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So, if tab is evil... How about notation?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Kurisu, Feb 6, 2006.

  1. Kurisu


    Nov 19, 2003
    Saskatoon SK
    This has been on my mind for awhile, so I'll just throw it out there...

    I totally understand why tab is bad. TabEvil, fEd-up-with-tabqua, Mama Cass, Tard, Pac-fu, and Jazzbuddy (okay, I just used up all my fuquafication for today) -- anyway, they all make a good point. By reading tab, and bad internet tab at that, you rob yourself of building an ear.

    On the other hand, classical musos and people much more talented and accomplished than I, play by reading notation. Is getting an official band-score for your favorite album, and learning the bass lines from notation (ignoring the tab underneath, or even blocking it out with tape), is this such a bad thing? Is it basically still tab? Is it still cheating?

    I know that doing it by ear would always be better. But lets say I want to understand how Geddy gets that certain sound across... Is it so bad to get the book of notation, especially if I only have a small amount of time per day to practice?
  2. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Since reading music notation is a basic musical skill, I'd say no, it's great. It doesn't, however, train your ear.
  3. Yes, it is "cheating", as much as using TAB is cheating. But it's not really cheating. I'm not a big TAB fan since I find standard notation to be much clearer (although I do like to make fingering annotations when I write something down), but it's pretty much the same as far as looking it up/learning by ear goes.

    Learning from sheet music rather than by ear won't really affect your playing. It will just mean you can't transcribe as well as you might be able to otherwise. On the other hand, you'll be a better reader. You just have to pick which to work on. Balance is probably best.
  4. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    Standard notation can be read by every instrument. I find that that's even more important than the fact that tabs dont have rhythms written (most of the time).
  5. EmmSee


    May 23, 2004
    Boston, MA
    It's not bad at all! When you buy the books money goes to the people that spent time writing those songs! (a small piece of it anyway, haha)

    Of course transcribing is the best thing and that will come in time and reading standard notation will improve your transcribing skills.

    Also, seek out books that don't have TAB underneth. Since you'll always end up going back to it at some point. Find some "classical" cello & double-bass music ... great fun to play w/bass clef & no TAB!
  6. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    Tab isn't evil.
    Notation isn't evil.

    Like any tool, you have to know how and when to use them.
  7. No, reading is a valuable skill. It is not cheating. It's a means of getting the notes and rhythms into your head so you can get them out your fingers.

    As Pacman suggested, however, it isn't the only valuable skill. Any musician, in any field, at any level of proficiency, can benefit from developing his or her ears. There is never a situation where having good ears will hurt you, just as there is never a situation where being able to read standard notation will hurt you.

    My beef with the whole "ear vs. notation" thing is that it's a false dichotomy. It's often presented (I'm not saying you're doing this) as if you have to choose one or the other--i.e., should I play by ear or should I learn to read? The answer is, that's the wrong question. There's no earthly reason why you can't learn to do both well, and in fact, most of the very best musicians I've heard, met, or played with can do exactly that. It's like saying, should I be a driver or a bike rider? Well, why can't you have both a car *and* a bike?

    I say, reading the lines from notation is good practice. So is figuring them out by ear. Do both, as much as you can. Getting a sense of how the sound relates to its written expression can only help you. It will help you read and play written lines more accurately and quickly, because you'll be able to look at notes and know how they should sound and thus how to play them. It will also help you write down things you hear.

    BTW, classical musicians don't always play from notation. If you ever see a solo concert, as opposed to an orchestral one, a lot or most of the time the musicians don't read; they've memorized the pieces. Reading just happens to be the way they get the notes and rhythm into their brains and hence into their fingers and/or mouths.
  8. It seems like many internet tabs are either wrong or grossly simplified anyway, so I use them to get in the ballpark, then end up figuring the line out by ear.
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    But you certainly won't see any of them reading Tabs!! ;)
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    That's not the only bad thing about Tab!

    So it has no rhythmic information and as a bass player that is what is most important - so when I'm reading, it's not the pitches, it's the rhythmic information that is important/need attention. So most times I can guess what pitches from the key/chords - but it's placement of notes that is crucial.

    Secondly - it is not getting you thinking about music - just where you place your hands - that's a bad thing!

    Lastly - all other types of musicians - pianists, horn players, etc use Standard Notation, all serious musicians use it ..

    By using Tabs you are handing a sign around your neck :

    "I am not a serious musician!" :meh:
  11. Not since the Renaissance, anyway.;)
  12. In many musical styles there is very little music written in standard notation available.

    Often that might be because the people who created it did not write it down themselves. They did not need to read or write standard notation in order to create, perform, or sell recordings of their music.

    They might disagree with being labeled "not serious musicians" by others. I guess maybe the "serious" musicians might consider those people to be "performers" or "entertainers" but not musicians.

    At any rate, tab does serve a purpose - it makes music more accessible to many people. Of course some of it is low quality, but that is not an innate flaw of the medium itself, just its application.

    I have sometimes seen a "hybrid" notation that looks like standard with the exception of having the bodies of notes replaced with the fingering information of tab. With this format you get all the information of notation plus the fingering information of tab. Again, if you can't read notation, much of the information is inaccessible, but if you can, there is even more for you to see. Maybe this stuff is not actually tab, but has some other name ??
  13. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    That's not really why it's bad, it's bad because the only thing that it communicates is what geographic location to put your finger.

