PDA

View Full Version : Notation vs. Tabs debate



johnson430
10-31-2015, 04:51 AM
I saw a post recently where someone was talking about remembering the tabs for songs and it got me to thinking...

I started out playing ukulele by looking at tabs and not paying attention to the musical notation. After a year of playing, I have started covering up the tabs with tape on a song so that I concern myself with only the true musical notes themselves and not be tempted to look at tabs for help.

For me, using tabs is like reading the the abridged and simplified language version of a Shakespearean play. Sure, you might get the general idea of the major themes and symbolism in the story but you miss the way the man wanted you to experience the story...
all the wonderful word play and rhythmical flow of the dialogue, etc
.
The same can be said of tabs, they "get you through the song" but understanding the notes, their lengths, rests and how these all work together in each measure and how the measures connect to each other give the music it's emotion, power and rhythmical nature.

Furthermore, tabs never helped me to be good at keeping a beat because the numbers on the lines never tell you how long to play them or when a rest comes or anything else about the color of the note and how it flows to the next note; all you get are numbers on lines.

I personally wish I would have taken the time to read music notation first, it is a task in itself; but in the end, I believe the benefits far outweigh the time spent learning to play a song "the right way" using music notation.

Thoughts?



How I am improving my reading of music notation:
A free iPad app called Music Tutor. And lots of practice on my uke. Also, I put Mel Bay's Modern Ukulele Method Grade 1 into my practice book rotation. There are no tabs in the book; although he shows you were the notes are on the fret board at the beginning.

Kayak Jim
10-31-2015, 06:04 AM
I read music notation in high school but most of it is long gone. I prefer it when both notation and tabs are shown, that way I get the notes from the tab and the timing and nuances from the notation.

That said, I've recently joined a group that does some picking interludes from notation. I'm struggling with whether to put in the time to relearn how to read music. I know it's the right thing to do.....

tbeltrans
10-31-2015, 06:11 AM
This subject comes up frequently in guitar forums too. Personally, I think that both TAB and standard notation serve a purpose. If there is a certain fingering needed to get a specific type of sound (i.e. cross-string for a harp-like sound - for ukulele it is called campanella, for example), then it might be easier to notate that in TAB rather than cluttering up standard notation with string/fret numbers. There have been some TAB experiments to try to provide rhythm, but that can get cumbersome.

The problem stems from the fact that the ukulele and guitar are "matrix" instruments, rather than being completely linear as is the piano where a given pitch only occurs once in all 88 keys (i.e. every piano key has a unique pitch, where the same pitch can occur in several places on a guitar or ukulele).

In my personal experience with both guitar and ukulele, rather than being mutually exclusive, why not use both with the advantages each brings to the table? Also, don't ignore the ear. Music is a HEARING art form, and being able to play what we hear is central to fully utilizing one's instrument.

Edit: An added thought...my favorite fingerstyle ukulele album is Daniel Ho's Polani. I have the book and the CD. What I do is figure out a tune on the CD by ear, only checking myself after the fact with the sheet music. In other words, I treat the sheet music as the answers in the back of the book. Being able to HEAR first, and SEE after the fact just seems "right" for me. Others may prefer to be really dependent on having sheet music for everything they play. Many players of other instruments seem to be comfortable with that. However, to me it would be embarrassing if somebody asked if I could play some tune, and I was completely lost if I had not fully memorized somebody else's arrangement of it or had the sheet music on hand. Being able to hum the tune and then work up at least something on the spot would be a really good musical goal - and I am still working on that.

Tony

actadh
10-31-2015, 06:18 AM
I like sheet music that has both - one for reminders and one for nuances.

Kimosabe
10-31-2015, 06:22 AM
I agree with what's been said. Let me add the following:

At a minimum a player should learn to read the melodic line in standard notation. Ohta-San says that you should always begin with the melody. Learn to play the melody and memorize it. If you really want to get even better, transpose it into different keys but learn the melody line. If you're using a simplified version of a song such as the arrangements in the Jim Beloff Daily Ukulele fakebooks, learn to read the melody line before playing the chords. Sing along with the melody and get it down exactly. Then play the chords. You'll be a better musician and you'll see where the melody notes occur in the chords or you can even add the melody note to the chords and discover the subtleties of extended and altered chords.

Curt Shellar has a book that teaches how to read. It is well worth the price. I taught myself in less than two weeks and I have read melody lines for years now. I always start with the melody line when I use a more advanced fake book such as the Real Fakebooks.

The Pekelo books got me on the road to learning how to read chords and double stops in standard notation. I'm not quite there yet but slowly making progress.

I have heard that early lute music was a form of tablature.

actadh
10-31-2015, 08:56 AM
Thanks for the Curt Sheller info, Kimosabe

pritch
10-31-2015, 10:50 AM
In my home there is a copy of the Oxford Companion to Music, tenth edition, of 1974. I was feeling a little guilty because the book was not in the bookshelf where it undoubtedly should have been, but being a weighty tome it had been consigned to duty as a doorstop so that cooling breezes may enter the house in summer. A utilitarian use for such an august publication.

In recent times I had seen TAB referred to on UU as a “cheat” or a “shortcut” and considered both of these charges unjust. My understanding was that TAB is an ancient and honourable form of recording musical detail. Notation shows which note should be played but does not indicate where on the fretboard it should be played and in this it loses in comparison to TAB.

Seeming to recall that TAB was mentioned in The Oxford Companion to Music I thought I'd check what that authoritative work had to say on the subject.

“Tablature systems now linger only on the outskirts of musical art; simple tablature methods of learning easy instruments, limited in scope (eg ukukeles, zithers, ocarinas, mandolines and the like), are often supplied in the small music shops of the poorer neighbourhoods.”

“Tablature then has become the exclusive province of two classes of musician, the learned one who is making a study of the old music for organ, virginals, lute, etc. and the ignorant one who is trying to acquire the ability to draw some sort of a tune out of some sort of an instrument.”

Snobbery much?

That bloody book is back in the doorway. Guilt free.

Picker Jon
10-31-2015, 11:30 AM
and the ignorant one who is trying to acquire the ability to draw some sort of a tune out of some sort of an instrument.

Haha! That's me!

The thing is, I don't play for musicians, I play for people who like hearing me play music. And they really don't care if I read tab or music.

spookelele
10-31-2015, 11:44 AM
Learning from video is way better than learning from tab or from staff. You see the fingerings, and hear the nuances at the same time, so obviously anything else than this way is clearly inferior and everyone that doesn't learn it that way is dumb and crippled.

No not really. But it's what these debates sound like to me most of the time.

Use what works for you. Not everything works for everyone equally well.

Chopped Liver
10-31-2015, 12:04 PM
The way I see it, notation is just another form of tab. Also, do we expect pianists to play from memory?

That being said, I want to learn to play from the notation as well as tab. I read music - I play the piano. But if I can learn where all the notes are on the uke and can play just from notation, then I can pick up any book and play anything I want. If I can only play from tab, then I have to wait for someone to tab the song for me.

kypfer
10-31-2015, 01:16 PM
The way I see it, notation is just another form of tab. Also, do we expect pianists to play from memory?

