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Confessions of a "tab mentality" but not that either!

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by vindibona1, Aug 29, 2019.

  1. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    There's no excuse. I can read music... WELL! So why can't I wail on the fingerboard making up incredible solos? Because the mentality of not learning the fingerboard, relying largely on "positions' has been a crutch. I never learned the fingerboard well enough to visualize it as patterns of NOTES rather than patterns of finger patterns. I'm pretty good in 1st position, but as we get higher up the neck my note identification weakens. But hopefully not for long.

    Before you read too much into that, if you put a chart of standard notation in front of me, I probably won't be able to sight read it (yet) but give me a day or two and I'll get it down. Again, I don't visualize the fingerboard as I should. I'm working on it and that will change. But age slows the process down.

    But if you put a tab chart down I will probably be even slower at picking it up. I don't relate to tab either. The string/fret notations mean only that- "put fingers down here". At least with standard notation, I'm a good enough reader to have a relationship with the sound even if I have to figure out where to put my fingers down; which position strategy to use, etc.

    Bottom line: I don't think I'll ever love tab or be good at it, but I'm hoping to learn the fingerboard well enough that when I see a tab notation I will instantly know which notes its referring to. Maybe that will change things. But for now there is a total disconnect between tablature and actual sound (forget about rhythm- another annoyance with tab). I think that is a problem for many or even most who only read tab. I dunno. What do you think? A false presumption?

    So right now I'm trying to work on exercises that make me really focus on the notes. As an example, one exercise is to play triads I ii iii IV V iv vii I, ascending on I, descending on ii, ascending on iii, etc. It's making me pay attention to the notes rather than the patterns and while slow in instantly recognizing notes. Music theory while isn't my greatest strength, 3 years of it in college many decades ago provides enough residuals of the basics that (fortunately) I don't have to worry about that as much as becoming fluent on the fingerboard.

    Any suggestions, exercises, etc to help sand-blast the overview of the fingerboard so I can see it instantaneously in a logical useable and strategic fashion? I'm open to suggestions. FWIW, my goal is to become hirable for theater and studio gigs where I know I have to come in, look at a chart for 5 minutes and just play.
  2. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    Now the following is perhaps the first step as it does not focus on playing just the A, B, C notes. I've added the 1, 2, 3's into the picture.

    To fully use your fretboard neck I recommend you think of the notes as A, B, C's and then fill out your bass line with the scale degree numbers, aka 1, 2, 3's. To recap, after I have taken care of the root I then add the chord tone spelling I need. Cmaj7 = R-3-5-7. The root for that Cmaj7 chord can be found several places on your fretboard - that is what I'm pointing out.

    From the root it's 2 is found........
    The 2 is two frets toward the bridge.
    The 3 is up a string and back a fret.
    The 4 is up string same fret.
    The 5 is up a string and over two frets, or down a string same fret.
    The 6 is up two strings and back a fret. Over the 3.
    The 7 is up two strings and over one fret.
    The 8 is up two strings and over two frets. Over the 5.

    Major scale box showing scale degree numbers
    and the root note on the 4th string.
    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string

    This pattern repeats itself up and down the fretboard. C at the 3rd string 3rd fret. Again at the 4th string 8th fret, then again at the 3rd string 15th fret. Is it at other places? You tell me.

    Basic Chord Spellings
    • Major Triad = R-3-5 for the C chord.
    • Minor Triad = R-b3-5 for the Cm chord.
    • Diminished Chord = R-b3-b5 for the Cdim chord.
    7th Chord Spellings
    • Maj7 = R-3-5-7 for the Cmaj7 chord.
    • Minor 7 = R-b3-5-b7 for the Cm7 chord.
    • Dominant 7 = R-3-5-b7 for the C7 chord.
    • ½ diminished = R-b3-b5-b7 for the Cm7b5 chord.
    • Full diminished = R-b3-b5-bb7 for the C with the little o - no strike through.
    See a chord and play it's chord tones. As every key will have three major, three minor and one diminished chord it's a good idea to get your major, minor and diminished bass line chord tones into muscle memory so when you see a chord your fingers just know what will work. Now the song may only give you enough room for the root, or root five - adapt and get as many chord tones into your bass line as needed. Root on 1 and a steady groove from the other chord tones plus something to call attention to the chord change is what we do.

