Tab Music- Friend or Foe?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by reedo35, Aug 15, 2000.

  1. Ok, I know a lot of you younger players are gonna jump on me for this. But I really want to know.What are the benefits of
    Tab literature over actually learning to read music? In my opinion, there is nothing that is written in tablature that
    cannot be written in standard notation. Tab seems like a quick fix shortcut to actually learning how to read, sort
    of like Ebonics for musicians.You may fire at will.
  2. frost13


    Apr 12, 2000
    If a person is going to take the time to learn TAB...why not just spend the time learning notation? It will be far more help in the long run.
    And is it JUST me.....but TAB seems more confusing to me. But then I have been reading music since I was a kid and think in terms of musical notation when playing.
  3. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    The absolute most efficient way for musicians to transmit information about how to play a song is via standard notation.

    I can hand nothing but standard notation sheets to four moderately skilled musicians and they can play the song together INSTANTLY. On the spot. Even if they've never heard it before. Even before looking through the whole thing! BUT: Hand nothing but tab charts to four musicians who are the best tab readers in history, and they will still have NO idea how to play the song together. And they never will, until they hear a tape of the song as it should be played. And what if I don't HAVE a tape of the song because I just wrote it?

    I'm not going to say that you don't need to rehearse using standard notation, but at least it tells you when you're supposed to do what. Tab tells you NOTHING about rhythm and coordination between musicians, and is at best a limited crutch. I agree with frost13: spend you efforts learning standard notation. You will be a much more efficient learner and reheaser, which translates into GIGS.

    And read the other threads on this topic: search this forum for "tab".

  4. NukeBass


    Jul 8, 2000
    Cornelius, NC
    A few thoughts on this subject

    For years (talking Baroque and such) lute music was only written only in a tablature style of notation. Not exactly tablature, but something similar, and this notation contained all of the rhythm, meter, and dynamics of the piece. Tablature seems to be unique to guitar (and bass) and I think of it as more of a shorthand notation.

    Most of the guitar magazines I've seen have shifted to a combination of standard notation and tablature. This notation contains rhytmic figures on each of the tabbed notes and the time signatures and things that standard notation contain. I guess it's a "best of both worlds" notation.

    I don't remember learning tablature. It was just sort of there and easy to understand. Notation takes a little more patience, though I am by no means the greatest at reading bass clef. The most important thing about tablature is learning to use it as a guide and not a crutch. If the notes can be played easier in a different position, don't be afraid to play there. One distinct advantage of standard notation is that the notes played are definite. Tablature is an interpretation of those notes.

    just my two cents worth

  5. I look at this in a different way. I think that most bassists who read music do so for the purpose of practicing or performing - reading charts on a gig or whatnot.

    Tab seems to be a tool used for learning a favorite song for fun or maybe if you're in a RHCP cover band or something.

    I think the comparison is between using tab or using your ear to figure out a bassline.

    Using your ears, in conjunction with knowledge of standard notation, (transcribe ;)) can be great tools in learning how to compose your own music.

    The preceding was an anti-tab message by Stingray5 :)
  6. the Qintar

    the Qintar

    Jul 24, 2000
    i dont think theres any benefits of tab over standard notation, i use both, it just seems that tablature is alot more accessable, its like, if i want to learn a song or a few songs off of an album, i can look the tab up for free, rather than have to go to a store and search for a book of standard notation, which would cost me money anyway, and besides, i havent seen a standard notation books of any of the bands that i listen too. i think that standard notation is better in the long run, definetly standard notation
  7. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    the use of tab underscores a common problem with many neophyte musicians - they think that once they know the notes of a song they know the song.

    unfortunately, not only is tab practically useless (you are relying on the tab author's ideas of the best way to play a certain passage, instead of determining it for yourself) but in my opinion it is actually damaging, because it encourages a beginning player to not focus on learning how to read music. why bother, when a tab is surely available.

    standard notation is the written language of music. every musical idea can be fairly readily expressed via standard notation.

    tab is like AOL speak - PhUnKy KeWl TaBZ. hardly anything can be expressed legibly.
  8. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    I agree with it all, but most kids (or even adults) arent serious enough, or hell, some arent smart enough, to learn it. I DO use tab quite a bit...its a hell of a lot easier to sight read, but thats just me. If im giving something to someone where they need to know the rhythm, length, beat, etcetc, i do it in notation, because tab cant show that. They way i learned to play was by using a mixture of both...use the notes the tab says, and then use the rhythm and note length on the notation. Ill use either, it doesnt matter to me, but some people really wont EVER use tab.

