How To Read Guitar Sheet Music :- Beginner’s Guide

Learning to read music is a very important step for a guitar player. This is because; very few professional guitarists know how to read music.

For a long time, people have been made to believe that learning to read music is irrelevant for a guitarist. This is however a very bad attitude and should be avoided as much as possible. 

Although there are many well-known professional guitarists around the world like Jimi Hendrix never knew to read music, it doesn’t make it irrelevant.


There are others like John Scofield, Paul Gilbert, and Brian Setzer among others who know how important this is. 

The first steps for a beginner

If you have no idea how to read sheet music, there are a few things you need to concentrate on. Some of these points include

  • Know what pitch, time and duration you are working with.
  • Understand the note you want to hit.
  • Know when to hit a certain note.
  • Last but not list, know how long you need to hold a certain note.


The most important thing you need to always put in mind when learning to read music sheet is passion. Reading music sheet is not a very exciting thing. Therefore, you need to develop interest to enjoy it as this will make things easier for you.

Simplified means of reading music sheet

The tab has been used greatly in showing the guitarist where to hit on the fretboard. It is also a great tool if one wants to learn complex techniques of guitar playing.

However, it is not the best when it comes to teaching other musicians as it doesn’t give you information about the rhythm of a song.

For this reason, learning the essentials of music sheet reading is very important. You don’t have to be an expert, but knowing the basics will take you very far. 

Below is a simplified way of reading guitar sheet music.

#1 Notes on the stave

Notes make one of the most important part of music. For this reason, learning the different notes on your musical stave should be the first priority in your lessons. A musical stave has four spaces and five lines. All these lines and the spaces represent different notes. 

To make it easier to remember the five lines, you can use this phrase ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Football’. You can also use the phrase ‘Every Good Boy Does Fine’.

When it comes to cramming the letters on the spaces you just need to spell the word ‘FACE’. The different notes found on the music stave can comfortably be played on different places on the guitar as many as five places. Therefore, guitarists use the tab to direct them to the right fingerings.

Once you have mastered the notes as they follow each other, you can now start playing around with them. combining the E,G,B,D,F and FACE will give you E,F,G,A,B,C,D,E,F low to high. You’ll therefore be able to play something you can enjoy. Getting this into your brain becomes the foundation of your music lessons. 

#2 Notes on the fretboard

After covering the foundation of our music lessons, it is now time to get down into business. The second step involves reading without relying on the tab.

Although relying on the tab comes in handy, it should only be used to train a beginner. This is because; relying on the tab prevents you from learning the bit which is also very significant. 

You should take time to read and master the notes on the guitar. Once that’s done, you can now proceed to the second step.

After reading the notes on the stave, find them on the fret board. This will take some time at first but once you get used to it, it’ll become easier. Using the tab is allowed at this juncture to confirm when you’d read the notes appropriately or not. 

#3 Nearby notes followed by bigger gaps

It is advisable to start by reading the notes that are close to each other. This becomes easier to master. Use of the first to the 3rd finger at the 1st to the 3rd frets is the most common way.

Once you get this right, you can then continue extending the notes to bigger gaps. Dealing with the bigger gaps is very easy as long as you’ve mastered different notes accordingly. 

Types of notes

Once you’ve learn how to play the notes, it is important to understand that there are different notes on a staff. There are:

  • Full notes: these contain 4 beats.
  • Half notes: these contain 2 notes.
  • Quarter notes: These contain 1 note.

Although the above are the most common notes, you can divide them even more to get much shorter beats. The much shorter notes include;

  • Eight notes: these ones contain a half beat.
  • Sixteenth note: these contain a quarter beat.
  • Thirty-second note: these contain an eight of a note.

Other properties of music

Apart from notes, there are a few other properties of music. These include; 


Just as the name indicates, these are there to show you where you are not supposed to play. They are quite similar to notes as they contain different number of beats. The most common are:

  • Whole note rests: contain 4 beats.
  • Half note rests: contains 2 beats.
  • Quarter note rests: contains 1 beat:

Although they can also be divided further, it is not very common. 


A dot simply means half. Therefore, the player is expected to add the value of the note immediate to the dot by a half.


Means the notes should be ‘tied’ together and played as a single note. 


They guide the player to play the notes legato (adding hammer-ons and pull-offs). 


The fact that you can become a successful guitarist without learning how to read guitar sheet music is not an enough reason to ignore this important lesson. Reading notation takes your skills to another level. It makes you to start thinking about dynamics, ornamentation, rhythm, vibrato, space and many more. 

  • Chase
  • Updated last year

If you want find a right beginner guitar for yourself or your kid, you are in the right place. If you have shopped for your beginner guitar but can’t decide which guitar to buy, you are also in the right place. My name is Chase. I love music and guitar. I have been playing guitar for more than 10 years and I am teaching guitar lessons now. Most of my students or parents of my students feel headache when they choose the first beginner guitar for themselves or their children. Sometimes they asked me for advice and every time I was asked I told them what I know to help them. This is main reason I built this website.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments