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Thread: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

  1. #51
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post

    I am not sure if you ever learned to be proficient in reading tablature, yourself, so perhaps you're not in a position to make a direct comparison, based on your own experience.
    .
    I can read mandolin and guitar TAB if needed, and I have spent some time playing the lute in the 80's and 90's.

    I prefer staff notation, but that's because I've worked in situations that use a lot.

    Thanks for the good points, though, in your post.

  2. #52
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    Notation tells you which pitch is to be played, with time value. It does not tell you where the pitch can be found on a fretted instrument.
    Just to clarify, many "better" editions of staff notation for guitar and mandolin do suggest fingering and fretting using small numbers.

    Nowadays a lot of books have staff notation and TAB.

    the first example off Google I could find, guitar fingering in this case"



    small numbers and roman numerals indicate strings and frets.

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/e...dolin-Notation

    August Watters wrote an interesting article on this subject:

    "In thinking about the best ways to notate mandolin music today, it can be helpful to consider some mandolin music that was very specific about where notes are to be played, and by which finger -- a century before the rise of mandolin tablature. "

    "In comparing the advantages and disadvantages of standard notation and tablature, what is sometimes overlooked is this elegant language of mandolin notation – a language which has all of the advantages of standard notation and yet makes clear where fingerings and position shifts occur. It's a tradition that lives on, particularly in the classical mandolin world, and has much to offer all contemporary mandolinists."

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  4. #53

    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    I can't read tab, many years ago I worked with a guy who played jazz on the piano who taught me how to read standard notation, it really is very easy.

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  6. #54
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    Sure, there are many ways to view it, but...relying on fingerboard geometry for that graphic element can be handy, and it can also be a trap, limiting.
    I agree with your sentiments in this post, but this one merits further comment. I don’t find the ability to recognize interval patterns on various instrument fretboards to be limiting at all. Could reliance on “patterns” alone limit a person’s ability? Yes. The same could be said of a person who relies solely on notation, or solely on tablature. We all have limitations. A strictly classical performer could be limited by relying on the dots. Sometimes learners complain that they can’t progress because they are unable to play without the dots, or the TAB, in front of them. So when you say the reliance on visualizing fretboard patterns “can be” limiting, I agree while saying “no more than relying on other tools can be limiting.”

    My point from the beginning in this thread has been, and is, that it is not the tools themselves that limit a person. None of the tools should be considered detrimental to learning IMO
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  8. #55
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    I’ve been writing a series of lessons on music theory where I attempt to teach the concepts using the piano keyboard, the guitar fretboard, and the mandolin fretboard. I don’t know how successful the lessons will be - how helpful to others - that remains to be seen. Notation systems will be introduced in later lessons, beginning with standard notation. If I believed that teaching notation were necessary to introduce the concepts, I’d have started with notation. Lord knows many courses do. Notation is a way, one way, of representing music and musical concepts; it is not the actual music, nor the concepts.

    You can see my work here: http://www.markgunter.net/search.php?searchStr=abc
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  10. #56
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    Notation is a way, one way, of representing music and musical concepts; it is not the actual music, nor the concepts.
    Good point - ANY music notation is no more the actual music than a script is a performance of a play or a blueprint is a house.

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  12. #57

    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    I’d add that though the tools shouldn’t be considered detrimental, the tools could be detrimental to learning if a student were forced to use a set of tools that aren’t adapted to them.
    An example would be someone with dyslexia who goes to a music school and is forced to learn with notation (or TAB).
    If the student was to fail the course, an old fashioned school or even financially challenged school, might be tempted to say that the student failed because there was something wrong with the student: intelligence, behaviour, motivation etc.
    The school wouldn’t be wrong, there was something wrong with the student, but the school wouldn’t be right either.

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  14. #58
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hanson View Post
    I can't read tab, many years ago I worked with a guy who played jazz on the piano who taught me how to read standard notation, it really is very easy.

    Dave H
    Perhaps that's because the guy who plays jazz piano probably begins by relating all the notes--by sound, and not by spelling--to the key. Not by thinking about note names, and memorizing all names of notes in every location--but by learning reference points, and then associating notes with their fretboard position relative to the key. In other words, once you read standard notation, you are primarily seeing visual patterns, and interpreting them by shape of those patterns on the fingerboard. Kind of like when you're playing by ear. I suppose you could say that reading standard notation can be approached as another form of playing by ear: once you reach the stage where you can hear the notes in your ear, before you play them, playing the right note becomes a matter of ear-to-finger mechanics.