That being said, I want to learn to play from the notation as well as tab. I read music - I play the piano. But if I can learn where all the notes are on the uke and can play just from notation, then I can pick up any book and play anything I want. If I can only play from tab, then I have to wait for someone to tab the song for me.

Absolutely agree :)

I learnt tab for the ukulele because there was some music, specifically claw-hammer and renaissance music arrangements, that was only available in that format. For the re-entrant ukulele, a well-written tab, that shows when to use a note on the G string, rather than elsewhere on the fretboard, can be a real advantage.

I've subsequently taught myself to read notation for the ukulele as well simply because I've got a hat-full of sheet music that I play on other instruments that I like to try on the ukulele as well.

For me it's not a case of notation vs. tab but notation + tab ... they both have their place :)

acmespaceship
10-31-2015, 01:59 PM
... After a year of playing, I have started covering up the tabs with tape on a song so that I concern myself with only the true musical notes themselves and not be tempted to look at tabs for help...

Working from SMN instead of tab is great; I heartily agree it's useful to be able to read sheet music.

But let's be clear, little black dots on lines are NOT the "true musical notes" any more than tab numbers are. Both SMN and tab are systems for approximating actual music. Let a computer play a score note for note, with exact timing as notated, and it will sound terrible. Classical and jazz musicians struggle mightily to learn how to play the music, not the dots.

The last thing on God's earth an audience cares about is whether you learned a tune by ear, by SMN, or by tab. What's important is to make the music sound like it comes straight from the heart, not off a piece of paper.

Chopped Liver
10-31-2015, 02:13 PM
Working from SMN instead of tab is great; I heartily agree it's useful to be able to read sheet music.

But let's be clear, little black dots on lines are NOT the "true musical notes" any more than tab numbers are. Both SMN and tab are systems for approximating actual music. Let a computer play a score note for note, with exact timing as notated, and it will sound terrible. Classical and jazz musicians struggle mightily to learn how to play the music, not the dots.

The last thing on God's earth an audience cares about is whether you learned a tune by ear, by SMN, or by tab. What's important is to make the music sound like it comes straight from the heart, not off a piece of paper.

Yes! Agreed!

janeray1940
10-31-2015, 02:49 PM
I read both. Sometimes tab is useful for guidelines as to which string to play a note on (especially for campanella playing), but to me, tab is just about useless UNLESS there is also standard notation to indicate timing, rhythm etc.

And since it's been touched on - personally, I don't "memorize" even though I know some material so well it's committed to memory. I'm an instrumental-only player, a lot of classical, and I tend to take on fairly complex stuff. I just don't see the point of the added pressure of memorization. Regardless of the instrument, you just don't see a lot of classical players without sheet music in front of them, at least not at the performances I've attended. If I was a pop or rock entertainer, maybe I'd care about not having music in front of me - but I'm not, so I don't :) I also think it's more important to learn to hear and anticipate the intervals than it is to memorize tab numbers ("uke by number?"), and for me, the visual of sheet music helps reinforce that.

tbeltrans
10-31-2015, 05:23 PM
I have never had a good memory, but I know people who do seem to remember most everything. For me, it seems MUCH easier to retain stuff I learn by ear than from sheet music or TAB. I, like others in this thread, can read music just fine (guitar, piano, ukulele). This is a valuable skill because there is so much good music out there that the more ways we have to take it in, the better. However, for some reason I don't seem to retain what I play from sheet music, but do when figuring it out by ear off recordings. I think it may be possible that we use different parts of our brain for reading/seeing than for listening/hearing.

Anyway, in the end it is all good - the main thing is to make music however we choose to do it.

Tony

Kimosabe
10-31-2015, 05:43 PM
Some thoughts on memorization:

I like to memorize songs because I write songs. I am not a religious person, not an atheist, not an agnostic, just not religious, but a dear friend onece told me that only God creates from nothing. When I memorize a song, I am internalizing it and later that will give me the material to create, to improvise. I am getting my chops.

Inspiration is the divine wind blowing through you. You don't necessarily know where it came from or why but it did. So, you learn your jazz progressions, your ascending and descending chords movements, and it all becomes one big mishmash, one big cosmic potpourri and all of a sudden there is this Big Bang and out pops a song and maybe you'd never have written it if you hadn't internalized the blues, folk progressions, a little bit of Bach, 'Round Midnight, and Take Five. And even if it amounts to nothing, it's more enjoyable for me to memorize a song than for me to do crosswords, but my lovely wife loves crosswords and doesn't play. My thing, and hers.

Tablature and Standard Notation are tools that help me memorize and create.
I never expected Arthur Rubenstein to memorize Chopin's Noctures but his versions are still my desert island discs.

spookelele
10-31-2015, 05:51 PM
I think it may be possible that we use different parts of our brain for reading/seeing than for listening/hearing.

http://www.learningstyles.org/styles/

This is true. The ways our brains ingest information is different for everyone.
Music is aural, but playing is a kinesthetic abstraction that produces a sound.
To write it on paper, is a second layer of abstraction, because you still have to convert that into a kinesthetic to produce an aural result. How to best make that translation depends on the person.

I think in shapes/position
Some people think in staff/graphic
Some people think in word/letter labels, ie A, or chords
Some people think directly to sound
Some people think in muscle memory.

Everyone is different.

I have difficulty with staff on frets. But on keyboard, its very logical

So.. different strokes for different folks.
One way may be better for you. That's great. But not everyone is just like you.

janeray1940
10-31-2015, 06:06 PM
I think it may be possible that we use different parts of our brain for reading/seeing than for listening/hearing.


Oh yes - visual learner/thinker here, with a good dose of kinesthetic learning as well. The standard sit in a classroom, listen to a lecture way of learning has never worked well for me unless there was visual or hands-on component... which has often led me to wonder why I've been drawn to music all of my life, since I'm such a poor listener, but there you go. I do know that I can picture the intervals on the staff a lot more readily than I can identify what I'm hearing, and that much of the time my hands know exactly where the song is going even if my ear and my brain do not.


http://www.learningstyles.org/styles/

I think in shapes/position
Some people think in staff/graphic
Some people think in word/letter labels, ie A, or chords
Some people think directly to sound
Some people think in muscle memory.


This is spot-on, in my experience. I think in pictures, and in muscle memory.

And I love discussions of learning styles - I'm hopeful that someday our educational system will catch on and less of a one-size-fits-all approach will become a reality!

pritch
10-31-2015, 06:49 PM
And since it's been touched on - personally, I don't "memorize" even though I know some material so well it's committed to memory. I'm an instrumental-only player, a lot of classical, and I tend to take on fairly complex stuff. I just don't see the point of the added pressure of memorization. Regardless of the instrument, you just don't see a lot of classical players without sheet music in front of them, at least not at the performances I've attended.

