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Tab or notation ?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Pete Newman, Dec 29, 2003.

is tab. enough to know?

Poll closed Jan 5, 2004.
  1. yes

    9 vote(s)
  2. no

    35 vote(s)
  1. Pete Newman

    Pete Newman

    Dec 29, 2003
    What do the professional bass players think, is it important to know music notation or are you as well off just playing tab. ?
  2. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Wrong forum.
  3. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Wrong forum, but if you want my opinion:

    Billy Sheehan doesn't know how to read music, he doesn't know the modes, he just plays what feels right and he's had no problem backing Steve Vai all these years.

    Then there's James Hetfield of Metallica, even though he plays guitar, he's admitted he knows little or no theory, he doesn't even know the notes and he's been playing for 20+ years. Once again, all feel.

    IMO you don't need to know to read notation, nor tab, nor even know the notes, if you can still create a bassline that rocks.
  4. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Ears are most important, IMHO. Develop your ear and you can go far, all the way to the top in some cases.

    Notation and theory would be a very close second to ear training. I am just starting to learn theory and sight reading, after playing by ear for almost 25 years. Man, I wish I would have started a long time ago. Theory really opens things up for you. And notation is cool, because it contains enough information so that you can pick up a piece of music you have never heard or played, and play it the way the composer intended.

    Tab is a crutch. It can be helpful if your ear is underdeveloped, and you need a little help with a tricky bit on a song that you can't find in standard notation. But if you rely on tabs, you will never develop your ear.

    And tabs are inferior to notation for many reasons. They contain no rhythmic information, they don't tell you the key center of the song, and most internet tabs are very inaccurate. To learn a song with tab, you need a recording of it. And if you have a recording, why use tab? Use your ears!


    Phlegmbellisher Tabevil
  5. christle

    christle Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2002
    Winnipeg, MB
    Listen to Embellisher. I started the exact opposite to him and it made it harder to learn songs. Now that I am back at it after a 16 year+ hiatus I am doing most of my learning by ear and am truly enjoying the joys of music. I still work on my theory but if I am short on practice time it goes to ear training before anything else.

    Check out the General Instruction forum. Lots of info there on this stuff.

  6. sedgdog


    Jan 26, 2002
    Pasco, WA
  7. Hollow Man

    Hollow Man Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2003
    Springfield, VA
    Depending on the type of music that you'll be performing, being able to read music isn't necessary crucial (although it never hurts, and in many cases, it helps immensely). I can read a little, and though it's never been a necessity, it's a good feeling to be able to pick up the music to a jazz or classical piece and be able to plunk out something competent based only on what's in front of you.

    Theory, on the other hand, I hold as being almost critical to expanding as a musician. Though it is true that one never needs theory to write good music, being able to understand and apply different aspects of scales and melody and harmony opens up whole new worlds.

    As for tabs... you're better off without them in the long run. They're cheap and easy when they're right, but how often does that happen?
  8. I like tab,but I hate tabs.
  9. Mud Flaps

    Mud Flaps

    Feb 3, 2003
    Norton, MA
    It's all about what you play.

    For me, it would not be enough. I play a lot of Jazz.

    However, a lot of people underestimate its usefulness. It is an efficient way for one to learn a new bass line exactly and quickly. But that is assuming you have an accurate tab, which is often difficult to find.

    P.S. You posted in the wrong forum. Sorry, I like to pretend that I'm a moderator. John, HeavyDuty, Ryan, you guys are cool. *sighs*
  10. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I was going to post saying you've posted this in the wrong forum, but that's already been covered.

    Learn notation, and later, learn to sight-read. I'm about to start learningto sight-read right now. One BIG thing learning notation helps you to develop is learning the notes on your fretboard, and once you do that, it helps you fix weird tabs where they are the right notes, they're just making you jump all over the neck when you can do it in one or two positions.
  11. I started reading music in my third grade music class in school.

    I continued to read throughout my life and I applied my theory to ear playing, it's the best IMHO, to know both.

    Tab, is not music, it's just a quick start for some players. I can read and write tab but I have never had to use it during my career.

  12. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    Yeah, but none of you guys telling him it's in the wrong forum reported the post. :D

  13. If you wanna be a "professional" player who people can hire, and if you want to be flexible and ready for all sorts of stuff, you'll probably need classical notation. Otherwise, who gives a damn, as long as you're playing the music you like :). it's always a good thing to know, though.
  14. Pete Newman

    Pete Newman

    Dec 29, 2003
    Guys, I'm sorry I'm in the wrong forum, but then I'm the guy who couldn't spell bass yesterday. You guys are so helpfull and positive I'm amazed. Thank you so much,what a web site.
  15. Pause


    Jun 4, 2003
    Miami, FL
    Learn how to read music. Then, get a method book and practise from it when you can read the notes. Get good
  16. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I think you pretty much nailed it there Jeff, but one thing I would add is that tabs also encourage you to think in terms of fret numbers instead of note names and intervals etc. IMO the latter is much more useful - not least for communicating with other musicians.
  17. Chris A

    Chris A Chemo sucks!

    Feb 25, 2000
    Manchester NH
    I vote no, tabs are evil, mm'kay?

    Chris A.:rolleyes: :bassist:
    of the Clan Tabevil:D
  18. sedgdog


    Jan 26, 2002
    Pasco, WA
    Pete - A couple of weeks ago I did a Christmas musical/play with my church. The book was a combination of chord charts and written lines. Certain lines needed to be played note for note since they were arranged with the horn section and string section. The music was great, Christmas music 40's swing style. I am thankful everytime I am in that situation that I learned how to read music. I can agree with Mr. Berlin 100%. I have always been handed a chord chart and or written notation - but never ever tablature. I have done many gigs like that and would have had to turn them down if I had never learned to read music. So - do yourself a favor and put the time into it. It is a great skill that will open up so many doors for you. I was browsing musicdojo.com and noticed they have several reading classes available. I have seen several threads on musicdojo so you might check them out and see if it is good stuff, but thought it may be a resource for learning to read music.

    Good Luck,
  19. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Since you asked what the professionals think, I'll tell you what I think.

    Tabs are completely useless. Learn standard notation, theory and train your ear. If you want to be a pro, there is no other way.
  20. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Well I'm not a professional (I wish :() yet, but here's my opinion...

    Tabs are not made by robots. Tabs are not made by superman. People like you and me make them. Someone who took the time (even though lots of tabs are, indeed, inaccurate haha) to develop his ear...so why can't you? Why are we always looking for the easy way out? And yes, I think it will become a crutch later on down the road.

    I think people who are serious about a career in music should develop their ear, learn some theory, learn notation. Maybe you don't need to know it, but it's good to have, especially a good ear - this applies to all kinds of musical situations. Maybe you don't need to know theory to be in a Metallica-like band, but I'm sure all these bassists have a somewhat good ear.

    On the other hand, many situations ask for you to know how to read. Maybe you want to get into a music school. Most places require you to know how to read music. What if you want to be a session player? You need to know how to read. Or a jazz band? You'll need to know how to read chord charts.

    I think knowing how to read music makes it easier for musicians to communicate with each other. I know I don't want to spend my bass life saying "put your finger at this fret, then put your finger here."

    Epiphany TabEviL :D