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Tabs vs. Notation

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by AshleyForscyth, Mar 15, 2002.

  1. AshleyForscyth

    AshleyForscyth Guest

    Mar 15, 2002
    :confused: I've been playing bass for about 13 months, everyone I know, most of whome have been playing bass for 10+ years, have told me not to bother learning traditional notation. That it wont help me in the studio or anywhere like that. But as I've been reading these threads I've noticed that a lot of people talk about notation like everyone should know it. I'm completely confused now, should I learn it?
  2. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Your friends are bull****ting you.
    It may be true that you don't have to read standard notation on EVERY studio date, but you'll NEVER encounter tab anywhere on a gig or session.
    You will at least need to be able to read chord charts on a job, and you need to know your theory for that, and that includes standard notation.

    Notation is a tool to communicate music information, tab is just a way to tell you where to put your fingers. You'll only find tab in magazines, some books and the internet, but not in a gig or studio situation.
  3. JaggedB


    Jan 26, 2002
    Columbus, OH
    Oh no, here we go, brace yourself...;)


    There are plenty of reasons to learn notation. The ones that come immediately to mind:

    1) It tells you what key you are in, and thus

    2.1) Tells you what the basic structure and notes can be (of course it can always change).

    Remember you need to know the rules to know how to break them properly...

    2.2) It tells you the structure of the song and the chord progressions (especially important if no basslines are actually written!)

    3) It outlines the time signature

    4) It allows you read the rhythms of the notes

    There are plenty of good analogies about tab being limited and trying to learn to read by memorizing the alphabet, etc.

    I'll leave the really good arguments to the pros around here, but I hope this makes sense.
  4. steve 1

    steve 1 Guest

    Feb 18, 2002
    utica, ny
    if you ever want to get anywhere professionally on bass, you need to know notation, and i cant stress that enough (this is only my opinion though, feel free to disagree). everything comes from it, theory, etc. learn it, you will thank yourself in the long run.
  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I've made a living for the last 15 years because I can read (standard notation), play all styles well, and groove.

    And I've never been given tab.
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    I hear that the reason for that is that the ThEoRy NaZiS are a bunch of BiG mEaNiEs.:(

    Is this true?
  7. steve 1

    steve 1 Guest

    Feb 18, 2002
    utica, ny
    yea, we're horrible. i've been reading notation the entire time that ive been playing bass, but I wIsH i CoUlD rEaD tAbZ, cUz ThEyRe So CoOl.
  8. Listen...I have three Beatles songbooks. One is the Complete Scores, and the other two are Beatles bass books. In all three of them it includes both tab and notation. LOL...even in my second theory book that I'm working on now there is tab all over it!

    It is very hard for me not to look down at the tab. I'm sure someone will reply to me and say, "well just cover up the tab with some paper or something." Well, sorry...but that won't work. I can learn the song faster by reading the tab even though I can read the notation. Obviously I have to look at the notation anyway...to see how the song is played. (rests, half notes, etc.)

    So what to do in this dilemma? Somoene recommended me the James Jamerson book...which has no tab in it. When the time comes I will buy that...and it won't be until then that I develop my best notation reading skills I guess.
  9. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    I hear ya, it's like watching a movie and getting distracted by the subtitles.

    One way around this is to transcribe songs yourself.
  10. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I believe the thread subject is innaccurate, tabs aren't mentioned once in Ashley's post. Ashley's concern seems to be with the value of standard notation. Not SN versus tab, just the value at all. It also sounds like Ashely plans to do studio work.

    In that case, listen to JMX and Pacman, Ashley. To become a versatile bassist, (read: working bassist), diversify and be able to read standard notation. While not all gigs will call for it, some gigs might. No gig will call for tab. Also, learn harmonic function and train your ears to hear it. Knowing your theory and having huge ears will also increase your worth in the studio and in bands. (Read my sig).

    This discussion has nothing to do with tabs, so keep those comments in another thread.

