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I can only read tabs?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Ambra, Feb 18, 2017.

  1. jasonmatthews


    Jul 10, 2016
    Atlanta, GA
    This. Rhythm is *always* the most important thing. The three most important things in music are as follows:
    1. Rhythm
    2. Rhythm
    3. Rhythm
    With that out of the way... no, you do not *have* to learn to read music. Billy Sheehan doesn't know how to read music and last I checked he is a pretty accomplished musician. But just remember that if you're being compared to a guy who knows hows to read, knows theory, and has a great ear... he will win almost every time.

    Reading will help you. Sometimes you just want to play something... maybe it's a piano piece or something. So you Google and find the sheet music, and then you can play it. Easy. If you can't read, you might try searching for somebody else's TAB for hours, and probably they're all wrong anyway.

    So, go learn to read. But you'll also maybe be fine without it.
    HolmeBass likes this.
  2. bearfoot


    Jan 27, 2005
    Chittenango, NY
    I think another factor is whether you want to be able to write down your own musical ideas. Standard notation is the standard for reading, but there are options that all have their uses. TAB goes back to medieval times at least (lute music was all the rage) and accompaniment from chord charts is extremely useful. But in writing down your own ideas, I think standard notation becomes more of a necessity if the musical ideas require specificity.

    My best recommendation is to take an elective class if that's available to you, but there are many ways to learn the standard system if it's something you want to do.
    Ambra likes this.
  3. interp

    interp Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2005
    Garmisch, Germany
    By the time I was four I could speak fluently and coherently. I could make up new sentences. I could tell stories and jokes. I could not read or write a word.

    I think adding the ability to read and write was a good move in the development of my language and communication skills.

    Could it be that the same is true for the development of musical skills?
    Ambra likes this.
  4. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    It depends what you want to do with your playing. If you want to be a hired gun that does studio and touring with other people's bands, you should learn to read notation.
    I have yet to come across and originals band where they have written out their music in standard notation.
    If you are doing covers, it helps, but all of that stuff is super vanilla and the tabs are online.
    Don't let people pull power trips on you and make you think you are lesser for not reading notation.
  5. Ant Illington

    Ant Illington I'm Anthony but I'm only illin' Banned

    I get it. However, don't scare yourself with all or nothing thinking. Ruling out solos and sticking to walking bass for starters, the vast majority of the time in anything but the most advanced stuff, your choice will be between only two locations for a given note. Sure, you can play open G or 5th fret of D or 10th fret of A or even 15th fret of E but most of the time it will be one each of the first two. If you get Fuqua's book, not that it addresses positions but I had a conversation with him, you will rapidly get a feel for position selection.

    I've had to write, erase and rewrite my fingerings on things as I have played a piece a few times over a week and my brain magically gives me new insights into more ideal shifts. Your brain will seek patterns and tendencies and just give you new insights. Trust it like a clueless kid who doesn't even think about this stuff when they are learning... and we know how fast they learn. Get out of your own way. Each thing you learn transfers to 5 other things and before you know it you'll be much better than you would have imagined.
    Ambra and Hambone 70 like this.
  6. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    Yes. Learn to sight read. It will be well worth it.
  7. pedroims


    Dec 19, 2007
    I dont understand tabs, all they show you is where to fretthe strings. If you dont know the song you are dead.

    Standard notation does not tell you where to fret but tell you the key, time, notes and the rhythm, you can play any song by knowing this. IME, at least you should know how interpret a music sheet.
  8. Ant Illington

    Ant Illington I'm Anthony but I'm only illin' Banned

    One thing at a time. Do re mi has almost nothing to do with learning to read and find the notes on you fingerboard.

