Q&A3: Sightreading / Altered Dominant 7th / Practice Routines

Sightreading and the problem with TAB

I began playing guitar 2 years ago and really enjoy it. I have one main problem that heavily burdens me. I am 17 years old and for the first two years, my teacher taught me nothing but tablature. This really screwed me over. I am having a lot of difficulty associating the frets with notes and not numbers. I feel like I am relearning the whole instrument even though I did extremely well with tab. Can you offer any suggestions for increasing my ability to sight read? I am currently working out William Leavitt's Berklee books and taking dual enrollment guitar classes at college.
Thanks for your help

That is tough. It sounds like you're doing the right things, getting some college classes and working through the Leavitt books. They are among the best books for learning sightreading. Let me suggest some things. 1) Go through your major scales on the guitar and say the notes out loud as you play them. This will start to reinforce the visual "note map" of the fretboard. 2) Get used to seeing the notes on the page as scale degrees in the given key. That way, you can get in that scale position on the guitar and grab the notes by feel. The appearance of any accidentals will tell you the note is outside of the scale position. 3) Read the music in this order: Shape of line, rhythms, pitches. Believe it or not, misreading rhythms causes more mistakes than misreading pitches. Finally, get in the habit of reading a bar ahead of where you're playing.

How do you alter a dominant seventh chord

My question concerns the altered dominant 7th chord. Real book charts sometimes contain this chord without suggesting how to alter the chord. My teacher tells me that the 5th is the note that is to be altered, but that the 5th can either be flatted or sharped. Aside from what sounds good with respect to the melody, is there any general principle about how one alters this chord? Also, why is this written as an altered dom 7th chord without spelling out how to alter it? After all, virtually all other chords are spelled out (e.g., min7 flat5, or 7 aug9, etc). Is there a strange historical convention working here?

Yeah, there is, sort of. Back in the day, chord charts would say \"G7alt.\" for example, which meant \"G7th, altered.\" An altered chord was understood to mean that the 5th and/or the 9th were raised or lowered a half step. The vagueness of that indication may have been a problem. Some altered voicings don't necessarily match up well. Eventually, chord sheets began to feature more specific alterations. As far as how to alter a given chord in a chart, try looking at the melody. It may have a clue as to what altered note would be most effective. Frankly, the discussion of how to alter a dominant chord could take up a whole book!

Practice Routines

I live in Hyattsvile MD. That's right across the line from DC. I plan to get a guitar instructor this summer, the guy I'm getting with took all the theory and jazz lessons in college also he's very patient and he likes all the rock stuff that I like so he will be fun to learn from. What I wanted to know is if you have a set routine in how you practice. I mean some type of order, like do this first then this. That's something I'm missing.

Your guitar teacher will be invaluable in giving you a good routine. In the meantime, here is how I practice on an average day: First I start with a warm-up exercise. I have several that I use that get my hands loose and limber. This may include scale workouts as well. Then I'll work on the project of the day. It may be a new tune, scale, lick or chord melody arrangement. Finally I'll close the practice session by actually playing some music. Maybe I'll play a tune under gig conditions or jam with an Aebersold CD. Whatever allows me to finish with a sense of accomplishment. I used to have a more complex routine when I was still learning all the basic scales, but now my approach is a bit more integrated.

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