Guitar tabs have been an easy tool for many guitarists to learn music. In fact, I use them as a classical guitarist. But should a beginner use tabs to learn how to play guitar?
Guitar tabs are a decent way to learn new music for beginners as well veteran players. It is an easy tool for people that don’t know how to read traditional notation. An excellent resource to share music by many musicians, even in the classical guitar business.
Why do people use Guitar Tabs?
People use tabs because it is an easier way to learn music on the guitar. For example, I learned to play guitar more than 20 years ago with tabs. Today I am enjoying a master’s degree in classical guitar. Why do I mention the master’s degree? Well, just to let you know that what matters is that you enjoy playing the instrument. Later you are going to know if you need to learn to read notation and who knows where you are going to end up. Also, why do we need to worry about what people think if we are cheating or not?
What makes the reading tab easy is the method established, which consists of numbers played in a sequence in six lines. The six lines mean the number of the strings. And if you have two or more numbers on top of each, that would mean that you play them together. Another thing in this process of learning a song is to listen to the music because probably the tab you are using doesn’t have rhythms. It helps if you know the music from memory. I remember learning many intros from songs like “Californication” from Red Hot Chilli Pepper and “Kryptonite” from Three Door Downs, and I would play them in the school. And there was nothing better than seeing the fascination of people after playing the intros. All that thanks to the tabs.
What are the differences between tabs and traditional notation?
The main difference is that you don’t have the notation that tells you what rhythms you are supposed to play the music. not having the musical symbols doesn’t help to read tabs if you don’t know the music well or not at all. That’s why I mentioned before about listening to the music while learning. For me, there was no other way. Also, it was a quick way that I found on the internet to learn the music I love.
European notation is a universal language used worldwide. And any trained music could play a musical notation, and you could play the music without never heard the song before. On the contrary, with tabs, that is not the case. You have the notes with numbers, but where are the musical symbols that tell you the rhythms? Lute music had tablature(tabs) during Renaissance and Baroque periods, and they would have music references in the tablature that would help with the rhythms. Guess what? That’s how that music from those periods survived, and many people can play that music today. I had the opportunity to be at a renaissance festival in Madison, Wisconsin, and I learned to play some lute and theorbo tablature. It was a great experience to know that tabs were used even before the guitar was created.
Like everything, there are Pros and Cons. And in this case, it is worth mentioning them.
Pros of using guitar tabs
-You don’t need to read music to learn a song
-Tabs are easy to follow with music or if you know the song.
-There are many free pages with thousands of songs
-You can create tabs very easily
-You can learn the music by yourself
-Tabs are easy to adapt if you have another tuning
Cons of using guitar tabs
-You don’t have a sense of rhythms if you don’t know the music
-You cant share your music ideas with musicians with other instruments
-You may limit yourself to understand more about your instrument
-You don’t know the name of the notes
-You don’t know what fingers you are supposed to use
Are guitar tabs good for you?
Guitar tabs are definitely good for you. Many people learn to play guitar by themself with tabs, and that is really amazing. You become autodidactic, and that is an excellent thing to achieve. Also, your confidence is going to skyrocket. I’m telling you all this because it was my experience. It was so motivating to learn new music and the best things to find a method that worked. Of course, I didn’t understand many things, but something was coming out thanks to those tabs. But again, many times, my music was mainly on tabs, and other people could not read my music. And probably there are millions of people that are still using tabs to share their music that way. In the end, if it works, I guess it is all fine—no shame about it.
But something that made me grow as a musician, not just on classical guitar but also on popular music(yes, metal music), was that I learned what 3rd and 5th were. Also, how to do scales and what notes I was plying. In fact, I had the opportunity to create a metal band with three other classical guitarists and make so many harmonies that it helped us become unique. We enjoyed that so much, and of course, life happened. But we were able to communicate with the musical language, which is the traditional notation.
Today many tabs have evolved, and it has added music symbols to the tab, which helps with the rhythms. That’s a good thing for people that know some notation and still play classical guitar. I had students that learned the music with that type of tabs and learned the music, which helped with the enjoyment of the instrument. In the end, what I have to say is, choose your way to learn to play the guitar. If you decide to study music, then there is a probability you are going to learn notation. Otherwise, enjoy music. That should be your way.