Mike Marshall and I, among others, are hoping to lead people away from (exclusive) tab reading.Here's Why
Ears are #1, reading ability #2.
I agree, John. As a non-reader, tab has been a useful tool in learning but it also has become a crutch of sorts. I've been slowly learning to read and it's been very exciting for me musically - It feels like a whole entire universe has opened up. Ricci Adams' Music Theory website was a big help for me in terms of learning the notes of the staff. The training game where the notes pop up on the staff and you have to quickly identify them is an excellent practice tool for a beginner. Once I had that down, I was in business. I just got Mike Marshall's choro and Bach books and can't wait to get the Real Book!
i might be from the "old school" of playing, but i firmly believe that everyone should quit using tab and start learning by ear.....i might be wrong, but i feel sure that bill monroe did not use tab when he was learning to play. who really cares if you play mississippi sawyer note for note, or any other song for that matter. every player is different and that is what makes playing music so much fun...if everyone played the same, there would be no reason to play.
I do sometimes like to see both notation and tab for something. Sometimes it helps a lot by suggesting a more convenient place to play something than I had picked out. I try to use the key signature to position on a scale I use (an FFCP scale).
However, I recently had the opportunity to play with a niece and newphew who play guitar. My nephew seemd to be leaps and bounds above my niece and I. He knew some tunes that he could flat tear up. I would ask him about the key and the changes so I could try to diddle around with something that might resemble rhythm or at least mix somewhat harmonically. He had no clue. My niece knew about a dozen chords and a couple of scales. She could tell me enough about the few songs she knew so that I coul play along and I was able to teach her a couple.
The up side is that my nephew has outstanding dexterity and (this one is really important) learned some impressive sounding things quickly and is far less likely to give it up out of frustration.
It's a double edged sword.
The other thing I like is TabView. Having an application that will play midi backup and/or lead for me, let me turn instruments off or on, up or down, adjust tempo, start/stop/repeat using any beat boundaries, see the music I need to play in tab and/or notation and having a massive library of songs, all for free, is just incredible. You can turn away from the display and use it purely for ear training.
I do have a fiddle tune book I like to play out of from time to time to keep me honest. I am trying to do more by ear these days also; probably about half of the new stuff I learn is by ear. However, I try to learn phrase/licks, not just notes, that I recognize in songs. A suggested way to improve one as far as fingering goes will help.
"First you master your instrument, then you master the music, then you forget about all that ... and just play"
Charlie "Bird" Parker
Holy smokes, John, you sure put a whole lotta nails in that coffin! I agree wholeheartedly.
Ear is #1 always. I used to pick up Holdsworth solos by ear, and that's a case where tab is really beneficial - The guy will capitalize on every superhuman stretch and exploit symmetry and geometry at every opportunity. Your ears can hear it, and it can be notated, sure, but notation can't capture how it's executed. His REH Video comes with solos tabbed out, and it illustrates his technique and approach in a way that no notation ever could.
Other than that, I agree, tab is sub-optimal. Time to get out the flashcards.
For me tab has it uses AND it's draw backs, while it is true that tab is sorta a crutch that will keep you lazy and not help you to learn notation but at the same time I use it until I AM better at reading notation.
I like tab when I am trying to learn a traditional fiddle tune for instance just the simple melody and then once I get the simple melody under my fingers I can make it my own by adding whatever ornamental lick I want.
I have the Fiddler's Fake Book and I am learning songs off of it one by one but it is PAINFULLY slow! I can learn a song from tab in one afternoon.
But I know the way to sight read faster is to just practice at it more.
Musical notation is a written language just like english, french or spanish, with the big advantage of being the only universal written language. If you take the time to learn it, you can sit down and play musical ideas that you've never heard before. You can write down musical ideas that others can play. It makes learnig new tunes so much easier and more accurate. Of course, use your ears, but if you're going to learn to read, don't waste too much time on tab.
