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Thread: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

  1. #101
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    If I was asked the OP question i would answer Don't play TABS, play music!
    After reading some of the posts above...
    Are you all folks talking about the same thing? There are many kinds of tabs. There are simple aASCII tabs that include just the numbers but I used to write tabs (pencil on paper) that included everything that standard notation would, except the key signs at the beginning and those black dots called notes were replaced by numbers. You can write a new piece in this and let musician play it. I see one advantage of tabs being able to exactly write position of the played note making easire to get good fingerings. The only downside would be that tab is meant just for one instrument while notation can be played by any instrument (within range).
    Adrian

  2. #102

    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    I seem to remember reading a while ago that a 40,000+ year old flute had been found. It was made from a vulture’s wing bone had what some scientists believe were notes inscribed onto it. A tune.
    -TAB or notation? Not sure.

  3. #103
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    If I was asked the OP question i would answer Don't play TABS, play music!
    After reading some of the posts above...
    Are you all folks talking about the same thing? There are many kinds of tabs. There are simple aASCII tabs that include just the numbers but I used to write tabs (pencil on paper) that included everything that standard notation would, except the key signs at the beginning and those black dots called notes were replaced by numbers. You can write a new piece in this and let musician play it. *I see one advantage of tabs being able to exactly write position of the played note making easire to get good fingerings*. The only downside would be that tab is meant just for one instrument while notation can be played by any instrument (within range).
    The starred sentence has been said a number of times by a number of people. Contrast this with John McGann's observation, that this is indeed one drawback of TAB: it shows just one solution, it may not be optimal, authentic or correct. Read the discussion I linked to above.

    And the time signature is a very important feature of SN, but largely misunderstood. I may detail this in some other post although I don't really believe the issue of the OP is TAB vs SN.

  4. #104
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    Yes, people DO use tab (including professionals)!! Most assuredly, they use tab. In fact, a great number of mandolin players at all levels use tablature. Tab is very popular as a medium with mandolin teachers here in the U.S., particularly among those that teach bluegrass, oldtime, and blues style mandolin. And these kinds of mandolin teachers are vastly more numerous than those that happen to teach classical mandolin! Many (most?) lessons available online offer tab to their students. And check out the offerings from popular music publishers, like Mel Bay. The majority of their best-selling mandolin instruction books have tab in them. Homespun instructional tapes and CD's also used to come with tab, too.

    As I have argued before, folks in this thread seem to be writing from their own, rather parochial, perspectives. You have argued that time spent learning tab somehow detracts from "more productive endeavors." Really?!? That strikes me a baseless, unsupported value judgment on your part. Just because you're dismissive of tab does not mean that others must share your prejudice, and to suggest that time spent learning tab (which is dead easy compared to staff notation) is somehow less productive, or detracts from real learning, is manifestly untrue. Like so many of my fellow mandolin players, I've learned a whole lot of fiddle tunes and bluegrass/newgrass/Dawg breaks directly from tab. This was not time spent unproductively, by any means.

    C'mon, people. Give it a rest, please! Both tablature and staff notation are centuries-old systems of transcription. They each offer their own special advantages, in different facets. They each suffer from well-established drawbacks, too. As such, they each have their specialty uses, and they each have their own sets of adherents. Face facts: they both seem destined to stay around for a while. So, let's put aside our individual snobberies and embrace learning music in every aspect.

    Ultimately, music is about playing, and human performance. It is about an aural tradition. Not a written one. All notation systems are imperfect. They only serve as a guide to playing, and a flawed one, at that. They are a means to an end. So by all means, learn tab. Or learn staff notation. Learn both. Or learn neither. In the end, ear training matters a whole lot more. I suspect that ralph johansson and I can agree about that last bit, at least.
    I find your use of invective (“parochial”, “prejudice”) lacking in imagination and creativity. Also, you read my posts a bit carelessly. I never said the learning TAB detracts from more productive endeavors. The exact wording was “achieving fluency …”. The reason for this is that I’m not all sure what others, including the TS, mean by “learning”, i.e., what the whole thread is about. I asked, and got no answer.