    Scale Spellings Yep, gotta do our scales so our fingers know where the notes are and our ears get used to the good and bad sounds. Scales are a right of passage thing. Got to know them, however, chord tones is what we get paid to play.
    • Major Scale = R-2-3-4-5-6-7 Home base
    • Major Pentatonic = R-2-3-5-6 Leave out the 4 & 7
    • Natural Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7 Major scale with the 3, 6 & 7 flatted.
    • Minor Pentatonic = R-b3-4-5-b7 Leave out the 2 & 6.
    • Blues = R-b3-4-b5-5-b7 Minor pentatonic with the blue note b5 added.
    • Harmonic Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-b6-7 Natural minor with a natural 7.
    • Melodic Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-6-7 Major scale with a b3.

    I ran the chord and scale spellings until I could do them in my sleep. Find the root in first position, thinking in A, B, C's then add the spelling for what you want, thinking in 1, 2, 3's, i.e. R-5-8-5 for example. If playing a C root at the 8th fret has advantages, nothing stopping you from going there.

    Hint} If playing from standard notation or fake chord I find my root (A, B, C) in first position, then fill out the bass line using the spelling needed. If playing from Nashville numbers I stay in 1, 2, 3's and go up the neck for the needed key location. Then if I need a full chord bass line I again get my other chord tones from the 1, 2, 3's.

    I think adding the major scale box pattern and the 1, 2, 3's will help with seeing the whole fretboard in a new light.

    Good luck.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2019
    BigDanT likes this.
  3. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    I appreciate the effort Malcom35. Some of that will be helpful. As far as the theory and the notes that make up the chords and scales, I know those backwards and forwards.

    I did find this helpful as I will start using it to think about the notes within the scales. And that's helpful if I want to play a chord from the Tonic within the scale. But then lets say I want to play a ii7 chord, I have to learn (memorize) that it would be 2-4-6-1(8), or iii7=3-5-7-2(9), etc. After all those years of guitar lessons I now ponder why I was never asked to learn this stuff on a practical basis?

    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string

    As a trumpet player (and one who plays AT the piano... not to be confused with one who can play piano) I've got the theory down. For me it's a matter of being able to pre-visualize where stuff is on the fingerboards identifying the notes rather than patterns. I have no idea why it's been so hard to do this. I suppose I just have to do variations of scales arpeggios 10,000 times vocalizing every note as I play until I have it down. What I want to be able to do is, as an example, think Cmaj7 and visualize it on the bass and guitar as I do on the piano as shown below. With piano it's pretty easy as, the notes are always in the same place. With that even inversions on the piano are easy to visualize. In the guitar example below, while the fingerings are helpful just as tab is helpful underneath standard notation, I have to wonder why I never see notes associated with fingers on any type of tab or chord chart. I have no idea why, after all these years I haven't worked this stuff out.

    The one thing in theory I haven't worked out is modes. While I know how dorian, lydian mixo, etc work from the notes within a scale I've never learned how to apply them properly for effect. I'll stop here with that, but may take it up later on.

    Cmaj78_piano. Cmaj7_guitar.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2019
  4. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    You say that you "know theory" but you think in fingering patterns not notes.

    there's two approaches, both of which are useful to practice:
    1. Memorize all. Every note on the fingerboard, every note of every key/arpeggio.
    2. Learns to translate from fingering shape > interval/arpeggio shape > notes, like so:

    Option 1 is ultimately faster but takes more practice
    Option 2 is useful as it exposes underlying musical patterns

    Attached Files:

  5. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    ONE of the reasons I have a problem with tabs is if you don't want to play all the notes in that exact position, it's useless. Learn the gingerbread - what is easier and sounds better for you.
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  6. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    - how much time do you really have (motivation vs. rationalization) to spend on this 'quest'?
    - how much time have you actually spent on this 'quest'?
    - how much time did you expect to spend on this 'quest'?

