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Nicko

Is TAB really that evil?

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Posted (edited)
I have made several attempts over the last 40 something years to learn to sight read notation fluently. I suspect the lack of a requirement to do so virtually ever for my bass playing has contributed to the fact that I still can't - other reasons being laziness etc. The vast majority of my requirements have been fulfilled by learning material from recorded work. It's only in more recent years that notated (or tab) bass parts have become readily available - many years ago the closest you would get is a piano left hand part which often did not reflect the bass part - more it provided pianists with an ability to play the piece unaccompanied rather than reflecting any part of the artist's recording.

I don't think tab is evil - it has helped me to learn quite complex things I could never have worked out by ear - and would probably have struggled with from the notation - but by using reference books or magazine transcriptions which show both notation and tab, it has given me a speedier reference to the notes and has also helped me to recognise notated rythmn and rest patterns thus helping my ability to sight read (I struggle less with the notes than with the rythmn when sight reading). I have learned (from notation) examples like the entire piano part and trumpet part for Cantaloupe Island - to both supplement my understanding of the piece and also allow me to concoct a solo bass piece. This is purely for personal interest and development - I've only ever played in one project where the song was played and I was required to play the bass part (and a short solo).

If I'm depping I might download tabs as a quick reference to speed up the learning process - I'm far more likely to write my own chord charts for reference on the gig.

I'm quite in awe of people who can read fluently - several brass players I know turn up for dep gigs with their own hand written notation and play standards (I'm talking things like Pick Up the Pieces, Watermelon Man, Autumn Leaves) accurately - I guess the brass parts do need to be spot on.

So I think it has its place, and has its limitations, but can be a quick reference to play at least the notes accurately....... the question of incorrect transcription affects notation as well as tab - the fact there is (possibly) more tab available may result in more inaccuracy (certainly I've seen tab from web sites which is completely wrong - simply using your ear and playing along will clarify if something is wrong!!).

This is probably anathema to purists but it works for me and I think has helped my reading of notation. I think a significant proportion of what I play is about feel and even notation is limited in its ability to convey that - I think that's something the player provides. Edited by drTStingray

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[quote name='bazztard' timestamp='1503116185' post='3355798']


Apart from snobbishness, this above would be the reason if reading a new piece.

For learning covers, a TAB is perfectly fine because you know the rhythm and where the notes go from listening to the song.
[/quote]

So you can easily recognize rhythm, but not pitch? Why should one be easier than the other?

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Posted (edited)
An interesting article on tab (with responses) from Damian Erskine :


[url="http://www.notreble.com/buzz/2015/05/06/learning-music-a-discussion-on-bass-tab-notation-and-ears/"]http://www.notreble....ation-and-ears/[/url] Edited by Coilte

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[quote name='drTStingray' timestamp='1503131129' post='3355874']
I have made several attempts over the last 40 something years to learn to sight read notation fluently. I suspect the lack of a requirement to do so virtually ever for my bass playing has contributed to the fact that I still can't - other reasons being laziness etc. The vast majority of my requirements have been fulfilled by learning material from recorded work. It's only in more recent years that notated (or tab) bass parts have become readily available - many years ago the closest you would get is a piano left hand part which often did not reflect the bass part - more it provided pianists with an ability to play the piece unaccompanied rather than reflecting any part of the artist's recording.

I don't think tab is evil - it has helped me to learn quite complex things I could never have worked out by ear - and would probably have struggled with from the notation - but by using reference books or magazine transcriptions which show both notation and tab, it has given me a speedier reference to the notes and has also helped me to recognise notated rythmn and rest patterns thus helping my ability to sight read (I struggle less with the notes than with the rythmn when sight reading). I have learned (from notation) examples like the entire piano part and trumpet part for Cantaloupe Island - to both supplement my understanding of the piece and also allow me to concoct a solo bass piece. This is purely for personal interest and development - I've only ever played in one project where the song was played and I was required to play the bass part (and a short solo).

If I'm depping I might download tabs as a quick reference to speed up the learning process - I'm far more likely to write my own chord charts for reference on the gig.

I'm quite in awe of people who can read fluently - several brass players I know turn up for dep gigs with their own hand written notation and play standards (I'm talking things like Pick Up the Pieces, Watermelon Man, Autumn Leaves) accurately - I guess the brass parts do need to be spot on.

So I think it has its place, and has its limitations, but can be a quick reference to play at least the notes accurately....... the question of incorrect transcription affects notation as well as tab - the fact there is (possibly) more tab available may result in more inaccuracy (certainly I've seen tab from web sites which is completely wrong - simply using your ear and playing along will clarify if something is wrong!!).