    Anyway, most kids start guitar to learn to play something they heard, and therefore, tab is the quickest route. Youve got to understand, most people who start dont know, or care to know, or even know what theory and things are, they just want to play. Thats where tab came in. Its a bad habit, but it works. But standard notation still is way better.

    Its also easier to type tab!
  9. FleaisGod

    FleaisGod Guest

    Jun 18, 2000
    Atlanta, GA
    I've been playing bass for 6 months, and use tab to learn the songs that I like from my favorite bands. Tab is super easy to learn, and easily accessable. My band comes together and works out the seperate parts and each band members role in the song, we don't need to transcribe the standard notation of the song, but sometimes it helps if we quickly jot down the tab, if we forget a certain part. I could understand standard notation for professional giggers, and musicians, but not for quickly wanting to learn a song.
    just my opinion,
  10. BassDudeJake


    Jul 26, 2000
    standard notation is so much better than TAB. Tab's great for getting stuff off the internet, but that's about it.
  11. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    If you play with people, you ARE a musician. So therefore, by your logic, you should know it/use it.
  12. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    how is tab hurting you? because it is distracting you from what you and your bandmates really need to work on - learning standard notation to learn the songs you wish to play. you say learning tab is super easy, but why bother? it's a throw-away skill. learning standard notation is not much harder, and it convey's way more information - like rhythm and key information - and it is also a skill that you will keep the rest of your musical life.

    every song you work on, and try to learn using standard notation, improves your ability to read music, which is one of the most important skills you can have as a bass player. knowing how to read music is never going to hinder you, in fact, once you can read music well, you can look at the transcriptions/charts of songs you like and learn, from all the parts, not just the bass, what makes the song cool, why it sounds the way it does, and what you like about it, in a music theory sense. remember that every song that you like works the way it does because of some principal of music theory, regardless of the song. chords, key structures, rhythm and time signatures, all of these aspects of a song are conveyed through standard notation, and all of them combine to make a good song cool and worth listening to.

    i guess it all boils down to what you want out of bass playing. if you want to just spank around with your pals forever, until you decide to quit then tab's fine, but if you want to get better, and actually become good, then tab's useless.
  13. FleaisGod

    FleaisGod Guest

    Jun 18, 2000
    Atlanta, GA
    you guys are right, but i already can kinda read standard notation. I'm just not very quick at sight-reading it yet. I meant that tab was good if ya want to quickly learn a song that you dont care if it is perfect or not. I *DO* need to improve on my standard notation reading/understanding tho, any tips, or advice would be greatly appreciated, thanks.
    p.s- thank you john for actually explaining yourself, unlike some other people :)
  14. Biski2Dope


    Mar 26, 2000
    Well, like Angus said...a lot of kids play an instrument to learn some corny Limp Bizkit song...that's why. And of course, they're not gonna buy the Limp Bizkit notation booklet, they're gonna go look on the 'net for tabs...understandable.

    I think...i think that if a person wants to use tabs, let them use tabs. Everyone always says "Learning notation will help you so much in the long run!"...okay...fine and dandy, but it isn't the long run yet and the dude might still be in tab-stage. It's all a part of growing up...start on tabs, mature into notation. Unless, of course, you were one of those people who started on notation...but then of course you're going to be anti-tab, you don't know any better!

    I personally don't WANT to learn notation. Maybe someday i will. For now, i'm happy with tabbing songs out BY MYSELF. I know that the big firestarter of mine and busface's argument was over the fact that i refused to learn notation...if i would have learned, i may still be in my band today. Who knows. Can't live on What If's...