    I’ve seen several posts on the Café that illustrate a somewhat naïve attitude, viz. forgetting that learning a first instrument also involves learning music. I’ve seen requests for TAB to songs, without specifying the key, or what the TAB is supposed to convey (the bare outlines of a tune, someone else’s variations, or take-off solos etc.?) Questions on how to determine the key of a simple tune or find the chords to a fiddle tune — wouldn’t these things, the structure and foundation of the tune, be the first you hear and find on your instrument?


    Many people seem to assume that not reading standard means playing from TAB instead. But, e.g., when I was active in Bluegrass about 50 years ago I never heard of (or witnessed) the use of notation of any kind, and I certainly didn’t use any. My experience includes jamming with Doug Green (then bass player with Bill Monroe) and his Detroit area buddies, Bill Emerson, Cliff Waldron, and Tom Gray, sitting in with Jim Cox’s band in Alexandria, and Smiley Hobbs’s band , also somewhere in Virginia (playing Mr. Hobbs’s mandolin). Has the scene changed that much? Or are you and others confusing amateur jams with what’s actually being *created* in this art form?

    Again, it’s possible to achieve expertise on an instrument and a deep theoretical understanding of music without the use of notated material. Typically (I believe) some of the most successful examples, like Tommy Emmanuel and Martin Taylor, started at an early age, 4 years or so. (Taylor actually learned notation later, in a somewhat backwards fashion).


    You mentioned session musicians in a variety of genres, who have had great success without knowing SN, and I asked, do **these** people really use TAB (i.e., does anyone TAB out parts for them?) Was your answer based on fact or just a guess? At least two Café members have extensive experience of session work and never was there any TAB - it was either notation or ear. You dwell a bit on teachers, which I never mentioned. There have been some horror stories on the Café, e.g., one member told of a teacher who insisted that the student “learn” (whatever that means) TAB instead of using her reading skills to advantage. The teacher claimed that’s what used in BG! !!! (I always advise people here to consult a teacher who is a gigging musician.).

    TAB in itself may not be harmful (J McGann, in the discussion I linked) concedes that TAB isn’t “all bad”…). and it does have a few didactic uses. What may be really harmful is the complete reliance on it as exclusive sources of material, learning one song after the other, ad hoc, in somebody else’s version and somebody else’s idea of his fingering, i.e., collecting a heap of special cases instead of building a body of knowledge, developing the ear and fundamental skills such as transposing, creating variations and counterparts, devising kick-offs, etc.

    SN, to be sure, can be almost as harmful. When I got started on the guitar in 1957 I relied much too long on sheet music; it was only when I began taking interest in colloquial genres that I began to really trust my ears. Recalling those early years I realized that a good teacher could have speeded up my progress by steering me away from song folios. But a bad teacher may very well have slowed it down by a couple of years.

    The attraction of TAB to some people seems be that it requires no technical knowledge (as one member wrote: you needn’t worry about keys …). And some people do treat SN as some kind of esoteric TAB. I’ve read complaints about the difficulty in remembering which notes to lower or raise according to the given key signature.
    It’s not about that at all.

    Properly understood the signature places the notes in context. Suppose the signature is three flats. To me, this information structures the staff and helps assign meaning and roles to the individual notes. A note on the second lowest space to me isn’t an instruction to lower the a; it could be the root of the subdominant, the seventh of the dom7 chord, the third of the iim chord, or a passing note between the g and bb over the Eb chord, etc. Or the sixth of the c harmonic minor scale. And the experienced reader will immediately see (and hear!) how the note fits in context, by being attentive to the whole, the direction, of the sequence of notes. Accidentals, whether sharps or flats, may signal a deviation or exit from the key, or chromatic passing notes, etc. Reading is a musical skill.

