How to Read Sheet Music on the Guitar for Beginners

guitar image by Victor M. from

Things You'll Need

  • Guitar
  • Pencil
  • Staff paper

Guitarists must learn music theory in order to understand and read sheet music. When guitarists learn music theory, their guitar skills are enhanced and they are also able to compose their own sheet music. In basic music theory, you will learn how to read lines and spaces on the staff and how to distinguish notes when you play the guitar.

Memorize the lines and spaces on a staff. A staff consists of lines and spaces where notes are drawn and represents the notes on a guitar.

Memorize music notes on the musical staff as you relate the notes to the music alphabet. The notes on a musical staff are in alphabetical order. For example, start with the first staff line at the bottom of the staff. The first line represents E. Above E, the space is called F and then the next line is G. Guitar music is played on the treble clef staff, also referred to as G staff. The treble clef assigns notes to a certain line or space on the staff.

Repeat a technique for you to remember the lines on a staff. The five lines equal EGBDF. You can use a saying such as Every Good Boy Does Fine (E-G-B-D-F) as a memory device, or make up a silly saying of your own.

Practice a technique to remember the spaces on a musical staff. The four spaces spell out FACE, and F is the first space on the staff above middle C. Middle C is on a small line that extends the staff, called a ledger line, that is below the treble staff.

Memorize note values. Note values represent the duration of sound. When they are counted with a steady beat, it creates rhythm. There are four basic note values: the quarter note, the half note, the dotted half note and the whole note. Some other note values are eighth notes and sixteenth notes.