    I've always approached teaching notation, ear training, and reading notation on mandolin -- with that same starting point: that standard notation is easy. One exercise I've used, with a class of beginning ear training students, is to write notes on the whiteboard using an unfamiliar clef. A colleague of my used to do a similar thing by using a drawing of his own face, for a clef symbol -- with the notes unnamed, and the key denoted by location of his silly-looking nose. Moving this clef around, students quickly got that you generate the sounds in your ear, using the staff as a visual reference.

    Of course, putting those notes on the fingerboard is another step. But if you start with this notion that the staff is designed to reflect the pitch visually, and associate note locations with sounds, you're less likely to get stuck off in the weeds, thinking about the note names.
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  16. #59
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    I agree with your sentiments in this post, but this one merits further comment. I don’t find the ability to recognize interval patterns on various instrument fretboards to be limiting at all. Could reliance on “patterns” alone limit a person’s ability? Yes. The same could be said of a person who relies solely on notation, or solely on tablature. We all have limitations. A strictly classical performer could be limited by relying on the dots. Sometimes learners complain that they can’t progress because they are unable to play without the dots, or the TAB, in front of them. So when you say the reliance on visualizing fretboard patterns “can be” limiting, I agree while saying “no more than relying on other tools can be limiting.”

    My point from the beginning in this thread has been, and is, that it is not the tools themselves that limit a person. None of the tools should be considered detrimental to learning IMO
    I think we are mostly on the same page with this. I commented that tablature doesn’t offer any graphic interval information, and you said that musicians can use fretboard patterns to supply that missing information, and yes, they can. But if you read notation, that information is on the page, and you can still use fretboard patterns, too. My point is only that it’s worthwhile to learn to read notation, much better than reading only tab, and if you read notation, picking up tablature is a breeze.

    As far as relying on fretboard patterns, and I said relying, not using, I have seen how musicians can be hamstrung by that practice. You can get stuck playing in one position. I’ve seen that a lot, especially with electric bassists.

    But there’s definitely more than one way to do it. Erroll Garner didn’t read a note. Joni Mitchell doesn’t read and basically invented her own system of music. But in the studio and on the road, she mostly used jazz musicians who knew everything and could quickly adapt to anything. And we all know musicians who basically can’t play at all if they aren’t reading.

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    But there’s definitely more than one way to do it. Erroll Garner didn’t read a note. Joni Mitchell doesn’t read and basically invented her own system of music. But in the studio and on the road, she mostly used jazz musicians who knew everything and could quickly adapt to anything. And we all know musicians who basically can’t play at all if they aren’t reading.
    I read a biography of Joni Mitchell. In it, the author said Joan was a speaker at a conference for music and art teachers, with a title along the lines of "Producing the Next Mozart and Van Gogh." She told the teachers, You think you can find a method to teach the next Mozart and Van Gogh -- just keep doing what you're doing, and the geniuses will rise above you like they've always done. (I'm not quoting, just summarizing.) She didn't win over the teachers, but made her point: while we ordinary folks are trying to figure out whether notation or tablature is better, the geniuses learn to play brilliantly, whichever way. Personally, I'm with the general opinion -- both methods have their strengths, and playing by ear is vey important. Again, it depends to some degree on the style of music.

    By chance, a couple of days ago, on the radio, I heard, a nineteen-year-old Joan Anderson (J.M.) singing "House of The Rising Sun" at a Saskatoon coffee house. Apparently, this and two or three other recently discovered recordings will be included on her next album, or whatever the young'uns call them these days. It's the only time I ever heard her sing a "folk song," in the sense of a traditional song passed on aurally, though she's created a few. "Big Yellow Taxi" leaps to mind.
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  20. #61
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by August Watters View Post
    One exercise I've used, with a class of beginning ear training students, is to write notes on the whiteboard using an unfamiliar clef. A colleague of my used to do a similar thing by using a drawing of his own face, for a clef symbol -- with the notes unnamed, and the key denoted by location of his silly-looking nose. Moving this clef around, students quickly got that you generate the sounds in your ear, using the staff as a visual reference.
    That reminds me of the old Italian solfeggio method of learning to sing off of notation (various clefs, too) before you got to play an instrument, thus guaranteeing that the music was "in the ear" of the player.

