1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Why Not Tabs?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by michaelkoss, Aug 25, 2011.

  1. I see a number of responses to threads that belittle tabs. As a newbie, I couldn't live without tabs. I know I need to learn to read music and more importantly, listen by ear and play. But at this point, I can do neither. If it weren't for tabs, I'd be stuck playing scales instead of the few songs I've learned. I'm running scales too, but I feel it's important to also practice playing in time to a song.

    So my question is, why all the hate for tabs?
  2. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    Tabs act as a crutch. You can honestly get by just by using tabs, but you'll never become a great bassist until you have an ear and tabs act as an excuse not to practice your ear.
  3. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    i do not hate tabs. i am like you, or was like you. i have been playing bass for 4 years (wow its gone fast) and for my first year i played using only tabs. didn't know the notes on the fretboard, didn't know any scales, had no idea what a chord was or anything. just played tabs. then my second year i got a new teacher and learned a few scales and the notes on the neck. the past 2 years i have been reading music and learning advanced scales and am still learning. i think that tabs are great for people like me because it got me interested in playing bass. i was excited when i could play the song iron man or some other thing i was listening to. so my view is its good to start off but if you want to be a pro you need to slowly move away from them.
  4. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    My opposition to tablature is that it totally removes music from the equation. It only shows a physical aspect of playing. With a string instrument the same note is located at different places, but tab sucks you into thinking there's only one viable way to finger any particular selection. Also, tab perpetuates the myth that playing an instrument is all about where to put your fingers as opposed to it being about making music come out.

    Yes, putting your fingers on the right spot is PART of playing, but tab reduces the playing to exactly that. Written music tells you melody, harmony, and rhythm while tab shows none of that generally.

    Tab serves a useful purpose for a quick 'n' dirty representation of one way to play something. But it won't teach you anything about music, and if you don't know music, you can't really call yourself a musician.

  5. There is a place for tabs and they do help us see how specific riffs, etc. are played. However, playing from tab limit us to the sheet of paper and our memory. I have a problem deciding what key the song is in if all I'm looking at is the tab, i.e. I have to take the time to figure it out. I use it but as just one of the choices.

    Plus finding tabs on the music you want to play is hit or miss, but finding fake chord or lead sheet music that lists the chord name and then leaves how you play that chord up to you is the way many of us have elected to go.

    If you find tab helpful, go for it. I rely upon the Major scale box pattern and fake chord.

    I am not going to tell you that tab is bad, that depends on the individual, but, I would encourage you to look elsewhere, do not rely on tab as your only source.
  6. I have no problem with tabs -- they taught me plenty of songs, riffs, and notes. Tabs were never what I 'saw in my head,' or felt confined to play. Tabs aren't reading music, they're not even close! I don't think anyone picks up a guitar/bass magazine looking for tabs while skipping their theory/modal classes. If tabs help you get to a happy place, then get there -- even if they are considering a crutch. Fast forward 10 years down the road, I've become decent at playing by ear & I've traveled the country with my "jamband" playing improv. I'm not Stanley Clark, Jaco, Rocco, SRV, etc... but, I've had fun playing lots of notes in lots of places (pun intended).

    Training wheels on a bicycle are a crutch too, and you can bet your ass Lance Armstrong didn't cruise without them when he 1st started riding... I've helped several guys learn a chord, riff, or a song over the years & I always tell everyone the same thing: "... it doesn't matter how good you are, as long as you're enjoying the instrument." KEEP ROCKIN!!! :bassist:
  7. Pffth.

    Don't worry about what others think: whatever works for you, at this time, go with.

    Yes, eventually it will be helpful to understand how the theory applies, and how you can play the same note in different areas of the neck, make variations, runs, chords and harmonics...

    But geez, when starting out it's helpful to be able to have a visual representation of what's being played, so that you can figure it out and learn from it. Hating on tabs is no different than hating on videos, tutorials, fake books, etc. (i.e., it's silly)

    It's not a crutch, imo, it's a learning tool, especially if the musician eventually moves past it. Now, if said musician does not, well, that's their fault, not the fault of the medium/tool.

    My .02

  8. It takes away your need (or the knowledge of your need, at least) to learn theory. Maybe theory isn't the right word... It takes away your need to learn WHY you're doing what you're doing. I think it's a great and convenient way to convey a bass line or riff, but it should never be the only thing you can play from.
  9. As a noob, I'm actively starting to dislike tabs, strangely enough. I do still look them up, but that is usually to get a quick idea of the progression, since my ear still has issues hearing what's going on. I do write my own tabs, mostly because I want to see if I can, and because most songs I tend to play along with, I don't play it the exact way it's done in the song itself but sort of put my own spin on things, and I need to have that tabbed out because my friendly gui**** who jams with me sometimes gets confused otherwise :/

    Then there's also the fact that more than half the tabs you can find on the 'net are just flat out incorrect.
  10. When viewed as what they are, stepping stones, there's nothing wrong with tabs.