  7. catcauphonic

    catcauphonic High Freak of the Low Frequencies Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2012
    Seattle WA
    Blows my mind to read that some peeps who can read music have a hard time catching on to tab, as I've seen that written here often.

    I can barely read (F cleff), but even my number driven type of dyslexia can manage to breeze thru a tab reading.

    Seriously... I find it fascinating
  8. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    There are different TAB variants.
    Just a few measures notated in TAB (from the vast ocean of Internet), and the same I've heard and transcribed.

    And here is the same spot I've transcribed.

    P.S. There are several(!!!) studio versions of that bass line. Some nuances are different.
  9. RyanOh

    RyanOh Gold Supporting Member

    My very first guitar teacher was a TAB guy. I learned this way but quickly also developed an ear and wrote out my own TABs so I'd remember the notes (pre-Internet). Within the second year of playing, I was also taking a class in Classical Music Theory...hugely helpful...but I didn't change my thinking on TAB until much later.

    TAB by itself drives me absolutely insane. There is no sense of timing or rhythm, note length, let alone WHAT FREEKIN KEY ARE WE IN!? What are the chords I'm playing over? This is a huge problem for TABbers and video gamers, no musical knowledge is gained. It's strictly a cheat sheet to learn the mechanics of playing notes on a guitar...and ok that is awesome for the first 6 months...then move on and learn music.

    I liked the post by @Whousedtoplay -- that transcription is the way to go. I've found similar on YouTube:

    Basic music theory, knowing the chord progression and key -- the notes make sense! You can transpose to other keys, you see the patterns in music, oh it's good.

    I would find the transcriptions that offer standard notation and TAB so you can visually cross reference, then try some standard notation by itself. I'm not good at it, but that's what I ended up doing over time. It's a different world.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
    Bassist4Eris likes this.
  10. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    It's funny... I can look at the notes on the fingering chart and instantly translate them into R 3 5 7 etc. But taking the numeric values and translating them into notes... More difficult for me. I suppose its' because I've never practiced that way.

    Again- tab is a total musical disconnect for me. It's too much like "painting by numbers". I can interpret from standard notation. With my trumpet I can even see musicality within standard notation sight reading. Tab seems more like the game "Twister" than music. It might be noted that I started playing before tab existed on a popular level. I'd never even seen a tab chart until I'd been playing guitar for at least 30 years.

    I can totally relate to the standard notation. The first tab variant leaves my eyes glazed over. It would be like hunt-and-peck typing for me. I will spend some more time with tab, but don't think I'll ever come to enjoy it.

    You know... I just thought of the "acid test".... CAN YOU SIGHT SING FROM TAB? If you can then you're golden. If you can't and can still play from it, at least you have some practical depth. But if you can't sight sing it or have much inkling of what it is until you sit down the play it you are are pretty much like me.
  11. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    How much time? As long as it takes. I think what I have done is been mentally lazy when learning many tunes just with positions, understanding the where the roots lie and doing a lot of mimicing by ear as best I can. What I have to do is go back over stuff I know how to play and verbally recite each and every note to myself. There will be a two-fold benefit to just taking time to do this; learning the fingerboard and in doing so be able to see the notes in my head and find the notes on the fingerboard without a lot of cerebral thought, just like I do on trumpet. I hope that in a short period of time I can "chunk" information as I do on trumpet. In other words, (to use trumpet as an example) when I see a grouping of notes my fingers automatically see a sequence pattern without really thinking about it. Sometimes there will be oddball groupings that will need practice to develop the muscle memories for sequences that aren't common, but that's what practice is about. Hopefully it won't take years to develop similar fluency of thought, movement and muscle memory.

    I agree entirely. I own the Guitar Pro program so I have access to the music where standard and tab are written in a two-staved system where I can use the music to understand where it's going and use the tab as a guide and sometimes a cheat-sheet when confused.

