Top 10 Guitar Reading Tips

Playing Guitar
Playing Guitar

Top 10+ guitar reading tips. When I first started to take guitar lessons, my teacher started me with a guitar reading book. Now I had the luck of starting on alto saxophone in the 6th-grade school band so I had a little bit of a head start. All that I had to do was learn where the notes were on the guitar since both the saxophone and guitar read in treble clef. 

I worked my way through that reading book from Ernie Ball (link to that I may earn a small commission at no extra charge to you if you click on the link) and went on to read out of Mel Bay (another link to books. This experience along with my playing saxophone in school from 6th grade to 12th grade helped me in my guitar reading classes at AIM (Atlanta Institute of Music), now known as AIMM (Atlanta Institute of Music and Media link).

How do I get better at reading guitar music?

You may be thinking, “How do I get better at reading guitar music?” With my experience in reading guitar music, I did not mind getting up and reading lines at A.I.M. I did notice others not having as much fun at note reading. Now I do not claim to be an extravagant reader and admit I struggle too, but with some of these tips, I believe will keep you on track.

 Also, keep an open mind and think of it as a challenge like your reading charts at a gig and you have to do well.


I hope you can utilize these top 10+ guitar reading tips!


1. Notice what key you are playing in. When first starting out you may not need to think about this, but as time goes on other keys will be introduced.

2. Look at any accidentals in the music. These are notes not in the key you are playing in and are indicated by a sharp (#) or flat (b).

3. Look at any dynamics notated, such as (p) for piano which means soft, (mf) mezzo-forte which means medium loud, and (f) for forte as in loud.

4. Look at the range that you will be playing. Quickly glance at the music and notice what the lowest and highest notes are. This will also tell you what area on the guitar you will be playing.

5. Look for any rhythm opportunities such as, syncopated rhythms, tied notes, and not-so-familiar rhythms that you can tap out.


6. Count everything and learn to sub-divide. Sub-divide from the Meriam Webster Dictionary is defined as, “to divide the parts of into more parts.” For example, quarter notes are counted as 1 and. Sub-divide counting the quarter notes 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and, when you have a whole note. This will help you keep time. It will also help if you have eighth notes in the same measure and you need to play an eighth note on the, and, of a beat.

7. Practice with a metronome. Even if it is on the lowest setting like 40 bpm (beats per minute). Strive to not make a mistake playing the rhythms as notated. You can always speed it up later. After this be sure to play your rhythms at slow, medium, and fast tempos to get the feel of the rhythm at various tempos.

8. If you make a mistake, that’s o.k. Keep the time by knowing where you are in the music and jump back in when you can. Even if it means missing a whole measure. Practice this when you are practicing note reading. Remember the band does not stop.

9. Know what the road map of the music is. Look for any 1st and 2nd endings, repeats, Codas, and so on. You do not want to keep on reading when others take repeats.

10. Look ahead. Just like when you drive, you are not just looking at the car ahead of you but also looking at the car ahead of them and so on. If you can, look ahead one note at first while playing the note you are on. This helps you prepare for the next note. Then practice looking at a whole measure. Some players may even be good at looking at a whole line at a time.

11. Practice reading more than one note at a time such as in diads. These are two notes at a time. Then try triads, four, five, and six notes at a time. If you notice two notes from one line or space to the next line or space, this is some kind of a third interval. These are located on adjacent string sets. For example, playing an A note on the third string second fret and a C note on the second string first fret. Start with two notes at first.

One more tip!

Well, I hope you can use these top 10+ guitar reading tips in your practice sessions. I would recommend practicing your reading sessions for at least 15 minutes per day. If you do more, take breaks about every 15-20 minutes. As always, have fun, and keep playing!

The two books mentioned are books that I may receive a small commission from the Amazon Affiliates Program if you click on the links.