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Thread: I Don't Do Tab

  1. #1
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    Default I Don't Do Tab

    Never have, I know the old saying different strokes and all that, but I learn everything by ear. I can hear the melody and I can find the melody in open and closed positions. I've played guitar for over 50 years and have never used any tab to learn a piece. One reason I listen to every version of a tune I can find and really like the different takes from various artist on each song. I'm in no stretch of the imagination a theory expert but steady studying, now if I can just learn all the chords and voicings and to improvise effortless.

    I've only had my mandolin a little over a week but it's been making me do a lot more thinking but I sure am liking those light bulb moments that have been coming along and I've just skimmed the surface. And dangit someone said I'd soon be wanting to upgrade and I have to keep fighting back the urge because I keep thinking I'm missing something, anyway I'm just a couch player nowadays.

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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    thank you so much, I can see you're very proud of your learning, but different strokes for different folks.

    Enjoy your mandolin.
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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    I certainly didn't mean to offend anyone and apologize if I do or did. There was no such thing as tab that I know of when I started learning to play guitar and I knew nothing about music and I may be all wrong but I just feel that learning by ear would be so much more beneficial than by tabs. I spend most of my time sitting around trying to find the notes in nursery rhymes, that's my learning

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    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    Guitar player for 55 years, mandolin for 15. I didn't have tabs either when I first started, but I would never reject a method or technique which could increase my proficiency at my instrument. All learning tools are legitimate, including by-ear, which I do for 95% of what I want to learn.

    About 24 years ago I was struggling with Brent Mason's solos on "Mercury Blues" by Alan Jackson, and it was a tab in Country Guitar magazine that got me over the hump with them. I think everyone should use any and all learning tools, including tab, sheet music, ear and YouTube videos.

    My two cents' worth.
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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Broyles View Post
    I think everyone should use any and all learning tools, including tab, sheet music, ear and YouTube videos.

    My two cents' worth.
    Amen, Brother. It's all good and a skill in one informs the skills in another. Use whatever strikes your fancy. Try one or two methods that you don't think you'll like. You never know what you'll learn.

    Oh, and to CBFrench; welcome to the Cafe! Lots of nice people here. I think you'll like it and find it informative.
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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    I'm not much of a tab user, but I have nothing against it. I have mainly learned by ear and through standard notation. I say use whatever floats your boat!
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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    It is not one or the other. Everything you don't know limits you.

    Learning by hear has great benefits. Learning to read also has gigantic benefits, tab and/or notation.

    One doesn't rule out the other.


    I read notation mostly, but sometimes tab really helps, like when playing alternate tunings, or learning someone's solo way up the neck.

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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    Also one doesn't subtract from the other. Learning to read does not take away from learning by ear. One skill isn't pushed out by the other.
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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    I'm old school and learned what little I know by ear and still do and for me that was and is the joy of playing and I know of nothing even now that I personally would use a tab to learn. Just to me it seems like too many nowadays are too dependent on a tab to learn something and I'm sure it's a quick start and easier way to learn something and of course you can take learning music to any degree and I'm not faulting using notation/tab etc as some seem to think... I have a friend who has a masters degree in music but remove a piece of sheet music from her view and she is practically lost, so all her schooled learning has done her little good

    The point I was trying to get across was ear training vs tab training. Many folks are totally dependent on having to read a tab to play do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti, I just feel it's much more beneficial to hear/hum/sing a melody to be able to pick out common progressions as opposed to being glued to a piece of sheet music or tab and I know as with my friend girl some folks never get past this dependency. Naturally knowing the grammar (theory) of the language is essential followed by ear training...all I was trying to say is start trying to hear and find the notes to Mary Had A Little Lamb instead of having to use a tab to play it. There's been a many good/great musicians that play only by ear/feeling...to end my rambling and whether folks agree or not the sooner you put away tab and start learning to use you ear more the more music will start to open up and you'll begin to paint your own picture.