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  6. #105
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Ralph, both you and sblock make some valid points, but to see either form of notation as harmful is a fault, I think. You say that an exclusive reliance on one or the other can be harmful, and that goes to the point, which is that the problem lies in the attitude and aspirations of the individual apart from the use of tools. Using sheets of any kind is not detrimental, except in context. If the OP is using TAB when playing with his friend, that would be detrimental to learning to have a musical conversation. Or if relying on regurgitating notes learned from TAB with no attention to rhythm or to the nuances of the event, e.g. a casual jam with a friend, then that could be detrimental. It still seems to me that the OP needs look elsewhere besides the form of notation he uses to get a handle on the issue, if I understand his post correctly.
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  7. #106
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    Ralph, both you and sblock make some valid points, but to see either form of notation as harmful is a fault, I think. You say that an exclusive reliance on one or the other can be harmful, and that goes to the point, which is that the problem lies in the attitude and aspirations of the individual apart from the use of tools. Using sheets of any kind is not detrimental, except in context. If the OP is using TAB when playing with his friend, that would be detrimental to learning to have a musical conversation. Or if relying on regurgitating notes learned from TAB with no attention to rhythm or to the nuances of the event, e.g. a casual jam with a friend, then that could be detrimental. It still seems to me that the OP needs look elsewhere besides the form of notation he uses to get a handle on the issue, if I understand his post correctly.
    So Mark -- In fairness, I never suggested that I saw either form of notation as harmful, per se, so I was a bit baffled by your first sentence, which seems to suggest otherwise. That said, I think you and I agree that both staff notation and tablature are, in the final analysis, musical tools. They are not music itself. They represent a means to an end, and not the end itself. And, like any tool, they can be misused -- or, as you put it, they can sometimes prove "detrimental" to the free musical conversation that is most desirable when playing with others. I could not agree more with that! Other musical tools are quite useful in learning, too, but can sometimes be detrimental, in principle (depending on the context): these include playing along with MIDI lead or backup tracks, or with a metronome, for that matter. Exclusive reliance on any of these tools, however helpful in the learning process, can (sometimes) lead to the neglect of what ultimately matters in actual musical performance, which is something not easily conveyed on paper, and includes the musical "ebb and flow" and "give and take" that occurs during human performance. This includes (but is not restricted to) stylistic features that we tend to associate with certain genres, like "swing" and "lilt" and "bounce" and "drive" and so on. It includes subtle variations in tone production, volume, tempo, ornamentation, improvisation, etc. And a whole lot more.

    I am all for using musical tools, and for learning musical skills! We just need to make sure these are best used in service of musical performance. Any tool -- and I include both staff notation and tab in this -- can be "detrimental" if it somehow detracts from the ultimate goal. So I agree with you when you wrote "It still seems to me that the OP needs look elsewhere besides the form of notation he uses to get a handle on the issue." The fault, it would appear, lies not with the notation, but with how it's being used.

    I realize that staff notation has its passionate advocates (but seemingly, not very broad-minded ones) in this thread. No question, staff notation is powerful. But tablature is exceedingly useful, too, and a large number of musicians, particularly North American folk/roots musicians -- including their instructors and top music publishers and yes, even some studio professionals -- use it. It has a firmly established place in our musical world. It's ironic to me that we don't seen to have any folks who use tab dismissing the folks who prefer staff notation. The sense of superiority seems to be exclusively directed in the other direction! To me, that says a lot.

  8. #107
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    My comment was directed at Ralph (though I mentioned you, sblock, because he was replying to you) ... and I was writing in reference to this:

    "TAB in itself may not be harmful ... What may be really harmful is the complete reliance on it as exclusive sources of material ... SN, to be sure, can be almost as harmful ..."

    He begins with the caveat that TAB is not intrinsically harmful, and concludes by saying that standard notation "can be almost as harmful" ...