    As a new bass player, it's tough to tell what notes are being played.

    They're only tabs, people!


  11. Tabs don't contain detailed note duration/timing information, nor usually dynamics. Plus the ones I've seen from the internet are often wrong.

    I think tabs along with music can be useful as a learning tool to help you with one idea for how to finger a piece of music, but I would also consider other possible fingerings as part of the learning exercise.
  12. Question, if I have the chords, do I just make up bass stuff? Put whatever I want where ever I want? Of course, it needs to sound good, but really, just make stuff up that goes with the chord?

    Another question, this time about the box pattern you mentioned. Suppose the chord progression is C, F, G. Do you play the major scale box pattern from the C (8th fret on the E), move to the F (1st fret on the E) when the F chord comes around, then move up to the 3rd fret when the G comes up?

    Sorry for the deluge of questions. I don't want to use tabs, I want to be able to hear a song and play with it so I'm trying to figure out the process of doing that.
  13. I read on these forums somewhere that whenever you are practicing a song, you should practice in every key. Is this what you mean? Or do you mean to find the same note in different places on the neck and play it there?
  14. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 Groove it Supporting Member

    I think it's best to use the time you would normally use "reading" TABs to learn how to read music instead. Learning songs by ear is far, far better than some hack-job tabs. Also, pick another non-tab instrument like piano or trumpet. I played sax (tenor and baritone) from 5th grade all the way through high school. I had no choice but to learn how to read. This helped with bass a lot; I retained all that info.

    Sidenote: I never let my oldest kid play guitar hero, instead he plays real guitar and has gotten very good at it. The time he would have spent playing a video game was spent with a real instrument in his hands.
  15. hdracer


    Feb 15, 2009
    Elk River, MN.
    99% of all the tabs on the net are wrong.
  16. SabreATK


    Aug 24, 2011
    In the history of music, most musicians never read music. Music was taught by showing a young apprentice or watching other musicians and using the ear. The vast majority of music does not happen in conservatories, but in the streets.

    There are a class of highly trained musicians who know how to read but not create. They are like typists following the notes on a page. Is it any wonder the vast majority of these "highly trained musicians" never compose anything?
  17. Ehhh... I respect your opinion, but my experience differs.

    At least, that is, before Bassmasta went the way of the dodo.

    I'd say that a very, very large majority of it's tabs were correct.

    Not all, of course, and not 100%, but certainly enough to help a budding bass player get a good idea of what was being played.

    Tabs are bound to have some mistakes, just like bass players make them when playing.

    Hell, sometimes I mess up my own originals!


  18. I agree completely. How else are you going to show someone
    how Paul McCartney or Verdine White (or anybody) played
    something? There is no other way.

    Folks do belittle tab as if it has no purpose and is pure
    evil. I disagree with those folks.
    The typical responses are:
    1. "Tab sucks. You need to learn to read music."
    2. "Tab sucks. You need to train your ear to learn music."

    Absolutely, and the exact same statement is true for
    musical scores. That's the problem with response #1 (above).

    Again, I agree. Learn as much as you can. Use all the tools.
    Tablature (especially if it includes the score to provide you
    with information on the timing of the notes) can help you get
    up and running on a tune quickly. Often, that is the goal.
    When you're in a band and need to learn a tune quickly, there
    is not a lot of time for analysis. That's the problem with
    response #2 (above). You just want to know what the
    original artist did.

    Reading music, learning by ear, knowing your chords/modes
    and knowing theory in general are all great. I recommend
    them all. But none of them diminish the value of tab.

    Don't rely on any one tool and don't exclude tools just because
    somebody looks down their nose at it.
  19. I almost never use text tabs. I have GuitarPro so I can hear the rhythm too. I love GP's progressive speed looping to help me learn more complex licks. Sometimes my fingers just don't want to do what my mind tells them to do.
  20. jungleheat

    jungleheat Banned

    Jun 19, 2011
    It doesn't matter what notes you play, as long as they're the right ones.

    Absolutely nothing wrong with tab. It can be a valuable tool in learning to play specific songs. Theoretically, if you learned enough songs through tab, you would be able to play anything, although you might not know WHY or HOW you can play it, because you might not understand the techniques behind what you are doing.

    Also, let's get this myth out of the way: tab is NOT just for beginners. Otherwise, Dream Theater wouldn't bother printing tab books, because no beginner could ever play any of that stuff (on bass or guitar). Tab is just a visual representation of how to play a song on a stringed (and usually fretted) instrument. That's it. Saying there's something wrong with tab is like saying theres something wrong with books. It depends on which ones you read, and how you combine that with information you get from other sources and the world around you.

    So as long as you use them for what they are designed for (learning songs) and not what they aren't really designed for, but can still help with (playing bass), you'll be fine.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.