I feel very ambivalent about this topic- and would love some feedback. #I started 3 years back from total scratch, and worked exclusively with tab - easier to get to playing before learning how to read, I think it can be (or might be?) agreed. #But I worked towards all of the goals John M. addresses. #My practice consists of lots of scales, right hand technique and ear training, and I work especially hard at drilling arpeggios for majors, minors, dom 7, m7, ninths, diminished and augmented chords. So #I am not at ALL averse to theory, and fully grasp the importance of learning the relationship between chord tones, melodies, and improvisational possibilities. I do know the names of the notes I'm playing as well as the "number" on the fretboard. #I can read notation- but the thing is I can't read with ANYTHING like the profficiency with which I can read tab. #So I still tend to tab out most things I play- and when I transcribe solos, which I can manage to do ok (no Coltrane yet, but some Jethro, Grapelli, Stiernberg- even Miles Davis!) I write everything out in tab. I also use tabledit which has a lot of rhythmic notation- you can see the rhythmic feel of a piece in the tab itself, not just by liistening to the midi. #In a way, I feel like I would have been better off learning to read notation right away and bypassing tab altogether, just for the range of stuff in notation not available in tab- but at this point it isn't clear to me that reading IN ITSELF will enahance all of these other goals.
Tell me why I'm wrong!! Please!
I think you are using the hammer in your toolkit appropriately. I think the issue is that some people don't bother with any other tools. Sounds like you have a pretty full set and use them all. Just my opinion.
"First you master your instrument, then you master the music, then you forget about all that ... and just play"
Charlie "Bird" Parker
BradW- i would suggest that you aren't wrong at all. If you are fluent with theory and can look at a measure of tab and convert it to notes so you can see the chord/melody relationships, then I think all you need to know is being communicated by the tab.
My issues against tab are that it only gives you one possibility for a position or fingering (this is even more relevant for guitar, with it's broader range of fingering positions) and that it doesn't communicate the crucial chord/melody relationship (i.e. MUSIC) as well as standard notation does.
If all a player wants to do is "recite" music someone else has played, and doesn't give a hoot about developing improvisational/compositional understanding/ability other than "I'm just gonna go for it", then tab is fine. I think for players who really want unrestricted access to a broader understanding of music (not just on the mandolin, but all and any kind of music), then learning the basics of pitches/chords/scales/rhythms is incredibly helpful.
"But Bill Monroe and Wes Montgomery and all those guys didn't read tab OR notation"!!!
Guess what- neither you nor I are Bill Monroe or Wes Montgomery!
But in the end, your ear is most crucial piece of the puzzle. IMHO. That's how Bill and Wes did it!
Quick point: I strongly agree that the pitfall of tab is seeing it as THE path to fingering , then you're in trouble. I often re-tab pieces to make passages wokr better for me- no need in notation BUT even with notation I often (and have seen others do the same) put little fingering notes over measures so you know where to shift up and down the neck.
Phew! Glad tab is working for me!!
Excellent, Brad! I guess I am addressing the many who read tab from transcription books, and that becomes The Way To Play It, when indeed there may be other/better ways. As a professional transcriber, i have seen many professionally published transcriptions that have many errors- in timing, note choices, chord symbols, etc. in both tab and standard notation.
And unlike you, 99% of tab-only readers cannot read rhythmic notation.
Groveland- I am a big Holdsworth fan, and have that video- I wouldn't trust that the tab is 100% accurate either. Allan is a very idiosyncratic player, and accurate tab would help in understanding how he accomplishes the seemingly impossible lines he plays...but there are passages in the tab that don't line up with where he is on the fingerboard, either, though most of the standard notation of pitches seems close. Have you seen the Japanese transcription books? They are hilariously incorrect.
Here's another way I see it: Tab (only) teaches you to be an instrument operator, as opposed to someone fluent in the language of music as used by musicians for hundreds of years (yeah, i know tab dates back to early lute music, but no one was tabbing for ensembles or orchestras and they still ain't!).
