Why guitar tabs are inefficient

Fowleri

Senior Member
Messages
493
Guitar tabs are a good starting point for you to figure out the correct notes, but if you only rely on tabs, you're going to sound average.

Majority of guitar tabs have errors, even videos from licklibrary and the songbooks from Hal Leonard, that you pay money for, are also incorrect in many ways. Realize that just because you are paying for a songbook or video, doesn't mean that it was transcribed by the artist himself (this rarely, if never happens, for obvious reasons, tabbing several tunes from memory, takes a lot of time and hard work, something the majority of artists will not do, simply because it makes them no real money), in reality, it is transcribed by some unknown dude that works for that songbook company.

You would think, that if I'm paying money for it, and I'm not actually getting transcription from the artist, the least they could do is, tell me the fingering and pick attack, right? but no

Why do guitar tabs are inefficient?

- They do not provide fingering and pick strokes.

For chords and basic solos, this can be figured out on your own, but for advanced fast solos, this information is extremely important, and unless you know the exact fingering and pick stroke (up or down) for each and every single note, you will never be able to play those fast solos, you are making the solo harder than it already is.

Realize that the way the artist plays those solos live (fingering, pick strokes, etc) is the most efficient and less demanding way to play them, and still sound good. They figure this out before creating their solos.

Too many versions create confusion

There are so many different transcriptions of a single solo out there, that all it does, is create confusion to the player, now add the fact that fingering and pick attack is not provided, is even worse, with so many versions of the same solo out there, you are left in the blank. The only way you could figure this out, is by slowing down the solo and live videos, to catch a glimpse of notes, fingering and pick attack. This take lots of effort and time, it can take weeks to figure out this information from advanced solos, which is why the majority of people don't do it, and conform with the tabs. Thus, never really developing their ears.

Now, you may say, what's the point of transcribing a solo with 100% perfect accuracy, just use the tabs which are close enough, you should always improvise anyway, the artist do it all the time?

The reality is most guitar players, when performing live, they almost always play their solos the same way, and they also use the same fingering and pick strokes, which is not found on tabs, they do this, because like I said, is the most efficient way. Also, you may consider obsessing with getting a solo to 100% accuracy something to be OCD or obsessive, but this actually develops you ear and transcribing skills over time, meanwhile, the guy who simply relies on tabs and songbooks, is lacking on that department.
 

Stratman Dan

Member
Messages
186
You dont hear the rhythm or feel in the tabs. You need the audio for that.

_______
I can give 0 3 5 6 to 10 guitarists and I'll get
------------
10 different rhythms.

It looks like a web of numbers....two things I hate.
 
Messages
2,954
I remember I really wanted to learn the solo to Get the Funk Out, and I had bought the tab book for the Pornografitti album. The tab for the tapping part was so wrong it was laughable. Total waste of money.

I think years later I found a YouTube video that walked me through it step by step.
 

Mangy71

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
4,265
Tabs aren't perfect, but having 90% of the work already done for you is still easier/faster/more efficient than starting with nothing.

Online tabs (created by regular schmucks in their bedrooms) are the ones that are usually incomplete and inaccurate. If you buy the tab book from a reputable company, they are usually pretty accurate and include all of the different parts.

The same guys that say "you shouldn't cheat and use tabs, you should figure it out by ear like the old days" are often the same guys that are posting inaccurate stuff online.
 

Matt L

Member
Messages
11,519
Accurate tabs can be extremely helpful, but are only part of the story. Ear training and learning standard notation have to go along with it. I’ve seen players who were so reliant on tabs without the others completely fail to even understand they were playing wrong notes or wrong rhythms. I’m lucky that I was taught to read music, and to learn by ear at the same time or before I discovered tabs. I was able to realize when those tabs were wrong, and also which transcribers were generally more skilled and accurate, and to look for them (Jesse Gress was one). Often, even a good transcriber was just not familiar enough with a certain player, and would maybe get the notes correct but tab out the position and/or lick incorrectly. Rarely would a tab book be 100% correct, but I also found it fun to “do corrections” based on my own knowledge.
 

Timtam

Member
Messages
2,296
They're usually way better than nothing. They get you in the ballpark, and then you tailor them based on what you can hear and whether you think the suggested fingering is the most efficient/accurate. Having to work the whole thing out by yourself would be way slower.

I could read musical notation before I learnt guitar, and the guitar teacher I had as a teenager used it a fair bit, but since then I have not found it useful for what I want to play, and so have long forgotten it.

