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Thread: Tab writing apps

  1. #1
    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Tab writing apps

    I did a search but couldn’t find much info. I’m wondering what apps folks are using to write out tab. I can read standard notation but can transpose quicker with tab. I’d like to write up some practice pieces for myself and keep them on my ipad. Thanks for any info

  2. #2
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    TablEdit and MuseScore are both good. MuseScore is opensource freeware, TablEdit costs ~$60. I see far more folks using TablEdit than MuseScore. They both create files in their own format so they are not directly readable by other programs. But they can export to some other more universal formats and those might then be readable by other software.

    Me, I use TablEdit and like it (despite some idiosynchrasies). I have used MuseScore. It is good, but so many folks use TablEdit that you can more easily get help and you can easily swap files back and forth.
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    Mangler of Tunes OneChordTrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    +1 to what Honkety Hank said. Tabledit is great; most tunes i want are available in abc which it can read

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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    I’m only looking for something for my own use. I’d like to tab out some simple melody lines with just a few passing tones and licks, then be able to just keep going at ‘em ‘til they are memorized and up to speed. It’s just a starting point for me getting comfortable with a song. I will check out tabledit.

  6. #5
    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    I put Tabledit into the search bar in the app store and TEFpad came up. Is that what I’m looking for? Please excuse my computer ignorance.

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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    Here's what my search gets: https://www.tabledit.com/download/index.shtml

    TEFpad appears to be an interface for handhelds?
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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    My take is that the “view” is just reading and I have that but “pad” is writing. It just seems more complicated than I need. I just want to put numbers on lines.

  9. #8

    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    I have been teaching privately for decades. Since 1999 or so I've used a product that started as Cakewalk Pro Audio, evolved into Sonar and then when Gibson abandoned the brand in 2018 or so, it was relaunched as Cakewalk by Bandlab. I use the midi engine to generate notation and tab either by hand entry or by input via a midi pickup on a guitar (for guitar and bass tabs). It is now a free application from Bandlab. I used Sonar as my professional DAW for many years and it's a fully functional DAW but I had to migrate to Pro Tools for professional reasons and haven't looked back. The DAW element is really well featured but I grew to hate the busy interface after using plain Jane Pro Tools and finding it much easier to look at all day.

    With that said, the midi engine in the Cakewalk product is first rate and if they haven't abandoned the Staff View then the tab engine is likely still intact. Since a DAW isn't a desktop publishing app it will lack navigation tools like repeat signs, DS, etc. It's just a beginning to end type of document. You can print your transcriptions with a variety of settings to decide what and how you see it. Since it's a DAW you can import midi and just start laying it out how you want as tab. It has a few different ways of handling how notes are automatically placed on the tab.

    It's a big application but it's free. I still use Sonar 8 everyday at work 100% as a midi editor when I teach. I have a massive library of transcriptions for guitar and bass and a growing mandolin library.

  10. #9
    Registered User Drew Egerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    I like Musescore, though there is a lot of additional stuff in there that you will probably never need. I have found a ton of helpful content on Youtube for figuring out where to click to do certain things. Some of it is very intuitive and some of it is downright frustrating.

    I like that you can write out music only, tab only or both and have them linked together.
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  11. #10
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    Two suggestions, Bunnyf, maybe one will help.

    The first is to echo HonketyHank. Tabledit is a fairly versatile tab writing software and I use it for writing notation or tab. I use it for the purpose you're planning to do: For tabbing out my own creations of tunes, licks or exercises. But I also use it for a lot more, as HonketyHank noted, and you might find other uses down the road, so you may well easily get your money's worth out of that. The license was a small price to pay for the use I've gotten in 3 or 4 years now. A caveat though: I use it primarily on a laptop, not a mobile device. It seems you plan to use primarily a mobile device, and I can't really speak to that.

    The second suggestion is much simpler: Go back to the old ways of quickly jotting it on paper. You can print up TAB paper, or you could order a tablet that has tablature (an assumption there), and use something like that pretty easily for the simple process you're considering. I've done that. I know that keeping up with paper products has its own drawbacks.

    So, that's what I have to offer, sorry if neither of those are appealing. I've used both methods and know they are effective; also, tried musescore and a few other writing softwares, but not with mobile devices. All the best to you.
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  12. #11
    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    I’ve used the tef viewer and while it might be fun for some to follow along with the notes and the music and be able to change speed, I find it awfully distracting to follow the moving chart but that’s probably just me. I would just want to write it up and either have a print version or send it to onsong as a pdf and load my own backing track to practice along.
    Mark, for now I’m doing it old school and hand writing it out on tab paper. I’ll convert that to a nicer copy (easier to read) when I find a simple tab writing program that will work for what I want to do.