This is probably anathema to purists but it works for me and I think has helped my reading of notation. I think a significant proportion of what I play is about feel and even notation is limited in its ability to convey that - I think that's something the player provides.
[/quote]
I completely agree with this.

In 40 years gigging I have never once been asked if I can read. I have played with plenty of guys who I know can read, but it has been completely irrelevant on any gig I’ve done with them. Of course, reading is an essential skill if you want to play in a pit and if I had wanted to do that then I certainly would have learned to read a lot better than I can now.

I can’t imagine that you will ever see tab on a gig but it has its uses. After years of trying to work out Portrait of Tracy by ear and coming up with various things that sounded a bit like it but obviously not correct, I found an accurate tab and now I can play it – OK, the Eb artificial harmonic can be a bit hit and miss but still… There is no way I could have learnt that from notation, even if my reading was a lot better than it is.

Of course, you could say that I probably learnt a lot more trying to figure it out by ear, but the same applies there for both tab and notation.

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[quote name='Lozz196' timestamp='1503065765' post='3355475']
Many have wrong bits in them, but as a starting point, and for bits that are difficult to hear, I find TAB is an excellent tool. Once you have the song pretty much sussed you can usually identify the bits that are wrong pretty easily.
[/quote]this^ the reason I've never learned to read 'proper' music is rather like why I've never learned finger style, I've never had too, bit like learning a foreign language, if you're not going to need it what's the point?

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[quote name='Lozz196' timestamp='1503065765' post='3355475']
Many have wrong bits in them, but as a starting point, and for bits that are difficult to hear, I find TAB is an excellent tool.
[/quote]

I would agree with the above. The problem IMO is when people become over reliant on tab to the exclusion of other aspects of learning. If a person wants to make progress along the learning path, they won't get too far by relying entirely on tab. If on the other hand they are content to stay in their comfort zone and have no wish to take their playing any further, that's their call.

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Posted (edited)
[quote name='Coilte' timestamp='1503139286' post='3355965']
I would agree with the above. The problem IMO is when people become over reliant on tab to the exclusion of other aspects of learning. If a person wants to make progress along the learning path, they won't get too far by relying entirely on tab. If on the other hand they are content to stay in their comfort zone and have no wish to take their playing any further, that's their call.
[/quote]

I've likened learning music the way the average person does, to reading a book. People dive in halfway through, then start to realise they don't know half the characters, and really aren't sure of the plot. So they start skipping back to earlier chapters in an attempt to find out who someone is.

Obviously the whole thing would be easier if they'd started at the beginning to start off with. Such is life though. People often want the rewards without expanding too much energy. They also rather bizarrely equate learning to play an instrument, with it being dull and tedious, which is something I never found it to be.

I love teaching people who've been playing for years, all the stuff that they've missed in the earlier chapters. Edited by ambient

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It may be worth pointing out that for some stringed instruments and styles, some form of tablature is still the default notation format AFAIK (I'm thinking particularly of 5-string banjo and Flamenco guitar, but I have a feeling there are others*). In general terms I agree with the idea of learning standard notation if you can, but tabulation-type notation still has a function despite it's obvious shortcomings.

*Footnote: banjo and flamenco can both be written using modified forms of standard notation of course, but the basic point remains valid.

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Posted (edited)
I'd say it's an error to connect reading standard music notation and learning (understanding...) music theory. It's very possible to do either without necessarily doing the other. Playing from tab and having music knowledge is perfectly feasible, too. Reading from a score is obviously better than not being able to (as is reading ancient Greek or Somalian; other foreign languages are available...), but does not preclude musical ability, technique or talent. Sight reading (that's to say, being able to play at the tempo of the piece from first read-through...) is yet another aspect, and a useful skill to have, but not indispensable for many musicians. Edited by Dad3353

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[quote name='Coilte' timestamp='1503139286' post='3355965']
...If a person wants to make progress along the learning path...
[/quote]

That would be THE learning path would it? Like there is only one. Sorry, I can't see it from your point of view.

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I am trying to learn to read the dots and play from chord charts but find TAB to be a help in finding where to start on the fret board. There are many different places to play any of the notes on a guitar neck and Tabs give me a good starting point. Once I'm in the right place - and perhaps used the TAB to work out my fingering, I switch to notation. TAB is handy but I try not to rely on it.