    Ok. All in all, if a person wants to learn notation, then that's cool. If they wanna stick with tabs, let them stick with tabs and for God's sake don't try to give them reasons why they NEED to learn notation...chances are huge that they're not gonna listen anyway...
  15. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    okay, biski, give me the tab for F#. a whole note. at metronome speed 1/4 = 110 b.p.m. that's a very simple request for notation, but impossible to specify with tab.

    don't be stuborn biski - it takes as much effort to learn tab as it does to learn notation. furthermore, the only reason tab is more available on the net is that it is easier to convey a tab with ascii characters than to convey notation with ascii characters. you have the right idea working on the stuff yourself, just get your pop to buy you a tablet of staff paper, and start working on notation, just to teach yourself.

    so start working on your notation, all of ya, or i'll get the paddle. :D

    btw, a great site with some lessons on how to read music is libster

    go to the lessons section, she's got _16_ lessons just on reading music. give it a shot, you'll like it. :D

  16. Biski2Dope


    Mar 26, 2000
    How so? Tab's just letters and numbers and a few other characters who's meanings are listed on the tab itself.

    Seems a lot easier to me, but then again, what do i know..
  17. the Qintar

    the Qintar

    Jul 24, 2000
    learning tab is definetly easier, definetly 100% easier, its not better by any mean, but it is definetly easier, im sure more people would agree that tab is easier to learn that standard notation, im lucky enough to know both and be able to use both, ill say that yes, standard notation is better to know, it is more usefull, and is definetly better to know in the long run, itll help you right music, read music, play music and songs that youve never heard before, but it is harder to learn standard notation than it is tab, i mean jeez, i learned tab in a matter of minutes, its just frets and strings besides a few different signs used, but standard notation is better to know
  18. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    I know people like to say it's the same but IMO it is harder (or takes more effort)to learn notation than how to read tab for most people. I'm always amused when people make the assumption that because I say this I'm a proponent of tab...I'm not, but I'm also not some "music cop" either...use whichever you want but be advised that there is a price to pay, if you're serious about music. I just played with a keyboard player who, when asked what chord he was playing, named the individual notes. IMO it would benefit that person to learn how to read and learn what he's been playing. I have yet to be in a situation where not reading tab was an issue:D YMMV
  19. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    i guess i shoulda been more clear. yeah, basic tab is easier to learn than notation, BUT that tab is also waaaaay limited. you are going to have to also learn how the tab is limited, and then learn how to make up for it's limitations. this is going to take listening to the music, which develops another great skill, one's ability to hear music and learn it (one's "ear"), but that is another skill to learn just to make the tab work.

    notation alone is enough to learn _ANY_ song, given you have the necessary, basic tools to use the notation. you don't need a recording or an explanation - all you need is the notes on the staff.

    and btw, i am really far from a music cop, i am not a proponent of notation because it's the "right thing to do", but just because of simple pragmatism. tab usage is useless in the long run, and much more time consuming to make and use. once you get the hang of notation, it is much easier to read and understand even just the notes - the only info that tab would give you. and when you also add to that the rhythm, key and meter info that you get with standard notation, it's just obvious why notation is the standard, and tab only exists to facilitate beginners and convey songs in ascii.

    besides, when you are playing you shouldn't be thinking about where your fingers are. you should be thinking about what notes and note phrases you are making. it's like the difference between thinking about letters and thinking about words and phrases when you are speaking.

    so yeah, tab in and of itself is easier to learn how to use, but it doesn't give you all the info. you can't learn a song without the actual recording with tab, but you can with notation.

    think of tab like the dick and jane books - little words and big pictures, and not a lot of content. not exactly interesting reading - not much of a story. same thing with tab - you don't get much of the story of what is going on in a song with it.

    that's my story and i'm sticking to it. :D

    [Edited by john turner on 08-17-2000 at 12:52 AM]
  20. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    also, i didn't mean to single you out, biski. i shoulda put a smilie in there. that's ok, though, right? you're still my girl right? :D :D :D