Tab Reliance Sabotages Knowledge!
Updated: Oct 7
Have you wondered why you seem to be stuck when it comes to progressing on the guitar? Have you ever wondered,
"For as long as I've been playing I should be better!"
There could be many reasons why you've hit a wall, but one reason that I see often is an over-reliance on guitar tablature.
While I'm not categorically against using tab in certain circumstances, let me be clear;
RELIANCE ON TAB SABOTAGES YOUR PROGRESS!
The operative word here is, "reliance."
If you are relying on tab to learn stuff; tunes, scales, licks, etc. then you are playing by rote, like a trained monkey.
And what do you actually know? Whatever you've learned by rote, like a trained monkey. Tab will tell you what string/fret to play BUT;
It doesn't tell you what that note name is.
It doesn't tell you what scale that note is derived from.
It doesn't tell you what key you're in.
It doesn't give you any codified or organized musical information
It doesn't answer any "why?" -type questions.
Have you thought that at some point you need to learn the note names on the neck, but that point never seems to come because the task seems so overwhelming? So you continue to lean on tab to learn the songs, scales, licks etc. that you want to learn - which reinforces your procrastination of buckling down to the task.
A task which, by the way, doesn't have to be so overwhelming that you have to "buckle down" to get it done. More on that in a minute.
There are two main reasons that I direct my students away from the use of tab:
Guitar Tab doesn’t exist in the real world. I’ve played thousands and thousands of gigs, thousands and thousands of recording sessions, and spent years studying the guitar on a very advanced level. Do you want to know how many times I’ve had a producer or band leader put a tab chart in front of me? ZERO! Guitar Tab only exists in the guitar sub-culture, which is very inbred. Guitarists listen only to other guitarists, they hang out and talk shop with other guitarists, they read a plethora of magazines dedicated to the guitar, they frequent websites, message boards, and forums that are guitar-specific, and have developed their own written language (Guitar Tab) that only other guitarists understand, thereby cutting themselves off from the whole world of music and musicians. They are unable to communicate intelligently about musical content with other musicians who aren’t guitar players. Thus, to use tab as a teaching tool is a disservice to my students, leaving them unprepared if they opt to do more than just playing guitar for themselves.
Guitar Tab does not reinforce knowledge of the instrument; it sabotages it. I deal with students all the time that can play the latest big deal from the latest guitar god that they learned from a tab chart posted on m-f-inglyawesomeguitartabs.com, which, by the way, is probably inaccurate. They think they know something but they don’t know where E-flat is on the 3rd string. THEY DON’T KNOW THE NECK! If you don’t know the neck, whatever it is that you’re playing, no matter how good, accurate or authentic it sounds, you are playing by rote. You don’t know what you’re doing.
Unfortunately, in pursuit of the almighty dollar, Guitar Tablature has become institutionalized.
Years ago, in pursuit of a publishing deal for my guitar method, Vertical Truth: Chordal Mechanisms for the Guitar, I was informed that no major publisher would publish my book unless it was tabbed out. In doing this the industry is reinforcing the ignorance of guitarists and guitar playing that permeates the current environment.
To tab out my method would gut THE main purpose of it; understanding music and knowing the fretboard. So I walked away from any kind of publishing deal and decided to do it on my own.
Please note that I have said nothing about reading music; I am not making an either/or argument for reading music and against tab. The argument is that use of tab sabotages knowledge of the neck - whether you can read or not.
There are plenty of examples of brilliant, ground-breaking guitarists who can't read; that doesn't mean they are not masters of the instrument. Nor does it mean they aren't musically knowledgeable. It just means they can't read.
My concern is not about learning to read music, it's about gaining musical knowledge and how that applies to the guitar. Therefore, a knowledgeable grasp of the instrument is necessary. If you don't know the note names on the guitar neck, you can't apply the musical knowledge.
And reliance on tab is counterproductive to knowing note names.
BTW - written music is also a tab system. If you're compare/contrasting tab and music notation (which is not the point of this blog), the reason why learning to read music notation is preferable to guitar tab is that written music is universal. It's used by western musicians of EVERY instrument and has been for CENTURIES.
Reading music is nothing to be scared of, and those of you who have studied personally with me know that I don't carry a big stick around, forcing my students to read. I'm very laid back about it, and different students acquire the skill at different points of progress. I'm fairly organic in my approach to it.
The essential thing, the thing of first importance, is being able to visualize the guitar fretboard and knowing what you are looking at - everything else is derived from that, including reading music.
Now...I said learning all the note names doesn't have to be overwhelming. How about this:
These six notes occur on the 6th and 5th strings at the first 3 frets that have dots - or whatever the fret markers are on your guitar; frets 3, 5 & 7.
Starting on the 6th-string, 7th fret, memorize and play the notes in this order:
B E A D G C
Notice the first four notes spell the word, "bead." So all you have to remember is, "BEAD-G-C."
Now, what if I was to tell you,
I can teach you a way to get from these six notes to every note on the guitar neck without memorizing all the note names on every string!?
It's not hype - I've taught thousands of students since the early eighties. My students can find any note anywhere on the neck. And it starts with memorizing BEAD-G-C. Some students can get to the point of finding any note anywhere in just 3 lessons - or less. I have videos of 7-year-olds and 9-year-olds doing it.
This is just the beginning of the first lesson out of 5 of the 5-Lesson Foundational Series. You can download the 5-Lesson Foundational Series right here for free without signing up - no strings attached! Download it, check it out, and if you like what you get, you can sign up later at MasterGuitarSchool.com. And remember, sign up is FREE!
Just click on the picture to go straight to the download page.
Quit sabotaging yourself - punt your reliance on tab and get over that wall against which you've been banging your head in futility!
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