    It sounds like you are an absolute beginner reader so ANY basic book that proclaims to be able to teach you to read will, indeed, help you. Start by learning the first 5 frets of all strings and learn note values whole notes thru 16th notes, including rests, and then get back to us. This is very basic stuff that you need before moving forward.
    Ambra likes this.
  9. Hambone 70

    Hambone 70 Guest

    Sep 21, 2012
    I have no problem with frets 1-5. I suppose it's necessary to know all notes all the way up the fretboard to be proficient at reading notation. Back to practice...
    Ant Illington likes this.
  10. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    Yes, it might well.
    Depends on the situations.
  11. higain617


    Sep 12, 2013
    I really wish I had followed through with learning standard notation. But having a good ear, good timing, and knowing what notes I'm playing has gotten me through many years. It depends on the situation, as I've mainly concentrated on original music.
  12. Ant Illington

    Ant Illington I'm Anthony but I'm only illin' Banned

    To the 12th fret for now and maybe a few above it on the G and D. Forget above 12 for now on the lower strings. But you have to start reading and sight reading (with a metronome for the latter) to force your hands to learn to act without thinking- slowly but surely.
    Hambone 70 likes this.
  13. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    none of the gigs i do nowadays would be possible if i could only read tabs

    however, once upton a time, i only knew tabs.

    it's a perfectly fine starting place, just make sure you continue to grow musically in every way. that's hard to do without eventually learning to read. not impossible, though.
    Double E likes this.
  14. Tommyc


    Nov 11, 2015
    The lute tab you allude to is French tablature which I do read, badly. I had to. French tab indicates note values and is just another form of standard notation, which also indicated where on the neck to play the notes. Just so no one confuses lute tab with modern rhythm-less tab.
    bearfoot likes this.
  15. Tommyc


    Nov 11, 2015
    Hi Ambra don't worry about solfeggio versus letter note designation. Concern yourself with learning note time values as I'd said. This link is to the first few pages of Bellson's book. I'm not encouraging piracy. I think it's Scribner's book site. The book, if you find it useful is down-loadable, so the Amazon doesn't deliver to Italy thing isn't a factor. The book is down-loadable from a few sites. Shop around for the best price. You may have to take a few basic lessons online in basic note values first. Buona fortuna!
    Modern Reading Text in 4-4 For All Instruments.pdf
  16. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    As has been mentioned, it depends on genre. There are genres like traditional Celtic folk music or Appalachian bluegrass where nothing is ever written at all. There IS a system for drummers to be able to write out their parts. In stuff like most blues or rock music, though, the parts may or may not ever be written. Often what's considered the copywritten SONG is just the lyrics and melody and everything else is just "arrangement" that different groups or individual musicians may play differently. If there isn't a standard piece of sheet music written, then the recording can serve to count as "the song." After all, notation is just another way of "recording" music, right?

    Like several people have said, you want to think in terms of tools in the tool box. A TAB, in a sense, is one player showing another player, "this is how I play that." That's fine and good. Tabs on the internet can be good and useful, and I used them a lot when I was starting out. But like I said earlier, they are also limited. Learning to read sheet music can empower you to play other music that you otherwise couldn't. That's another tool. Training your ear is another tool, so that you can learn a song just by listening to it. Knowing the basics of music theory really helps a lot with that, because it helps you guess a lot quicker where that next note probably came from.

    As far as resources, I don't know what's available in Italian. But in English, Ed Friedland's bass method books from Hal Leonard introduce you to reading music. Also, the transcriptions you get in a magazine like Bass Player, or in something like the Bass Guitar White Pages, generally have parallel tab and standard notation, so that you can learn to go from one to the other. I would look at those if you can.
  17. So in genres like rock and metal, everything is just improvised and/or played by ear?
  18. barry irwin

    barry irwin Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 20, 2005
    Not just in Italy.Solfege is used throughout the world.
  19. Jloch86


    Aug 1, 2016
    New Jersey
    Thanks for the compliment.
  20. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I'm sure different groups have different ways of working. But I think a lot of groups basically do "write" either by jamming together improvisationally, and then picking bits of the jam that worked well and making them into sections of songs, or else one member brings in a riff that he worked out on his own by ear and the others work up parts that go with it. There may not be anyone setting pencil to paper at any point in this.

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