I am an intermediate-advanced guitarist who has been playing for 8 years and can read TAB and sheet music fairly well, but I want to improve my sight reading. I am not the worst at it but I want it to get better. If anyone can tell how they learnt to sight read or any books or websites out there that can help, please let me know.

  • Have a look at Leavitt's book "Melodic Rhythms for Guitar"; find more details in this answer.
    – Matt L.
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 9:22
  • If you're looking for something in both bass and treble clef that's easy to read, it's hard to beat hymnals. I got two used baptist hymnals for $5. As a guitarist you can even start to read two+ notes at a time and play the voicings. If you do jazz at all and don't have one yet, get a real book. The ones from Hal-Leonard aren't bad and at the right tempo and many of the melodies can be played by anybody who knows around a 1/1.5 octave range on their instrument.
    – mkingsbu
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 13:26
  • I did a google search for sheet music books for guitar, and then read some reviews on Amazon. Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 13:30
  • If you get the Real books, you can also buy the app iReal Pro. This will play the backgrounds for you to practice with. Also you can change the speed, rhythm and key, very useful for beginners. With a bit of finger-pokery you can program your own chord sequences too. There are others on the market, but the band I play with decided we would all use it.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 8:53

4 Answers 4


A technique advocated by Steve Vai on this one is to pick up some sheet music books for other instruments, especially violin. Being a hardy Scot I'd recommend some fiddle tunes, but that's up to you ;)

A book specific to guitar that I've found great for sight-reading practice is Harmony for Guitar. Sight reading isn't the direct focus of the book, but all the examples are in proper notation, and it's great for modes and classical theory too!

  • 1
    I second this. I used to have classical guitar lessons, so my sight reading was never terrible, but I didn't get good until I started arranging Chopin's waltzes for the guitar. Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 8:41

As someone once told me in school, the only way to learn how to sight read is to sight read. Start with stuff that you can learn easily, and mix things up with greater and lesser challenges. As you get better, learn how to fake difficult passages by leaving out and changing some of the notes. As you get still better, then you will find that you have to do this less often.

There isn't any easier or harder way to do it. You get better by doing it. I can sight read any music in a beginner's book pretty much perfectly, intermediate stuff well enough, advanced stuff not so well. Liszt was supposed to be able to look over an orchestral score once, and then read over it at the piano in such a way that the entire orchestra seemed to come to life, pulling all the instruments together under his ten fingers. (We all have our limitations; his only one was that he only had ten fingers!)

  • I'd pick up on 'stuff you can learn easily'. The point of sightreading is not to learn it, but simply to play it frst time. By the time it's learned, it's not sightreading!
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 9:20
  • @Tim Of course. But learning how to sight-read is learning how to play it the first time, to use your definition. Sight-reading is still a learned skill, in other words, and a skill distinct from learning how to play a piece as you say.
    – BobRodes
    Commented Feb 20, 2021 at 0:21

I use William Leavitt's "A Modern Method for Guitar". I'm currently working on volume 1 (out of 3).

It starts nice and easy with the C major scale in open position, where you have a few pages of studies, duets, etc. The book also teaches you chords (mostly triads) related to that position. Then it moves on to other scales (G major and F major, if i recall correctly.)

In the later volumes/chapters, the author goes through more advanced stuff, such as chord inversions, chord constructions, dynamics, etc.

It is a bit dry, but to learn/practise sight reading, it is amazing.

  • I'd love to find out why C major is deemed to be a good start key for guitar. The white keys seem to be missing...
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 9:21

I actually really enjoy playing the lead lines of violin music on guitar. You can fill in some more notes with a bass notes that ring or the strumming of chord on the strong pulse. It is really good at developing a musical sensitivity as well as getting you good at sight reading.

If you do this just make sure the music is written in a guitar friendly key and is not in any of the other clefs.

  • Guitar friendly key?
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 10:35
  • One without flats.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 11:01
  • Which effectively cuts out about half of the available keys! Won't help more than 50%!
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 11:59
  • You could tune your guitar a half step then I guess. It just makes things hard.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 12:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.