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Thread: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

  1. #76
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon DS View Post
    And is not playing TAB detrimental to really learning? Yes.
    Absolutely!

    The "complete musician" does it all, and whatever you don't do subtracts from what you can do.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

    The entire staff
    funny....

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    As early on as possible, it's important to identify your goals:

    If your goal is to play with people who play by using western musical notation, learn to use that.

    If your goal is to play with people who play by using tab, learn to use that.

    If your goal is to play with people who play by ear and improvisation, learn to use that.

    Rarely will western musical notation or tab be very welcomed while playing with people who play by ear and improvisation.

    Rarely will you need either western musical notation or tab while playing with people who use the other written form.

    Sometimes, playing by ear and improvisation may be helpful while playing with people who use written forms, depending on the situation.

    Worth noting, there are other written, oral and gesture-related musical systems commonly used to augment other methods too, for example the Nashville or Roman Numeral systems. If your goal is to play with people who use those systems, learn them.

    The whole idea is to be able to make music well among other musicians. In order to do that, you need to be able to communicate musical concepts fluently with them.
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    TAB is not detrimental but learning to read standard is beneficial. It's not that difficult to learn to read music especially on the mandolin. Fiddle tunes are quite easy given that they are usually in major keys. I would even say that once you learn to read standard on mando it is often easier then TAB because with standard you can see the contour of the melody.


    If creating music and progressing as a musician is important to you then you should learn to read music.

    A typical argument might be: "Hendrix didn't read music" To which I would say..."dude we ain't got the skills of Hendrix either!"

    Let's give ourselves all the musical tools we can.

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by dhergert View Post
    Rarely will western musical notation or tab be very welcomed while playing with people who play by ear and improvisation.
    Like it or not... that's a fact.
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by FLATROCK HILL View Post
    Like it or not... that's a fact.
    Not for me

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Perry View Post

    A typical argument might be: "Hendrix didn't read music" To which I would say..."dude we ain't got the skills of Hendrix either!"
    and imagine what he might have created if he did learn to read music...like a Jimi symphony perhaps?

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    For a lot of things, Tab is essential to learning...or at least the superior tool. It's far easier to more accurately depict McReynold's style rolls or specific licks via tab because WHERE the notes are being played on the fretboard and how they are being played are almost as important as the notes themselves. Same thing with learning Monroe style where so much of the style is based on very specific shapes, patterns and voicings.

    FWIW, years ago when I started playing mando I was determined to avoid my "mistake" with guitar and learn to sight read and avoid tab as much as possible. I got to the point of being a slow but competent sight reader. I'd say the first couple of years, I learned all my fiddle tunes from standard if possible. Years later and I rarely use standard notation anymore, nor do I know if it made any difference when starting out, though maybe it gave me a better familiarity with the fretboard. Tab gets me what I want faster and at this point, I can take a tabbed solo, know the notes, and usually understand "why" the solo is doing what it's doing within the chordal frame of the song.

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Cafe View Post
    Apropos to this discussion, John McGann's popular and somewhat exhaustive Tab Reader's Guide to Standard Notation.

    John often stated it doesn't matter how you learn: by ear, by standard notation, by tab. It's what you do when you put the medium used to learn away and play from memory that really counts. And of course if anyone here really wants to delve into the question of if tablature is harmful, there are hundreds, probably thousands, of CoMando discussions from 1994 going forward on said subject, not to mention the same on this forum.
    I think this discussion pretty well sums up John McGann's views on the subject:

    https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/view...b1ed1149dd509b

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Orr View Post
    For a lot of things, Tab is essential to learning...or at least the superior tool. It's far easier to more accurately depict McReynold's style rolls or specific licks via tab because WHERE the notes are being played on the fretboard and how they are being played are almost as important as the notes themselves. Same thing with learning Monroe style where so much of the style is based on very specific shapes, patterns and voicings.
    Good point - but by using fingering marks, you can indicate the same information on staff notation.

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Good point - but by using fingering marks, you can indicate the same information on staff notation.
    But at that point, aren't you basically just using tabs? I mean, if you're using standard but introducing marks to show which string, fret, and finger to use...well...that's tablature. It just seems to me that this topic, which feels like it's been revisited in a new thread every couple of months for well over a decade on these boards, misses the point that both are just tools to teach music that have strengths and weaknesses depending on what one is trying to convey. They should be seen as complimenting each other to reach certain goals, not as rival schools of philosophy that must be viewed as existing in opposition to one another.

