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Why You Should Read Music on Guitar

Tone Loco

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,349
See, when I say "tab", I am referring to sheet music that has both standard notation and tablature printed together. That's what I'm talking about.
They are complementary to each other, not contradictory.
I guess so. To me it seems like less wasted space on the page to just add fingering and string markings on regular music, as needed. Also I've run into "tab" that's below regular notation in books, that was added after the fact by the publishing company. I know because I wrote and asked the author. Not sure if it's computer generated from the regular notation or what. But I don't really trust that as much as I would seeing string & fingerings explicitly added to music.
 

Ed DeGenaro

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
24,653
@JonR Dictionaries are quite helpful. Your post is one of the first to narrow down on the nouns. Is there a reference from academia we can cluster around? Thanks for respecting multiLingual thinking.

It is my hope that there is no fight, @Ed DeGenaro. Whatever provocation I may have inferred is unfortunately due to my uncultured presentation. You've pointed out that "standard notation" accommodates fingering... and no one has contradicted this point. My quibble with the term(s) is empty, I have no problem ceding to "normal", "standard" and/or "traditional" as an adjective.

The Captain and I have been echoing one slice of common ground on this discussion. The formats are complimentary and more often than not, hosted together quite nicely.

In closing, I will acknowledge that I must be the rare breed that carries respect for both formats... reading classical movements from dense dots on staff is quite rewarding to a self taught, under talented and over aspirational faker. As I pass 60 yrs of age, the aspirations have faded and so has my urge to engage deeply in any fights ... so I will exit with my thanks to some new mates who are clearly better hosted at the table of this topic.

I fear I wandered into the wrong room and bid you un milione grazie for the edumication ;).
My reply wasn' to you personally, but rather about years of not knowing what notation has. As in tons of students who think tab let's you put stuff down notation doesn't.
 

Ed DeGenaro

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
24,653
Tablature does have different interpretations. To some it is numbers on six lines with no rhythmic information. For others, it includes rhythms, which is how it developed for the lute. For others, it refers to the double stave notation like you see in guitar magazines.

The best I've seen is the Stropes book of Michael Hedges tunes. It is so exact that it leaves almost no ambiguity to the player. If that is your goal with notation (and it might not be), then that is the gold standard for guitar. Not so useful for a sax player.
I was under the impression. That tab with rhythm these days regardless of dual staff with notation or single with rhythm lines was pretty much the norm these days.
 
M

Member 995

I was under the impression. That tab with rhythm these days regardless of dual staff with notation or single with rhythm lines was pretty much the norm these days.
Not online ... I see lots of tabs that are six lines with numbers, no rhythmic indication at all.
 

The Captain

Senior Member
Messages
12,790
I have no dog in the fight what any one wants to use. The only reason I'm talking about this is the mistaken belief that standard notation doesn't have position/fingering. Or that there isn't a standardized approach...
Been decades of this...
https://www.dropbox.com/s/723vvuka3ug2i25/2016-03-31 20.14.53.png?dl=0
So, for interest sake, what do the numbers represent ?

6 string tab is very easy for guitar players to read because it is such a simple representation of the physical fretboard.
Having said that, and despite my large and generous affection for good quality tab, if I could go back to my very first guitar lesson, I would happily have been taught in standard, rather than chord boxes, which are just snippets of tab anyway.
The problem is, that once you get off the ground using simple systems like tab, it's very hard to go back and struggle with standard.
 

The Captain

Senior Member
Messages
12,790
Not online ... I see lots of tabs that are six lines with numbers, no rhythmic indication at all.
Sure, but that's no reason to lump high quality publications in with dodgy rubbish.
Take a look at www.giventowail.com. It's just 6 line tab, no standard, but the way it is spaced gives a very good indication of the rhythmic element. Sure, it's designed to be an aid, whiling listening and playing by ear as well, and good not realistically be sight-read by someone who had never heard the music, but it's not meant to be.
 
