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Writing Tab

Posted by webadage on Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I've found that creating a written copy of tablature for songs that I play by ear is an excellent way to become intimately familiar with the tune. Often times, playing the tune is an exercise in muscle memory rather than understanding and as a result of this reality, being able to play a tune may not be synonymous with knowing a tune. I may be splitting hairs here but my point is, I enjoy creating tab and the exercise helps me in more ways than one.

A problem I have discovered is, even though I understand basic timing and counting, I don't seem to be able to figure out how to start the tab for any given tune. I've tried the old, " one, two, three, four, one, two, three..." to figure out the technical aspects of which note of the first measure the song begins on but.... I've failed miserably. Obviously I don't understand everything I know about the subject.

If someone could help me out here.... I'd sure appreciate it. If you can give me more than a verbose definition or rule of thumb to get me started, that'd be great. Maybe you can explain it to me then quiz me by giving me some examples and see if I can get it right. I don't even know if anyone will read this. I guess I'll find out.

Regards,

Paul Anthony Gray



4 comments on “Writing Tab”

n1wr Says:
Thursday, September 5, 2013 @4:45:56 AM

Paul: I did a search here on BHO and came up with this: banjohangout.org/topic/264105

You might post your question in the same forum - will most likely get a better response. The guys that regularly write TABS follow this forum: Tab requests and discussion.

I agree with your comment about using tab - although it can be slow and painful at times. TablEdit in particular has a big learning curve. You didn't say if you are using a program or writing the tabs manually on paper.

Hope this helps.

webadage Says:
Thursday, September 5, 2013 @7:47:22 AM

Hi n1wr,
I write tab manually. I have no app to do it for me. I've never been a tab kind of guy. I took two lessons when I first started playing and learned the basics of tab, then depended on my ear after that. I think it was the Earl Scruggs book that put me off tab. Earl was a great banjo picker but who ever wrote the book for him didn't have readability in mind when they penned the tab notation. Anyway, thanks for the information. I'll transfer my inquiry to that forum and see what it generates in the way of assistance. Keep pickin!
Paul

dbrooks Says:
Thursday, September 5, 2013 @4:08:44 PM

Paul, I write a lot of clawhammer tab. I never intended to, exactly, but I found it appealed to my analytical side. I also found that it turned me into a better, more attentive listener. To be clear, I do not play from tab. I use tab to help me work out an arrangement and then it serves as a memory aid when I have not played a tune for a good while. I have also been able to help a few other folks.

To try to address your questions, let me share my approaches. First, I tend to copy the elements of what I like in tab that makes sense to me. Often that means using notation conventions like rest, repeats, etc. As for figuring out just where the tune starts and what may be pick-up notes, I occasionally have some difficulty with that. Most of the tunes I do are fiddle tunes with 8-measure A parts and B parts. (Songs with verses and choruses can have unusual, irregular structures.) On a fiddle tune, I will count out the beat, two to a measure. Usually an A or B part will have a phrase in the first two measures, another phrase in the 3rd and 4th measure, a phrase (often a repeat of the first phrase) in the 5th and 6th measure, and an ending in the 7th and 8th measure. I may do this several times or many times until I see where the phrases repeat on the same beats. I tend to count 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 and then repeat, and that will be an A or B part one time through.

If there is a repeat, the lead-in notes to the repeated first measure will tell me that they are pick-up notes. These same notes (or something similar) are usually at the beginning of the tune as well.

I do the same thing for both A and B parts. First, this tells me when a tune may be crooked (have extra beats or measures). It will help me see when I need a 1st ending for a repeat and a 2nd ending to lead into the B part.

Pick a tune you're working on and contact me by email through the Hangout. If we tab it together, maybe a light bulb will beging to appear.

webadage Says:
Saturday, September 7, 2013 @8:53:45 PM

I guess my problem is that I don't see tunes as A parts and B parts. I'm not even sure what effect that has on which beat in the first measure the song would start on. I'm pretty confused for sure. LOL

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