I have a vague recollection, based on nothing whatsoever, that convention dictates that classical soloists playing with an orchestra don't use sheet music; accompanists, however, do. Of course, these things need not trouble us us until we are playing Carnegie Hall with the Berlin Philharmonic, which in my case will not be in this lifetime.

janeray1940
10-31-2015, 07:53 PM
I have a vague recollection, based on nothing whatsoever, that convention dictates that classical soloists playing with an orchestra don't use sheet music; accompanists, however, do. Of course, these things need not trouble us us until we are playing Carnegie Hall with the Berlin Philharmonic, which in my case will not be in this lifetime.

No idea about classical soloists specifically, but there is plenty of sheet music out every time I've seen the LA Phil - image for reference of what I'm talking about (http://wdch10.laphil.com/wdch10/image/383/564/375). The very fact that I will not ever be close to doing anything like that in this lifetime (or hey, probably not even the next) is precisely why I don't let the pressure to memorize trouble me! :)

HUygbjfd
10-31-2015, 11:35 PM
In some ourcase.co.uk (http://www.ourcase.co.uk) degree, both TAB and standard notation casesam.co.uk (http://www.casesam.co.uk) is same.

phil_doleman
11-01-2015, 01:51 AM
I can read music, but tab is invaluable in many circumstances. As mentioned earlier, the high G on the uke if often used to carry the odd note from the melody line (particularly in campanella style). Chords are particularly tricky to read, especially, again, when the high G can throw a spanner in the works (much easier to read a 4 note chord an play it on a linear tuned instrument). What about 3 note chord voicings? Which 3 strings? As a guitarist a well, and one who plays music often in different open tunings, it would be far to complicated to try to read music and then adjust my fingering to suit the tuning I'm using (that would be like mixing all the piano keys up just before a pianist took to the stage!). The same goes for those who tune various instruments to different pitches (for example, I have ukes in Eb, C, Bb, A and G tunings). I could spend hours learning the chord names and notes on the fingerboard on all those ukes, but I have better things to practise!

I arranged some lute pieces for uke a couple of years ago, and learned all about lute tablature. The main reason for tab being used for the lute appears to be that there was no standard pitch for the instrument. It would be tuned up until the tension felt right (I have a copy of a page from a lute tutor book, which states 'tune the first string until it almost breaks!'), or until the piece was in the right key for a vocalist. The low bass strings on many larger ukes were often re-tuned to suit certain pieces, as they were often not fretted but used as open strings only, like the strings on a modern harp guitar. This idea (and the idea of acoustic guitars being tuned to whatever pitch or set of intervals the player felt sounded good, which is often how blues players started off- no-one told the how to do it 'right'!) is much more prevalent in the world of 'folk musics' as opposed to the more rigid world of classical music. The snobbery shown in that quote from the Oxford Companion to Music about the 'ignorant' using tab really just shows the author's narrow view of music, and I pity him/her.

Of course, much classical guitar notation has fingering and position indications written on it. Often this helps, but often it just swamps the reader in information- not too much to read, but often too much to sight read. Personally, I prefer a combination of notation and tablature.

All that said, do learn to read music. To read simple lines isn't hard (even if you never learn to sight read), and it opens up all sorts of written music to you.

wayfarer75
11-01-2015, 03:20 AM
I first learned to play music on piano, and learned to read standard notation then. I moved on to clarinet and saxophone, so I have been playing instruments for a long time where there is only one way to play a specific note (there are minor fingering variations on a woodwind). On the ukulele there are several ways to play any note.

While at first tab was a bit confusing to me, I now find it easier to sight read tab when playing the ukulele. A brand new song is easier to pick up with tab because it tells me exactly which strings I'm going to fret where. Having standard notation alongside tab helps me immensely, as I can more easily understand how the notes are going to sound and what the melody line is. I could also figure out an alternate fingering if I wanted to, which I often do. So I want both.

Down Up Dick
11-01-2015, 03:40 AM
I like sheet music that has both - one for reminders and one for nuances.

I, too, like to use both. Some music books only have tabs, so, I guess, one has to learn to read 'em. :old:

tbeltrans
11-01-2015, 03:58 AM
http://www.learningstyles.org/styles/

This is true. The ways our brains ingest information is different for everyone.
Music is aural, but playing is a kinesthetic abstraction that produces a sound.
To write it on paper, is a second layer of abstraction, because you still have to convert that into a kinesthetic to produce an aural result. How to best make that translation depends on the person.

I think in shapes/position
Some people think in staff/graphic
Some people think in word/letter labels, ie A, or chords
Some people think directly to sound
Some people think in muscle memory.

Everyone is different.

I have difficulty with staff on frets. But on keyboard, its very logical

So.. different strokes for different folks.
One way may be better for you. That's great. But not everyone is just like you.

I have long held a theory that the "bell curve" that has long been used to measure students' abilities in the classroom has less to do with ability and much more to do with how well that particular learning environment matches a given student's learning style. From time to time, I read something that indicates I am not alone in this and that at least some schools are dealing with this issue by providing different means for various students to learn.

However, in an earlier post I did talk a bit about how embarrassing it can be as a musician for somebody to ask us to play some song and we can't because we don't have the sheet music. I am talking about pop type tunes and not some heavy duty classical piece of music here. I don't have a good memory, so for me the way to handle this is to be able to pick out the melody by ear and apply chords to it to come up with something that resembles the requested song. I remember being involved in the Sudnow piano method some years ago and encountering a woman who played concert piano, touring the world. She was incredibly adept at reading anything put in front of her, but she could not play "Happy Birthday" on request. She expressed a real sadness about this, and learned the skill of being able to do so via the Sudnow method. That was an eye-opener. Music is a vast area and there is room for lots of different ways to approach it. I learned from this woman that, even at that level of performance she was at, there are things people whose approach to music as simple as mine, may be able to do some things that some others can't. She was really good at memorizing. By the time she takes a piece of music to the concert stage, it is really memorized and the sheet music is pretty much a prompt (i.e. safety net) in case she has a memory lapse. I could never do what she could, but it was not too difficult for her to learn the skill (not a talent) of picking out tunes by ear, and she did.

Tony



Tony

johnson430
11-01-2015, 04:35 AM
Hi Tony,

I have to deal with this daily. First, I don't use a bell curve and I think(other teachers help me out here) the No Child Left Behind policy has eliminated that type of grading.

I do my best to teach to a variety of learning styles and levels. I give the students an opportunity to have audio files of the works we are reading, I allow the use of technology devices so students can learn more about a topic or find alternate sources of reference for content and we usually watch some video clips, documentaries, movies, music videos or other media to help visual learners as well.

Back on the topic:
I am so happy to have heard from others and how they use tab and SMN as complements.
Perhaps I have been expecting to much of myself in my desire to get better.
I think that I will take the mastering of SMN in smaller steps; I feel like practice has become a bit torturous lately and that makes me not want to practice.