    If you think that classical musicians aren't hearing what they are playing, you are very misinformed. Sure, a guy that's dead is communicating some very specific performance information to them by using a notated score. But the guys that are really doing it can sing you every single note that they will be playing. As DURRL's teacher so eloquently put it "sight reading is just hearing it with your eyes before your ears."

    That, to a great extent, is what Clan Tabevil is saying, that by knowing how to read standard notation you can walk into a gig anywhere in the real oworld and read a chart that will, to all extents and purposes, enable you to convey the composer or arrangers intent. Great musicians can imbue that with their own sound and personality. READING MUSIC and EAR TRAINING are two distinct and separate skill sets. Don't get confused.

    Knowing what notes Geddy (or anybody) plays and "knowing how (he) gets that certain sound across", well those aren't necessarily the same thing. Knowing what words I used doesn't get you to an understanding of how to communicate intent. Again, there are two different things going on here. If you have a gig that is going to be doing a bunch of RUSH tunes, sure grab a chart and a CD and start. Having a trained ear is going to help you "hear your way through" what you are playing, so that you aren't just trying to memorize where to drop your fingers. having a trained ear is going to help you when you have a gig that is going to be doing a bunch of RUSH tunes and you DON'T have charts. You'll be able to transcribe the parts you need yourself.
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    But they certainly didn't use Tabs!!

    I am not in any way 'labelling' anyone who plays by ear or doesn't use standard notation - these are often the best and most natural musicans of all!!

    I am only saying that if you turn up to say, a Jazz gig, with Tabs - you might as well hang a sign around your neck that says "I am not a serious musician"

    Play whatever is required, entirely by ear and you have ultimate respect - but you're not going to get this from using Tabs!!
  15. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    That is why I said it is important to know when to use tab. My memory is terrible and always has been. Nobody will know if I get Alzheimer's since they will not be able to tell the difference :(

    When first learning a song I spend a lot of time working out the most efficient way to play it. For some reason I have no trouble remembering the rhythm, just the notes. So I tab the songs so I don't have to start over after I have not played the song in a while. I only do this with songs that have a signature bass line or that I play very rarely.

    I don't make my living playing music, so I guess I can live with that.

    Plus when gigging I don't use tab or notation. So only TBers know my dirty secret ;) At practices if I am really lucky, I get the words and chords for new songs. Basically I am expected to pick them up by ear.
  16. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    According to my teacher, he has hardly ever been given standard notation at a gig. 99% of the time it is chord charts. He says that its very time consuming for a writer to transcribe a piece for the guitar, and sax, and bass, etc etc. But he can still fluently read standard notation. And i have told him that i want to be taught to fluently read standard notation.

    Moral of the story - Just learn to read standard notation, because there will be a situation down the line where it will be very useful (eg playing worship hyms that don't have lead sheets, just standard notation).
  17. Kurisu


    Nov 19, 2003
    Saskatoon SK
    Thanks everyone for the input! But I think some people are misunderstanding the intent of my question. :)

    I didn't mean to ask "should I learn standard notation" -- I know that answer, and there are thousands of threads on it. I meant to ask, suppose I already know standard notation like a second language. Now suppose that I only have a half hour a day to study bass. Is it still "cheating" to learn from a band score written in notation?

    I still feel like it is. I mean, you're not using your ear, and you're just repeating what someone else has written, just like tab. Sure, there's no fingerings, but so what? I suppose the difference is that you will know what notes you are playing, while playing from tab you don't need to know that. On the other hand while transcribing I've often forgotten to think about the note names and have just matched the sounds and patterns.
  18. Kurisu


    Nov 19, 2003
    Saskatoon SK
    Of course there's no right answer, probably. I'm just looking for other's opinions. Pacman is closest to my thinking so far - reading from notation still won't train your ear. Which is why I think it isn't that much different from tab. :) (Dangerous words, me thinks...)
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Wel - you're just not reading (listening) - standard notation is about music, thinking about music as such - Tab is bad as it is not transferable to other instruments or voice and is only getting you thinking about where to put your fingers!

    The ideal state is to hear what you want to play in your head, be able to sing it, let nothing get in the way - being locked into a concept of "must put fingers here" is the very antithesis of where you want to be as good musician!
  20. +1 to that.

    If you are wanting to train your ear, it doesn't matter whether you are reading a bunch of numbers on lines or a bunch of dots and squiggly lines - you are reading, not listening.

    There are a number of other notation systems besides "standard" and tab, but I suspect (although I am no expert in any of them) that this holds true for all of them.

    In fact, if you are using tab, you will probably train your ear to some extent, because you'll almost have to listen to a recording since tab generally only tells you the notes and not the rhythms!

    If you've got half an hour a day to practice bass, only you can decide what is the best use of that, depending on what you want to do. Want to play with a jazz group? Better learn to improvise over chord charts. Want to learn to play Bach concertos? Better work on your notation skills. Want to play in a frat house cover band? Break out the tabs and the CD's.

    Personally, I would dispense with this feeling of "cheating" - you cheat when you are breaking the rules to get an unfair advantage. Unless you are entering some contest, there are no rules!!

    If you need to learn a song quickly, and notation or tab helps you do that, fine. If you need to train your ear, neither one is going to help you much.