Just curious... Can anyone here sight-read tab?

Discussion in 'Tablature and Notation [BG]' started by vindibona1, May 17, 2022.

  1. I was born in the 50's was a teen in the 60's and grew up reading standard notation. Took formal guitar lessons until I went to college. Got a music degree, played semi-professionally (mostly trumpet) for a lot of years. I could read standard notation to the point where I could do a (not too complicated) legit gig with my trumpet and read it cold and play the concert without rehearsal (lovingly called a "show and blow"). I get hired on occasion to play bass (typically musical theater) because I can read standard notation. Other gigs come because I have enough theory and musical experience that I can do something with lead sheets.

    Tab??? PAINFUL to try to read. When I need a bass chart I try to find ones that have standard notation while I do appreciate those that have tab attached for helpful position hints. With tab I see no relation between what's on the tab and what it's all supposed to sound like. Sometimes the tab notator tries to help with the rhythm and sometimes that complicates things further. Lately the charts I'm finding are tab only and take a ton of effort to decipher.

    I have to imagine that some here. can sight read tab, but personally don't know anyone that can. If you're here raise your hand, and if you can give me any tips on how to "here" the music from tabs and learn to be more proficient with it, I'm listening.
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  2. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Not raising my hand. TAB is not designed to "sight-read." I sometimes find a good TAB useful for learning a bass line -- although I often find that I prefer a different fingering than what is notated -- but that's all. Once I'm playing the song with a band I'm either playing without notes or only with a chord chart (to help me remember where the changes occur.)
  3. Thanks for your reply. I can look at standard notation and pretty much know what the music is going to sound like. In fact, if you play a brass instrument you better darn well know what it's going to sound like because you only have 3 (or 4) buttons and 7 or 10 combinations (plus alternative fingerings).

    I wish I could adopt tab and even work things out at less than a snail's pace. With an eye disorder and ADD, again it is SOOOO painful, especially knowing that there is a better way that's been around for 100s of years. Also, for some it seems like a crutch because they can play positions but have no idea of what notes they're playing. I dunno... Just lamenting a bit.
  4. J_Bass

    J_Bass Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    I can.

    At least I think I can, it I understood your question correctly.

    I prefer standard notation, though. With tabs you have to know how the tune sounds, because there is no rhythm.
    bignc, Lenny JG, 31HZ and 5 others like this.
  5. Jaycat


    Sep 8, 2018
    If "sight reading" in this case means, can I look at tab and play the notes without looking at my fingers, the answer is yes. However I find tab only useful if I already know the song, as noted above.
    jdthaddeus likes this.
  6. No. I mean look at a tab and play it up to tempo on sight. When I go to a rehearsal to play new music for the first time (concert band or symphony) it's up to tempo out of the gate. That's what I mean by sight reading. It's all refinement after. ONCE IN AWHILE we get music in advance to look over. before hand. Depends on the group.

    Reading tab for me is pretty much one or two notes at a time, making sure I'm on the right string. If only on one string I like hammer ons, pull offs and slides I can do a few notes at a time. But moving from string to string on tab is a cerebral exercise all the way through. What makes me nuts is that from this player's perspective I orient from the low E to the G. Tab, while attempting to put the high note on the top of the tab staff is upside down from the strings' perceived orientation. So much mental gymnastics for a someone used to a different, tried and true system.
    svlilioukalani and pbass2 like this.
  7. GrooveCaptain

    GrooveCaptain Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2015
    As others have said, tab isn't for sight reading. There's no rhythm, you have to know how the song sounds beforehand. Tab is all I use to learn songs, and can play right along in real time, unless it's a particularly hard part. The only time I had to read standard notation was playing bass in my college jazz band. I could figure it out, but painfully slow. I had to go home and translate every song to tab.
    creaturegods, tbz and J_Bass like this.
  8. slagheap


    Dec 23, 2011
    tab isn't meant to be sight read. i used ear or tab exclusively until i learned to read from dr. licks and chuck sher ( their books. )
  9. Isn't Tab basically just a"cheat sheet"?:unsure:
    dkelley likes this.
  10. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    Dowland and other early lute composers would not agree. PesaroMS.jpeg
    Cal03, Seanmo, dbsfgyd1 and 7 others like this.
  11. aprod


    Mar 11, 2008
    If you can sight read you don't need tabs.
    ColdEye and gebass6 like this.
  12. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    there’s a fair amount of music, particularly in the rock world, that you’re only going to find as tab because nobody has written it out yet.
  13. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    If I could only own 36 basses what would they be?
    Tabs are hard to read ... there is a lot of missing information, and tabs are always wrong ... at least partially wrong ... and a lot of sheet music is also wrong.
  14. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
    I use both tab and notation as a resource to learn a song, and commit to memory... to sight read a song cold, is not in my wheelhouse...

    ... it may not even be in the same state.
    Jim C, Dust2Dust and lark_z like this.
  15. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Number of times I have been asked to sightread…countless. Number of times I have been asked to sightread tab…0. It just doesn’t happen.
    dkelley, MDBass, LBS-bass and 2 others like this.
  16. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Bay Area
    tbz, Eli_Kyiv and JimmyM like this.
  17. Manticore


    Feb 27, 2016
    To me, sight-reading means sitting down with a printed page and being able to play an existing piece faithfully without ever having heard it before. Tab absolutely fails at presenting note duration, or rhythm. For playing a piece not fully finished, a chord or number chart works well. Tab is, at best, a crutch. Better to develop one's ears or learn to read...or both!
    dkelley, mdlewis, Eric Wolfe and 2 others like this.
  18. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    To play what is tabbed out, you have to know the song. They're all user created, and open for interpretation. They really just point your fretting hand in the right direction, and you do the rest off of memory of the song.
    Lookin4SomFunk likes this.
  19. Tab is intended to be used along with a recording. The recording provides the majority of the information.
    And frankly if you want to know how a composer intends a piece of music to sound a recording is a VASTLY SUPERIOR way than sheet music.
    Dust2Dust likes this.
  20. Mk90


    May 1, 2020
    I'll tru and go against the grain and say yes. But then again most tabs I've seen or used do have duration marked one way or another, be it longer spaces between numbers or hybrid tabs that have the standard note duration markings going along the numbers. If it's a bad tab where all numbers are just next to each other with even spaces, then it's impossible.

    I have no formal training, fully self taught. I started with playing metal some 20 years ago and tabs was the only choice for that. I have since expanded my theory knowledge but have never felt necessary to learn standard notation.

    So I guess it comes to what you are used to. In my eyes notation is mostly about marking the positions of notes relative to each other, so I have zero problems determining note duration with different spaces between numbers, as long as it's consistent through the whole tab.
    tbz and SoCal80s like this.

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