  13. #12

    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    I write all the sheet music and tablature for MandoLessons in MuseScore and have been very happy with it.

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  14. #13
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunnyf View Post
    ... I find it awfully distracting to follow the moving chart but that’s probably just me. ...
    It aint just you. It drives me nuts sometimes. It is one of the justifications I used for buying a 24" monitor (I can usually get a whole tune up on the screen at one time now). I can't imagine trying to play from the moving display on a mobile device. But for that matter, I can't imagine trying to play from the small screen of pretty much any mobile device. It's a lot easier to carry a notebook with actual paper and with print big enough to read. IMO.

    MuseScore sounds like a good choice given your needs and expectations.
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  15. #14
    Registered User Cobalt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    I recently tried TEFview. I didn't like the display much at all, but for my own purposes, just having a program which outputs the sound is most useful. I'd use a combination of looking at a score in standard notation, even a print or pdf file, together with audio playback.

    But my view here is perhaps not very useful, since I don't use tab at all, except where there is some recommended fingering such as playing up at the 10th fret instead of playing on an adjacent string. Useful for some cross-picking examples, but for most purposes I'd stick with a standard score.

    And Musescore gets my vote - though recently I had do go via an intermediate step, converting a file it couldn't read into MusicXML format so I could load it into Musescore, which was a bit of a nuisance.

  16. #15
    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    All good ideas and you got me thinking. I do like how Tabledit program generates its own music. That is nice for practicing and easier than finding a backing track. i like the idea of printing it out instead and then play along.

    Baron, I love your stuff, thank you! I generally just follow along with your standard notation but it’s nice to have the tab there too. It helps me when I’m up the fretboard and not as quick finding my notes. I wish MuseScore had a little bolder font for the tab part. It’s kinda hard on old eyes.

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    Mangler of Tunes OneChordTrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    Both Tabledit and TEFView can create a PDF file if you don’t like to read the moving screen.

  18. #17
    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    Quote Originally Posted by OneChordTrick View Post
    Both Tabledit and TEFView can create a PDF file if you don’t like to read the moving screen.
    Yes, I would print them, otherwise it’s dizzying and impractical on my ipad. It especially gets confusing with all the other instrument lines, to keep track of your spot. I would need a compose/ edit function and have just my line in a copy

  19. #18

    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunnyf View Post
    I wish MuseScore had a little bolder font for the tab part. It's kinda hard on old eyes.
    You can easily adjust MuseScore tab font appearance when you're writing your tab. Fast-forward to 15:29 in my tutorial video:


    (or direct link)

    Your custom settings will be saved with the file, & the tab fonts will have that same custom appearance even if you export to PDF for display on a tablet etc.

    P.S.: While my video's font explanation is ok, the different topic immediately following that (moving a note to a different string) shows my ignorance at the time that I made that video two years ago - seems the correct way is simply drag & drop. I added a correction annotation/card but YouTube apparently doesn't show such corrections in mobile view. I suppose eventually I'll have to redo the entire video since MuseScore has been updated to version 3 now, but I'm still using version 2 for the time being.

    Posting from my phone right now, hope I got the links right.
    Last edited by JL277z; May-11-2019 at 10:25am. Reason: Addenda

  20. #19
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    I'm old school when it comes to reading, I prefer paper, and never try playing directly along with Tabledit or Musescore on the screen (mobile or otherwise) - like you and others, I do use the playback to hear how the MIDI interprets it, but then I learn it off a printed sheet or by ear and memorize as soon as possible.

    When learning one from Baron, I always print out the PDF on paper as well. Even when learning by ear I like to print sheets or transcribe and print sheets if necessary and keep them in binders for future reference.

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  21. #20
    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    JL277z, nice tutorial and tab was way easier for me when font was made bigger. I wish it wasn’t a monthly/yearly subscription.

    Mark G, in the meantime I got me a nice sharp pencil, cuz like you I only want the paper until I get it in my head.

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  23. #21

    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    Bunnyf, thank you for the kind words!

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunnyf View Post
    ...tab was way easier for me when font was made bigger.
    Same here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunnyf View Post
    ...I wish it wasn’t a monthly/yearly subscription.
    Unless something has changed, the main MuseScore app that one *writes* music & tab with (on a computer), is completely free, 'no strings attached', no ads etc.