I have long held a theory that the "bell curve" that has long been used to measure students' abilities in the classroom has less to do with ability and much more to do with how well that particular learning environment matches a given student's learning style. From time to time, I read something that indicates I am not alone in this and that at least some schools are dealing with this issue by providing different means for various students to learn.

Tony

PeteyHoudini
11-01-2015, 05:57 AM
I agree with what's been said. Let me add the following:

At a minimum a player should learn to read the melodic line in standard notation. Ohta-San says that you should always begin with the melody. Learn to play the melody and memorize it. If you really want to get even better, transpose it into different keys but learn the melody line. If you're using a simplified version of a song such as the arrangements in the Jim Beloff Daily Ukulele fakebooks, learn to read the melody line before playing the chords. Sing along with the melody and get it down exactly. Then play the chords. You'll be a better musician and you'll see where the melody notes occur in the chords or you can even add the melody note to the chords and discover the subtleties of extended and altered chords.

This is good advice.

I like both. It's nice to see the melody line for creating chord solos. Tab is good for knowing where to finger on certain frets when the arrangements are well done.

Pete

Rllink
11-01-2015, 06:31 AM
In fourth grade, everyone had to learn how to play the tonette. Every Good Boy Does Fine, FACE, and flats and sharps go in between some of them. Actually, that is all I knew when I started playing the ukulele, and while I have gone way past that in my understanding of music, it still serves as my foundation. I like tabs, they are easy. And I memorize a lot of songs too. I memorize the lyrics, the chords, and sometimes the melody, if it serves me. Mostly I memorize so that I can just start playing without a whole lot of rigamarole, but I have gotten a lot of other benefits from it. But I'm in the group that thinks reading both notation and tabs is beneficial. Just like a lot of things, it doesn't have to be one or the other. I've never been one who thought that I could only take one thing from the smorgasbord.

JustinJ
11-01-2015, 06:40 AM
The problem with tabs is seeing the melody. With musical notation, you can see the pitch visually. Also, it's not difficult to learn notation on the uke. Why would this be important? Well, you can pick up a fake book and read the melody. Usually, the melodies are written very simply. If you understand how to make ukulele chords then you can play most music from a a fake book and not even have to read music. You can improvise.

I've learned both tab and notation on the uke. Learning the tabs has slowed me down some. Learning tabs and not notation hinders musical learning in my opinion. It's easier at first but soon reaches its limitation quickly. With notation, you can choose which way you would like to finger. A user who only knows tabs may not even have an idea that a piece can be played differently.


Tabs add another layer of abstraction in my opinion. When you play by notation, you train your brain to associate notes with places on the fretboard.

Another negative with tab is you do not learn the fretboard. When you learn notation, you learn quickly that there are several places to play the same note. Also by becoming familar with the notes on the fretboard, you become a better player. Just putting a number on the line in tab tells you nothing, only where to put your fingers. Maybe a good analogy would be painting by numbers. This is what tab reminds me of. It'll get you the music but at the cost of not understanding.

Tab can be good for learning chords. It has its use but it is limited in my opinion. I've noticed that I learn a piece quicker by notation than tab. Something about converting and finding the notes on the fretboard cements the knowledge in my head.

Tootler
11-01-2015, 09:00 AM
Like many others, I learned the basics of recorder at primary school and along with it the basics of standard notation. I have continued to play recorder on and off since and still play with other recorder players. We play music from the 16th to 20th century in parts using sheet music with a conductor.

As a result I am a reasonably competent sight reader of single line parts both in treble and bass clefs (I mostly play bass recorder in the recorder group).

I also play folk music in a folk band and we play much of our music by ear which means learning the tunes. Nevertheless having the sheet music to hand as a prompt is very useful though we are aiming to try and play without music in front of us for performance.

With ukulele I am a singer with ukulele accompaniment, I am happy with either words with chords or a lead sheet with the basic melody and chords above the notation. I tend to learn melodies by ear then work out how to add the ukulele and place the chord changes.

I don't really play instrumentals on the ukulele so I feel no real need for tab though I will occasionally add a little bit of tab on my lyric/chord sheets for intros.

Overall, I think it's well worth the effort of learning to read standard notation as it is the standard representation of music in written form and is transferable to any instrument. If you are in a band with other instruments, then using standard notation is a most useful means of communication between band members.

If you play fingerstyle instrumentals on the ukulele I can see the value of tab but as it is normally written there is no real indication of note durations and so of rhythm. In renaissance lute tablature, they wrote little "flags" above the tab to indicate note durations so you know what rhythm to play. Modern tab often seems to lack both time signature and indication of note duration which is a major weakness and a reason why it is insufficient on its own and so needs to be supplemented with standard notation above the tab.

PeteyHoudini
11-01-2015, 10:48 AM
With notation, you can choose which way you would like to finger. A user who only knows tabs may not even have an idea that a piece can be played differently.

Tabs add another layer of abstraction in my opinion. When you play by notation, you train your brain to associate notes with places on the fretboard.

Another negative with tab is you do not learn the fretboard. When you learn notation, you learn quickly that there are several places to play the same note. Also by becoming familar with the notes on the fretboard, you become a better player

I totally agree with your comments. "Different places to play the same note" might not be obvious to some players. I've read music most of my life for guitar and later for the piano. I've always known where the notes are on the guitar based on sheet music. I have two ukulele students now and they really want to learn to read the melody line. That is nice to hear!

Pete

Sonic
11-01-2015, 12:43 PM
Thats never wrong to start with formal music notation.
But you can enjoy the ukulele asap with a tab sheet.

Formally you would better get a Grade8 ABRSM music theorey exam before you study any instruments very very seriously. Haha

ricdoug
11-01-2015, 01:07 PM
Chords, TAB, Notation?! Whatever the individual enjoys. 3 chords is the comfort of the majority of 'ukulele players I know and they are happy with that. Ric

spookelele
11-01-2015, 01:13 PM
Chords, TAB, Notation?! Whatever the individual enjoys. 3 chords is the comfort of the majority of 'ukulele players I know and they are happy with that. Ric

No no... you need 4 chords.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOlDewpCfZQ

Katz-in-Boots
11-01-2015, 02:09 PM
I think in shapes/position
Some people think in staff/graphic
Some people think in word/letter labels, ie A, or chords
Some people think directly to sound
Some people think in muscle memory.


I think in pictures, and in muscle memory.

I've played quite a few instruments in my time: piano, violin, viola, bass & tenor recorders, flute, cello, harp and now ukulele and bass ukulele (not all to the same level).

Muscle memory is what I rely on most of all. Only concertos (as far as I know) require the soloist to play from memory without the sheet music in front of them.

What I have found is that once I have played the piece enough to have it "under my fingers", I can read music without actually reading it, it's just there as a prompt somehow. Same with tab on the uke.

There used to be a tv program here called "Spicks & Specks", a music panel/quiz game. One game required a participant to play notes on a little keyboard just by matching the numbers on a sheet to the keys, and for their team to guess the tune. For a while it was meaningless until they 'got it', and suddenly the notes became music.