M

Member 995

Sure, but that's no reason to lump high quality publications in with dodgy rubbish.
Take a look at www.giventowail.com. It's just 6 line tab, no standard, but the way it is spaced gives a very good indication of the rhythmic element. Sure, it's designed to be an aid, whiling listening and playing by ear as well, and good not realistically be sight-read by someone who had never heard the music, but it's not meant to be.
That is exactly the kind of thing I think is bad. It is inaccurate if you don't already know the song.

See this for example: http://giventowail.com/tab/pearl-jam/ten/alive-single-solo
 

Ed DeGenaro

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
24,653
Sure, but that's no reason to lump high quality publications in with dodgy rubbish.
Take a look at www.giventowail.com. It's just 6 line tab, no standard, but the way it is spaced gives a very good indication of the rhythmic element. Sure, it's designed to be an aid, whiling listening and playing by ear as well, and good not realistically be sight-read by someone who had never heard the music, but it's not meant to be.
The tab in that link is not what I meant, that is just horrid, if you look at it all you have is the "grip" on guitar with no rhythm whatsoever
 

Ed DeGenaro

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
24,653
So, for interest sake, what do the numbers represent ?

6 string tab is very easy for guitar players to read because it is such a simple representation of the physical fretboard.
Having said that, and despite my large and generous affection for good quality tab, if I could go back to my very first guitar lesson, I would happily have been taught in standard, rather than chord boxes, which are just snippets of tab anyway.
The problem is, that once you get off the ground using simple systems like tab, it's very hard to go back and struggle with standard.
C.2 bar index finger second position. Circled string, uncircled finger
 

The Captain

Senior Member
Messages
12,790
That is exactly the kind of thing I think is bad. It is inaccurate if you don't already know the song.

See this for example: http://giventowail.com/tab/pearl-jam/ten/alive-single-solo
So, to reply to both critics at once, I put this up as an example of "tab only", which I don't use much. I really only use that Pearl Jam site, as they refuse to publish in proper book form. Mostly I use published books.
However, it is a limited form, but not "bad", "horrid" or "inaccurate". It is quite limited though, and yes, as I explicitly said, is meant as an aid when listening to the piece, not as a way to sight read un-aided.
However, riddle me this batman..............just how many of you can sight-read a piece of music accurately from a sheet anyway ?
I'm sure some can, but it's not a widespread skill and since most of us are playing music we are familiar with, not a necessary one either.

Guitar is a folk instrument by nature, not an "experts only" instrument.

We can argue as to the merits of tab vs standard all day, but I maintain that the one thing you can't arguer wiht, is results, and tab has an acceptance and usage rate amongst guitarists which is so high, it must have something going for it.
 

Chrome Dinette

Senior Member
Messages
14,369
Guitar is a folk instrument by nature, not an "experts only" instrument.


It seems to me it is whatever you make it. It can be either, both or neither.




I am not a very good reader, but it is something I work on and I feel it has helped me in several ways, mostly echoing things other folks have said.

I can take a piece of music I've never heard and try to play through it.

Even better, I can find the score for something that interests me, whether or not it was played on guitar and play it quickly.

Reading does not, of course, replace learning by ear or anything else.
 

Ed DeGenaro

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
24,653
So, to reply to both critics at once, I put this up as an example of "tab only", which I don't use much. I really only use that Pearl Jam site, as they refuse to publish in proper book form. Mostly I use published books.
However, it is a limited form, but not "bad", "horrid" or "inaccurate". It is quite limited though, and yes, as I explicitly said, is meant as an aid when listening to the piece, not as a way to sight read un-aided.
However, riddle me this batman..............just how many of you can sight-read a piece of music accurately from a sheet anyway ?
I'm sure some can, but it's not a widespread skill and since most of us are playing music we are familiar with, not a necessary one either.

Guitar is a folk instrument by nature, not an "experts only" instrument.