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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    If i have to leara song i like notation or by ear , I don't think i have ever learned a. Song by tab
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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Also one doesn't subtract from the other. Learning to read does not take away from learning by ear. One skill isn't pushed out by the other.
    Agree 100%. I think having the ability to play music using all three methods (standard notation, tab, by ear) opens up more opportunities to enjoy playing in whatever situation I find myself -- whether hanging/gigging with bluegrass buddies, playing in a jazz ensemble with charts, or playing Bach, being able to function comfortably in any of those situations makes them much more enjoyable.
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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    Quote Originally Posted by CBFrench View Post
    ... I have a friend who has a masters degree in music but remove a piece of sheet music from her view and she is practically lost, ...
    Lol yeah I got a friend like that too, he has Master's Degree in music and music education, of all things. Guess they didn't teach ear training eons ago when he was getting his degrees.

    I used to actually write out variations of tunes for him (at his request), the idea being that if he saw enough examples of little variations he'd eventually get an idea of how the whole variation thing worked and then (theoretically) he would have been able to make up his own variations instead of playing each tune exactly the same way every single time through the tune...

    But it never really 'took' and he would just play all my carefully-written variations exactly as written. I could never make any progress with getting him to learn anything by ear, and I finally gave up, he's a music reader only and isn't capable of changing.

    His learning seems to be a completely visual thing, has to see the notes.

    Since he's a friend and not a student (I'm not a teacher) there's not the option to go into strict authoritarian disciplinarian mode and make him practice learning stuff by ear, like I suppose a proper teacher could do with an actual student who had to follow orders.

    The thing is though, he can easily read complex orchestra scores that make me dizzy just to look at, he can read those types of complicated scores in real time and play all the right notes, even if he's never seen the score before. So there's that. That's undoubtedly useful for orchestras and studio work etc. But not so useful for genres where everything isn't spelled out in detail and the player is expected to supply all the other info (variations, phrasing etc) without being told explicitly what, how, when, and where for each little detail.


    Edited to add:

    With the folk type of stuff, playing something "exactly as written" usually doesn't sound very good - in order for it to sound like music instead of ice cream truck MIDI or something, the player has to become comfortable enough with the tune to make it their own, to 'hear' how they want it to sound and then translate that mental auditory idea into actual sounds on an instrument, and eventually add their own little flourishes to it, to bring the tune to life.

    I started out learning by ear, but later on got into written notation and tab. After a while, on simpler tunes anyway, I found that I could look at the tab or the notation and 'hear' in my head what those notes would be, or approximately what they'd be, and then (without even picking up an instrument yet) proceed on to 'hear' how to turn the notes into an actual musical thing instead of just a string of notes. So a person can 'hear' a tune by reading it, for simpler stuff anyway, no instruments required to start with anyway. I suppose the majority of musicians get to that point eventually.
    Last edited by JL277z; Jul-09-2019 at 8:19am.

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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    Playing by ear is great, but my least satisfying musical interactions have been with musicians who can't read standard notation. They can be very good players, but trying to sample new stuff with them is a slow slog. I can read, so I can play through 20 new tunes very quickly and find ones that particularly appeal to me. Needing to play each tune a few times for the non-readers to try to pick it up is rough.

    Reading standard notation is just another skill. Five minutes practice each night will yield good results over time.

    I use tab, standard notation, ear, Amazing Slow Downer, and YouTube. I prefer standard notation, since it's easy for me to see the musical structure, and YouTube, since it's easier to see what the hand and fingers are doing, not just which strings/frets are being played.
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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Brock View Post
    Playing by ear is great, but my least satisfying musical interactions have been with musicians who can't read standard notation. They can be very good players, but trying to sample new stuff with them is a slow slog. I can read, so I can play through 20 new tunes very quickly and find ones that particularly appeal to me. Needing to play each tune a few times for the non-readers to try to pick it up is rough.

    Reading standard notation is just another skill. Five minutes practice each night will yield good results over time.

    I use tab, standard notation, ear, Amazing Slow Downer, and YouTube. I prefer standard notation, since it's easy for me to see the musical structure, and YouTube, since it's easier to see what the hand and fingers are doing, not just which strings/frets are being played.
    Good points. The other fun & potentially useful thing with being able to write stuff down (and have other people read it), is that it's an easier way work out new multi-part harmonies and such... the last couple years I've finally been getting into some slightly fancier chords (used to just do I-IV-V on everything) and, for me anyway, it's a lot easier to keep track of what chords might be appropriate for any given melody note, when the notes are written down in some manner so that it's easier to figure out what a person is dealing with. (Instead of everyone just guessing and having 5 people playing 5 different chords at the same time, eek.)