Playing from tab is like that for me until/unless I know the tune. After that I make my own decisions as to which string & fret to play it on.

A tab program that also included functionality for rests, dotted notes and actual time values would be useful for me.

I can play from notation, but I don't yet know where the notes are on the fretboard as quickly, so I can't sight-read as well..

So yeah, my long-winded vote for "whatever works for you"

Jim Yates
11-01-2015, 04:47 PM
I saw a post recently where someone was talking about remembering the tabs for songs and it got me to thinking...

I started out playing ukulele by looking at tabs and not paying attention to the musical notation. After a year of playing, I have started covering up the tabs with tape on a song so that I concern myself with only the true musical notes themselves and not be tempted to look at tabs for help.

For me, using tabs is like reading the the abridged and simplified language version of a Shakespearean play. Sure, you might get the general idea of the major themes and symbolism in the story but you miss the way the man wanted you to experience the story...
all the wonderful word play and rhythmical flow of the dialogue, etc
.
The same can be said of tabs, they "get you through the song" but understanding the notes, their lengths, rests and how these all work together in each measure and how the measures connect to each other give the music it's emotion, power and rhythmical nature.

Furthermore, tabs never helped me to be good at keeping a beat because the numbers on the lines never tell you how long to play them or when a rest comes or anything else about the color of the note and how it flows to the next note; all you get are numbers on lines.

I personally wish I would have taken the time to read music notation first, it is a task in itself; but in the end, I believe the benefits far outweigh the time spent learning to play a song "the right way" using music notation.

Thoughts?



How I am improving my reading of music notation:
A free iPad app called Music Tutor. And lots of practice on my uke. Also, I put Mel Bay's Modern Ukulele Method Grade 1 into my practice book rotation. There are no tabs in the book; although he shows you were the notes are on the fret board at the beginning.

Tabs, written properly, show timing and rests and dynamics just as well as standard notation. The advent of computers made it more difficult for people to show the timing and rests. . ., so folks got lazy and showed only where to put your fingers and not when to put them there, but poorly written music is just as bad as poorly written tablature.

There are a couple of drawbacks to tablature.
One is that tab is instrument specific. A tab written for ukulele cannot be easily played by a banjo, guitar, mandolin or trumpet player. Standard notation does not have this limitation.
Another is that there are hundreds of books of fiddle tunes and other songs written in standard notation that are not available in instrument specific tabs.

An advantage to tab is that it is much easier to read than standard notation. Students of the ukulele or other fretted instrument can play simple tunes on the first day of reading tab, while standard notation is much harder to learn.
Another advantage to tab, that has been mentioned above in this thread, is that it shows you how to obtain a given note. The same A can be played on an open 1st string, the 5th fret of the 2nd string, the 9th fret of the 3rd string or the 2nd fret of the 4th string. Which one you choose will affect the ease of playing the next or preceding notes in a given passage.

As someone mentioned above, standard notation and tab are both ways of notating music, but they are not music. You can't listen to a sheet of paper. It becomes music when someone plays it.

I have learned songs/tunes from tab, standard notation and from records, videos or watching others and it's nice to have a choice.

Jim Yates
11-01-2015, 04:59 PM
http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r176/james14076/uke20tab_zpsicucykex.jpg

This tab should give accurate timing.

johnson430
11-02-2015, 06:41 AM
http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r176/james14076/uke20tab_zpsicucykex.jpg

This tab should give accurate timing.

Awesome,
I was thinking about doing something like that to some of my tabs in pencil. Maybe even write out the name of the note next to the tab to help me remember.

HBolte
11-02-2015, 01:47 PM
The Beatles did pretty well not reading TAB or notation!

Kayak Jim
11-02-2015, 02:42 PM
Based on comments in this thread and from some friends I've decided I AM going to try and get back to reading standard notation. I remember most of the timing stuff, it's figuring out the notes from EGBDF and FACE that bogs me down. So as a first step I'm penciling in the name of the note below the staff and find I'm able to play at a reasonable speed. I DO know where the notes are on the fret board from practicing scales (well the C scale anyway).

Baby steps but I welcome the challenge and know there's a wealth of material out there in notation.

YMMV

johnson430
11-02-2015, 03:24 PM
Based on comments in this thread and from some friends I've decided I AM going to try and get back to reading standard notation. I remember most of the timing stuff, it's figuring out the notes from EGBDF and FACE that bogs me down. So as a first step I'm penciling in the name of the note below the staff and find I'm able to play at a reasonable speed. I DO know where the notes are on the fret board from practicing scales (well the C scale anyway).

Baby steps but I welcome the challenge and know there's a wealth of material out there in notation.

YMMV

Good luck. I am doing something similar.

Nickie
11-02-2015, 03:49 PM
I only play/learn from tabs. I can't read music, well a little, I sight read music to play my piano. One day I'll figure out how to sight read for the uke.
Play by ear? Forget it, I barely know what chord I'm hearing. No musical ear.
I don't mind, it's still fun.

kypfer
11-02-2015, 08:52 PM
Tabs, written properly, show timing and rests and dynamics just as well as standard notation. The advent of computers made it more difficult for people to show the timing and rests. . ., so folks got lazy and showed only where to put your fingers and not when to put them there, but poorly written music is just as bad as poorly written tablature.

There are a couple of drawbacks to tablature.
One is that tab is instrument specific. A tab written for ukulele cannot be easily played by a banjo, guitar, mandolin or trumpet player. Standard notation does not have this limitation.
Another is that there are hundreds of books of fiddle tunes and other songs written in standard notation that are not available in instrument specific tabs.

An advantage to tab is that it is much easier to read than standard notation. Students of the ukulele or other fretted instrument can play simple tunes on the first day of reading tab, while standard notation is much harder to learn.
Another advantage to tab, that has been mentioned above in this thread, is that it shows you how to obtain a given note. The same A can be played on an open 1st string, the 5th fret of the 2nd string, the 9th fret of the 3rd string or the 2nd fret of the 4th string. Which one you choose will affect the ease of playing the next or preceding notes in a given passage.

I have learned songs/tunes from tab, standard notation and from records, videos or watching others and it's nice to have a choice.

Hear hear!!

Tab as published by Aaron Keim, Jamie Holding, Barry Sholder (and no doubt many others) has all the timing etc. details needed to perform a tune on a ukulele.

Unfortunately there would also appear to be a wealth of "tabbed-out" music available that is little more than a list of finger placements ... fine, if you already are familiar with the tune. The arrangements that show a conventional notation with a row of finger-placements underneath was one of the reasons I learnt to read conventional notation for the ukulele ... I found it easier than trying to read effectively two lines of music, one for the timing and one for the fingering !!

YMMV ;)

kypfer
11-02-2015, 09:21 PM
Based on comments in this thread and from some friends I've decided I AM going to try and get back to reading standard notation. I remember most of the timing stuff, it's figuring out the notes from EGBDF and FACE that bogs me down. So as a first step I'm penciling in the name of the note below the staff and find I'm able to play at a reasonable speed. I DO know where the notes are on the fret board from practicing scales (well the C scale anyway).