We can argue as to the merits of tab vs standard all day, but I maintain that the one thing you can't arguer wiht, is results, and tab has an acceptance and usage rate amongst guitarists which is so high, it must have something going for it.
Im sorry but the guitar as Folk instrument is simple us a cop out.
Guitar as a campfire Accompaniment is simple yes. But after that it's just as hard as any other instrument if you want to get good.
Some 30 years ago when I was just fine with my first major label album in the US I went to Wayne Charvels place and one of his friends came over. A guy that was "just playing for fun". Went and did a bunch of Chet Atkins stuff on a long scale jazz box.
He handed it to me and I could not even play a friggin bar chord the action was so high.
I met South American and South East Asian kids whose sense of rhythm is just nuts.
 
Messages
5,364
I learned how to read music in standard notation from taking a year of piano lessons in the fourth grade and from playing trumpet and tuba in the marching band. I was mainly taking piano lessons and playing in the marching band because my parents wanted me to do it. But playing guitar was something I really wanted to do and the thing that got me actually interested in music. When I started teaching myself how to play guitar I learned in the same way I learned piano, trumpet, and tuba- from reading method books. Some of my first method books only had standard notation. Though some books I got later had tablature as well as standard notation. When studying the material in those books I was using both standard notation and tablature. But when I started working with bands and after a guitar player showed me major and minor pentatonic patterns I spent a fairly long time not reading much music at all. A lot of the things I learned during that period came from listening to a lot of records, watching other musicians, and playing music on the bandstand. During that time I was mostly playing rock, country, and/or blues.

But about fifteen years ago I reached a plateau. I realized that I was as good as I was ever going to get unless I learned something else. And I realized that the things I thought I needed to learn and what I wanted to learn were some of the things I needed to learn in order to play jazz. The first two jazz guitar books I got- Chords & Progressions For Jazz & Popular Guitar and Patterns Scales & Modes For Jazz Guitar, both by Arnie Berle- did not have tablature. And that was the first time I spent a lot of time reading standard notation without tablature on my instrument. Eventually I got The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine, Patterns For Jazz by Jerry Coker, Jimmy Casale, Gary Campbell, and Jerry Greene, a couple David Baker bebop books, Bebop Bible by Les Wise, Joe Pass Guitar Style, The Jazz Style Of Tal Farlow by Steve Rochinski, and Patterns For Improvisation by Oliver Nelson among others. None of those books had tablature. Although I spent time reading out of all of them as well as studying The Jazz Theory Book it was David Baker's bebop books that were the easiest to read from the beginning. At first I could only read two or three pages at a time, reading through each line until I could play it cleanly, clearly, phrased correctly, and up to speed before moving on to the next example. And each day I would start at the beginning of the book and work as far as I could. One day it just clicked. I started at the beginning and read all the way to the end. For a little while reading that whole book was my daily practice routine. Then I moved on to the second David Baker bebop book and read all the way through that. Once I could read all the way through both David Baker books I was able to read almost every head in the Real Book. I was able to work my way into all of the other books I bought. And I was ready to tackle things like Thesaurus Of Scales And Melodic Patterns by Nicolas Slonimsky.

Also, not long after I got and started studying out of The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine I took two semesters of jazz theory and one semester of jazz composition at a nearby university. Basically I took all the jazz classes I was allowed to take without being a full time student. I was also the only person in those classes who wasn't a full time student. I was at the very top of all the classes. There was no tablature in those classes.

Once I was able to read through both of the David Baker books and was moving on to other books I was able to sight read. Being able to do that opened my musical mind up to a whole new world of experimentation and exploration. One thing that happened is that in order to play a lot of those jazz lines as well as heads in the Real Book and books like 1001 Jazz Licks by Jack Shneidman I had to develop a much lighter touch in both my right and left hands and use more alternating up and down strokes. I also learned to move between positions rather than staying in one position. Those things affected all of my playing. Since I was using a light touch and using more alternating up and down strokes I could play a lot faster. And even when I wasn't playing jazz I would find myself playing things I had never played before. Sometimes reading through one of those books is what I do to warm up before I leave for a gig.