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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    A basic understanding of the number system for folks playing bluegrass & country by saying this tune is a 1-4-5 in the key of G or 2-5-1 in the key of C and/or with the minor(s) numbers should eliminate people playing different chords at the same time, you don't need tab or notation to accomplish this.

    I was trying to get this across to folks that are dependent on tab a big difference between using and dependency and I run across many that are dependent. You folks that have been playing awhile already know the changes by just hearing a tune, you hear the 1-4-5, 1-6-2-5, 2-5-1 or whatever...if someone is playing with folks that play 5 different chords at the same time, even 1, you need to help them understand ear training because what they've been doing isn't working. Hum a C note, C#, D, Eb etc, find it everywhere on your instrument. I had a friend tell me many years ago "if you can't hum it, you can't play it" ...I guess if someone want's to memorize something note for note and you don't/can't hear it, then use tab and if advanced players like using tabs well that fine also, I'm just not that advanced plus I never play anything the same way twice.

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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    The debate between ear training and reading (either notation or tab) is one often discussed with the same concerns, comments and objections brought up ... but what I haven't seen in this particular string yet is that not everybody plays bluegrass. Ear training is the preferred method of learning for the genre I most often play (ITM) but it isn't for classical music. There, if you don't read notation, you're way behind in the game. I doubt classical mandolinists do much tab, but i really doubt they learn by ear. You can memorize a party piece and your part if you're playing the same music for years (say, in a Broadway pit orchestra) but generally, ear training isn't what works for them. You joke about people who can't take their eyes off the sheet music -- well, when I play classical, I don't either. On the other hand, when I'm in a session and hear a tune I've never heard before, I can generally pick up pieces of it by the third time it's played and if it comes up more than once in session and I've gotten it in my head, I can pretty much play it fairly closely the second time around. I don't read tab. I don't read ABC either. But I'm a fairly proficient sight reader on standard notation, either for ITM tunes or fairly straight-forward classical pieces. And I know pretty much no theory, so stuff like I IV V chords mean absolutely nothing to me because I don't play chords.

    All that is to say that no one method of learning is perfect for everybody because not everybody plays -- or wants to play -- the same genre. I understand the point the OP is making -- because for his genre, playing by ear is a needed skill to advance. But you do have to allow some of us a different way to learn and play the music we love.
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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    I use both TAB and standard notation on the same sheet, but have tried using only standard notation. I don't have much of a problem with the standard notation, except that much of the music I printed also has TAB and my eyes gravitate towards TAB. I suppose as I print out new music I should only print in standard notation. I think the benefit to standard notation is that it encourages practicing scales in whatever key the tune is in. TAB tends to make me a bit lazy.

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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    Quote Originally Posted by CBFrench View Post
    I'm old school and learned what little I know by ear and still do
    I think we are talking across each other a bit. Learning music from notation of some kind is pretty old school as well.

    Just to me it seems like too many nowadays are too dependent on a tab to learn something and I'm sure it's a quick start and easier way to learn something and of course you can take learning music to any degree and I'm not faulting using notation/tab etc as some seem to think... I have a friend who has a masters degree in music but remove a piece of sheet music from her view and she is practically lost, so all her schooled learning has done her little good
    I know more than a few formally educated in music who are lost without the written music. First of all it is important to point out that the reason is lack of ear training, not the formal education. What they lack is what they were not trained in and/or do not practice. Funny though, most of those that I know are gigantically great players, amazing sight readers, and routinely achieve the depth and intensity of musical experience and enjoyment we would all strive for.

    There are many as well who learn by ear and are quick to pick up a tune, but have to keep running through their repertory for fear of losing a tune here and there. And they limit themselves to tunes currently being played or having been recorded, when in fact there is an ocean of not presently popular out of circulation music out there to explore. Sucks when you cannot find a youtube of someone playing a tune you want to learn. Their inability to read is not because they play by ear, of course. What they lack is what they were not trained in and/or do not practice.

    The point I was trying to get across was ear training vs tab training. Many folks are totally dependent on having to read a tab to play do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti, I just feel it's much more beneficial to hear/hum/sing a melody to be able to pick out common progressions as opposed to being glued to a piece of sheet music or tab and I know as with my friend girl some folks never get past this dependency.
    I there are many as well who are totally dependent on a youtube instruction video to learn a tune, and are glued to a screen. Dependent of someone playing the tune currently, or having recorded it. No escaping dependence.

