Why Can’t Guitarists Read? Sympathy for the G

Why can’t guitarists read?

Guitar is not taught in school. Period.  Well, OK, I guess that it’s then.

Alright, a little more.

All the band and orchestra instruments are taught in school, beginning in elementary school in many places. Guitar is excluded. Some schools have clubs now, but in the clubs, kids mostly play pop tunes. Certainly no reading is going on. Guitarists learn outside of an education system, by passing tunes to each other, or by use of “TABs” on the internet. It is a very old, and very useful system of notation for stringed instruments like guitar or lute. But, TAB, has it’s limitations, and is not used in scores. Maybe it should be, but that is subject for another post, and not the world we live in.


Guitar is also a very difficult instrument to read on. Depending on the size of your guitar, you may be able to play “middle C” in up to 5 places, 4 being realistic, and 3 being common. In order to read well on the guitar, you must learn five different complete patterns and all the corresponding notes. This is equivalent to learning five different stringed instruments really, a daunting task. That said, it is doable, of course.

It is my belief that all five positions should be learned. But, if we want someone to be able to play band music quickly we need only teach a middle of the neck position, with extensions. This will suffice and allow us to learn the other shapes also, as we have to play other keys within the same zone on the guitar.

Ok, getting too technical for this post.  I’ll save it.

In closing, have some sympathy for your guitarist. As far as reading goes, the cards have been stacked against them. Find them the help they need, and have patience. They are trying to catch up with people that have been reading for a few years already. They can do it, with the right guidance and approach.

Rock on.