    Also I find it interesting that I read flats better than sharps because I've spent so many years in concert band where it is flat oriented. In orchestra and theater we see lots of sharps, but there are a lot of tricks one can use to help on trumpet... But I just have to practice in more sharp keys (other than plain ol G D and A).
    RyanOh likes this.
  12. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    Yes 90% of what I do is with fake chord sheet music. I did use tab with the banjo, but, never with guitar or bass. With fake chord I'm following the chords and knowing that - if a Cmaj7 chord is coming up R-3-5-7 is a safe bass line. If a Cm7b5 chord is coming up I need R-b3-b5-b7. And yes all of those are in muscle memory. See the chord name (chunk) and my fingers know where they need to go.

    Point of my post. Never had a band director hand me any tabbed out bass line sheet music, but, every band director I've ever had handed out fake chord sheet music - same fake chord sheet music to everyone in the band.

    Keyboard used the chord's name for his left hand and faked the melody in his right hand. Guitar guys strummed the chord. Singers used the lyrics, and the drummer looked over the lyrics and time signature and then decided on a groove pattern. Everyone used the same sheet of fake chord then did their own thing.

    Might give fake chord and scale degree numbers another look.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2019
    RyanOh likes this.
  13. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    It sounds like you have identified a hole in your theory, then. Recall of The note names of all 12 intervals in a given key should be instant, or nearly so. Memorizing the accidental in key signatures, the Cycle of 5ths, and the cycle of 3rds (which, if you can read notation, you will know as the order of lines /spaces) can help, but ultimately it's like memorizing your times tables. Drills and flash cards.
  14. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Sorry! I'm all out of Purina Troll Chow.
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  15. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    There is a lot to memorize that I haven't needed before. I regularly get chord charts and seem to do pretty well with them though I tend not to do anything super fancy. And mercifully I've never been in a situation other than a lesson where tab has been thrown at me.

    The note names of the intervals of almost every key is pretty quick if not instantaneous. Circle of 4ths and 5ths I have a decent foundation of but could probably be stronger on. Where I think one of my biggest weaknesses is is application of modes. While I know how dorian, lydian, mixolyian, etc fall within a key I'm not sure how to apply them exactly. That's on my musical bucket list among other things.

    It is a slow tedious process, yes- like times tables. I have no idea how I got away without learning this stuff in my youth... and then there was a 22 year gap with no music playing and another 20 years of being slave to the trumpet before reengaging guitar, then bass. A lot of this is like drinking from a fire hose, but I'm determined. I just hope I can get to where I want to be, with a couple years left before I'm permanently visiting the other side of the grass.
  16. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    Other side of the grass.... I like that. Modes are moods of a scale. If you want a happy uplifting sound Ionian will give you that. So will the major scale so we are left with the age old …. do I want to go tonal or modal. Long story.

    Forget about modes for right now there is enough tonal stuff to keep you busy for the next year or so.

    Happy trails.
  17. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    Yep... I'm just looking to find a community musical theater production that needs a bass player that can read. I should be in pretty good shape for that while I strengthen my chops in other areas. It's interesting where the "holes" are. Not necessarily where they should be or where I should have expected them. For the most part I just need to learn to put fingers down (in all positions) as naturally and instinctively as I can pick off trumpet notes. Only three fingers, only 7 general fingering combinations and all those notes that you have to know where they are by sound, feel, air and chops. Should be easy, right?
  18. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    (Just a comic relief.)
    Everyday, Guitar Pro app has a transcribed song - Free Tab of the Day.
    Today, it's Stevie Ray Vaughan's, "Cold Shot".
    I'm confused a little bit about the notation.
    Here is the bass line transcription.

    It has seven flats in the key.

    The guitar transcription has only two flats.

    And here we have the transcribed melody with three sharps.

    Quinn Roberts, SteveCS and RyanOh like this.
  19. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Even more odd - in the guitar part, first note, E Natural, the TAB shows open string, which is Eb according to the tuning instructions...
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  20. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    I understand that the TAB (only) readers would not pay any attention to the standard notation, but...
    One could tune/detune an instrument (the bass guitar) but the note pitch value remains the same.
    If it is Bb, then, it's Bb independently of any tuning/detuning tricks, but...
    It's not Bb in that GP transcription.
    Should it be A natural due to "tune down 1/2 step"?, but...
    It's Ab on my piano(???)
    SteveCS likes this.

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