    Look, everyone learns differently, is strong in some things, weaker in others. Its all where you are at. But the complete musician needs to know it all. Everything you can't do or don't know limits you, makes you incomplete - deprives you of specific musical experiences.

    There's been a many good/great musicians that play only by ear/feeling..
    Of course. But there are also many many great musicians who primarily and some exclusively read. We are all different.

    the sooner you put away tab and start learning to use you ear more the more music will start to open up and you'll begin to paint your own picture.
    Nah. I mean, yes I agree that learning to use your ear is gigantically important. But tab and notation are also gigantically important. There is an ocean or two of amazing music available to one who can read. Music of all times and eras, and all or most instruments, and cultures around the world I will never get to visit. I would hate to have that be all off limits.

    Music itself is bigger than your conception of it, or mine, or anyone's. Some want to paint their own picture, some want to chase the timeless beauty of pictures drawn originally by others, some want to play with friends, some want to play at home as a kind of meditation. It is different for everyone. Few hard a fast "shoulds" except to realize that the complete musician can do it all, and the more one can learn, by ear, by reading, by playing with others, by studying alone, the bigger music becomes for that person.

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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian560 View Post
    I use both TAB and standard notation on the same sheet, but have tried using only standard notation. I don't have much of a problem with the standard notation, except that much of the music I printed also has TAB and my eyes gravitate towards TAB. I suppose as I print out new music I should only print in standard notation. I think the benefit to standard notation is that it encourages practicing scales in whatever key the tune is in. TAB tends to make me a bit lazy.
    True true. It is amazing how when given the choice of comfort or growth, my brain chases comfort every time.
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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    Quote Originally Posted by Randi Gormley View Post
    But you do have to allow some of us a different way to learn and play the music we love.
    I agree of course, and well said. But in reality we don't need anyone to allow us anything. Just go after the world and its experiences with both hands, and be gentle to those out there who will always and forever point out how we are doing it wrong.
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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    I have had transcendent experiences playing with folks that cannot read. Learning and teaching and sharing delicious old tidbits of music. I have tried to capture that experience in my fictional story: Uncle Charles and the Root Beer

    At the same time I recently had the over the top experience sight reading (for fun, not for exercise or rehearsal) some great great duets, with one of my musical heroes. I hope to turn that into a story at some point.


    I would hate to have missed either experience, especially if it was because i was too dogmatic about what music is or should be.
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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    Ron Thomas of Dry Branch Fire Squad says if we all learn to read music we won't need instruments or concerts. Just hand out the written music and we'll all know the song.

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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    Ron Thomas of Dry Branch Fire Squad says if we all learn to read music we won't need instruments or concerts. Just hand out the written music and we'll all know the song.
    So true.

    We can get to the point of just exchanging page numbers in some huge tune book we all acquired.
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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    Quote Originally Posted by CBFrench View Post
    A basic understanding of the number system for folks playing bluegrass & country by saying this tune is a 1-4-5 in the key of G or 2-5-1 in the key of C and/or with the minor(s) numbers should eliminate people playing different chords at the same time, you don't need tab or notation to accomplish this.
    As to writing down the notes that form chords - I was not referring to the I-IV-V etc chords, which (at this point, for me anyway) are fairly obvious just by listening - no need to diagram those out to know which chords to play.

    But I was thinking more specifically about all the complicated weird jazz/etc chords (there are bunches of them!) that I've just begun to explore recently.

    Since those fancier jazz/etc chords are still fairly new to me, both in playing as well as listening, I haven't yet developed a 'feel' for those types of harmonies.

    So in order to get anywhere with it - when I'm trying to select chords to make my own arrangement of some (often) non-jazz tune that I want to spice up a little bit with some alternative chords - I have to analyze things and write stuff down.

    One melody note can correspond to a whole bunch of different strange chords, there are dim and aug and half-something-or-other and sus2 and 6sus and 7sus and 6add9 and add2 (different from sus2) and Major7th (I've developed a liking for those) and 13 and m13 and Major13 and m11 and 9b5 etc etc, so many options, but how to know which ones would actually correspond to any given melody note? Well, to narrow the field a little...

    I find it helpful to visualize those types of fancy jazz/etc chord possibilities by one or more of the following:

    • Write 'em on a staff - the triads become obvious on the staff, whereas on a fretboard they're not obvious (to me, anyway).