Fluency in reading won't make you a better musician. It will give you a better understanding of how music (away from the mandolin) works. That better understanding can (but doesn't automatically) make you a better player.
It certainly made me a better player- not because I could sight-read, but because I gained a deeper understanding of how the notes I played related to the chord I was playing against. But so did working with a metronome, playing things really slowly, learning stuff by ear off of recordings, thinking long and hard about tone and technique, practicing obsessively, hanging out and playing with much better players than myself, and crawling out of my hole now and again to live life some.
Being a better player doesn't make you a better person (away from the mandolin). it just makes you FEEL better.
I'm not so sure that is true. Speaking for myself, when I started playing mandolin (not having played any other instrument before), I began with dual standard notation and tab. I knew in theory what all the symbols in the notation meant, but there was no way I could have picked up any sort of fluency in fingering for weeks or even months without having the tab to guide me at the beginning. But, I never used the tab for any rhythmic information at all -- I got that from the notation right away. Indeed, it is still a complete mystery to me how tab-only readers manage to get the rhythm of a piece that they have never heard before.Originally Posted by (jmcgann @ Aug. 06 2005, 12:46)
I found that just having both standard notation and tab in front of me all the time meant that reading fluency in standard notation developed on its own until at one stage I was happy to go tab-free in slower pieces. From then on, playing from the sheet without tab becomes self-reinforcing. Maybe I would have developed reading fluency faster if I'd never used tab at all, but on the other hand maybe I would have found it so frustrating that I wouldn't have persevered. No knowing in restrospect.
Where I am now is that I'm happy to play standard notation on reasonably complex pieces a slow-to-middling tempi, and in ensemble playing where to some extent there is a mutual reinforcing of rhythm. For the past six weeks or so I've been playing once a week with a small classical/romantic mandolin ensemble where all the arrangements are available notation-only. Pieces are called ad hoc from a repertoire of 200-odd arrangements built up by the regulars over the past few decades. For me that means playing parts in completely unfamiliar pieces on first sight until I am reasonably familiar with at least the most popular ones. It's a steep learning curve, and I play more than my share of wrong notes (F# instead of F on the e-string is a favourite), but without doubt it does help. However, when playing fast Irish or Scottish dance tunes, I still find tab-plus-notation essential for any sort of fluency and speed -- it's all about fingering patterns on the triplets, which with tab I can tranlate straight from the page to my fingers, but which with notes goes through my brain which can't keep up. So, I'm not completely through with tab, but I'm slowly weaning myself off.
The other thing that is neat is that there is a long standing convention in classical guitar music where the string number appears in a circle under the note, so an E on the A string would have a "2" in a circle. The usual fingering numbers can be used as well- so you get built in tab WITH the standard notation. All bases covered!
My quote about 99% of tab readers being unable to read rhythmic notation (stems and rests) is data gathered from 25 years of teaching and as a hired-gun transcriber, where #customers purchasing tab have actually complained about the rhythmic flags being added ( "Can you just write the tab like in 'Guitar World"! I can hear how it's supposed to go!")
It's not a huge leap of logic to see that understanding how rhythmic notation works could help deepen one's understanding of how to play in time better, melody and accompaniment, especially if that person worked with a metronome some...
Controversial quote from me (flame suit on) : Most people would be better off NOT having learned to read tab at all, having to rely on developing their ears. In this day and age, with all the slow-downer gizmos, even the gnarliest playing can be slowed down (at pitch!) to a manageable level. That kind of hard work really does sharpen your overall musicianship WAY more than tab could do.
Can you tell I don't use tab when I teach?
Then should we assume you and Mike are leading by example and that's why four of Mike's recent five books include tablature, and that three of your most recent ones also do?Originally Posted by (jmcgann @ Aug. 05 2005, 18:58)
Please! I'm not here to defend tablature or to start an argument. Just having some fun. I actually agree it'd be best if everyone read standard. I stopped using tab years ago. So far, to my knowledge, the Real Books don't exist anywhere in mandolin tablature.