    You could use it to write tab and/or standard notation, and then use the built-in export-to-PDF function to create standard PDF files which you could then transfer to your tablet.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunnyf View Post
    ... just want to write it up and either have a print version or send it to onsong as a pdf and load my own backing track to practice along.
    I'm not familiar with OnSong... I have an Android tablet & I use MobileSheetsPro to view the PDF files I've created with MuseScore...

    If OnSong does all the same stuff as MobileSheetsPro, then I'd surmise OnSong might work equally well at displaying PDF files on your tablet (and hopefully, as you mentioned, adding your own separate audio files to have it play while you're looking at the PDF).

    Incidentally, the main free computer-based MuseScore app can also export a MIDI audio file of the exact notes in the tab/notation you're writing, I sometimes use those MIDI files to put with my PDF files on my tablet.

    Although it can be a challenge trying to find MIDI 'instruments' that don't sound like ice-cream-truck music... one kinda gets used to it after a while I guess. I'd say MuseScore MIDI playback sounds somewhat better than TablEdit MIDI, at least when being played back by those two respective apps, but - at least here - the MIDI sound changes a bit after it's been transferred to my tablet.

    I have both TablEdit & MuseScore on my computer, but the last couple years I've come to prefer MuseScore for writing, ever since they added tab functionality... for me anyway, MuseScore just seems a little easier to deal with.

    Edited to add:
    One thing I especially like about MuseScore, is the precise level of control you have over the formatting. That makes it easier to (among other things) fit an entire score onto fewer pages, but still be able to use the larger font sizes & whatever staff spacing you prefer. Also, I'm not sure this next thing is necessarily advisable because it may not be 'future-proof', but when I'm creating PDF sheet music strictly for my own uses on my own tablet, I set the MuseScore page size to more efficiently utilize the screen space available on my tablet (trial & error, to see what sizes work best). That way there's less wasted screen real-estate when viewing the PDF on the tablet, & oftentimes no need for scrolling.
    Last edited by JL277z; May-11-2019 at 2:32pm.

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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    JL, I am going to check out the web version. I only have an iPad, no computer. The app store had only subscription versions. I will investigate further cuz free would be ever so nice. Thanks again.

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  26. #23

    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunnyf View Post
    I only have an iPad, no computer.
    Ah. Well then, one can probably cross MuseScore off the list, if MuseScore forum posts such as this example from about 6 months ago are any indication - still no MuseScore *writing* option for either iOS or Android.

    Same for TablEdit I think, except for the TefPad app which you indicated wasn't what you wanted.

    So, now I have no idea what to suggest...

    Maybe there are other iPad apps that could be adapted somehow to mandolin tab instead of the usual guitar?

    Or, what other posters have already mentioned about writing by hand with pencil & paper and then maybe scanning or photographing those as images to put on your iPad... but scanned/photographed image file-sizes can be quite large & if you had a bunch of them the accumulated file sizes could eventually be a problem by filling up too much of your device's storage space (adds up quick) ... I don't know how much built-in storage space iPads have. My old slow Lenovo tablet & also my new Samsung phone (both Android) have a slot for a micro SD card which can be immensely useful for additional storage & handy backups, but I read somewhere a while back that SD card slots are getting harder to find nowadays in mobile devices. If you aren't intending to have a giant music library of thousands of tabs & sheet music, then you probably wouldn't need to worry about the file sizes of scanned images. I just know too many people (no, I'm *not* one of them) who've already filled up their entire mobile device's built-in storage with too many high-res photos & videos & music mp3's, it can add up quick.

    Nice thing about *text*-based PDF tabs & sheetmusic like you'd get *if* you had a computer & were writing tunes in either TablEdit or MuseScore for export to PDF, is that the file sizes are typically very tiny. MIDI audio files are also tiny, compared to mp3 etc., you can have bazillions of 'em without any adverse consequences.

    One of my music friends still insists on lugging around heavy boxes of printed sheet music in 3-ring binders, as well as a bunch of paper-based printed books of various tune collections etc. I'm old, I can't pack that much heavy stuff with me anymore & I have no wish to even own or store that much untamed clutter anymore, so I really like the digital options. At least it's easy to index & alphabetize digital stuff & keep the index up-to-date, & much easier to search by specific parameters - such as title, key, time signature, composer, which festival you learned a tune at, etc.

