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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: standard notation and tab


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ken61 - Posted - 05/28/2008:  05:45:10


I began learning banjo and tab some three years ago. After only a little time with tab, I switched to standard notation.

Here are my observations. Maybe they will help someone.

Please remember I am a beginner and I write this to help beginners. I am NOT passing judgement on the BEST way

With tab I was always trying to determine what the music might sound like and was not able.
With SN at least I had a hint or two .


I noticed that with SN what I learned at any given time was usefull in the future reading and playing another song. i.e A g was always in the same place on the staff and I always played it the same way.

It appeared to me that tab was always using some notation to give the information that was already present in SN. I have seen tab with little flags under notes indicating an eighth note.


By the time all the little notations are added to tab, seems like it is about as complicated as SN.

Most music for the banj0 is available in tab and NOT in SN. It is difficult to come up with new material in SN.


Converting tab to SN is a pain and likely counterproductive to learning SN.


I wish I could play by reading both.


Reading and understanding music theory seems easier if you know how to read SN . I cannot imagine how music theory sounds if only tab is understood.

The thought does occur to me that a computer program that could convert tab to SN would be usefull. Maybe if Tab were written 1-2 for first string second fret or 3-2s-4 for third string second fret slide to the fourth fret such a program could be written so that reading the pictorial strings of tab could be eliminated.
This is a program banjo players would buy, I think.

I am very happy with my decision to go with SN and I am having a good time learning about music theory in general.


ken

learning music to make music

beegee - Posted - 05/28/2008:  06:29:13


Tabledit gives you standard notation and tab at the same time.

__________________________
turtle on a fencepost....

mikebanjo - Posted - 05/28/2008:  07:41:57


What surprises me, ken61, is your statement: "I wish I could play by reading both." You've already done the harder thing by being able to read standard notation; tab should be a piece of cake after that.


mikebanjo - Posted - 05/28/2008:  07:44:12


Sorry for the four posts of the same thing; looks like I've just compounded the problem with a fifth.

Texasbanjo - Posted - 05/28/2008:  08:24:49


If you'll just work with tab for a little while, I think you'll find it as easy or easier than standard notation -- you'll begin to see "patterns" in the tab; i.e., a forward roll goes up, up, up and hot licks have a certain pattern, too. I can "do" standard notation, but for a beginner, I think it would be much more difficult. I salute you if you can take standard notation and figure out how to play it on the banjo -- that's a nice feat.

Mikebanjo, I'll delete all but one of the posts above if I can.

Let''s Pick!
Texas Banjo

wmrazek - Posted - 05/28/2008:  15:55:44


One nice thing with tab is that it tells you where to take the note. For example g: you can take it as a loose 5th string, or the 5th bar on the 1st string or the 8th bar on the 2nd string etc...

I agree with you Texasbanjo, tab is good at showing rolls and other patterns. The standard notation shows the timing and phrasing. I use both, with TablEdit.

Wolfgang

DaveInCA - Posted - 05/28/2008:  21:15:40


> One nice thing with tab is that it tells you where to take the note.

Right--that's the major difference: tab tells you which string to use and which fret. In fact, I really don't see how anyone could learn BG banjo from only SN unless there were some indication of (at least) which string is being used for which note. There are just too many possible locations for any particular note. And then the "rule" that successive notes cannot be played on the same string, which leads to many convoluted roll patterns that would have to be discovered by the learner......ugh. We need something more than SN. Tab!

Ed: Wolfgang, doesn't most tab provide all the info you need about timing and phrasing? Note durations are usually indicated.

Dave


Edited by - DaveInCA on 05/28/2008 21:20:46

janolov - Posted - 05/28/2008:  23:09:32


Classic banjo music is by tradition shown in standard notation, and there have been developed a system that show both left hand fingering and right hand fingering with symbols, letters and figures. You don't have to have tab to show how to play!

I usually use a combination of notation and tablature. The notation shows how it should sound so it's easier to understand the the melody. The tablature give advice on how to play it.


Jan-Olov

ken61 - Posted - 05/29/2008:  02:54:34


I thank everyone who responded for their comments. Where to play the note is a true extra with tab.

janolov, I seem to recall reading about a notion for tenor banjos. Over the years , I suppose , everything has been tried. We are not the first to try to master this instrument and we will likely not be the last.

Thanks again everyone.

ken

learning music to make music

Thor - Posted - 05/29/2008:  06:45:23


quote:
Converting tab to SN is a pain and likely counterproductive to learning SN.

