help reading tabs

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Tillerbass, Jan 10, 2003.

  1. Tillerbass

    Tillerbass Guest

    Jan 5, 2003
    ive been playing bass for a few months now, but i can't seem to play music from tabs very well. i know how to read the tabs and what everything on them means, but i can't ever seem to put the notes on the paper with the notes on the song and then put that note on my bass(did that make any sense?). i play the tabs with the song where they are supposed to go, but nothing seems to fit. are my tabs wrong? is it my ear? am i just an idiot?
  2. jade


    Mar 8, 2002
    depending on where you got your tabs, tabs are usually wrong. whenever i read tabs i alway have to correct them.

    is there any particular song you are trying to play that the moment?
  3. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    One of the major downfalls of tabs is their inability to show what types of notes you are supposed to play (quarter, eight, sixteenth, etc.). Knowing what length of note to play and the speed to play it at are very important in learning the proper way to play a song.
  4. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    One of the big challenges for a new musician who is learning to read either standard notation or tabs is to be able to look at what they are reading and figure out where that is in the song.

    For example, if you have tabs to "For Whom the Bell Tolls," it may be difficult for you to know where each bar is in the song. As you attempt to read your tabs or notation, you must listen carefully to the song trying to identify where each bar ends. Until you do that, you cannot "read" your music or tabs because you really don't know where all those notes you are reading are. In other words all the notes in the song seem to be racing by and it is so hard to connect those notes with what you are reading.

    One way to figure this out is to listen to only the first verse, then try to count along with the beat and see if you can determine where the bars (or measures) are divided. If that is too hard, start with just the intro, usually just four or eight bars...if there is an intro. See if you can divide that up, so you can hear what the notes for each bar are.

    This may involve many, many repetitions of listening to the song. But until you can tell each and every part of the song, such as verse, chorus, bridge, solo, intro and outro, it will be very difficult to figure out what to do with your tab because you don't know where one bar measure ends and the nest begins. Thus you will be either way behind the music or even way ahead.

    One huge help is if the song has lyrics that are written above the tab, that is a great assistance, because by listening to the words in the song, you can pretty much tell what passage of the music you are in.

    That is why most Internet tabs frankly suck. They often do not have the lyrics written above the tab, so you have no clue as to where the tabs refer to the music. There is no way to orient yourself, most especially if you are new to music.

    I don't know your taste in music, but if it is metal, buy or borrow issues of Guitar World which has four or five currently popular songs written in both tab and standard notation with lyrics each month.
    Their tabs tend to be far more reliable than Internet tabs as they use professional musicians to transcribe the music.

    With reliable and professionally presented tabs, it will be easier for you to break down the song into its parts so that you can play it. Lastly, though, I would advise starting with the easiest three chord songs you can find at first until tab or notation reading becomes second nature to you. A complex song may just be too challenging at this point. Set yourself up for easy success by starting out simply, then move on to gradually more complex music.
  5. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    You might wanna ask in the Tablature forum.
  6. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
    Excellent response, Boplicity! That is one of the most thought-out and mature responses to a tab question I have ever had the pleasure to read!

    :) :)

    Guitar World no longer includes the standard notation to songs -- it's strictly tablature (however, they do write the bass tab directly underneath the guitar tab. I've found that to be helpful when trying to figure out where I am in a song).
  7. Tillerbass

    Tillerbass Guest

    Jan 5, 2003
    wow!i wasn't expecting such a response!
    thanks to everyone(esp. boplicity).
    ill buy some good books and magazines and work on them until i can finally get it all right. 'preciate all the help you guys!
  8. TravellinMan


    Jan 11, 2003
    NW Indiana
    I'm taking lesson right now learning ear training; and my instructor always says that they are useless they just tell you were to put you're fingers not how to play the notes! I would suggest finding a Bass Teacher; to teach you ear training and just throw away the tabs it'll make you a better player!
  9. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    if youre serious about buying good books, one i recomend is mel bays note reading studies for bass. i bought it a couple of weeks ago and its helped me to better understand complex rhythms
  10. Tillerbass

    Tillerbass Guest

    Jan 5, 2003
    where did you buy it?
  11. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I'll second Mama Cass' nod to Mel Bay's "Note Reading Studies for Bass." You should be able to quickly find it on Amazon.

    I recommend buying a metronome, (if you don't already have one), and really spending a lot of time with this book. It's fun, and will build a great sight-reading foundation.

    Some good books to get after you're comfortable with "Note Reading...":

    - Bach, "Six Suites for ViolinCello"
    - Arban, "Conservatory Method for Trombone"
    - Bille, "Nuovo Metodo per Contrabbasso"
    - Dr. Licks, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown"
    - Oscar Stagnaro, "Latin Bass Book"

    These books will create a very well rounded curriculum.
  12. Its pretty common, I bet you could find it in at least one of your local music stores.
  13. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000