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Why are so many tabs WAY up the fretboard??

Discussion in 'Tablature and Notation [BG]' started by Pilgrim, Feb 2, 2012.

  1. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I started playing in the 60's and have a decent command of fretboard position. When I need to resort to looking up a tab to get a clue about a new number, it amazes me to see how hard tab authors work to play way up the fretboard.

    When I see a tab that's all at the 7th through 12th frets when there are easier ways to play the tune using open strings, I wonder what the author has been smoking. If I can use the tab at all, I generally transpose all the fingerings down an entire octave so that it's sane and more easily playable.

    Are people convinced that there's something wrong with playing on the bottom six frets? Do they believe that it looks much cooler to play everything halfway up the fretboard? Or have they decided that open strings are bad medicine and should be avoided (something I strongly disagree with)?

    Probably all simply rhetorical questions, I know.
  2. trblWthTrebles


    Jan 8, 2012
    What music?
    What tabs?

    I look at a ton of classic rock guitarpro tab mostly from ultimate and have no idea where you're coming from on this.
  3. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Fair question. Almost every tab I have ever looked at avoids open strings and is higher up the neck than I'd play it.

    Here are tabs for a couple of Beatles tunes that have substantial portions of the number fairly high up on the neck:

    Hey Bulldog bass tab (ver 3) by Beatles @ Ultimate-Guitar.Com

    Money Thats What I Want bass tab by Beatles @ Ultimate-Guitar.Com

    And I haven't played this Doors numbers yet to see how the crossovers work, but the fret positions look an octave too high to me....lots of 10, 12 and 14th fret positions in it:

    Back Door Man bass tab by Doors @ Ultimate-Guitar.Com

    I grant that some of the tabs are decent (like ZZ Top numbers, but they're pretty silly for *anyone* to play high on the neck), but it seems like I often see a focus on playing as far up the neck as possible.

    Maybe I'm just running into some odd tabs.
  4. trblWthTrebles


    Jan 8, 2012
    I think the latter.

    'Money' is high at least partially to have a unison riff with the guitar.

    The consistently high 'bass' tab of the doors tune actually is left hand keys.
    The bg part is even weirder than your main point. Up and down the e from open to double dot.
    Maybe the idea is that the fat string is more distinct from the piano??

    If the multi-instrument tab for 'bulldog' is correct then it's unusual in that the piano often plays 'first octave bass' with the bg up an octave.

    Cool examples of unusual songs, I think. Thanks!
  5. trblWthTrebles


    Jan 8, 2012
    I may be skewed the other way because I also look at a lot of guitar riffs and there is definitely no shortage of opens there.
  6. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    Some tab are made by people who don't know music or their instrument well so they play it at some place on the neck and this is it. Other time if you have to play F# on the G string well instead of going up and down on the neck why not play in one position.
  7. lokikallas

    lokikallas Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
    The higher position are easy to stretch between frets. As long as the actions good it's often easier to play. I've seen Billie jean played with b on the 7 th fret, but I tend to play it down on the 2nd.
  8. Bredian


    Apr 22, 2011
    Hey Pilgrim, I hear ya. Pulled down 50-100 tabs last summer for a band, another 50 in the last few weeks for another. Accuracy is almost always lacking. Some tab writers are so far off ...

    Old school... I used to have to listen and plot notes on note paper. Many tabs (chord) will show majors vs minors incorrectly, etc.

    Lately, its actually easy to find some bass player recording their "cover" on youtube. If there's one, there may be many. That is really helpful...and entertaining.
  9. TheArchfiend


    Nov 3, 2011
    personally i like to avoid open notes
  10. Chef FourString

    Chef FourString

    Feb 4, 2011
    It's easier to play higher on the neck, you don't have to stretch as far. Maybe the high position was chosen for tonal reasons. I know I've done it but in your situation, with the songs you're learning, I could very well be wrong.
  11. matti777


    Dec 13, 2007
    Edmonton, Canada
    I had the opposite concern with some tabs. There are tons of open notes (A,D,G). ie Lynyrd Skynrd and Rush tab books. Do/did they really play these songs like this?
  12. Sometimes people avoid open strings. I do. I use them, sometimes it's the sound I want, but often I avoid open strings because I get a smoother sound that way, and it takes away errors due to muscle memory when you need to transpose.
    I don't like open strings much, usually.
  13. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Fair enough - some people have reasons to minimize use of open strings, and those reasons are sufficient to them. I personally don't find those reasons compelling. I include them whenever possible, as I prefer to hang out on the bottom five frets. It's true that upper frets offer closer spacing, but having learned on upright bass, reaching frets isn't a problem for me even though my hands aren't any larger than average.

    My approach is to move up the fretboard only when the pattern available there helps to avoid fast multi-fret moves up or down the fretboard. I find those lead to errors, so for me that's a good reason for moving up to the 5th fret. Most things I play are based either on a hand position anchored on (a) open strings or (b) the 5th fret. This may be because I have played surf for years, and am now playing more classic rock and blues.

    Since I took a 20-year layoff from playing bass through the 80's and 90's, I may be stylistically out of date. That may be a good thing for me.:p
  14. niels125


    Aug 11, 2011
    I don't like playing open strings and my sound is thicker when played on the A or E string, so I rather play higher on the neck than going to the D or G string :)
  15. matti777


    Dec 13, 2007
    Edmonton, Canada
    I was under the assumption that this approach is common for the reason you mention. I'll have to try and find some videos of the original artists vs the published tabs in the books. I don't have a lot of time to transcribe so tabs are a great starter. IIRC many players have more left hand movement than the tabs indicated. Then there is always the issue of what tuning their basses were in :)
  16. I also like to play the fretted note as opposed to an open. One tab that comes to mind is Seven Nation Army. I find playing that with fretted notes provides a much fuller sound for that particular song.
  17. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    If you play fretless or double bass you'll become concious of avoiding open notes. Open notes are the instrument speaking. Fingered notes are the musician speaking.
  18. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I played upright bass for some years...never found any reason to avoid open strings on it. And I have no problem with the open strings on my fretless.

    Perhaps I like it when the instrument speaks. ;) After all, I play that instrument because I like its sound.

    Fact is, I have no problem at all with open strings. I am interested in the reasons people offer for avoiding them.
  19. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    Mine, as a fretless-only, mostly EUB player:

    1) Harder to gliss into gracefully
    2) Harder to partially mute without affecting pitch
    3) Harder to impart vibrato to
    4) Often tend to vary in volume and timbre compared to stopped notes
    5) Don't generally dig the tonality as much (except when I do ;))

    That said, vive la difference! As far as tabs go, I genuinely know nothing at all. And I don't mean to imply that I always avoid open notes, just to say why I might at times.
  20. Hey Bulldog starts up high on the G string and, except for the
    chorus, doesn't go very low. It makes perfect sense to me.