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As a total newbie, is it OK to play around with tabs?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by BassOfDiamonds, Jul 19, 2012.

  1. So I had my first lesson ever last week (first time ever playing a musical instrument), and I practice daily.

    I always start off by doing the exercises my instructor provided me, but then once I nail those to my satisfaction, I end up not wanting to stop there.

    So then I end up playing the bass lines I remember from songs by ear, and recently, looking up tabs for more bass lines to play.

    Given that these songs require fretting/techniques that I haven't been taught yet, and I'm only improvising like the amateur I am, I'm most likely going "out of bounds" and doing everything wrong, lol. I just rely on sound.

    Today I asked two musician friends about this. One, a guitarist, said that it was the way to go - learn on my feet, etc. He said he was mostly self-taught.

    Another, a violinist, jumped on my ass about it. lol He said that I was undoubtedly "instilling bad habits" in myself.

    If I'm focusing on proper, taught technique for the instructor-provided exercises, and doing my best to maintain the fundamentals when I branch off and have a little fun with my bass, is the violinist guy right in that it's a bad idea? To me, it's just exploration of the instrument and what it can do - what my instructor says definitely takes precedence, since I want to do things right, ultimately.

    I'm hoping the guitarist is right. :p
  2. As long as you show your teacher what you've been working on by yourself I don't see any problems. Your teacher will fix any bad habits you may be developing.

    My son has recently started school and is learning to read. Should I only let him read the “first readers” that his teacher send home, or encourage him to read any word he thinks he can?

    .....but don't make the mistake of thinking that because you can play increasingly difficult tabs that you don't need your teacher anymore.

    Playing a song and playing an instrument are 2 different concepts.
  3. colcifer

    colcifer Esteemed Nitpicker Supporting Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    A Galaxy Far, Far Away
    Have fun while using good technique. If you're in music for the long haul, switch to score asap. What kind of stuff does your teacher have you working on? Also, take anything a guitarist says with a helping of salt; check out the humor and band management sections to learn why.
  4. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    agreed, if you fool around with tabs while trusting your teacher to correct bad habits, you got nothing to worry about.
    But don't let tabs become a substitute for honing your ear or score/notation skills.
  5. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    as long as he is giving you material which is not tabbed then thats fine. Whats not fine is when people start to think that tabs are a substitute for music.

    Have tabs as a last resort. Your ears will pay the bills, not your tab reading.
  6. +1
  7. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006


    Tabs are OK up to a point. Just don't become too dependent on them.
  8. Tabs are OK for working out a specific riff or lick, but, do not fall into the trap of relying on them to play from as your primary source. Why? If we play by rote what is written, for example: standard notation gives us a time signature and a key signature plus note duration are indicated, so we have a feel for the big picture. But, with tab we get none of this information, just knowing what key the tab is using is not included. Tab has it's place, but, it also has it's limitations. It's a tool, use it correctly.

    Mess around, explore - enjoy your bass. Like has been said, your instructor will keep you on the right track.

    Welcome to the bottom end. :bassist:

  9. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
    going through some of this myself, I would be aware how just picking up songs, playing from tabs and such early enthusiastic players can make some awkward fingering choices. One of the benefits of instruction is learningto make smooth fingering choices in context of where you're coming from and going to.
    So since I ran into these myself as I picked up songs by ear or did early tab work, I'd run these past your teacher if/when they come up.

    also re: tabs tabs present one way of playing a line. If one were to learn the notes depicted by those tabs and move the line to a different part of the fretboard, there'd be an expansion of knowledge in a few dimensions -- the sort not normally associated with tab work.
  10. bass_study


    Apr 17, 2012

    Reading notation also helps you get familiar with the neck quicker. Every time you read the note, you are thinking of what is that note, where is that note on the neck, and how to play the subsequent notes on the neck with better fingering... So it is better if you can switch back to notAtion as possible. It maybe tough at 1st place but once you acquire the skills it makes you learn a lot faster.
  11. musicianary


    Jun 23, 2011
    San Diego, CA
    Tabs are alright to a degree. Just be careful, though; they can confuse you if you lean too much on them. Use them while you're still in the process of learning how to play, but as soon you know your way around your instrument abandon them and move on to chord charts and sheet music.
  12. mbeall


