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The Importance of Learning Standard Notation

Question by Alan
(Conway, SC)

What is the importance of learning standard notation? I can detect the timing of eight, sixteen, quarter notes etc. but the actual notes on staff I'm not there. I once heard David Grohl say he does not know any of that. Can you just depend on ear for this matter?


While I will probably get slated for saying this, it's my experience that learning standard notation is not necessary for learning guitar.

I personally haven't felt my progress stunted at any point by not being able to read the stave.

I've found it far more beneficial to spend time learning intervals, relative pitch and training my ear to different time signatures rather than relying on notation.

Of course, if you can put in the time and learn notation, more power to you - reading music in this way might help you when transcribing music. But (so far) I can honestly say I have not encountered any obstacles due to not knowing how to read notation.

You'd be surprised at how many of the world's most creative, talented musicians do not know standard notation, or spend very little time with it.

Hope this doesn't confuse things, but here's a link to a very informative article in support of learning standard notation.

Basically, what John is saying is, if you're progressing fine without that knowledge, i.e. if you're naturally good at hearing and visualising note relationships in your head, or through other aids, notation is not as necessary for you as it is for someone who struggles with this internalisation of music.

I try to make sure the lessons on my site encourage you to learn note relationships through clear diagrams, audio and thought processes. In a way, there are much more effective ways of charting and learning these relationships than notation OR tab.

If anyone has any comments on the benefits of learning standard notation, please comment below as I don't just want my opinion on this (because that's all it is) heard!

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Std. Notation
By: Anonymous

True. You can lean without standard notation, but it really helps me with rhythm issues in complex passages in a way that tab just can't do.

Standard Notation
By: Anonymous

Standard Notation is not needed to play the guitar; however,it sure helps with getting the count right. Most guitar players play by ear. To get to the next level, notation and theory is a must.

reasons for reading standard notation
By: jeff Bedrosian

1. Big ideas reveal themselves when observed visually.
2. Non guitar ideas work when you adapt them.
3. Freedom from repeating the ordinary ear trained stylists.
4.writing allows non ear players to contribute to projects
5. Find old sheet music and bring it to life.
6. Way easier to see connections..Johnny B Goode is Cajun accordion..

Standard notation helps in the long run. NEW
By: Anonymous

I did use tabs to learn guitar in fact, I did learn my first piece using a tablature but it only says where you should go and what strings you hit thus making it a limited option in learning music in general. Reading standard notation on the other hand may be intimidating at first but one will find ways to get around it granted an individual work on it. Once you learn how to read notations little by little it gets a lot better for you as a musician because the information you need like time signature, key signature, rhythm, and rests are all laid out in the staff and it even gives you the freedom to decide how you want to play that particular music and make your own set fingering positions.

I don't have anything against tablature they do have their use but honestly speaking I struggled learning my first piece using tabs so I decided to make the jump to learn to read notations if I want to take my musical journey to the next level. Yeah sure it's hard but to me, it's all worth the effort I put in!

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