, and improve your technique through playing some of the etudes presented within the book. You can spend a great deal of time with these books (there are three in the series), as there is a ton of information contained within the pages of each edition. If you are serious about becoming a "musician", rather than someone who just strums a guitar at parties (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that), I highly recommend that you pick up at least one of these publications.
There are a few things every guitarist worth their salt should own. Here's some info on a few of these essentials.
Change of Strings - It's Murphy's Law... guitar strings break at the exact time you need them not to. You'll have to accept that, and be sure to always own at least one full set of unused strings, so you can replace any that break immediately. You should also be changing your strings at least once every couple of months (more often if you play constantly). For more detailed instructions on how to change guitar strings, take a look at this illustrated string changing tutorial.
Collection of Picks - Definitely own a reasonable collection of picks, so you don't have to go hunting between the pillows of your couch if you ever lose one. I'd suggest finding a favorite brand and thickness of pick, and sticking with it. Personally, I avoid those extra thin picks like the plague.
Capo - This is a small device which wraps around the neck of your guitar, pinching the strings off at a specific fret. It is used to make the guitar sound higher, so you could sing at a higher pitch if a song is too low for you. As long as you don't lose them, a capo should last you a long time (many years), so it's a worthwhile investment. I have found that Shubb capos work best for me - they're a little more expensive (about $20), but worth the extra money.
Metronome - An essential item for the serious guitarist. A metronome is a simple gadget which emits a steady click at a speed which you determine. Sounds boring, right? They're great for practicing with - to make sure you're keeping in time. These little devices will improve your musicianship incredibly, and can be found for as little as $20. Thankfully, there are also some software versions of metronomes, which you can run directly from your computer. Check out the freely downloadable PC shareware KeepTime, or the Macintosh software Drone.
Now, let's move on to learning songs.