How to Play Guitar without Reading Music

The fact of reading music can create fear into many aspiring musician’s hearts. Especially when you are thinking of taking up the guitar for the first time. Actually, it’s not just aspiring musicians; also, the guitarists of different stages struggle to read music.

Musical code looks like a slew of abstract art if you are not aware of what it means. Figuring out the meaning of the notation is annoying when you want to rock. Possibly that’s why many guitarists avoid reading music while they play guitar.

But, how to play guitar without reading music? Is it even possible? Yes, mate, it is possible. Reading music can be a tough skill but not very essential ability to learn to play guitar. Particularly for people who play pop and rock music.

Many guitarists cannot read music but rock with the best music. Instead of reading music, there are more ways to play the guitar. In this lesson, we’ll discuss all possible ways to play the guitar without reading music. There we go.

Musicians Combo

Is It Necessary To Read The Music?

Whether you need to read music is entirely depends on the style you want to play. Sometimes you put hours of effort into learning the music notation which you’ll never need. Unfortunately, your effort goes in vain.

Music notation refers to a system that includes Clefs, Crotchets, and Quavers. It’s a universally accepted system of learning and reading music. Being able to read this notation can be helpful but not essential.

As we earlier mentioned, many musicians cannot read music. If you are planning for a three or four chord-punk band, being able to read music is not necessary. Rather than that, guitarists have already developed a faster way to play a song.

Musicians Who Cannot Read music

You know what, few famous musicians don’t know to read music. Yes, it’s true. You might be thinking how this is even possible. Actually, a genius will always be a genius, no matter if he can read music or not. The following musicians are the best example of it.

  • Eric Clapton: The brilliant musician and songwriter who might be in the rock and hall of fame. He can’t read music.
  • The Beatles: The musician and guitarist from Beatles band cannot read music. They never tried to learn in their lifespan.
  • Slash: The guitar icon Slash himself cannot read music. He used to play by ear.
  • Jimi Hendrix: This famous American guitarist, singer, and songwriter cannot read music.

See, you are not alone here who find it difficult to read music. These famous people amazingly have played without reading music at all. Everyone has their style to play guitar. Learning music can works better for some, but it is manageable.

Guitar Chords

How to Play Guitar Without Reading Music?

The traditional notation seems like an ancient language and peculiar to many. There is nothing if you find the same. In fact, the pro guitarist has already developed many ways to play guitar who cannot read music. We’ll discuss a few of them. We hope you find it helpful.

Guitar Tablature (TABS)

The most used way that helps to play guitar is using guitar tablature. It’s a great alternative to read music. Guitar tablature is a kind of music notation. Here standard notes are replaced with numbers. And, the lines stand for the strings and frets of the guitar. 

The tablature sheet shows the six strings in ascending order. There is a number over the strings, which indicates what fret to hold while playing that particular string. Guitar tabs make it easy to understand the notation.

The guitar chords are displayed in another way called the chord grid. Here the vertical lines represent the six strings, and horizontal lines denote the frets. Also, the number represents where you need to play.

The number also tells you which finger to use. Here 1 – index finger, 2 – middle finger, 3 – ring finger, and 4 – pinky finger.

Memorize with Little Note

The easiest way to play your guitar is to memorize the notes. You’ll need a paper called a cheat sheet and a few repetitions. Write down the basic notes with space in a paper. Also, write down the tab underneath each note. Now play the notes again and again until you adopt the sound. Repeat the same with other notes.

Music Book

Listen and Play

This step is quite severe. Here you need to find a song and put it on your stereo. Play the song and listen to it a few times. You should have an idea of the melody in your head. Now get your guitar on hand and play the stereo again.

Try to distinguish the notes that are being played. The time you are listening, use your cheat sheet to write down the notes. Strum your guitar until you can match your notes with the song’s notes. Keep it doing until you get the best music!

Take Online Guitar Lesson

Taking an online guitar lesson is another great way to learn guitar without reading music. You’ll find several online guitar lesson services, such as Guitar Tricks, Fender Play, JamPlay, Artist Works, etc.

These services will surely make your guitar playing session more convenient. You may have to pay a monthly subscription fee. However, these will help to get professional help through videos.

This video focuses on the basic concepts of playing the guitar. It shows how to fret the notes and pick the strings. This will also help you go through every note. They tell you on which string and fret you need to play. We can say the video lesson includes visible guitar tabs to help you play the guitar.

Learn Guitar by Ear

You’ll be amazed to know that you can learn the guitar by ear. It is the most reliable way which requires advanced skill. With ear training and understanding the fretboard, you can learn guitar without reading music.

Indeed, it takes a lot of practice. Once you are skilled at it, you will be able to play new songs very quickly. Here you need to recognize the patterns, chord progressions, and a song’s scale.

If you can understand how a song is being played, you can repeat it without seeing the notes. You must have a better understanding of the fretboard and the location of the notes. Let us tell you a pro tip, slow down the song while you listen.

Why Should You Learn to Read Music?

It is evident that learning to read music is hard, but not like inadaptable. Though it takes time to perfect, once you learn the notes, it is too easy. Based on the style of music you want to play, you have to be able to read music.

Here are a few reasons why you should learn to read music:

  • Being able to read music will help you play the guitar quickly and simply. You can play any written notes by just learning finger placement on the fretboard.
  • Once you understand the music, you can immerse more in the musical world. Everything comes out beautifully when you know the strumming patterns, theory, timing, and more.
  • You can collaborate with other musicians by learning to read different music.
  • You can easily give other guitar lessons. Learning to read music help you explain your music to others.


However, playing the guitar without reading music is absolutely possible. You can think of a long successful career evening without being able to read music. Here we already described how to play guitar without reading music. You can now try playing more challenging songs and even start creating your own songs!