Getting Started




If I said to you, "I can't read, I mean not a lick. You show me a newspaper or a book or anything and I haven't got a clue what it says, and I'm proud of it..." what would you think? You'd probably think, "Either that guy is crazy or he's grossly uninformed." I mean, think of the information I'd miss out on not being able to communicate beyond the memory of what someone has told me or what I might have heard somewhere?!

Now you're probably thinking to yourself, "Nobody would say something like that. Noone is proud of the inability to read!" Well, let me tell you, I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard someone poke their chest out and proudly state, "I don't read music, not even a lick. As a matter of fact I couldn't tell you the first thing about it. I strictly play by ear!" What's the difference between that guy and the one who was so proud of not being able to read the newspaper? Let me go a little deeper with this...PLAYING BY EAR OR USING YOUR EARS?Playing "by ear" is something that needs to be defined for this to all make sense so here goes my attempt:

Playing By Ear-

Being able to play the guitar without HAVING to read musical notation to supply the sequence of chords and/or notes that make up the song you're attempting to play.

OK, so given that definition, having the ability to "play by ear" is a good thing! And I think it's equally (if not more) limiting to be bound to the notes on a page when you want to make some music with your guitar. The antithesis to the guy I described above is the one who is a little arrogant because he can read and you can't. But if that's all he can do, that's equally tragic! Picture this, he's out on the beach with some friends and someone says, "Hey, why don't you get your guitar out," to which he replies, "Hey, I don't have my sheet music with me so it wouldn't do any good!" No fun at all. . .

If all you do is mechanically play the notes on the page (like some classical players I've met) what good does that do? But, how cool would it be if you could play by ear with alot of feeling in your playing and you could pick up any form of musical notation and play it too?! Not to mention the fact that the higher paid players CAN do both...

So what I'm saying is this, don't fall into the trap of thinking that it's cool to ONLY be able to play be ear. What's cool is to be able to do both!!


Unlike a painting, music exists in time. If you listened to a song in the same way you look at a picture you'd hear one big blob of notes all at the same time. As you can "picture" (a little pun there) it wouldn't make much sense to you. So, music must unfold over a period of time. The average song you'll hear on the radio is around 3 minutes and there are longer instrumental works that take 10 or 15 minutes or longer to complete a listening.

So, for MUSICAL NOTATION to accurately reflect a song, it has to take into account not only the notes you're supposed to play but also the time-frame you're supposed to play them in. Below is an example of standard music notation with Tablature positioned below it.


Don't worry about knowing what you're looking at, just study the image to familiarize yourself with the look of it. When you're ready to dig into reading, go to the lesson on understanding TAB and Notation. There you'll learn the details of what you see here. What you should notice is the idea of a timeline. You start reading from the left and go to the right playing the notes represented by the dots as they occur along the timeline.HOTFRETS METHOD MAKES THIS EASIERWhen I started learning to read notation I remember staring down at it sometimes thinking, "How in the world do I play that rhythm, or I wonder how this is supposed to really sound..." Well "fret" no more (ooh that was bad) 'cause with the HotFrets method, all the guesswork is gone! Each lesson will show a notation/TAB combination directly below the guitar fretboard diagram. You can use the NEXT button (or the SPACEBAR) on the tutorials to move the cursor along the Notation/TAB timeline with a steady beat to see and hear exactly how the notes fall along the timeline. In addition you'll see which notes are supposed to be played and in what position on the neck! So, theoretically you can be learning to read while you learn to play. You'll never have to guess what the notation is telling you to play!

As you work your way through the beginning and intermediate lessons, you'll begin to learn how to play by ear as well. We'll even teach you what you need to know to create your own music!



No audio files available for this lesson.