I’ve always said that I’ve regretted not learning to “truly” read music for the guitar. This happened because of a number of reasons, not least of which was the fact that I have such a good ear, that anything I can pretty much hear, I can also play. This was always the driving force behind my development as a player, but it wasn’t always without some trepidation.
Certainly recording sessions presented some major problems for me, as I was getting called for work where the producers, etc. totally expected me to be able to read notes and charts. The truth is, these pieces of paper make my eyes glaze over, and they present a real obstacle between me and my creative abilities when it come to the guitar. I have always done best when I “play for the song”, and this having to read often stands in the way of that delicate process.
I guess I also always have depended so much on my ear, that I wanted that to always remain as true to my own developmental process as possible. Even when I wrote my first book, Slide Guitar, when I was only 20 years old, I only knew where the “G” note was on the musical staff, so I simply deciphered and deduced where the other notes might be, simply from knowing where that good, old G was! And I certainly, when presented with a three-book deal, was not about to tell them I didn’t read or write music! Personally, I love the combination of music and tab, as the tablature truly tells you the positions of the notes, whereas a random note on the staff simply tells you a note that can be in about 6 different places on the neck, all in the same octave!
Truly, as a result of this problem, I had some nightmarish sessions, which I’m sure if you’ve had to move into professional playing, you’ve experienced too! But what we are really shooting for as players, is to be called for recording and performing dates where we are being called for our “own sound” and style, and where the reading turns into a minimal commitment. This is true of most guitarists, as we are perhaps the most self-taught bunch out there in the world of music, and it really makes a lot of what we must do in our life as guitarists more instinctual and creative! Still though…I WISH I COULD READ MUSIC!!!