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Orr View Post
    But at that point, aren't you basically just using tabs? I mean, if you're using standard but introducing marks to show which string, fret, and finger to use...well...that's tablature. It just seems to me that this topic, which feels like it's been revisited in a new thread every couple of months for well over a decade on these boards, misses the point that both are just tools to teach music that have strengths and weaknesses depending on what one is trying to convey. They should be seen as complimenting each other to reach certain goals, not as rival schools of philosophy that must be viewed as existing in opposition to one another.
    I agree with your last point, and I don’t think these threads miss it; it’s been stated often in these threads. But I disagree that std notation with fingerings added is the same as tablature. They’re two entirely different animals.
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Orr View Post
    But at that point, aren't you basically just using tabs? I mean, if you're using standard but introducing marks to show which string, fret, and finger to use...well...that's tablature.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    I agree with your last point, and I donít think these threads miss it; itís been stated often in these threads. But I disagree that std notation with fingerings added is the same as tablature. Theyíre two entirely different animals.
    If you use TAB that has rhythmic notation and dynamics written in, or staff notation with fingerings, you get the same musical information - what notes to play when, how loud or soft, and where on the neck. Both notations do the job.

    To me the advantage of staff notation lies in the graphic pattern of noteheads that follow the contour of the melody. you can see where the melodic line rises and falls very easily. Although TAB gives the same info, it does not show the "shape" of the melody as well.

    In addition to TAB and staff notation there is "abc" notation and the numerical notation used in Chinese music, jianpu.

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    If you use TAB that has rhythmic notation and dynamics written in, or staff notation with fingerings, you get the same musical information...
    Ooooh, not sure about that, David

    More philosophically, is ‘J’aime ma voiture’ the same information as ‘I like my car’?
    Hhmmmm.

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    I don't think playing with tab or reading music notation is detrimental to learning and after all this is 2020 so if it helps do it. Many years before the internet was invented and musicians had no access to all the means of learning their instruments and they wanted to play they learned by watching and listening, learning to play by ear without needing to be told which notes to play, replicating the notes they heard in their head and wanted to play by ear just watching and listening, these being my preferred musicians famous and many many not famous or ever heard of.

    Song renditions don't have be note perfect, by ear you shape the notes and phrases you hear in your head. In my little opinion the quicker you start moving towards ear training your inner feelings and unique playing abilities replace note by note song playing that stymie many people learning to play and being stuck in a rut. Instead practice alternating rhythms, relative pitch, learning melodies by ear and note pitch changes. Practicing finding the melody notes to old nursery rhymes, Christmas carols, anything you can hum the melody to will do wonders in being able to hear and know where relative pitches are located. Use whatever means to get started but ear training is monumental to becoming your own expressive player in soul and emotion and your path to improvisation greatly surpassing copy and paste.

    I'm just a little ole/old home player exclusively now so I just play what I can hear and that ah plenty for me.

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Why don't we write it out in "shape notes"? I found those pretty easy to read in the church choir LOL.

    But seriously, I think the only way TAB or even notation for that matter is detrimental is if you never learn to put your own spin on what is written (when appropriate).
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    A number of years ago, I learned a song on the banjo by tab that I had never heard, *Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor." It sounded kind of flat. A week later at a street fair, I bought a Doc Watson album with that song on it. As soon as I heard it, the light came on. "Oh, that's what it sounds like." The point of the story is that tab for me is only useful when I know at least the feel of the song. I would say the same about written music. They can put all the descriptions they like above the written music, "Basa Tempo", but I will probably not get the right feel until I hear it done and done well. This is probably why I learn best by ear.
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by red7flag View Post
    A number of years ago, I learned a song on the banjo by tab that I had never heard, *Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor." It sounded kind of flat. A week later at a street fair, I bought a Doc Watson album with that song on it. As soon as I heard it, the light came on. "Oh, that's what it sounds like." The point of the story is that tab for me is only useful when I know at least the feel of the song. I would say the same about written music. They can put all the descriptions they like above the written music, "Basa Tempo", but I will probably not get the right feel until I hear it done and done well. This is probably why I learn best by ear.
    Yes! Red7flag raises an important point that has not been stressed enough in this thread, neither by the strong proponents of staff notation, nor by those who prefer tablature. If you ask a computer to play either form of notation using any of the fine software available to most of us, it will do so without making any technical errors. The notes will all be played with exactly the right pitches and at exactly the right times. And yet, the music will tend to sound dull, robotic, and lifeless. This is not a consequence of the synthesized voices (instruments) that the computer employs. It is a result of the known deficiencies of standard notation. And those same deficiencies exist in tablature, too. Neither system is able to capture the "bounce" and "interpretation" of human playing adequately. Neither system has a way of transcribing the proper "feel" for any musical genre whatsoever! The fact is that humans do not play the music exactly as written on the page, as a computer does. Humans play with "feeling." Part of that feeling has to do with very tiny timing errors that we all make, and yes, a computer can be made to simulate that. But it doesn't make the computer-generated music sound much better. Part of it has to do with the extent of the "swing," or beat emphasis, that we humans bring to bear. But even when programmed to do that, too, the computer fails to sound human. Humans speed up and slow down subtly. We play ahead of, or behind, the beat at times in purposeful ways. We adjust volume dynamically with a phrase, often unconsciously.