  11. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000

    Zis iz NOT True, Ve are just mizzunterstude.

    Ive done session work and not once have I ever been given a piece of tab. Its usually a set of chord charts that you'll be given. Ive been lucky and never given a set of standard notaion, as Im not that proficient at it yet, and I know that Ive been passed over for work because of it.
  12. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    ...and raging 5'1" munchkin meanies like myself... :oops: :D

    But seriously, Ashley, I don't know why someone would tell you notation wouldn't do you any good. That really makes no sense to me. What kind of bass work are they in that they would say that?
  13. john turner

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

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    yes. you should learn it. also develop your ear to be able to pick up songs from recordings. being able to read standard notation quickly and accurately and having a developed ear are the 2 biggest tools necessary to be a working bassist, imo.
  14. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Ashley, I knew a guitarist who was extremely talented, could compose music, could imitate many famous guitarists, but who could not read standard notation OR TAB, for that matter.

    He admired another band that was highly sucessful and, lo and behold. his dream came true...they needed a guitarist and invited him to fill the spot. He lasted one rehearsal...repeat...one rehearsal.

    You see, the band had chord charts and some parts written out in standard notation. My buddy couldn't read or understand the charts. So they left him go in spite of his talent, because he simply would not have been able to learn their entire catalog of material fast enough attempting it all by ear.

    Unfortunately, he did not learn from the bitter disappointment of that experience. To this day, eight years later, he does not read music. He prefers to tough it out his own way. That is his right to choose, but let it be known, Ashley, that if you choose NOT to learn standard notation or at least how to read and improvise from a chord chart, you may lose some wonderful opportunities you could otherwise have as a musician because you are limiting your possibilities by limiting your skills.

    I liken it to a cook who cannot and will not read recipes. They may produce some pretty good food, but they can only go so far, because much of the best cooking done has been written in recipe form, making the cooking if that food easier for other cooks. But if you can't read a recipe, you will have to struggle much longer and harder and maybe fail a few times, too, in order to reproduce the meal you wish to make.
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    VERY well put. Thanks for sharing this story...it cuts straight to the heart of the issue.
  16. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    He mentioned it in the headline, that's why I included it in my answer. I guess he already knows tab and wanted to know if he should learn standard notation.
  17. Kraken


    Jun 19, 2001
    Aylesbury, England
    There are a lot of people who will testify that it is rare for me to agree with Chris on this subject, But....

    For the record, I agree with you Chris.

    I also think there is very little else to be said on the matter beyond Boplicity's post.

    It highlights the merits of learning and the pitfalls of not learning and That it is not always necessary to learn to make good music - but it helps.

    I'm going to bow out on this now as I'm sure people are going to get Irate eventually.

  18. Hootz


    Jul 1, 2001
    Hull, England
    Well, Paul Mcartney still can't read music. Fair enough he understands musical theory and has a very musical brain, but it hasn't neccessarily held him back. If you want to play bass for money then yes, you really have to learn to be in with any kind of chance at all as a studio musician. But if you just want to have a laugh and have a jam every now and then with your mates then it's not imperative that you learn musical theory. Also, if you're just an amateur player and don't have the time/money to get lessons (which can be expensive) or the patience to sit around learning it by rote then don't bother. As long as you know keys, chords and the basics of musical theory then you should be fine.

    In case you hadn't guessed, I can't read it either. It doesn't make me stupid or worth less than anyone else, it just means I can't read music. And in the end, what's more important: enjoying playing or striving to read music?
  19. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I guess you didn't fully read the first post in this thread - where the poster was told that they didn't need to read music, as it wouldn't help them in the studio or anywhere else. Which, by the way, is completely false.
  20. learn it. If the object is fun, this is also enhanced by knowing it. And I don't think its quite appropriate to compare any of us and what we *should* do/learn to Paul McCartney, who is a special enough soul to succeed *despite* not knowing how to read music, not *because* of not knowing how.

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