Harmony Assistant does this automatically.
http://www.myriad-online.com




Joe Larson - Posted - 05/29/2008:  06:50:48


I'm sorry, I don't see the disadvantage in Tab. Well written tablature will have all the information of SN. While I can see your point that with SN you have an idea what the tune might sound like, after you've used tab for awhile you will recognize certain standard licks that everyone uses and you'll be able to do the same thing. And while a G will always be in the same place on the staff, it won't always be in the same place on the neck and there's no way SN will show you where it should be. And Dave is right, there's no way you could learn to play BG banjo from SN alone.

j

I''d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

royal173 - Posted - 05/29/2008:  07:07:37


Ken, I agree that SN is easier to understand what the sound of the song is going to be based upon the note length. I can hear the song quicker with SN than Tab. I believe (only my opinion) that you will be a more rounded banjo player if you can read SN. If you can read SN, you can sit in and play with different instruments and play ,Country,Rock or Blues. I even as a beginner 2.5yrs, can read both(slowly), but I want to be able to play different types of music.

mikebanjo - Posted - 05/29/2008:  07:55:28


Thanks Texasbanjo for deleting my duplicates. Dave says above: "In fact, I really don't see how anyone could learn BG banjo from only SN unless there were some indication of (at least) which string is being used for which note. " I think one needs to learn where all the notes (at least the main ones) fall on all the strings before starting to play in standard notation. The trouble with learning TAB first or leaning just tab is you don't learn where all the notes are. If you want to start playing in SN, start making up your TAB with the appropriate note names and where they relate to standard notation. To get you started: Middle C in SN (and on the piano) is the first place on the banjo (in G tuning) where there is a middle string, i.e. third string, fifth fret.

Joe Larson - Posted - 05/29/2008:  12:01:42


No doubt about it, SN is handy to know and I wouldn't discourage anyone from learning it. But from a teaching standpoint I wouldn't start someone out on it instead of tab. I also teach guitar using standard notation and there's an extra level or 2 of mental translation that must be done that isn't necessary for reading tab. I think learning banjo is much harder than learning guitar and tab just makes that job a little easier.

I really think tab gets a bad rap that it doesn't deserve. Well written tab can contain all the info of SN. And you can become just as overly dependant on SN as tab

j

I''d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

stevejay - Posted - 05/29/2008:  15:54:58


With banjo, I do find I like the tab. I can read music for other instruments including piano, but the tab looks more natural and simple than SN for the banjo and the guitar. It's personal, but we could form a club of those who agree.

I play concertina and there is no useful tab for that instrument, SN seems so easy.

Ryan Cavanaugh - Posted - 05/29/2008:  19:22:40


As far as i can see, tab is useful for demonstrating proper picking technique. It's good for beginner banjo students and is useful in teaching various banjo picking styles. I find no use for it when communicating to musicians outside of bluegrass music. SN allows one to communicate thoughts to musicians other than banjo players. If you are not planning on stretching out of bluegrass, I would just stick to tab.

“Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself” -Miles Davis

stevejay - Posted - 05/29/2008:  20:18:13


In the tabledit it is WONDERFUL to have both. The SN really gets the rhythm looking right. Use of the two together are extremely useful IMO. Use both to their best advantage, we are lucky to have a choice of systems.

ken61 - Posted - 05/31/2008:  17:12:12


Darn

I see arguments for both. From what you all say , it appears it is possible to work in both systems at the same time.

Stevejay, I agree it is wonderful to have BOTH available.

thanks, everyone.

ken

learning music to make music

steve davis - Posted - 06/01/2008:  08:09:45


I never understood the argument that tab doesn't show everything that musical notation shows
They both identify
Key
timing(number of 1/8 or 1/4 notes in a measure)
which note to play
rests
repeats
modulations
change in timing
beats/minute

Tab goes further than notation in that it suggests efficient routing of the fingers
of both hands and a direct view of the neck(shorter learning curve to the link
between the instrument and the written music,imo)