    Composers know all about the many deficiencies of standard notation, of course, and they've tried, with little limited success, for centuries to offer playing advice, using WORDS (annotations) placed next to the staff notation. These words are often in Italian or French, for historical reasons. Some of the words simply offer tempo advice, like "adagio" or "moderato." Some will try to appeal to a common understanding of a genre, like the dances "sarabande", "minuet," or "bourree." Or even "alla Hornpipe" (Handel)! Some modern composers have tried offering lengthy instructions for musicians, running on to whole paragraphs. But the fact is, they are trying to make up for some things that simply cannot be represented in staff notation. And today, we do not even have a feel any longer for some of the instructions that accompany Baroque music, because the musical dance forms they refer to are archaic, and have all died out.

    Classical musicians often ignore altogether some of the annotations that accompany their sheet music, all in the name of "interpretation," or simply because these annotations are ambiguous or archaic. And that is just fine. A lot of classical musicians today are so dependent on reading written music that they have lost the ability to improvise movements like cadenzas. Improvisation of these was a routine skill back in the days of folks like Mozart.

    Folk musicians tend to play by ear, following an aural tradition. They learn to play with the "feel" of the genre directly from other musicians (or these days, from recordings of other musicians). It is very useful for them to have a way of transcribing some pieces or solos, to memorialize these so as to learn them, and for that, either staff notation or tablature will usually suffice. But they treat this as a starting point. Jazz musicians are not very much different. They will transcribe the "heads" of jazz standards, and sometimes some of the more famous solos by well-known musicians, and put these in Fakebooks, usually using notation. But these are always intended to be used as learning tools, and as a springboard for their own inventions. (Big band arrangements are set pieces, and more like classical music, however.)

    My point is that NEITHER staff notation nor tablature represent "superior" ways of representing music, and this is especially true for MOST musical genres played by folks on the Mandolin Cafe (roots music, world music, new-age, ITM/Celtic, bluegrass, oldtime, folk, pop, rock and roll, country, blues, jazz, etc.). They are inferior forms of notation! They're adequate for memorializing basic melodies and learning to copy solos, but they both fail to convey any proper "feel" for the music. They are no substitute for hearing human playing, in live music or in recordings. So it strikes me as silly that so many folks are singing the praises of one or the other. Learn one or the other. Or learn both! Or learn neither. In the end, it's not just about the notes you play, but the feel that you play with.

    No, learning tab won't hurt your playing. That suggestion is downright silly. Tab can help you to learn new pieces, in fact. And learning staff notation won't hurt your playing, either. It can help, too, and it can make an even wider range of music available to you! But above all, you need to learn to listen to music, and to the playing of other musicians, and to be able to translate what you hear in your head into your hands and fingers as you play. You won't get much of that from anything written down on a page, I'd say.
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    If you are a top level professional you need to be able to play from standard sheet music especially in an orchestra / classical setting. Otherwise I think learning from tab is fine, but also be able to read standard notation even if slowly.

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard G View Post
    If you are a top level professional you need to be able to play from standard sheet music especially in an orchestra / classical setting. Otherwise I think learning from tab is fine, but also be able to read standard notation even if slowly.
    Sorry, but that statement is simply too broad and ill-considered to be accurate in any way. It only holds for "top level professionals" who happen to play some specific genres of music, such as classical music. It also holds for certain types of "stage" music, such as Broadway-style musicals, movie orchestration, and certain jazz and recording settings (e.g., big bands). All together, these genres account for only a tiny fraction of all the music being played in the world today, and an even smaller fraction of the revenue produced by playing music in today's world.