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Posted (edited)
IMO anyone who thinks that using tab, chord diagrams or any other tool that helps a player learn their instrument is somehow "wrong", belong in the same category as bassists that believe using a pick is also somehow "wrong". Edited by Grassie

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Posted (edited)
[quote name='SpondonBassed' timestamp='1503149256' post='3356067']
That would be THE learning path would it? Like there is only one. Sorry, I can't see it from your point of view.
[/quote]

It would indeed. To each their own, but there are tried and trusted ways for us to learn. As with "ambient's" earlier comparison of learning music to reading a book. In order to learn how to do the latter we generally take a certain path. We start off with our ABC's, we get familiar with the sound the letters make. Most people remember at infant school, constantly saying out loud..."D-O-G" = dog....C-A-T= cat etc. We move on then to bigger words and then on to constructing sentences. We then start reading child's books, maybe with pictures to help us get the gist of what the written word says. Finally we move on to adult novels and literature etc.

Do you see a certain path being followed here ? I certainly do. It is THE ..(there's that word again ;) ).. learning path to reading and writing. One that I'm sure the vast majority of us have taken. Like the content of the book, music is also a language and has it's own learning path. So in this context I think the word "the" is valid. Granted, some people choose to join the musical path somewhere in the middle. They then often find themselves having to backtrack.....mostly this brings them back to ground zero...which is the most beneficial place to start. Edited by Coilte

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I learnt standard notation through being a woodwind player from an early age.

I can pick up sheet music and read it without an instrument and know what it is supposed to sound like.
With tab I can have the music and an instrument and have no idea what it's supposed to sound like without a reference recording.

I can sight read standard notation, playing it directly from the sheet without having to think about where my fingers are supposed to go... just as I can read sentences without having to think "curly kuh, ah, tuh... cat"
It is not possible to sight read tab if you don't first know what it's supposed to sound like.

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[quote name='Coilte' timestamp='1503156906' post='3356118']
It would indeed. To each their own, but there are tried and trusted ways for us to learn. As with "ambient's" earlier comparison of learning music to reading a book. In order to learn how to do the latter we generally take a certain path. We start off with our ABC's, we get familiar with the sound the letters make. Most people remember at infant school, constantly saying out loud..."D-O-G" = dog....C-A-T= cat etc. We move on then to bigger words and then on to constructing sentences. We then start reading child's books, maybe with pictures to help us get the gist of what the written word says. Finally we move on to adult novels and literature etc.

Do you see a certain path being followed here ? I certainly do. It is THE ..(there's that word again ;) ).. learning path to reading and writing. One that I'm sure the vast majority of us have taken. Like the content of the book, music is also a language and has it's own learning path. So in this context I think the word "the" is valid. Granted, some people choose to join the musical path somewhere in the middle. They then often find themselves having to backtrack.....mostly this brings them back to ground zero...which is the most beneficial place to start.
[/quote]

You do it your way and that's great, but please don't try tell everyone its the only way to play/learn. Each to there own.

I have been playing bass, drums and guitar for 52 years and never found the [b]need[/b] to learn to read music. If I had wanted to play in an orchestra or a big band then I would have had the need, so I would have made the effort. I began playing in the 60s during the birth of pop and rock and it was the very fact it had no formal requirements or education that made it "Our" music. It was made up, and never written down. The vast majority of great musicians I have had contact with can not read music, with the exception of most keyboard players.

I have never been handed a sheet of music at a rehearsal, gig or audition, If you cant learn the required songs from a recording in the time available then you obviously cant cut it. The best keyboard player I have ever played with is 71 years old, and the only pianist I have ever meet who cant read music. To counter this he can pick up any song you care to play to him from one or two plays through. Now that takes talent. Written music is fine for those who need it, for the music I play and the bands I have played in, both originals and covers, it is not a requirement.

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Posted (edited)
[quote name='mikel' timestamp='1503159951' post='3356147']
Each to there own.[/quote]

That was the second sentence of my previous post. ;) Far be it from me to tell people how to learn. I could not care less. I am merely expressing my opinion. :)

Oh... BTW.. I am not just talking about reading, but basic theory in general...all the things that makes for a good all round musician. Edited by Coilte

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Posted (edited)
[quote name='mikel' timestamp='1503159951' post='3356147']
To counter this he can pick up any song you care to play to him from one or two plays through. Now that takes talent.
[/quote]

If he could read he maybe wouldn't need to run through?

It's also maybe got something to do with the fact he's been playing so long, not necessarily talent.

Personally I really couldn't care less what approach people take to learning, the fewer people who can sight-read, the more work there is for those of us who can :).

Whether you get given a chart to read invariably depends on what circles you work in, it's not an indication of that being how things work. Edited by ambient

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[quote name='ambient' timestamp='1503161630' post='3356164']
If he could read he maybe wouldn't need to run through?