concerning gardens...weed ''em and reap

10gauge - Posted - 06/01/2008:  11:03:17


When I was forced to play piano as a kid and when I played baritone in elementary school it was all SN. With those instruments, especially the bariton SN makes a lot of sense. With the banjo or guitar and probably other fretted stringed instruments tab is the go to notation. When I tried to play the guitar in high school, I thought that if I could learn to play stairway I would be well on my way to being able to play any song out there. Of course my assumption was far off base, but the story of how I learned that song really speaks to this issue. I went to the music store and purchased the stadard notation version sheet music for "Stairway to Heaven". I then proceeded to pick out each note one by one where it occurs closest to the nut. It was quite a feat. I could play it pretty well, but it wasn't easy. Then one weekend I went to a music camp and we were supposed to play our "best" song so everyone would know what level of a player you were. So I played stairway and this kid looks at how I'm playing it and says, that looks really hard you should try it this way. After all the work I had put into it I was actually very upset that there was this easier way (I'm sure my new freind's way had originated in tabulature). Anyway, I'm sure that if you had a very complete understanding of the fret board you could get an instinct for where you should play a certain note, but it seems like that kind of effort could be better applied in other areas. I have read that for the most part sheet music is an oddity at a jam so learning the music and getting off of the page as quickly as possible seems to me to be the way to go.

If at first you don''t succeed...Do it the way your wife told you to.

Joe Larson - Posted - 06/01/2008:  11:38:51


quote:
Originally posted by steve davis

I never understood the argument that tab doesn't show everything that musical notation shows
They both identify
Key
timing(number of 1/8 or 1/4 notes in a measure)
which note to play
rests
repeats
modulations
change in timing
beats/minute

Tab goes further than notation in that it suggests efficient routing of the fingers
of both hands and a direct view of the neck(shorter learning curve to the link
between the instrument and the written music,imo)


'zactly
j

I''d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

Tom Hanway - Posted - 06/03/2008:  01:48:08


Tab is so handy when communicating ideas to other banjo and guitar players. Standard notation is more universal, even if one only learns how to read the treble (G) clef. I learned how to read standard, more or less, before I ever looked at tab, and I studied the standard symbols and Italian words to understand how to experience rhythm, count (clap) beats and subdivide measures. Having a good grounding in standard notation made it easy for me to dive into tab and eventually transcribe tunes in tablature. I started off by tabbing blues guitar breaks, then bluegrass guitar, fiddle tunes, then Jorma Kaukonen's guitar breaks, then I discovered 5-string banjo and Tony Trischka, whose tabs I catalogued and alphabetized. I still have a copy of all that, and it fills three volumes (tomes). Tab is an old friend now.

I would study standard and tab together, but tablature is easier to read for bluegrass and folk guitar, because you know which string to block to play, for example, a D note, which can happen in three different places from the seventh fret down - four places if you include the twelfth fret of the fourth string. Tab is a virtual pictograph. Standard notation has even more goodies in it. Good tablature begins to look like standard notation and you can use many of the nuances of standard notation in tablature. Learn both. Enjoy all the banjo tabs and books that are out there ... including mine.

Happy pickin,

Tom

http://www.tomhanway.com


Edited by - Tom Hanway on 06/03/2008 01:54:51

Violanjo - Posted - 06/05/2008:  02:23:49


I think that tab is the only way for banjo. Just think of playing in a different tuning than the standard gdghd. It will be really difficult to find your notes then. I am also a classical violinist so I can read the standard notation and sometimes while playing in a jazz formation with the banjo I have to use sheet music in standard notation. But as there are not so many notes to play I sometimes manage to sight read standard notation on the banjo. But when I compose pieces for the banjo in any style I definitely prefer the tab notation.I have also written 2 complete concertos for banjo and chamber orchestra. The banjo part is written in tab but the conductors score has the banjopart written in standard notation. Well, yes I agree that it is at least important to be able to read standard notation in case you want to pick something else than bluegrass. But I disagree as far as the notation of notes with different values is concerned. All additional infomation such as dynamics, articulation and held over things etc. can be written in tab. But unfortunately not every tab software can do this. When performing classical chamber music with other instruments it is necessary that you have at least a full score written in standard notation. But the sheet you play from should be transcribed into tab to have a more banjoistic understanding of the piece. Just imagine you have to play a piece in a completely different tuning than the gdghd tuning. Without having a tab trancription you are completely lost exept you want to spend a day in searching notes. Tab at least provides information in pitch in lenght AND information of where to find the note on the banjo. And this is the most important thing for a banjopicker.In standard notation those information has to be added seperatly and this makes it more hard to read. But at last it is a personal taste. I still prefer the tab.




"Whenever you are in a sorrowful kind of mood, just pick your banjo
and it will make you smile again!!"


Edited by - Violanjo on 06/05/2008 02:26:49

Banjocoltrane - Posted - 06/05/2008:  05:35:58


The skill of knowing how to read standard notation has proved most useful to me when learning new pieces of music outside the realm of bluegrass.