    There are plenty of "top level professionals" who can't read music, but have very successful careers. Many fine studio players in Nashville and L.A. may be able to read chord charts perfectly well, but they don't sight-read musical notation. The same holds for many (most?) of the great Motown artists. The same holds for most rock and pop musicians. Many of greatest bluegrass artists don't read music, and these folks are among the best pickers in the world! Many (most?) of the "top level professionals" performing today in rock music, soul music, blues, folk, indie, hip hop, and rap either can't or don't sight-read musical notation, either. Some of these artists (esp. in pop and hop-hop) are multi-millionaires as a consequence of their popularity. If you expand the search to world music, you'll find many of the greatest "top level professionals" in Ireland, India, the Middle East, the Balkans, and other great musical traditions found elsewhere don't read sheet music. Or they can read music, but they don't use that particular skill in either their performance or recording of original music, nor traditional music.

    I think the problem we are having in this conversation is that people tend to see the musical world from the perspective of their own background and training. This is a natural thing to do, of course, but it can lead to some erroneous generalizations. The musical world is vast.

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Absolutely!

    The "complete musician" does it all, and whatever you don't do subtracts from what you can do.
    The time spent on achieving fluency in TAB subtracts from more productive endeavors. The only time, over 53 years of playing the mando, I ever used TAB was when I wanted to learn Ashokan Farewell without access to an aural source. Today it's easily available in standard on the Internet. And there are audio and video files allowing one to learn the tune in real time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    Sorry, but that statement is simply too broad and ill-considered to be accurate in any way. It only holds for "top level professionals" who happen to play some specific genres of music, such as classical music. It also holds for certain types of "stage" music, such as Broadway-style musicals, movie orchestration, and certain jazz and recording settings (e.g., big bands). All together, these genres account for only a tiny fraction of all the music being played in the world today, and an even smaller fraction of the revenue produced by playing music in today's world.

    There are plenty of "top level professionals" who can't read music, but have very successful careers. Many fine studio players in Nashville and L.A. may be able to read chord charts perfectly well, but they don't sight-read musical notation. The same holds for many (most?) of the great Motown artists. The same holds for most rock and pop musicians. Many of greatest bluegrass artists don't read music, and these folks are among the best pickers in the world! Many (most?) of the "top level professionals" performing today in rock music, soul music, blues, folk, indie, hip hop, and rap either can't or don't sight-read musical notation, either. Some of these artists (esp. in pop and hop-hop) are multi-millionaires as a consequence of their popularity. If you expand the search to world music, you'll find many of the greatest "top level professionals" in Ireland, India, the Middle East, the Balkans, and other great musical traditions found elsewhere don't read sheet music. Or they can read music, but they don't use that particular skill in either their performance or recording of original music, nor traditional music.

    I think the problem we are having in this conversation is that people tend to see the musical world from the perspective of their own background and training. This is a natural thing to do, of course, but it can lead to some erroneous generalizations. The musical world is vast.
    But do these people use TAB? I had my country, oldtime, folk, and Bluegrass period in the mid- to late 60's. That's when I learned to really play with people and during these days I never used written material of any kind. Nor did my fellow players, in my country, as well as in the US.
    But I was greatly helped by the theoretical knowledge I had picked up before and during the period when I learned the guitar, in playing, as well as transcribing tunes from records. And learning notation and theory of course went hand in hand, one facilitating the other.

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Orr View Post
    For a lot of things, Tab is essential to learning...or at least the superior tool. It's far easier to more accurately depict McReynold's style rolls or specific licks via tab because WHERE the notes are being played on the fretboard and how they are being played are almost as important as the notes themselves. Same thing with learning Monroe style where so much of the style is based on very specific shapes, patterns and voicings.

    FWIW, years ago when I started playing mando I was determined to avoid my "mistake" with guitar and learn to sight read and avoid tab as much as possible. I got to the point of being a slow but competent sight reader. I'd say the first couple of years, I learned all my fiddle tunes from standard if possible. Years later and I rarely use standard notation anymore, nor do I know if it made any difference when starting out, though maybe it gave me a better familiarity with the fretboard. Tab gets me what I want faster and at this point, I can take a tabbed solo, know the notes, and usually understand "why" the solo is doing what it's doing within the chordal frame of the song.

