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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Actually, Good Sight-reading Is Within Our Reach

Carlos teaching in Jersey,UK in 2008

- But because we don't believe this young guitarists grow up not knowing it -

In between my Magical Mystery Guitar Tour stops up and down England I have spent some pleasant hours in the company of guitar-playing children and teenagers.

Some are very quick and show a natural pre-disposition. Others are determined and hard-working. No doubt a significant few will become good players if they wish to continue. They are all bright and enthusiastic. They speak articulately and are doing well at school in a range of subjects. Naturally they can all read and write, but alas not music, for that they can only play hesitantly when reading from a musical score.

Why should it be that young guitarists should lag so far behind other instrumentalists of their age when it comes to reading music, although they may be skillful otherwise both in music and other subjects? Is it because teachers have low expectations since they themselves are slow readers? If so, it may explain why poor music reading skills become perpetuated from one generation of players to the next.

Now consider the impact of guitar tutors and methods on the young players' development of reading skills. Notation in introduced gradually: notes on the first string in the first and second positions, and the same for the second and third strings, and so on. This is all a good idea. It shows where the notes are on the fret board. This way the student can find the notes in the pieces published in the book. But where are the tutors and methods with loads of sight-reading exercises systematically aimed at developing the specific skill of fluent reading? Exercises could include a thorough exploration of different keys, recognising chord patterns and sequences, positional playing above the seventh fret, discovering and devising alternative fingering patterns, and above all, playing through many pieces with the target firmly in mind to develop sight-reading skills to a high standard.

My observation of the youngsters I met is that they are capable of becoming good readers. The guitar does present particular problems when it comes to sight reading, but they can be dealt with. What we need to do is believe that guitarists can do so, and that they can enjoy reading and playing through music just as fluently as we enjoy reading books and newspapers.

There are, of course, some guitar players who are very good readers. They show that it is possible. They are envied, quite understandably, by a majority, although their skill is within everyone's reach. When we convince ourselves of the importance of good sight-reading and that it is eminently possible for many more to become adept, then we will bring up young guitarists to be musically literate by being good readers. Until that happens, they will be cut off from vital musical experiences, and from the pleasure of reading and playing unfamiliar music straight from the score at first sight.

I think our children deserve better than that.

25th November 2012, London

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=1768 .
© 2017.

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