Mel Bay asked "do you want to sell any books?" . I had only one answer
I asked "who can sell more- me with no tab or Mel Bay with tab?"
I may be dumb, but I'm not stupid!
Actually, part of my quest will be to make a free .pdf download of my 1990 "Tab Reader's Guide to Standard Notation" that I hope will circulate and folks will share and make use of. I was charging $14.95, it was printed years before the Mel Bay stuff. #The first pressing sold out and now I think the idea is worth getting out there for anyone interested. I can continue to rake it the incredibly huge royalties on the other three books to support myself
However, I will not refund 50% of the other books just because you don't need tab anymore #
I like tab.....good idea Groveland.
I agree with John -- especially with the above quote.Originally Posted by
It is true, though, what he says about the publishing world. When I was writing my book, I was told that every chapter had to include tab. I objected on philosophical and pedagogical grounds especially regarding the chapter on note reading. How is the student supposed to learn to read notes when the tab is right there underneath?
Well, I was overruled (or was that "threatened"...) Anyway, I gave in but have never been happy with the decision. I believe that the book would have been better without it. Arbitrary decisions to delete material in order to make space for tab etc.-- not to mention the pedagogical idiocy of having tab in a section on note reading has made me "less than satified" with the results of my own efforts.
With my own students, I'll resort to taping over the tab so that they'll actually learn to read the notes.
This is the situation that we are stuck with at this point: the big publishers won't touch anything that doesn't have tab because they are afraid that nobody will buy it. Many of us who are writing these books have to decide between making more sales and having the "prestigious name" of the publisher or on the other hand, writing the book in the way we know (from long experience) to be the best.
Bottom line: There are only so many hours in the day -- your time is better spent on training your ears and developing your ability to read notes. Don't waste your time on tab.
publisher´s ( including the authors ) should be happy that there is TAB because otherwise they would sell less copies . Point !
Many people just want to play some music and have some fun and that without getting into studying music theory. TAB does very well for me. And therefore I am glad that an author was "threatened" by the publisher to include TAB in his book.
Carl Martin - Everyday I have the Blues
My gear : 1927 A0/Ajr , JM-11 , Fender 346 white XH
You miss the point.
In the section on NOTE READING, I was made to include tab. I hope you can understand the idiocy of this situation.
I understand that some people just want to have fun and play some music -- but there are also people who want to learn to be well-rounded musicians. These folks are ill-served by the ubiquity of tab.
So if we're serious about music, it's got to be notation. If we're serious about the mechanics of a particular piece, (like my Holdsworth example) tab can help. But for music, tab is no substitute for notation.
<thought type='attempt at cleverness'>Don't they inject stuff into trees to get them to grow faster so they can harvest them more quickly? The trees look fine from a distance, but the depth of grain isn't there, it isn't as rich and detailed and the strength isn't equal to those raised the expensive, time-consuming, traditional way. </thought>
I think you mainly want a quick harvest if you're building something with 2x4's, right? But I'm not sure you want that same wood for furniture.
i can read music but it takes forever. i like tabs because it's closer to the original method of learning: watching where someone puts their fingers and taking it from there.
there are those who consciously use their brains to play and there are others - like me - who don't. i'd like to think it was zen awareness but it's probably more like knowing my limitations.
i don't know how cerebrial a player he is but i just read a wonderful haiku by fatt-dad to the effect that his fingers fly along in the dark without anyone being able to see. i'm like that - the more in the dark i am (so to speak) the better i seem to play.
We can't tab out a vocal part. Not to be splitting hairs: Tab is about mechanics and is instrument-specific. Notation serves music and it's instrument-agnostic. If a deeper understanding of music is the goal, notation will serve us better than tab in the musical long-run.Originally Posted by