Baby steps but I welcome the challenge and know there's a wealth of material out there in notation.

YMMV

GO FOR IT !!
You'll soon realise that there are several fret positions that are almost never used (in the common or "easy" keys), so your "choice of mistake", for want of a better term, becomes limited ... that is to say it becomes easier to find a "right" note than play a totally wrong one ;)

Work up and down the scale slowly, repeating (mentally, if not out loud) the letter of each note as you go, C D E F etc. Unless you're really unlucky, after a short while, you'll "see" the note names on the fingerboard and your fingers will be able to find them fairly automatically.

Next, find a piece of easy music in C (no sharps or flats), and read each note out loud, try to let your fretting hand find the notes, without looking if possible.

All of a sudden ... you can read music :)

From here on in, it's just practice. Lot's of different easy tunes initially, don't get bogged down repeating the same melody over and over, especially if you keep making the same mistake. Step back, try something different and come back to it later ... next day, next week, whatever, otherwise you effectively risk learning to play mistakes !

Once you're basically happy with the C scale, (which is also used in A minor) find F# (instead of F) and you're in G (or E minor) ... a few days later, find C#, add that to your F# and you've got the key of D. Bb (B flat), instead of B, is used in the key of F ... all of a sudden you've a wealth of repertoire available to you and all you've had to learn is the basic eight notes of the C major scale and three other semi-tones ;)

Tootler
11-03-2015, 05:41 AM
The arrangements that show a conventional notation with a row of finger-placements underneath was one of the reasons I learnt to read conventional notation for the ukulele ... I found it easier than trying to read effectively two lines of music, one for the timing and one for the fingering !!


This is basically the reason why I haven't really bothered with Tab for the ukulele. Add to that, my main interest is in accompanying my singing and I am happy either strumming or finger picking a chordal accompaniment so it's not really worth the effort for me.

As I said earlier, I could already read conventional notation long before I took up the ukulele and for instrumental playing I mostly go to my other instruments.

As others have said, most ukulele tab is pretty inadequate unless you already know the tune. I appreciate there are a few who do it properly but most don't.

Here's a link (http://musiciansinordinary.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/heres-part-two-of-our-talk-on-lute.html) to an article on 16th century lute tab which explains some of the principles of tab of that period. Principles which apply today although some of the details are different. There are plenty pictures of lute tab from the period and you can see the flags above the tab which were used to indicate note durations. Some of the examples also show the basic melody in music notation of the period above the tab but that was there for the singer so only includes a melody line. The lute tablature will give the harmonies as well.

sopher
11-08-2015, 05:05 AM
Before we get too far into the 'I read chicken scratching brand X so I'm more musical' debate, let me remind you that neither tab or notation is music - hold either of them up to your ear and let me know what you hear. A few points:

1. I have some notation which is hand written and which is illegible. Therefore, notation does not provide either rhythm or pitch information, right? You can't take the worst tab available and say tab doesn't provide rhythm info any more than you can use the worst notation available to say what it can do - stop saying that guys, it makes you look dumb. Modern tab is the standard by which tab should be judged. Guys scribbling out numbers and dashes in a text message is not tab, any more than my illegible score is notation.

2. I think notation and tab actually fill different niches. Notation is for people who want to and/or can make their own arrangements, possibly on the fly. Tab is a way to record an arrangement, including fingerings. I have been doing quite a few arrangements lately, everything from converting guitar-flute duets to be uke-flute duets to converting uke stuff for my re-entrant baritone uke. A good example is the guitar-flute duets. These have fingerpicking accompaniment on the guitar - I started off just reading the guitar part and ad-libbing when they went lower than my uke. But eventually, I wanted to work out in detail an alternate part especially for uke and this includes consideration of fingering. So, I made a tab of my final arrangement and that is what I use to play it. Similarly, I have edited numerous uke tabs I have found online to better suit my style. So, IMHO, tab is useful to capture an arrangement, including fingering, in a more defined way than notation.

3. Because of the "Arrangement" concept in tab, I believe tab is better suited for beginners than notation. It resolves the fingering questions and allows them to concentrate on execution.

4. I have worked with more sophisticated tools like Finale, but I find Guitar Pro is a pretty straightforward method to create useful tabs, so that is a pretty accessible tool. Maybe you guys know of a free tool that is good - my point is that there is no reason to have tabs which are numbers and dashes in a text message.

5. So, can't we all just get along. The MOST musical people are those who don't use notation or tab - they just pick up an instrument and create new original music, or maybe they just can play anything they have heard. Fluency in any brand of chicken scratches is definitely a secondary or tertiary component of musicianship outside of the classical genre.

As always, your mileage may vary and you well may disagree.

Kayak Jim
11-08-2015, 06:17 AM
You make some very good points sopher.

JustinJ
11-08-2015, 06:41 AM
Sopher,

I'll have to disagree with your point 5.

Did you ever hear of the Wrecking Crew? There is an interesting documentary on them. Anyway, they were a group of studio musicians who played on many of the bands records through the 50-80s . They were all proficient at reading music. They could play any style of music.

I believe tabs are harder to read than music notation especially with practice. A tab does not tell you the note so your brain does not associate the number with a note. You only know where to place your fingers. It's like painting by numbers. For example, I see the note C on music notation. I play a C on my instrument. I register in my mind a C note sound.

When I first started learning ukulele, I played a bunch of tabs off the internet. I learned to read tab but it's slower.

Now, I'm playing classical and electric guitar for the last two months. I've only played guitar by musical notation. I've made great strides in my playing. I could not imagine looking at a tab with 6 lines on it and trying to play it.


Musical: I supplement my music reading with the studying of progressions. I plays chords especially when working on Jazz guitar. I use a book by Mickey Baker. It's an excellent book. The hearing of chords and progressions will train your ear. This is something musical notation will not do. Also, transposing songs in different keys trains your ear to hear the notes.


* I agree with your point about musical notation not making you musical. Musical notation has it's purpose because you learn to associate note names with sounds. Tab allows you to show a fingerstyle piece. It's gets a person playing quicker but I think hinders growth later. A person can not pick up a fake book and play a simple melody if they learned tab.

I've always thought Jazz players had a good grasp of music. If you want to play well, you have to learn the instrument. Of course you can learn to play by ear. But most people do not learn this way. That is why learning the progressions and how chords are built will get you up and running much quicker. If you want to learn how chords are built then you need to know the notes on your instrument. Musical notation will help you learn the notes on your instrument.

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
11-08-2015, 07:30 AM
Lots of interesting thoughts in this thread. Thanks to all, for sharing ideas.