    • And/or visualizing chords on either a real or virtual keyboard - even a quick scribbled diagram of an octave or so of a piano keyboard (even hastily drawn on a paper dinner napkin if no other paper is available - I've done that before when I have some musical idea that I want to document before I forget), helps to see the chord structures.


    Then, after I've got a list of possible chords that could work with a particular melody note, then I feed those chords into a backing app and have it playback the chords, to get an idea of which ones (out of all those possible weird/unusual chords), sound better with whatever else is going on in that particular tune.

    One thing I discovered fairly quickly (probably beginner stuff, but it was news to me) is that just because a particular unorthodox chord matches a melody note in isolation, doesn't necessarily mean that chord will still sound appropriate when combined with the rest of the chords in the tune... something about 'progressions' and 'resolution' etc I guess, another musical mystery to be investigated as I go along.

    The last couple of years I've also begun to explore another thing that I never did before, and that is to try writing multi-part harmonized arrangements of various tunes. In some cases, I've gravitated towards just scrapping the existing chords and starting from scratch with my own ideas, instead of trying to follow online chord charts which sometimes don't even agree with each other nor sound quite right anyway. Sometimes these little projects turn out ok, and other times I'm dissatisfied with my work and discard it or put it on the back burner until my musical knowledge (of fancy modern harmonies) might hopefully someday improve a little bit as I get more exposure to it.

    In any case, IMO it's always good to have new things to learn, otherwise I get bored. A side effect though, is that whatever is my recent experimental stuff can sometimes be of questionable quality because I don't necessarily quite know what I'm doing yet, so much of it is new territory for me. I'm not a proper composer, I just like to explore new (new to me, anyway) things to see what sorts of things might be possible.

    To summarize:
    Writing down the notes of possibly-compatible chords when trying to work up arrangements or backing tracks for tunes, especially where unorthodox harmonies and 'strange' jazz chords might be a desirable sound, just makes the whole process easier. I supposed advanced composers just select all those fancy complicated jazz chords automatically without even thinking about it, but I'm not there yet (and at my age, likely won't ever be), so I have to work with the limitations I have. Writing and methodically analyzing possible chord candidates, makes the process easier.

    No, I'm not trying to become a formal jazz musician (bit late in the game for that, I would have had to start a lot earlier and get a lot more exposure), but I do like some of the harmonies and I see no reason not to use them where they sound ok. (But, obviously *not* suitable for trotting out unexpectedly in a public open jam of non-jazz music (e.g., oldtime, strict ITM etc) where no one else is playing that type of harmony, that's not an appropriate place for such experimentation because it wouldn't fit with what everyone else is doing.)


    Quote Originally Posted by CBFrench View Post
    ... I never play anything the same way twice.
    Same here, usually, as far as the melody anyway, each time through a tune usually has a few little variations here and there. Example: my cover of John Kelly's "Birdfeeder Waltz" (for MandolinCafe Song-A-Week 455), where I put some little variations in the melody without even really thinking about it (the fingers just go to notes seemingly on their own), but in this case I did *not* change any of the chords (the composer's chords are fine as-is, I didn't see any temptation to go tinkering with the chords for this tune).

    Exceptions to my usual thing of melody variations, are in instances where there's some specific reason not to do variations, for instance in groups where everyone has some specific part they're supposed to play, where impromptu variations can cause problems with dissonant notes or something.

    But the chordal structure is sort of a foundation, so I like to work that out early on when learning a new tune (particularly when coming up with my own arrangements and making backing tracks for me to practice along with), and then do all the other impromptu stuff (melody variations etc) to match the harmony. Occasionally writing down some notes in chords, helps with that process. But once I've learned the tune and its accompaniment and chords, eventually it gets memorized and I don't need to have any written anything setting in front of me. But I keep the written arrangements anyway (digital versions on laptop and tablet) because it can sometimes be a year or two before I play a particular tune again, and my memory will likely need refreshing... sometimes seeing just the first few bars is enough to jog my memory into remembering the rest of the tune.

  37. #25
    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: I Don't Do Tab

    I have never used tab - mostly because I am not smart enough to figure out how! I learned to play by using the chord charts on the top of sheet music . . . tell me the chords you want me to play, and I'm good.

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