  27. #24
    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    I think I might spring for the tef pad app for my ipad. It’s only $6 but it has in-app purchases(undisclosed cost). I hope it’s not one of those things where what you get for the basic program is somehow unusable and you really HAVE to purchase other stuff or the program is useless. It’s not really clear to me from the description. Sometimes you find out that the mandolin is an “add-on” instrument, or other restrictions.

  28. #25

    Default Re: Tab writing apps

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunnyf View Post
    I think I might spring for the tef pad app for my ipad. It's only $6 but it has in-app purchases(undisclosed cost). I hope it's not one of those things where what you get for the basic program is somehow unusable and you really HAVE to purchase other stuff or the program is useless. It's not really clear to me from the description. Sometimes you find out that the mandolin is an "add-on" instrument, or other restrictions.
    Well I don't have any personal experience with the Apple iPad-compatible TefPad app nor any way to test it since I haven't had any Apple products in years, but I found the following things on the official website:

    "TEFpad Pro for iOS is sold as separate product at $25.98(US)."

    So my impression from that (no clue if this is the right interpretation), is that one has to first get the non-pro $5.99 version, and then buy the Pro version as an add-on "separate product" for $25.98 ?? Or something?

    Anyone know for sure?

    As to the difference between those two versions, that same link as above says a bunch more stuff, only some of which I vaguely understand:

    "What is the difference between TEFpad and TEFpad Pro?
    TEFpad allows you to create partitions in TablEdit format on your device without limitation. ..."

    I don't even know what that means. I know what a partition is on a Windows PC or an oldschool Mac desktop computer, because prior to the SSD era I always partitioned my disk drives for various reasons (Photoshop scratch disk on my old Mac, Linux dual-boot on an otherwise-Windows PC, an audio-recording partition to avoid fragmentation/slowness issues etc), but I didn't even know that these modern portable devices had or needed partitions. I also have no idea why TefPad would need a partition in "TablEdit format", what does that even mean and why is it advantageous? And does only TefPad have this feature but the TefPad Pro version does not? A complete mystery. Maybe it's a language-barrier/translation issue? (the author is French, I believe). I have no clue.

    That official page further says, as to more differences:

    "... regarding the files that you imported [into TEFpad] or that have been created by TablEdit for Windows or Mac [that later on get imported into TEFpad], there are restrictions. In particular, you can modify them but you can only save the first 16 measures, [the same] as with TablEdit Demo. To remove any limitations, you can purchase the TEFpad Pro version. ... TEFpad Pro can be purchased only from TEFpad as "InApp purchase". ...

    Ok so if I'm reading that right, by the time one gets done buying the TefPad Pro version (the "in app purchase" mentioned in the quote above), to remove the 16-measure 'save' limit so as to make the app more useful, you'd then be into it for the original $5.99 for TefPad and then also an additional $25.98 for TefPad Pro. Hmm. If it actually works good, I suppose that's not so bad...

    That page also says this:

    "...TEFpad Pro, the unlimited version, costs half of the price of TablEdit"

    So he's saying basically (I'm paraphrasing) that TefPad Pro is still a bargain because it costs only half as much as TablEdit. Hmm, I suppose there is some logic to that... depending on how well the TefPad Pro app actually works. Kinda wish I had a way to try it out, it's a tech mystery for me at this point, I'd like to see how much it differs from the computer-based TablEdit which I already have (but seldom use nowadays except to make files for other people who want that format). Wonder why the TefPad programmer doesn't make an Android version that people like me *could* buy to put on phones etc, it could be useful if it works at all for quick note-taking *writing* music and tab, without having to dig around in one's purse or coat pocket to find pen and paper (spent plenty of years hastily drawing staff lines on scrap paper just to jot down an unexpected musical idea before it vanished from my mind)... IMO the TefPad programmer is missing out on a likely huge market potential by not also making an Android version of TefPad, but I suppose he has his reasons. Anyway...

    Are there any TefPad Pro users out there reading this thread who have some experience with the Pro version of the app and whether or not it's useful for *writing* tab/music, and worth the money? Remember that the OP has only an Apple iPad with the iOS operating system - no computer and no Android stuff either - so whatever iPad-compatible app the OP buys will have to work good as a standalone app for *writing* tab and music, without having to resort to computer apps for any of the steps. Anyone have any input on this?



    -------
    Of course, NFI in any of the apps mentioned in this thread. And yeah I know I consistently misspell the app as TefPad, rather the author's spelling of TEFpad, just seems more logical lol and as far as I know, app names aren't case-sensitive anyway (could be wrong there though).

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