Personally, notation has helped me much more than TAB to develop my understanding of relationships between notes, and relationships among notes in chords. Knowing where to put my fingers---I played bass and guitar for twenty years without ever using notation or tab---helped me get started understanding those relationships, but learning to read musical notation---as a ukulele player curious about Hawaiian music and the box of old song sheets at the thrift store---has given me a much deeper understanding. This has helped me become a better improviser. I've also become much better at hearing notes and relationships by ear---and I'd kind of reached a plateau with that before learning to read music.

sopher
11-08-2015, 08:05 AM
Justin,

It's interesting that you cite studio musicians. Yes they can read and play anything you hand them. But, they are the embodiment of my #5 - you could say to them - we need a hot guitar solo here, or we need a steamy sax piece here and they could just make it up to fit your song. Many or most of the "hooks" that they add to a song they make up on the spot, they aren't necessarily "reading" their best work off a piece of paper.

FYI, I played guitar for a few decades and if you think you couldn't read a tab with 6 lines, you must be kidding. BTW, I consider that guitar playing IS fingering, and only secondarily related to notes. If the singer needs to take it up a whole step, I just take it up 2 frets and carry on. If I am playing "notes" then I have to do a complicated transposition in my head - not a good idea - a person who can't read tab or notes can be a pretty good guitar player - like Carlos Santana

Down Up Dick
11-08-2015, 08:17 AM
Funny, all this talk about tabs vs. music. There was another big thread about it a while back, and probably more before that. I decided a few years back to learn to play my instruments by ear, and I've made a lot of progress with my flutes and, before that, with my mouth harps.

I guess I wanted to be like Kung-fu. Remember he usta stop his travels, find a comfortable rock to lean against and play his heart out until the next adventure.

I'd really like to do that with my Ukes and banjo, but I can't seem to connect the tune in my mind to the frets and strings. It really takes me many, many repetitions before I finally memorize a tune, and then I have to start over for the words.

I really like both tabs AND staff notation, but my eyes don't seem to wanna keep track of the tabs and the music and the words any more. I usta could fingerpick from notation, but I couldn't always find music what I wanted, so I learned (more or less) tabs. And, now, I guess tabs are more useful to me on stringed instruments. Banjo books say to learn the tune with tabs, but drop 'em as soon as possible, and that's what I mostly do.

Have a good time and learn everything you need before you grow old. :old:

sopher
11-08-2015, 08:50 AM
Funny, all this talk about tabs vs. music. There was another big thread about it a while back, and probably more before that. I decided a few years back to learn to play my instruments by ear, and I've made a lot of progress with my flutes and, before that, with my mouth harps.

I guess I wanted to be like Kung-fu. Remember he usta stop his travels, find a comfortable rock to lean against and play his heart out until the next adventure.

I'd really like to do that with my Ukes and banjo, but I can't seem to connect the tune in my mind to the frets and strings. It really takes me many, many repetitions before I finally memorize a tune, and then I have to start over for the words.

I really like both tabs AND staff notation, but my eyes don't seem to wanna keep track of the tabs and the music and the words any more. I usta could fingerpick from notation, but I couldn't always find music what I wanted, so I learned (more or less) tabs. And, now, I guess tabs are more useful to me on stringed instruments. Banjo books say to learn the tune with tabs, but drop 'em as soon as possible, and that's what I mostly do.

Have a good time and learn everything you need before you grow old. :old:

Dick,

I think playing by ear and improvising are the purest forms of music. Some people play because it will impress girls, or because they need a hobby, but real musicians play because they need to express a sound. It may be a sound they heard being made by others and they were so profoundly moved by it that they need to try to reproduce that. Or it may be their own unique sound that they need to express. The ultimate musician sees his instrument, not as tab or notes, but as sounds. He has a sound he desires to make and he knows just how to manipulate the instrument to produce that. At that point tab and notation (and this thread) become irrelevant and only the feel and taste of the performer is important. On the path to this ultimate, it is important to remember that this is the goal and work towards it. The ultimate musician is not a computer (which can perform any paper, tab or notation, given to it), rather it is a complex and tasteful individual who has a unique sound that he is willing to share with his listeners.

sopher
11-08-2015, 03:40 PM
I just TABs or notation or ABC because then I have no need to spend precious recreation time remembering the tune. It is neatly written out in front of me and I can get on with playing it. If i do that over several years, i get to know the tune well. if you are going to be playing your uke every day for the next 20 years, there is no need to rush.
I don't think improvising and playing by ear are the only pure forms of music. Music is organised sound that pleases the ear of the target listener. The written formats are just memory aides, to help organise the sounds. Any kind of music can be pure, whether you use a memory aide or not.
If you can make better use of your playing time by learning how to use a memory aide, you should consider doing it because time is precious.
Obviously, if you aspire to playing regularly in a genre where part of the fun is playing without memory aides, you will need to remember the music, but that part of the activity is just specific to that particular genre, it is not a universal requirement. But I suspect you are going to need a memory aide initially to learn the tune.

Bill,

There was a time, decades ago, when I could memorize and retain songs easily and I did play out in a band and that was pretty much required. Now, 40 years later, I have great difficulty memorizing or retaining songs, so I also lean quite heavily on the use of printed memory aids. I keep a notebook of songs instead of a head full of songs. No shame in that - the biggest frustration is some more complicated pieces are very difficult without watching the fretboard for jumps and stretches, but I'm just grateful that I have discovered the uke at this late date.

johnson430
11-08-2015, 05:23 PM
At that point tab and notation (and this thread) become irrelevant and only the feel and taste of the performer is important.

Sopher,

Your comment is bad netiquette.
Please refrain from stating a thread is irrelevant, especially when you start to hi-jack said thread.
Kindly,
The OP (wags finger disappointingly)

ps: Many posts in this thread state that this was a good topic and they learned something from it ergo the thread is relevant.

HBolte
11-09-2015, 02:29 AM
Sopher,

Your comment is bad netiquette.
Please refrain from stating a thread is irrelevant, especially when you start to hi-jack said thread.
Kindly,
The OP (wags finger disappointingly)

ps: Many posts in this thread state that this was a good topic and they learned something from it ergo the thread is relevant.

I agree with sopher...

sopher
11-09-2015, 04:00 AM
Sopher,

Your comment is bad netiquette.
Please refrain from stating a thread is irrelevant, especially when you start to hi-jack said thread.
Kindly,
The OP (wags finger disappointingly)

ps: Many posts in this thread state that this was a good topic and they learned something from it ergo the thread is relevant.


Dear Op,

I'm sorry if my meaning wasn't clear from my statements. I meant to state a sort of zen ideal, where the musician can play anything they can conceive, including playing anything they have heard and/or any unique sounds that they can conceive. For such an idealized musician, notation of any kind would be unnecessary. I will never reach such a state and very few will ever. So I was not saying that the thread is irrelevant to me or to the other readers or participants, I was just trying to discriminate between the music and the documentation. As I stated earlier, I very much rely upon the printed sheets as my memory is definitely not improving with age.

Sorry if I stated it in a way which was unclear.

