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Should I learn to play the guitar by learning to read music or should I just learn to play by ear?

I know people that just learned to read the guitar without knowing how to read music, is this a gift or can anyone do this? And, is it beneficial to learn how to play by ear, or should I take the time to read music and understand it?

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6 Responses to “Should I learn to play the guitar by learning to read music or should I just learn to play by ear?”

  1. Lobito D said :

    No its not a gift its called tabs.much easier than reading music.and over time you learn to play songs by ear.and yes you should take the time to learn to read should get a book called guitar method.that book taught me to read music and play chords and pretty much the basics.there’s like 3 books.
    beginner intermediate advanced

  2. Richeasley said :

    I have played since 1980. You should learn Chords and scales, after you know them learn songs. If you were learning spanish you would start with words and then move on to phrases. There is a difference between being a musician and playing a song. Dont go for the quick and easy way. Do it right and songs will make sence to you.

  3. Stan said :


    Your ear is the single most important aspect of being a musician. If you don’t have a good ear, you’ll never be a good musician.

    When I started on guitar, we didn’t have tabs, and I took lessons going through the first 8 books of the Mel Bay method, before I stopped the teacher and asked him to teach me “pro chords.”

    That’s what we called bar chords that can be taken up and down the neck back then.

    There’s nothing wrong with learning to read music, but with today’s tabs, it’s not really needed.

    Here’s the big advantage tabs have over common staff music notation….

    Say the staff calls for you to play an E note? Music notation will not tell you where on the neck that E note is played.

    Is it an E on the 4th string 2nd fret, or an E on the 3rd string 7th fret, or an E on the 2nd string 5th fret, or just a simple open 1st string?

    Tabs will tell you exactly where that note is played which can make all the difference in making a difficult piece of music much easier.

    I’m rambling..but a quick story…I lived next to a guitar player much better than me….I ran over to his house one day because I thought I had just figured out the chords to a new Beatle song…he said, that’s not a C chord there, it’s an Am.

    This was a revelation to me and opened up a whole new world and made me realize how important the ear is.

    Keep practicing till those fingers bleed!

  4. kourtni l said :

    lol. im leaarning by ear. and it isnt that easy.i already have a little something.

    im i guess the earlier you learn it will stick with you. like learning another language.

    i found it easy to just ask questions on here.

    and if i play something i like i write it down. like tabs.

    it has helped me alot. but my only problem is i have an electric with no amp.

    so it sounds kinda weird.

    but acousic will sound better.

    i learned a couple of songs by tokio hotel.

    realy good band.

  5. mfg said :

    You will have many more opportunities available if you learn to read music. I know someone who lost out because he couldn’t.

  6. ec said :

    Learn MUSIC as you learn guitar. To read notes, rhythms, rests, learn scales and chords and you will have a string foundation as you continue your process. If you begin with chords, TAB or simple ‘do this’ learning, you will ultimately stall and plateau. Try The Kore Series at


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