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Tabaholics Anonymous

Scott Olson (60) · [archive]
Style: Theory/Reference · Level: Beginner · Tempo: 120
Pages: 1

The Dangers of Tablature Dependence/Tabaholics Anonymous


In the past 20 years, guitar publications have strayed from a primarily standard musical notation format to a tablature format.
(for probably the few of you who do not already know)Tablature is a method of notation which does not require the user to actually know what notes he or she is playing. It simply indicates at which frets notes are to be placed. I am not a great sight reader on guitar (which is the usual case amongst guitar players), however, I did teach myself to play by ear and by note.
Tablature is one of many learning methods, or "open doors" as I call them, but I would like you to ponder what I feel are some potentially limiting and perhaps some crippling results of tablature dependence.
  • Tab can keep a person from learning by ear I have taught literally hundreds of people how to play guitar. I have seen countless cases of kids and adults who would never venture in to learning a song by ear, because they could find it in tab. In my opinion, this is a form of laziness which hinders a person from developing an original style, as well as developing a "good ear." I have an analogy for "tabaholics." They are like the student who steals the answers to a test then memorize the answers. The student gets a good grade on the test, but is left with no understanding or greater insight pertaining to what they just "regurgitated."
  • Tab can limit knowledge of the fret board Tab shows the guitarist one way of playing something. If the same thing is learned by ear, the musician will very likely discover several ways to play the very same thing. Likewise, if the musician learns the same thing by note, they will also discover different ways of playing the same idea, and will ponder different choices of fingering that would have been dictated to them by the person who did the tab transcription.
  • Tab can hinder one's knowledge of music theory
    Music theory involves a basic relationship of notes letter names by numbers. Since tab does not deal with thes relationships, it does not reinforce, nor make known, the relationships that would be helpful to a person to theoretically be able to describe to themselves or to others, what it is about a certain lick thyat is so appealing. For example, "I really like how the flat five (Eb) sounds over the A7 chord. When you know the relationship of a sound to a situation, it can then be transferred to a different key(transposition). The tabaholic is not going to be as likely to make those comparisons and discoveries. OK Guitarists, are you ready to get mad at me?

    Guitarists are typically among the most musically illiterate musicians I have ever encountered!


    In part, I blame this on Tab. Tab is a quick fix but a long term hinderance. So few guitarists can read music that it is pitiful. If you are teaching yourself to play, teach your self to read music, and to play by ear. It aint rocket science dude! (or dudettes) If you can count to 13 and say the alphabet from A to G, you can learn the basics of music. If you are taking lessons from a teacher who does not teach note reading and the concept of playing by ear, get a new teacher.