Hi I just started to learn sight reading on guitar , I was started on Key C and no problem because it is easy but when I play on others keys I am confused about method or system for thinking on sharp or flat keys and connect to fretboard forms. What metod or system you all session musician use in acareer or in a real world.

  • i'd work through the cycle of fifths as suggested below. G, then D, then A and so on. Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 8:57

3 Answers 3


It just takes practice. You probably spent the most time in C so that is easiest. Play the next few weeks only in the key of G and see how that starts to feel then. My guess is it will be easier.

I also want to suggest that you think of sight reading as something you practice, as opposed to something that, at some point, you should just be able to do. I play for a lot of musicals and even though I "sight read" the scores I spend hours practicing them too, they are just not memorized so I "read" the score while playing, but have positions and changes marked etc..

I would not spend to much time looking for a "system" to make it easy. Real music is unpredictable and an "system" will just not work. You just need to have put in the hours of practice in order to be able to do what you want to, that is both the good and the bad news.

One thing I wanted to add to this, remember that guitar uses patterns. So take a major scale you are comfortable with, let's say C major. Moving that pattern up a step (one fret) and playing it just means you are now playing in the key of C#. As long as the pattern does not use any open strings this will be the case. So that can help speed up your progress with getting comfortable playing in other keys. But what I said still applies, you just have to spend the time, but thinking of C and C# as the same with one just being up a half step (one fret) up will really speed up your progress AND you don't even really need to know all the notes there, just the pattern and then the note knowledge can develop over time.

  • Of the many musicians I've known over decades including some who became band directors, their learning to sight read music many instruments came from "rote," learning, that is, many hours of practice which is so often playing scales and other exercises assigned by instructors.
    – ejbpesca
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 20:55

The traditional (classical training) method of learning to sight read consists of the following steps:

  1. Learn the seven note names, and their sharps and flats
  2. Locate those notes on your instrument
  3. Begin with easy to read examples, and work up to the more difficult examples.

I recommend going to a music store and finding a book on scales for guitar (there are some very good ones out there). Add those exercises to you daily/weekly practice. Always learn a little at a time!!! Go slowly and carefuly, and deep learn, don't skim and forget! ALWAYS use a metronome!!!

Also, there are numerous free online references that will help you understand the various notations you will encounter as you go through your journey. Try searching for "reading music pdf" or something like that.

finally, there is an excellent book specifially about reading music on guitar called:

On Practicing: A Manual for Students of Guitar Performance by Ricardo Iznaola.

I highly recommend it.

Hope this helps!


One key at a time. First you learn to sight-read in C/Am. After you've got that done, you learn F/Dm with one flat. After you've got that, you learn G/Em with one sharp. Then Bb/Gm with two flats. Then D/Bm with two sharps. Etc.

  • 1
    Why this order or keys? Classical guitar repertoire uses keys with sharps more often than flats. Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 14:18
  • In the classical tradition, people also tend to have a teacher, right? And then a question like "how do I learn all keys" won't get posted here... Just guessing.
    – user94880
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 14:28
  • "Don't try to do to much at once" is good advice, but note that the original poster is (or was, 6 years ago) already comfortable in C, but confused about how to continue. Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 16:50

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