    Jun 25, 2003
    Here's a good rule of thumb if you are going to use tabs. As long as you can name the notes on the neck informed by the tab they are not a total loss. If you allow them to only inform you of "where to put your fingers" with no regard to the other musical information contained in a song/line etc.. you are doing yourself a disservice.
    It take's more time but your better off learning by ear then by tab. Sometimes it's not practical if you have more material to cover then you are capable of learning by ear in a set amount of time, or maybe you really just want to play a difficult song NOW, as long as you do the extra work beyond "where to put your fingers" to really understand what you are playing then all should be fine.
    My experiences in the past learning stuff from tab was kinda like learning sentences in a new foreign language. I could say the sentence, sometimes even without an accent, but only had a vague idea of what the words meant and no clue as to the structure of the sentence itself. The more you know about the line the faster you can apply that knowledge to other areas and the faster the knowledge builds on itself and everything gets easier. You are new to this and it can be slow at first so don't stress over it, it's always like this if you keep studying ;-). But I can promise you that if you commit yourself to the idea of "just" learning the note names on the neck for any tune you learn on tab you will be extremely grateful to yourself later down the line when you begin to study more theory.

    As far as your concerns about technique. Technique can be fixed or changed rather quickly in comparison to years of ignoring the fundamentals of music, in particular harmony, on your instrument. Trust me on this.

  13. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism

    If you learn from tabs now for quick learning your long term learning will suffer for it.

    I wish I could go back a decade and tell myself to learn to read when I started playing... my teacher was fool.
  14. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Masks, people, masks!
    Song Surgeon slow downer.
    TB has a Tab Forum, so it's approved.
  15. Rick Robins

    Rick Robins

    Jan 13, 2010
    Las Vegas, NV
    Or as Jeff says:
  16. Intenzity


    Oct 15, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    Tab is like smoking, if you say, "oh I am just gonna 'mess around' with Camel Lights, I ain't gonna keep doing it.", actually, yea you are. Forever. Either that or quitting is gonna be a very giant amount of work.

    Tab's the same way. Just don't start. What, is every eighth grader in pep band smarter than you? Because they can all read music. It's not that hard, just do it.

    Don't start with Tabs, just like smoking, once you start, its REALLY hard to put it down and you will definitely hit a wall with the usefulness of TAB very quickly, and after that it actually stagnates and limits you as a player because it hides or omits a ton of necessary musical information about a song. And oh yea, tab gives you cancer too. They have done studies. Giant golf ball sized brain tumors. Yup.
  17. klokker


    Jan 7, 2009
    Steele City, NE
    I would say do your lessons correctly and then do as you please. Don't get in the habit of letting everyone else tell you how to play bass. So what if you do something "wrong" ? As you progress you'll probably go through several "technique" adjustments or changes anyway.

    I agree with those who say, tabs are OK, but chuck them as soon as possible.
  18. bigfatbass

    bigfatbass Inactive

    Jun 30, 2003
    Upstate NY
    Endorsing Artist: Karl Hoyt Basses
    As an early player, I would stay away from using tabs too much. I think it makes you jump a stage of cognition that pays great dividends later, if programmed in early. You need to think of the note FIRST, not just where which finger is.

    When I teach I always have 2 parts of every lesson: 1st is warming up, rudiments/scales/exercises, or anything related to notation, technique, and building proper support for your fingers.

    The second part I call "whatcha listening to?"
    The value of getting a student to share what makes their musical mind tick is immeasurable when trying to maintain interest.
  19. Before I started taking lessons, I had been playing bass for close to a year. I had the exact same problem you just described, but I decided to just go for it.

    At my first lesson, my teacher was amazed at how "technical" I was. So I guess it worked out for me. And since you are already taking lessons, your teacher will nip any bad habits you might develop in the butt, so you're going to be fine!
  20. facepalmmaster


    Jan 4, 2012
    Im not sure, I say do what you want. I started on cello, been playing for 8 years, still sorta get lessons at school and such, and for that technique is important, and its sort of important to learn as instructed. With bass, however, I find its much less strict. I have never taken lessons on bass (searched online) and I know how to do all the 3 major styles of playing (slap, pick, finger). The only things you really need to learn is what to do with your right hand, and that will just take some practice, its nothing that you need to learn strictly by the book. Just make sure you don't start out with difficult stuff

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