The biggest difference to what I can learn easily has been youtube lessons.

The one type of tab I think are absolutely useless are tab-based lick books without sound files. There's no way you can figure out what the writer had in mind unless you can hear it.
 
Last edited:

CapnRex

Member
Messages
1,125
I'm in the middle here.

Once you get your scales, triads and arpeggios down, playing what you hear becomes much easier. When you are a beginner, figuring out where the darned notes are and how they usually connect is super difficult, especially if you're into instrumental guitar rock like Vai or something. With tabs you can figure out the fingerings and get the technique down.

But if you never learn theory, you are basically stuck with TABs and kind of trial and error listening.
 

DrumBob

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
17,575
All I know is, there are way too many guitar tabs written out by idiots who have no idea what they're doing, and some of them work for Hal Leonard. I have their Beatles book, and have found errors in there. The tab for "Nowhere Man" is totally wrong.
 
Messages
170
Guitar tabs are a good starting point for you to figure out the correct notes, but if you only rely on tabs, you're going to sound average.

Majority of guitar tabs have errors, even videos from licklibrary and the songbooks from Hal Leonard, that you pay money for, are also incorrect in many ways. Realize that just because you are paying for a songbook or video, doesn't mean that it was transcribed by the artist himself (this rarely, if never happens, for obvious reasons, tabbing several tunes from memory, takes a lot of time and hard work, something the majority of artists will not do, simply because it makes them no real money), in reality, it is transcribed by some unknown dude that works for that songbook company.

You would think, that if I'm paying money for it, and I'm not actually getting transcription from the artist, the least they could do is, tell me the fingering and pick attack, right? but no

Why do guitar tabs are inefficient?

- They do not provide fingering and pick strokes.

For chords and basic solos, this can be figured out on your own, but for advanced fast solos, this information is extremely important, and unless you know the exact fingering and pick stroke (up or down) for each and every single note, you will never be able to play those fast solos, you are making the solo harder than it already is.

Realize that the way the artist plays those solos live (fingering, pick strokes, etc) is the most efficient and less demanding way to play them, and still sound good. They figure this out before creating their solos.

Too many versions create confusion

There are so many different transcriptions of a single solo out there, that all it does, is create confusion to the player, now add the fact that fingering and pick attack is not provided, is even worse, with so many versions of the same solo out there, you are left in the blank. The only way you could figure this out, is by slowing down the solo and live videos, to catch a glimpse of notes, fingering and pick attack. This take lots of effort and time, it can take weeks to figure out this information from advanced solos, which is why the majority of people don't do it, and conform with the tabs. Thus, never really developing their ears.

Now, you may say, what's the point of transcribing a solo with 100% perfect accuracy, just use the tabs which are close enough, you should always improvise anyway, the artist do it all the time?

The reality is most guitar players, when performing live, they almost always play their solos the same way, and they also use the same fingering and pick strokes, which is not found on tabs, they do this, because like I said, is the most efficient way. Also, you may consider obsessing with getting a solo to 100% accuracy something to be OCD or obsessive, but this actually develops you ear and transcribing skills over time, meanwhile, the guy who simply relies on tabs and songbooks, is lacking on that department.
I'm not so sure about the part where you said that most guitar players almost always play their solos the same way. Many skilled players who are good at improvisation change how they play their solos from time to time. Some of them never play it the same way twice.
 
Last edited:

poppunk

Member
Messages
758
I'm not Shredder McGhee so maybe I'm not the target audience here; is this about solos? Back when I started learning we didn't have YouTube. Sometimes we could pause the VCR recording of 120 Minutes we had to see what players were doing. But I don't even like solos that much. Sometimes they're sweet but I'm glad the 90s mostly killed that excessive play 400 measures of solo stuff and guitar heroes. I like songwriting and how a band sounds together.

The learn to train your ear stuff is great. Except if I didn't have tabs I probably would have never figured out how to do anything, at all, so I never would have gotten that far. I just want to thank the guitar magazines and HL books for getting me on my way so I could get to the point to where I could start to play stuff I could hear.

I recently started doing the tribute band thing after avoiding covers for a really long time. I'm trying to play it as close as possible to the album, and yeah, the HL books have some errors (and some of the things you find online are just WTF). But there's a whole bunch of weird things in there I would have a hard time noticing without a little hint in the right direction. They're tools with limits, but I don't think they're useless.
 




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