While I was, and still am, studying jazz I started listening to a lot of jazz records and started building my jazz record collection. Before I started studying jazz I didn't really know how to listen to jazz. After spending some time studying jazz I was able to listen to jazz and understand a lot more of what I was hearing. Also, I would hear lines on records that were very similar to the lines I was reading. Another thing that happened that I didn't expect was that I started listening to soul, funk, R&B, soul jazz, free jazz, and hip hop- music I never I thought about before studying jazz. And now I can listen to an R&B record and figure out how to play it because I studied jazz chords and progressions. Before I studied jazz I didn't hear those chords. I also didn't recognize some of the similarities between jazz and hip hop.

Like I typed earlier, studying jazz was the first time I spent a lot of time reading standard notation without tablature on my instrument. Already knowing how to read music in standard notation helped. Just from reading a lot I learned to sight read. And the more I do it the better I get at it. And the better I can sight read the more things I can read. And the more things I learn the more things I can play. I am definitely a much better musician now that I can sight read than I was before I could.
 

Motterpaul

Tone is in the Ears
Messages
13,421
First of all, I can read, and I prefer to read score over tab any day. I am not a fast sight-reader, though, and very few guitar players are. I like to use score to write down song melodies I compose, not guitar parts. Guitarists are usually given a "special dispensation" not to be the best sight readers for two reasons;

1) unless you play guitar it is very hard to write for guitar because of positions and finger stretches. In the classical music days every young composer learned two instruments; piano for composition, and violin so they could learn its playing limitations so they could write for it. Most arrangers today do not try to write out guitar parts when they can just do chords because they don't want the score to be unplayable.

2) reading single note lines, which is what the vast majority of orchestral and band instruments do, is far easier than reading chordal music. Piano music has chords, but it has far fewer finger limitations than a guitar has. ON a guitar it may be impossible to play a chord because it is too small or notes are too close for the hand - something that does not happen on a piano. Most scorers understand they are far better off just using a chord symbol than trying to write in complicated guitar chords.

Now - if you want to learn to read classical guitar that is an entirely different subject (and not one we talk about very often here). It requires finger picking and lots of practice, and usually a nylon string guitar.

Misterturtlehead - congrats on being able to learn to sightread guitar.I think it is notable that all the books you cite were written by guitar players (logically, they would write the most coherent guitar scores). I would like to see you play.
 
Last edited:
Messages
5,364
Misterturtlehead - congrats on being able to learn to sightread guitar.I think it is notable that all the books you cite were written by guitar players (logically, they would write the most coherent guitar scores). I would like to see you play.
Some were written by guitar players. Oliver Nelson, David Baker, Mark Levine, and Nicolas Slonimsky aren't.
 
Messages
5,364
First of all, I can read, and I prefer to read score over tab any day. I am not a fast sight-reader, though, and very few guitar players are. I like to use score to write down song melodies I compose, not guitar parts. Guitarists are usually given a "special dispensation" not to be the best sight readers for two reasons;

1) unless you play guitar it is very hard to write for guitar because of positions and finger stretches. In the classical music days every young composer learned two instruments; piano for composition, and violin so they could learn its playing limitations so they could write for it. Most arrangers today do not try to write out guitar parts when they can just do chords because they don't want the score to be unplayable.

2) reading single note lines, which is what the vast majority of orchestral and band instruments do, is far easier than reading chordal music. Piano music has chords, but it has far fewer finger limitations than a guitar has. ON a guitar it may be impossible to play a chord because it is too small or notes are too close for the hand - something that does not happen on a piano. Most scorers understand they are far better off just using a chord symbol than trying to write in complicated guitar chords.

Now - if you want to learn to read classical guitar that is an entirely different subject (and not one we talk about very often here). It requires finger picking and lots of practice, and usually a nylon string guitar.

Misterturtlehead - congrats on being able to learn to sightread guitar.I think it is notable that all the books you cite were written by guitar players (logically, they would write the most coherent guitar scores). I would like to see you play.
1) The guitar is often a rhythm instrument. Unless there are written out single lines it makes sense to just write chord charts for the rhythm parts.