Suppose you have the sheet music for a pop tune; if one can sight read, then one can find it on the fingerboard pretty quickly...If you don't know how to sight read then you have to read note by note and then create a TAB. A slow and tedious process......unless of course you have one of those nifty programs that can convert Sheet music into TAB.

The original poster wrote:
"Reading and understanding music theory seems easier if you know how to read SN . I cannot imagine how music theory sounds if only tab is understood."
If one wan'ts a comprehensive understanding of music theory, then yes you are correct...For instance TAB doesn't show things like key signature, sharps and flats associated with that key, etc.

However, with all that said, reading music is gonna be of limited use to those wanting to learn bluegrass oriented material. Depends on what you want to do...if you have a keen interest in playing classical pieces, playing complex pop/jazzy material then you might wanna further develop the skill to save you some TIME in the future.

Last but not least, as a person is learning a new piece they should LISTEN to a RECORDING of it. This can help clear up any questions there might be with the TAB OR the sheet music as well...Even Sheet music doesn't convey everything.








"TAB is like Gerbers.....music can''t be spoon-fed to ya forever."
http://www.jodyhughesmusic.com

steve davis - Posted - 06/05/2008:  07:46:58


Tab doesn't show you the key by using sharps or flats because that's an SN tool
I can tell what key tab is in by what chords are impied by the frets used in the first 2 or 3 measures.
It even easier when the letter for the key is written over the tab. A,B...etc.
The note is the note...what's the diff?

concerning gardens...weed ''em and reap

Banjocoltrane - Posted - 06/05/2008:  10:40:34


quote:
Originally posted by steve davis

Tab doesn't show you the key by using sharps or flats because that's an SN tool
I can tell what key tab is in by what chords are impied by the frets used in the first 2 or 3 measures.
It even easier when the letter for the key is written over the tab. A,B...etc.
The note is the note...what's the diff?



I'm aware of this....

Yeah the Tab can say Key of A and VOILA there ya go...and if you AREN"T interested in learning it, you can NEVER learn what notes make up that key either...

They'll just be numbers and you can put your finger on that fret without knowing the actual name of the note....this is what the original poster is alluding to. With standard notation it actually requires you to know the name of the note you are playing....you can read tab and never know that. It also requires one to under key signature, hence a deeper level of music theory KNOWLEDGE which is exactly what the original poster said.

If this weren't the case, there wouldn't be folks on here that can play lots of songs they learned from TAB but don't know the name of the notes they are playing....check the archives

As I stated earlier, if you want to play Earl, Ralph on the banjo you don't need to know it.

"TAB is like Gerbers.....music can''t be spoon-fed to ya forever."
http://www.jodyhughesmusic.com

salvatone - Posted - 06/05/2008:  11:02:13


This is what I think: If you want to learn or teach a specific arrangement on the banjo, especially on that requires a capo, tab is the way to do it. If you want to teach or learn a piece of music that is not specifically arragned for banjo, standard notation is a better way.

I have always found banjo tab to be confusing in that it has a five line staff, but the five lines have nothing to do with a musical staff (vertically). At least with guitar tab, the tab staff has six lines.

Salvatone

steve davis - Posted - 06/05/2008:  11:39:46


I learned to play by ear with my foundation being in recognizing when and where the chord changed.
I learned to read SN timing when I studied concert snare(counting 32 measures of Tacit,dotted quarters and 1/8ths...etc.)I have no more tendency to play a tab only one way than I do to sound like Earl.It's a convenient reference tool

I can name all the notes on the banjo neck or off of the written page...I just never use that information for much of anything

concerning gardens...weed ''em and reap

Brian T - Posted - 07/02/2008:  09:48:09


I can read SN just fine. For banjo, I find TAB is easier to follow the arrangement up the neck, particularly for 5th string notes in TAB where the fingering is not shown. Based on the Scruggs principle of "economy of motion," I add the fingerings as I figure them out. No, I don't get it right the first time!

We do not know where we are going.
Nor do most of us care.
For us, it is enough that we are on our way.
Le Matelot

Brian T - Posted - 07/11/2008:  10:56:36


I can read SN well enough that guitar TAB made little sense. What I like best about banjo TAB would be the display of what I'd call the geometry, the mechanics, of the roll patterns.
There are specific and useful/economical finger movements that are far harder for me to see and work out from SN. The aural feedback that I got from the beginning, and still get, makes practice a pleasure for a stumbling beginner such as myself.

We do not know where we are going.
Nor do most of us care.
For us, it is enough that we are on our way.
Le Matelot



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