JustinJ
11-09-2015, 04:11 AM
Sopher,



A lot of times it those who do not have the musical chops that criticize and talk about how professional musicians are not true artists. It sounds like "sour grapes" or just plain jealousy. Let's be honest here. The professional musicians are good enough to make a living from their art. While those that usually criticize hack away on their instruments and do their 9 to 5 at their job.



1. There are those who can learn to play by ear. I would say it's very few professional musicians who learn to play by ear. I've known a lot of musicians, not just amateurs but professionals who made their living at music. All of them had to study their instrument and learn how to read music notation, firm grasp of chords and music structure. Most of them now could learn a song by ear because they understand music.


2 On the guitar and ukulele as I'm sure you know there are closed chords. When we transpose a piece, often times we only have to move the chord shape down or up the neck. There is not a lot of thinking and it starts to happen automatically.

3. Reading standard notation opens up a world of music. If you only read tabs then you have to depend on others. I'm sure you've seen people ask if someone has it in tabs. If you can read standard notation then you can learn from any piece of music.

4 I explained that reading standard notation will not make someone musical. I said that it helps you learn your instrument and where the notes are located. As stated in point 3, it also allows you to pick up any musical sheet music and learn a song.

5. The notes on an instrument are the ABCs of the language of music. You use these notes to place chords shapes and melody notes on top of the chords. Tableture serves no other purpose then to transcribe music notation. A number 1 is only a placement for your finger. Unlike a note C in notation which describes a tone and also how it may fit in a chord shape.

* Example ukulele: If I play a C on a ukulele. I have a choice of where I want to play it. I can have the C note lower, middle or higher up in tone. This changes the sound of a song. I know where the C notes are on the ukulele and understand what chord I can play on that fret. Tableture only tells me one place to play. That's someone's interpretation. If you want to be an artist as you say then you have a choice.

6. If you want to practice musicality, then take a chord progression and see how you can take a few chords and play them differently with different rhythms and timing.

7. Most people need the building blocks of music ( chord structures, musical notes on the instruments, chord progressions, and an understanding of music keys ) to be able to play by ear and also to master and have creativity in your music.


You're trying to shortcut the work. You have this idea that the music will just come magically. It takes work and time, even learning by ear. It really does not matter how long someone has played. You can play bad for twenty years.

* I do not have a problem with someone strumming their 3 chords or just reading tableture. That's their choice but it's leaves you with limited options. I think most people desire to play an instrument well. Maybe that's why we see so many people quitting their instrument. They're unhappy with their progress.

It's a disservice to tell people who want to learn their instrument well enough to play anything that there's no need to learn the notes on your instrument, read music notation, or study music theory.

If you understand how to make a chord and how it sounds, then when you hear it, you can play it. But you need the work of making the chord and knowing where to find it on your instrument.

wayfarer75
11-09-2015, 04:56 AM
Dick,

I think playing by ear and improvising are the purest forms of music. Some people play because it will impress girls, or because they need a hobby, but real musicians play because they need to express a sound. It may be a sound they heard being made by others and they were so profoundly moved by it that they need to try to reproduce that. Or it may be their own unique sound that they need to express. The ultimate musician sees his instrument, not as tab or notes, but as sounds. He has a sound he desires to make and he knows just how to manipulate the instrument to produce that. At that point tab and notation (and this thread) become irrelevant and only the feel and taste of the performer is important. On the path to this ultimate, it is important to remember that this is the goal and work towards it. The ultimate musician is not a computer (which can perform any paper, tab or notation, given to it), rather it is a complex and tasteful individual who has a unique sound that he is willing to share with his listeners.

I agree. A musician will find a way to learn whatever he/she needs to learn, whether that's with serious musical study or just playing in a band. Maybe they know chords on guitar or piano (here's F and there's another F and another F over here), maybe they just play the instrument by ear, maybe they know a lot of complicated musical theory. Musicians are as varied as the music they play. No one method of learning would suit everyone, nor should it. If a musician wants to learn to read notation, the information is out there to do it.

pluck
11-09-2015, 06:31 AM
I just found this thread and haven't read the whole thing so please forgive me if that has already been covered: I think if you are going to use TAB then you should try to get to the point where you can quickly name all the notes on the fretboard (and on the tab). Knowing the notes you are playing is what keeps TABs from being a "paint by numbers" type exercise.

acmespaceship
11-09-2015, 06:50 AM
It's funny how the whole tab/notation/ear debate changes depending on the people you're talking to and the instruments they play. Among recorder players, I am an ignoramus because I am terrible at playing from sheet music. I play by ear, but that is amateurish and has no value at all in a consort that always plays from paper. OTOH, among mountain dulcimer players, whenever I suggest that somebody work out a tune by ear, I get accused of being an elitist because I have that rare ability, which is highly prized, but I shouldn't rub it in for the poor souls who can't do it.

Thus, the same skill set makes me a useless idiot in one group of musicians, and an elitist show-off in another. I like to keep this in mind. It's a reality check every time I start to think one technique might be "better" than another.

I do think this is an interesting thread. However, it's good to remember this is a discussion of "what works for me" and not an opportunity to let our egos argue that "my way" is the best. Your way is not the best for everybody. Really, it isn't. Let it go and be happy that every musician has unique goals, unique skills, and a unique brain to work with.

JustinJ
11-09-2015, 08:46 AM
I think it's good to work something out by ear. It's also good to hear how your notes sound depending on how you fret the note and play the string. People who play by ear are organizing the sounds. Most people need to understand the categories and structure. Then they will see how music is put together.


Playing by ear can be taught to someone. If you understand chord progressions, then this often takes a lot of guess work out of it. If you truly listen to your instrument paying attention to the sound, then it will be easier.

In simple terms, I'm stating that learning the notes on the instrument, progressions, and melodies will allow someone the ability to play by ear.

I was reading an interesting article on Jazz guitar. It would work just as well on ukulele. The person was arguing for the playing of melodies instead of scales. I may pursue this further. It would make for interesting practice. You could pick multiple songs out in a key and practice different melodies built around that key. I'm just talking about playing the simple melody not with chord. Something you would see on a lead sheet.

* I think tableture has one positive. It's easier in the beginning to pick up than standard notation. But later on, the standard notation is easier to read from.


If you want to learn ukulele by ear, check out this site http://www.playukulelebyear.com . This will give you an idea what you need to do to play by ear. You will still have to learn music theory, notes on your instrument, and chords. I've not gone through this program but it comes recommended by many. I think he is also a member on here.

johnson430
11-09-2015, 10:52 AM
Dear Op,

I'm sorry if my meaning wasn't clear from my statements. I meant to state a sort of zen ideal, where the musician can play anything they can conceive, including playing anything they have heard and/or any unique sounds that they can conceive. For such an idealized musician, notation of any kind would be unnecessary. I will never reach such a state and very few will ever. So I was not saying that the thread is irrelevant to me or to the other readers or participants, I was just trying to discriminate between the music and the documentation. As I stated earlier, I very much rely upon the printed sheets as my memory is definitely not improving with age.

Sorry if I stated it in a way which was unclear.


I understand your angle now.
Thanks for clarifying.