    Fiddle tunes is what made me take up the mandolin. In the mid 60's I transcribed a few of the tunes on Howdy Forrester's album Fancy Fiddlin' Country Style: Brilliancy, High Level, and Rutland's Reel, on the guitar. But being frustrated with the frequent and sometimes awkward string changes I was motivated to take up the mandolin with its tuning in fifths. That way I built a vocabulary of scale and arpeggio figures and created a musical language toying with these devices. I found these much more useful in Bluegrass than any of Monroe's stuff, with all those repeated notes and devotion to bar lines and periods. I did learn some of his tunes, though, e.g., The Gold Rush, Jerusalem Ridge, and his take on Dusty Miller, from which I absorbed and generalized his modal ideas, in the mixolydian, dorian, and minor penta modes. And as for Monroe's blues language I took his unaccompanied intro to BG pt. 1; realizing that it simply combined the harmonic and modal approaches: outlining the chords (very much as in fiddle tunes) and superimposing the blues scale over everything. And from that point it was all up to me, experimenting with combining, contrasting and balancing these two approaches.

    In those days, of course, there was no Internet, and no TAB banks, only records and a turntable that could be run at half speed. I'm thankful for that. ANd that story is why I asked the TS what exactly he means by *really* learning.

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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    But do these people use TAB? I had my country, oldtime, folk, and Bluegrass period in the mid- to late 60's. That's when I learned to really play with people and during these days I never used written material of any kind. Nor did my fellow players, in my country, as well as in the US.
    But I was greatly helped by the theoretical knowledge I had picked up before and during the period when I learned the guitar, in playing, as well as transcribing tunes from records. And learning notation and theory of course went hand in hand, one facilitating the other.
    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.
    Last edited by sblock; Oct-12-2020 at 3:39pm.

  37. #99
    Registered User Tom Haywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    "Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?"

    I'll say Yes as it relates to really learning to play bluegrass music - and this is true for other genres as well. Part of the problem is that Tab and standard notation fail to communicate the timing - as discussed throughout this thread, but more important is the fact that the vast majority of the published tablature for bluegrass songs is just not the way it is played. So, you can waste months or even years learning from tab how to play a few songs, get them well set in your muscle memory, then sit down at a jam with experienced bluegrass players and discover that what you've learned doesn't work at all.

    Look at most of the available tabs for Bill Monroe songs, especially the free tabs. Spend a lot of time learning the tab to any one song. Then listen to all the recordings Monroe made of that song. Unless it is a tablature transcribed by Chris Henry or just a few others, you will find that it is not at all what Bill played. Next, find an accurate transcription of Chris Thile playing the same song. It's really good stuff, but it's not really bluegrass and, while it is a great study, it is not something that 90% of us will ever be able to learn to play. So, was the tablature helpful in these situations? Yes and no - depending on your goal.

    The question becomes: What are you using tab for? If it is a shortcut for learning to play a song, are you really learning the song and how to play it? And by extension, are you really learning to play the mandolin? Tab may be detrimental to that goal. The bigger question is: Are you really trying to learn the song, or is your goal something other than that? Tab may be ideal for a other goals. Using tab to learn licks can very useful, but is the tab an accurate rendition of how Monroe (name anyone you wish) played the lick? I find that most of the time the answer is No, so I wasted time learning it from that tab because I didn't really learn what I wanted to learn. Now I have to waste additional time breaking or modifying the habit I just created.

    Tab is very useful to really learning if you listen to recordings of the music you want to learn to play, slow them down to half-speed or less, and tab out each note of what you want to learn. This requires that you train your ear to hear the note on the recording and on the mandolin, and that you learn to represent it in writing - such as tab - so you have it for future reference. That is really learning to play. But, it has little to do with using tab as a shortcut.

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  39. #100
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is playing TABS detrimental to really learning?

    I just want to point out that one thing standard notation does very well is to allow a composer to write music and have appropriately trained musicians be able to read the score and make music that they never heard before.

    That's the key - most rock, jazz, pop, Bluegrass, etc. TAB is designed to help learn a piece of music you have already heard.

    When a modern-day Bach, Bartok, whoever writes a new work using staff notation, the performers have not heard the music before - so they have to have a notation system that lets the composer make the musical decisions and they have to be skilled in realizing the new work as a piece of music.

    I used this analogy already - a playwright writes a script, which is of itself not a performance of a play; the actors learn the parts and then can create a live performance of said play, even if they have never seen another performance of the same work.

    This is where Western staff notation is at its best - it gives a composer a medium for creating new musical works, and for the players to make the music "real' even if they have never heard the music played by anyone else before.

    As for TAB or staff notation being a way to transcribe already existing and often ( if not exclusively) aural tradition music, then it's a toss-up, with learning by ear the real winner.

    So much of our music today is from popular, traditional, folk, or otherwise aural traditions that any debate about which notation system is "better" or which may be harmful is not really helpful.

    But as for written, composed music, staff notation has a several hundred year advantage in the tradition of classical music and most importantly, composition.

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