    Thanks for all your efforts in the mandolin world.

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  22. #62

    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    This whole discussion reminds me of a story told by Ron Thomason, mandolin picker for the Dry Branch Fire Squad. To paraphrase:

    If we could all read music, wouldn't be no need for the band. We could just hand the music to everyone and they could all read it for themselves.
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  24. #63
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Armstrong View Post
    This whole discussion reminds me of a story told by Ron Thomason, mandolin picker for the Dry Branch Fire Squad. To paraphrase:

    If we could all read music, wouldn't be no need for the band. We could just hand the music to everyone and they could all read it for themselves.
    But there would only be a mental "reading" of the music.

    A better analogy would be "If we could all read music, wouldn't be no need for rehearsals. The band would show up on the gig and sight read all the tunes".

    What Ron Thomason suggested would be akin to handing out the script of a play at a theater and letting the audience read the stage directions and dialog.

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  26. #64

    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    But there would only be a mental "reading" of the music.

    A better analogy would be "If we could all read music, wouldn't be no need for rehearsals. The band would show up on the gig and sight read all the tunes".

    What Ron Thomason suggested would be akin to handing out the script of a play at a theater and letting the audience read the stage directions and dialog.
    David... I always appreciate your thoughtful posts and of course, you are correct here as usual. You'll have to admit though that your reply sounds a bit like something Sheldon (Big Bang Theory) would say.
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

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  28. #65
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by FLATROCK HILL View Post
    David... I always appreciate your thoughtful posts and of course, you are correct here as usual. You'll have to admit though that your reply sounds a bit like something Sheldon (Big Bang Theory) would say.
    I must confess that I have never watched the show. Really

    Anyway, thanks for the kind response...I think.

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  30. #66
    Scroll Lock Austin Bob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    This is just wrong, in several ways. Many people in this thread have pointed out that tablature is easier to learn, and especially so for many beginners. It is simply untrue that notation is equivalently easy to learn. In particular, learning notation requires deep memorization of the location of every note sounded on every string at every fret, at least up to the 12th fret (48 different notes). It also requires learning to sight read all the notes on the musical staff, as well, and how to "automatically" sharp or flat notes in key signatures other than C. It is a rather steep learning curve, by practically any measure. Tablature requires none of that. I am NOT saying it isn't worth the investment of time to learn standard notation, mind you! In fact, it's well worth it for many genres of music. I am simply saying that you are incorrectly minimizing the differences in learning difficulty between these two forms.
    This is very true, but there's a huge down side to not learning which sharps and flats are in which key. I played by ear for years and years, and was "ok", but I often got confused as to which notes were sharp or flat in any key. For instance, if we're playing in G, I knew that F was sharp, but if we played the next song in D, I'd sometimes forget there was a C sharp in there as well. So I'd play a solo, and flub up. I played by patterns on the fretboard, but I can't tell you how much it helped when I finally started to learn how to read, and saw all the key signatures. Suddenly, there was a lot of stuff that just clicked.

    Learn the best way for you. But my experience is that if you skip on some of the basics, it will bite you.
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  32. #67
    Registered User Drew Egerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    I never cared much about reading notation, until I started learning things that tabs were not readily available for.
    For example, I got into some Brazillian Choro thanks to Mike Marshall. He tabbed out a couple of them, but then I got his book and it is notation only.
    Also some of the real/fake books for learning jazz tunes.
    Or when you are at a camp and the teacher only provides notation, or says the tab has a mistake and the notation is correct.

    I'm not a great notation reader but I have gotten exponentially better over the last year of actually trying.
    There are multiple phone apps that are really handy learning tools. You watch the notes go by and click the name of the note like a memory test of sorts.

    At first my struggle was on understanding that there are 6 or 7 different places I could play a note so which one is it???
    I am still learning about syncopated rhythms and trying to get better at sight reading (dumb name, sight playing?)

    Point being, I got by for 18 years of playing guitar and 16 playing mandolin with just tabs, but then I found a use for notation.
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  34. #68
    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    If you ever try to learn an Aaron Weinstein chord melody arrangement without using tablature, I recommend taking something for headache in advance.