    My response is meant to clear the air; reliance on is the choice of the individual. Proper use of the tools is not the problem.
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  10. #108
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    In my opinion...Learning to play by ear is much more musical than learning by notation or tabs. It means you can hum or sing the music and have memorized it. This a far more direct process than using someone else's transcription. Learning by tab or notation can't communicate accenting, rhythmic push and pull or many of the things which make up an original style. Conceptually, I think tab tends to even things out so that each tone is in its own box. Especially if you don't have the audio. Its information but it isn't music. One standard way to learn "folk" music is to listen over and over to recordings until you learn the notes and can place them on the mandolin. This isn't as efficient as tab but you're engaged in a process of learning how to hear and play music. You get better and better at this and become a better musician. Eventually, sing it and you can play it. When I remember music I learned as a beginner, and compare it to the recordings, I realize I couldn't really hear it. One example was with a Vassar Clements tune. What he was playing was much richer and more subtle than I heard. It was like sandpapering off the fine detail on a wood sculpture. Now I can hear it. I think the other key is finding multiple versions of songs or tunes and learning them all. Then your version becomes original as you collage them together, rather than presenting a perfect copy of someone's playing. Originality is a matter of pride!

  11. #109

    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    What matters is developing a process to learn and play a tune that inspires you. What that process actually is doesn't matter.

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Very general question, and I’m not sure what ‘really learning’ means but I‘ve just begun having a go at standard notation (again).
    TAB usually inspires me, I love it, can’t get enough of it.
    One thing that’s interesting with standard notation is that when I see the black dot over the top line my middle finger automatically comes down on the 1st string 3rd fret.

    I actually don’t think of it as a G and there are no alternatives that the fingers consider, like 2nd string 10th fret if I had seen the G as a number 3 on the 1st string. This will probably change as I improve and move around the neck.

    Also it feels like a different part of my head where the text is being analysed, and I can definitely read faster when considering the first note followed by the shape of a group of four notes.

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    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    So Mark -- In fairness, I never suggested that I saw either form of notation as harmful, per se, so I was a bit baffled by your first sentence, which seems to suggest otherwise. That said, I think you and I agree that both staff notation and tablature are, in the final analysis, musical tools. They are not music itself. They represent a means to an end, and not the end itself. And, like any tool, they can be misused -- or, as you put it, they can sometimes prove "detrimental" to the free musical conversation that is most desirable when playing with others. I could not agree more with that! Other musical tools are quite useful in learning, too, but can sometimes be detrimental, in principle (depending on the context): these include playing along with MIDI lead or backup tracks, or with a metronome, for that matter. Exclusive reliance on any of these tools, however helpful in the learning process, can (sometimes) lead to the neglect of what ultimately matters in actual musical performance, which is something not easily conveyed on paper, and includes the musical "ebb and flow" and "give and take" that occurs during human performance. This includes (but is not restricted to) stylistic features that we tend to associate with certain genres, like "swing" and "lilt" and "bounce" and "drive" and so on. It includes subtle variations in tone production, volume, tempo, ornamentation, improvisation, etc. And a whole lot more.

    I am all for using musical tools, and for learning musical skills! We just need to make sure these are best used in service of musical performance. Any tool -- and I include both staff notation and tab in this -- can be "detrimental" if it somehow detracts from the ultimate goal. So I agree with you when you wrote "It still seems to me that the OP needs look elsewhere besides the form of notation he uses to get a handle on the issue." The fault, it would appear, lies not with the notation, but with how it's being used.

    I realize that staff notation has its passionate advocates (but seemingly, not very broad-minded ones) in this thread. No question, staff notation is powerful. But tablature is exceedingly useful, too, and a large number of musicians, particularly North American folk/roots musicians -- including their instructors and top music publishers and yes, even some studio professionals -- use it. It has a firmly established place in our musical world. It's ironic to me that we don't seen to have any folks who use tab dismissing the folks who prefer staff notation. The sense of superiority seems to be exclusively directed in the other direction! To me, that says a lot.
    I beg your pardon. Broads are OK with me!