It's also maybe got something to do with the fact he's been playing so long, not necessarily talent.
[/quote]

Who cares? He is a good musician and does what he does, in his own way. I have never suggested that reading music was a drawback, simply not a requirement in the bands I play in. He could site read like an orchestral conductor and it would make no difference as we don't write our stuff down. :D

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[quote name='Coilte' timestamp='1503156906' post='3356118']
It would indeed. To each their own, but there are tried and trusted ways for us to learn. As with "ambient's" earlier comparison of learning music to reading a book. In order to learn how to do the latter we generally take a certain path. We start off with our ABC's, we get familiar with the sound the letters make. Most people remember at infant school, constantly saying out loud..."D-O-G" = dog....C-A-T= cat etc. We move on then to bigger words and then on to constructing sentences. We then start reading child's books, maybe with pictures to help us get the gist of what the written word says. Finally we move on to adult novels and literature etc.

Do you see a certain path being followed here ? I certainly do. It is THE ..(there's that word again ;) ).. learning path to reading and writing. One that I'm sure the vast majority of us have taken. Like the content of the book, music is also a language and has it's own learning path. So in this context I think the word "the" is valid. Granted, some people choose to join the musical path somewhere in the middle. They then often find themselves having to backtrack.....mostly this brings them back to ground zero...which is the most beneficial place to start.
[/quote]

Forgive me for saying but that sounds ever so condescending.

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Posted (edited)
[quote name='Coilte' timestamp='1503156906' post='3356118']
It would indeed. To each their own, but there are tried and trusted ways for us to learn...
[/quote]

Nice, but your analogy implies that we're learning to read music (as a language...) from a very early age, in which case I'd agree with you. However, I was taught French at grammar school, from age 11 till 15, and clearly remeber failing dismally, thinking to myself that I'll never use this stuff, so what's it for..? My O-level results reflected this: 2% for the oral, 4% for the written. Note: that's percentages, not a mark out of 10 or 20.
Fast forward to my mid-twenties... For diverse reasons, I moved to France. I spent 6 months unable to understand, and 6 months more able to understand, but unable to reply. Over time, the lingo has filtered in, by necessity, and I would class myself now as modestly fluent, without formal training (and so 'warts 'n all'...).
All this to illustrate that, depending upon one's motivations; needs and imperatives, there are many paths to Rome. Learning (anything...) is a complex affair, and does not work in the same way for everyone, at every age.
I'd finish with another, equally flawed, analogy. Learning to fly model aircraft is a skill set. Flying a light aircraft, solo, is an extension of that. Becoming a commercial pilot takes it further, test pilot further still. To become an astronaut one has to build still more on the rest. Those playing music on the 'model aircraft' level would glean little advantage in following the career path of an astronaut. To each his orher own. Edited by Dad3353

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[quote name='mikel' timestamp='1503163244' post='3356179']
He could site read like an orchestral conductor and it would make no difference as we don't write our stuff down. :D
[/quote]

That wouldn't help much. An Orchestral Conductor Score is mainly for reference.
Orchestral Conductors read very little on the stand, other than bits here and there, or important things (to them anyway).
It's mostly committed to memory and very well mentally rehearsed.
Reading a full Orchestral score isn't difficult, but committing to memory, all and every line is.
Yep, Classical musos have ears as well. :)









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[quote name='SpondonBassed' timestamp='1503164787' post='3356188']
Forgive me for saying but that sounds ever so condescending.
[/quote]

Sorry if that's how you interpreted my my post. It was n't my intention. :)

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[quote name='Coilte' timestamp='1503173040' post='3356270']
Sorry if that's how you interpreted my my post. It was n't my intention. :)
[/quote]

Accepted. You needn't worry though, I didn't take offence because I'm used to it.

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Posted (edited)
[quote name='Jazzjames' timestamp='1503133526' post='3355904']
So you can easily recognize rhythm, but not pitch? Why should one be easier than the other?
[/quote]

coz my hearing is bad from standing next to drummers' cymbals for 20 odd years

I can hear a kick and snare and the rhythm of the bassline very easily. The difference between two notes not so easily when you are half deaf in one ear and have constant loud tinnitus

I can still work out basslines by ear. Takes me a bit longer than it used to. I use TABs too for bits I can't work out by ear Edited by bazztard

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Posted (edited)
As a 13 year picking up the bass for the first time in 1988, tabs helped me a lot where available. I had no interest in reading music at the time so a combination of tab books and working songs out by ear were the foundations of my development. With the increased availability of isolated bass tracks on YouTube, it has become clear that most of the tab books I used to have are full of errors, examples are the lines to Master of Puppets and Battery by Metallica. This has turned me more towards notation and ear training.

In recent years when I have done productions and been handed the bass score, I have improved my ability to read notation.

The Standing in the Shadows of Motown book has been a steep learning curve for me. I really enjoy it though.

Given the choice, I would go for notation now. That's just personal preference though, not because I think it is the 'right' way to do it. Edited by interpol52

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