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  36. #69
    Registered User Tom Haywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Well, we are learning to play music on our instrument, not to play tabs or notation. Tabs are great for showing quickly where a good place is on the instrument to play the chords and the melody. Notation gives a lot of other information about how to play the tune, and it helps us see choices about where to play it on the instrument to get the right flow. I like to create a .tef file for every tune I want to learn, so that the tab and notation are displayed at the same time. (It's a great way to begin to read standard notation.) Whether learning a tune from tab, notation or both, the goal imo should be to immediately transfer the phrases in your eyes and mind from the paper to seeing them and feeling them on your fingerboard. Read and play the phrase or a section of it a few times; then play it a few times looking only at the fingerboard; then play it a few times looking at the wall. Fiddle tunes are great for this, because you can take each 4 note phrase at a time, and they will show up again and again in lots of music.

  37. #70
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    #1: One obvious question is: what exacly does it mean to really learn? How do you use TAB? There have been some really strange threads on the Café on topics like "how do I tell the key of a tune" or "how can I determine the chord progression to a fiddle tune.?" To me such questions reflect the idea of "learning" an instrument without learning music and without understanding its role in a group.

    Not saying that you can't learn theory without knowing notation (Tommy Emmanuel knows an awful lot about chord construction etc.) but it does get a bit strange when posters on the Café write that the advantage of TAB is that you don't have to worry about keys, etc. Worry?

    How do you memorize a tune? In small segments, as some suggest, or by first understanding the form and structure of the composition?

    When I started learning the guitar 62-63 years ago I already knew notation, in a theoretical sense: the significance of the key signature (NOT an instruction which notes to lower or rise a half step), keys and their scales, relationships between keys. I then learned the fretboard in first position, key by key, travelling around the circle of fifths in both directions: C, F, G, Bb, D, etc. I picked all of this up in musical classes in school - that's how difficult it is. That knowledge was vey helpful in understanding why the notes are there, how they relate to one another, which notes are scale or chord notes, etc.

    #9: TAB resolves ambiguity? Not really, it just suggests one possible solution, which may or may not be optimal. I've seen quite a few TABs where open strings are preferred lver 7th fret notes, only because they´re "easier" (fretted notes are easier to control and color, and sometimes allow greater pick econony). My idea, from the very beginning (at least on mandolin), has been that optimal fingering is for you to find out, or decide.

    The only instruction I ever had on mandolin was "as a beginner, don't use open strings AT ALL". That was really helpful.


    One final questrion: How do you people go about transposing a tune that you know only in TAB?

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  39. #71

    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    It depends on what you mean to learn. My type-A friends were put into Suzuki school and I felt I got a late start, but then was a better sight reader and did better in music theory.

    Now I'm an amateur adult (ambiguity intended) and idgaf about abstract music theory problems or sight reading, I just want to be able to play with people, and I can't, because I need music. I cannot play without music.

    I'd say learning tabs will slow you down if you ultimately care about being able to read notation, but does that matter for your (not necessarily directed at OP, just in general) context? It varies from person to person. You're probably not going to play a Bach partita by ear, or be able to find it tabbed out, so if you're in it for classical, try to skip the tabs. Otherwise, I don't see the harm.

  40. #72
    Mandolin Player trodgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Anything that causes or helps you pick up an instrument and play can't be that detrimental. There a lot of aspects and angles to this whole music thing that will lead some folks to champion one method or another. The trick is finding what works for you, getting in some decent practice and mostly, finding enjoyment in your music.
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  42. #73
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    This thread moved into old, familiar realms like "tab vs. std notation" and similar themes, but the initial question, "Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?" has been answered well in the comments, I believe. The answer in general is a resounding 'no', but for the individual it could be a 'yes' ... if you are in total reliance on simply playing notes by tablature to the neglect of learning other aspects of music, then it is time to get more intimate with your instrument of choice and learn music. Feel music, play musically, create music, study on other things that will help you reach toward your musical goals.
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  43. #74
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning? No.

    Is not playing notation detrimental to really learning? Yes.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

    The entire staff
    funny....

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  45. #75

    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    And is not playing TAB detrimental to really learning? Yes.

    And take just the say the 380 million people in the US.
    Imagine that the objective is to get the greatest number of students, say 1 million people up to advanced beginner stage only. Just up to that stage, three or four tunes per person.
    Question, would you teach everyone: TAB or notation? Would you teach a simple method to be able to play by ear? One or two keys?

    Yes it’s that debate again.

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