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    I beg your pardon. Broads are OK with me!
    I presume you're making a reference to the distaff side, although your use of that term is somewhat outdated. Yes, we should all celebrate femininity.

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Learning to play by ear, learning to read tabs, learning to read notation, ... its what ever you don't do that is detrimental to really learning.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

    The entire staff
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  20. #114
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    I presume you're making a reference to the distaff side, although your use of that term is somewhat outdated. Yes, we should all celebrate femininity.

    I have been binging Jethro, along with Frank with the Basie Band, and temporarily lost track of time. Apologies,

  21. #115
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joel Glassman View Post
    In my opinion...Learning to play by ear is much more musical than learning by notation or tabs. It means you can hum or sing the music and have memorized it. This a far more direct process than using someone else's transcription. Learning by tab or notation can't communicate accenting, rhythmic push and pull or many of the things which make up an original style. Conceptually, I think tab tends to even things out so that each tone is in its own box. Especially if you don't have the audio. Its information but it isn't music. One standard way to learn "folk" music is to listen over and over to recordings until you learn the notes and can place them on the mandolin. This isn't as efficient as tab but you're engaged in a process of learning how to hear and play music. You get better and better at this and become a better musician. Eventually, sing it and you can play it. When I remember music I learned as a beginner, and compare it to the recordings, I realize I couldn't really hear it. One example was with a Vassar Clements tune. What he was playing was much richer and more subtle than I heard. It was like sandpapering off the fine detail on a wood sculpture. Now I can hear it. I think the other key is finding multiple versions of songs or tunes and learning them all. Then your version becomes original as you collage them together, rather than presenting a perfect copy of someone's playing. Originality is a matter of pride!
    Click image for larger version. 

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    I don’t understand the second sentence. I’ve transcribed a substantial number of compositions and solos from records, also composed about 70 pieces, but only rarely can I say I’m able to sing them. My command of that instrument is somewhat limited, but I can, or, at least, once could play them on one or both of my instruments — but I have written one tune for the fivestring banjo and one with a saxophone in mind.

    I attach the very first fiddle tune that I learned on the mandolin, about 52 years ago, Transcribing it was an instructive exercise but it did not do anything for my singing ability.

    Transcribing from records makes you really understand why the notes are there,which segments really give the tune away, i.e., determine its character. One of my favorite examples is when I tried to transcribe Monk’s Mood decades ago, with very little experience in jazz. The first chord is an fm7, the third, is Cmaj7 (or possibly Cmaj9) but
    what was the chord in between? The first chord indicates a Bb7, possibly with a flatted ninth or a thirteenth, but how would that lead to the C chord? Well, I had never encountered a chord with flatted fifth before, and by this experience I was led to exploring its possibilities. But I still cannot sing it.

  22. #116
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Joel Glassman View Post
    In my opinion...Learning to play by ear is much more musical than learning by notation or tabs.
    I don't know about that. Hmmmm. I mean, it is important to be able to learn by ear, yes, but it is just as important to learn to read, and i would argue learn to read both notation and tabs. What ever you do not do, or do not spend time on, you will not be good at.

    Originality is a matter of pride!
    Originality is a good goal. But so is learning the darn tune.

    Originality cannot be helped. Even when reading from the music we have our own ways of attacking notes, playing tremolo and effecting interesting dynamics.

    Furthermore in some genres the originality of the individual player is subsumed into the performance of the ensemble. This is especially true of classical playing, where the idea is to express as best you can the intensions of the composer and the conductor's interpretation, and work to make the group sound great. Not just classical, but really in any effective ensemble performance.


    Like my lawyer says in response to every question I ask... "It depends."
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

    The entire staff
    funny....

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