2) There are voicings that are impossible for guitar. But a guitar can play every chord. Though if I am playing with another chordal instrument I might only play three or four notes at a time. If it is an extended chord I might only play the 3rd, 7th, and extension, and any alterations if there are any. And if the piano is playing the extensions I might only play a 7th chord.

I do most of my reading while I am practicing. Mostly it is horn lines which are single note lines. I can figure out what position I want to play it in based on the lowest and highest notes in a passage. And sometimes when I can I will play a line in a couple different positions.

Every now and then I will come across a piano arrangement of something I want to know. When there are no chord symbols I will write down the notes in the chord and use my chord construction knowledge to figure out what chord it is.

A couple months ago I was working on some neo soul tunes that were very keyboard-based. Some of the tunes didn't have guitar parts. But I wanted to know the tunes anyway. And some of the tunes had guitar parts but the guitar parts were mixed low and hard to hear. I also wasn't very familiar with those kinds of chord progressions. Every now and then when I can't figure out something by ear I might consult online guitar "tabs". And I can use my ears to figure out if the tunes are "tabbed" correctly or not. But many of those neo soul tunes, especially those without distinct guitar parts, don't have "tabs" on the internet. But for several of the tunes there were YouTube keyboard tutorials. To figure out the chords I looked at the notes that the keyboard player played, wrote them down, and rearranged those notes into something I could play on guitar.

One of the biggest reasons I decided to study jazz was so I could figure out things like that.
 

Rezin

Member
Messages
2,206
I have no dog in the fight what any one wants to use. The only reason I'm talking about this is the mistaken belief that standard notation doesn't have position/fingering. Or that there isn't a standardized approach...
Been decades of this...
https://www.dropbox.com/s/723vvuka3ug2i25/2016-03-31 20.14.53.png?dl=0
I think you're somewhat off center on this -- not wrong, but while some standard notation may have guitar position/fingering, and there may be an "accepted" standardized approach, a lot of stuff that sold as guitar music doesn't have position/fingering indications and doesn't use the "standardized" approach. That's just the fact of the matter. Go look at guitar books for popular music, and you'll find that much of it is basically laid down for piano, and there's no guitar position or fingering. You'll also find that fingering notation can vary from one publisher to the next. In that case, tab can be an aid to quickly working out the possibilities. A lot of guitar music now will have a standard notation staff above a six line tab; it's quite easy to pick up the rhythm from the standard notation, and the fingering/position from the tab. Although I learned to read with piano lessons, and can (laboriously) work through guitar music, I can almost read the double-notated stuff in time. It's not actually as difficult as simultaneously reading both hands in piano music. There's really nothing wrong with tab -- it has a history as long as standard notation.

There's also another aspect to reading that we're not actually discussing so much here, and that's that a lot of folk/country/blues/rock/jazz stuff is not actually meant to be played with absolute precision, or absolutely as notated. Standard notation (and the drive to learn and use it) seems to me to encourage a tendency to think anything other than what is notated is "wrong." But you have major musicians in all those fields who rarely play the same song in the same way twice in a row -- they may alter beat, key changes, all kinds of stuff, and go completely wandering off the paper before they come back to it again. If you're in a band, and the key guy does that, you're expected to keep up, not to drive down the line of what is written. For example, I just heard Jackson Browne singing "Take It easy" I have to say that I've never heard a single version of that song done where somebody didn't either lengthen or shorten the bar where the singer hits "Easy."
 

The Captain

Senior Member
Messages
12,790
I have no dog in the fight what any one wants to use. The only reason I'm talking about this is the mistaken belief that standard notation doesn't have position/fingering. Or that there isn't a standardized approach...
Been decades of this...
https://www.dropbox.com/s/723vvuka3ug2i25/2016-03-31 20.14.53.png?dl=0
I've been thinking about this and I've come to the conclusion that it's an ornery and really confusing attempt to discredit tab, but it's not intuitive and it's very difficult to read.

I'm pro-reading, but see no advantage in this obtuse system over having a double staff with tab and standard together, combining for maximum efficient information transfer.
 






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