Guitar tabs (short for "tablature") are a mixed blessing for guitarists. The visual representation of the fretboard makes tablature relatively easy to learn, assuming one is already familiar with the tune one wishes to learn. Since guitarists tend to think in terms of strings and fret numbers, learning tab is usually pretty easy for most players.
Some players can be kind of snobs about tab compared to standard notation. Believe it or not, though, tablature is actually older than musical notation. However, even though tablature actually predates standard notation, it still has far
more inherent limitations. Traditionally, tab lacks rhythmic notation
(although some publishers do incorporate rhythmic notation with
tablature). Also, with standard notation, you are free to choose the fingering that best works for you. Guitar tablature in that sense can be too limiting.
Perhaps the best strategy for notating the guitar is what many
professional transcriptions offer, which places standard notation on top
of tablature so one can easily see both the rhythmic values as well as
the proper positioning that tablature offers. Since both traditional
notation and tablature have their own strengths and weaknesses, this
approach is considered by many teachers and students to be the best strategy. However, it is worth noting that tablature accompanied by rhythmic notation can be a bit messy too. It also requires that someone know how to read standard notation rhythmic values, which means they can probably already read standard notation completely.
blessing regarding guitar tab is its ease of availability. Despite
the copyright implications, tabs are widely available and distributed
online. While this availability might seem like a good thing, there are
problems. For starters, many tabs are simply inaccurate, having been
transcribed by players with limited experience in notation or playing
their instrument. Just because a piece of tablature is widely available
does not mean that it is accurate.
Although free tabs
distributed online are "priced right," if someone wishes to have an
accurate transcription of a tune or album, the best course of action is
to purchase professional transcriptions. Today, such transcriptions are
widely available in either print or digital format. Complete, accurate
transcribing is challenging work and if someone wants the most accurate
transcriptions available, then paying for a professional product is
worth it in the end. There are even professional guitarists and
educators who will transcribe on demand for a fee.
true that even many professionally transcribed works can be illegally
downloaded online, it's important to keep in mind that such "borrowing"
is really nothing more than theft, since it robs both the original
artist and the transcriptionist of payment for their services.
Finally, while tabs can be very helpful, especially for difficult tunes, it's always good to try to learn songs on your own as much as you can. Tabs should only be used as a shortcut or as an aid when a tune proves too difficult.
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