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Tab: Why Isn't Indicating the Melody Notes More Common?

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Feb 28, 2020 - 9:45:37 AM
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515 posts since 11/21/2018

I've seen Jack Hatfield doing this in his book but why, by now, hasn't this become the standard practice?

It would completely eliminate the chief problem people have with tablature and one of the chief objections people have for using tab over ear learning.
SO easy to add/fix... actually knowing right away how an unfamiliar tune sounds bring it much closer to the experience and expediency of reading standard notation.

It would allow one to ween away from the tab version and improvise around those melody notes much sooner for a student. It just seems so easy and logical why hasn't it become the norm?  It just seems like common sense to me as a retired public school music director.

Edited by - northernbelle on 02/28/2020 10:00:16

Feb 28, 2020 - 10:07:14 AM
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chuckv97

Canada

47563 posts since 10/5/2013
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I hear you, but I think there’s value in discovering the melody notes in amongst all the others, sort of like “where’s Waldo”. I recall going through Pete Wernick’s book and having the “Eureka” moment on “She”ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” when I’d played around with it for a while.

Feb 28, 2020 - 10:37:59 AM
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3863 posts since 9/21/2009

I agree with the OP. The emboldened tab is a big help when learning the melody of a song. I like Jack's books better than any that I have seen.

Feb 28, 2020 - 11:20:32 AM

515 posts since 11/21/2018

I feel strongly that having to get a tab tune slowly but surely up to enough speed to begin to decipher what the melody (most likely) is is a magical and enjoyable moment but the amount of time to learn and internalize/memorize would be shortened a LOT!

I understand why publishers may not realize the benefits of this but "our" media like Banjo Newsletter, youtube and skype lessons, etc. etc. could certainly make this a common practice, perhaps influencing the larger (Mel Bay/Hal Leonard, etc.) to follow suit. Oh well, a feller can dream...

Feb 28, 2020 - 11:46:42 AM

10518 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by northernbelle


SO easy to add/fix...  . . . It just seems so easy and logical why hasn't it become the norm?


I agree that highlighting the melody notes can be helpful. But I ask you to please describe the easy steps to highlight individual notes in TablEdit.  I've only ever seen the ability to format all notes globally.  I'm apparently missing something.

Three other comments:

Melodies for instrumentals, especially bluegrass instrumentals that are not fiddle tunes, can be less specific.

It is commonly recommended as a best practice to use tabs that represent a specific recording of a piece and to use that recording as a reference to hear what the tab should sound like.

TablEdit, of course, plays the tab so you can hear what it's supposed to sound like.

Feb 28, 2020 - 12:18:26 PM

515 posts since 11/21/2018

Sorry Ken, don't use tablEdit. Just reading previously published tabs or writing one out the old fashioned way. I'll let the TablEdit folks respond to your questions.

Having the facility to hear the playback is certainly an advantage but it really shouldn't be necessary if the notation in a printed tab indicates the melody of THAT particular published version. (Wernick, Trischka, others books as examples).
I managed to learn from those books fine overall but it took much longer than it had to and still does-for everyone.

Feb 28, 2020 - 1:31:53 PM

Fathand

Canada

11560 posts since 2/7/2008

Try this for a song, less accurate for an instrumental.

In every 8 note bar, highlight the first and 5th notes or the notes in the same position timewise if there are mixed tine notes. These would land on beats 1 and 3 if you count 4/4 time.

Now try playing just those notes and see if much of the melody becomes apparent.

If you don't know what the melody is supposed to sound like find the song on youtube and have a listen.

This is not a perfect system but can be a good start on most songs with lyrics.

Feb 28, 2020 - 2:55:19 PM

RB3

USA

623 posts since 4/12/2004
Online Now

Tabledit has a "Text Manager" feature that allows you to add text characters above or below the tablature, so you could include the letter "M" or some other character that is aligned with each note that is associated only with the melody.

For melodies of songs that have lyrics, you can add the lyrics below the tablature and align the appropriate syllables with the corresponding melody notes.

Feb 28, 2020 - 3:35:30 PM
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MickG

USA

1084 posts since 4/24/2003



But I ask you to please describe the easy steps to highlight individual notes in TablEdit. I've only ever seen the ability to format all notes globally. I'm apparently missing something.


 

Easily done. Choose the individual note you want to change, then right-click for pop up menu, choose Format, then choose a text size from the menu. For instance Arial 14 bold will make the tab note bold and larger than default. You can also add a color background for the note by checking the Stabilo box. Select a background color by clicking the yellow (default) box to select another color.

You can add a custom format to the texts menu box"

File---Options---Fonts---then scroll down to the bottom of the list and select one of the customs and add the format for what you want. Then when you select a note as per above, your custom format will be in the texts menu.

Mick

Edited by - MickG on 02/28/2020 15:48:38

Feb 28, 2020 - 3:43:45 PM

10518 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by MickG


But I ask you to please describe the easy steps to highlight individual notes in TablEdit. I've only ever seen the ability to format all notes globally. I'm apparently missing something.


 

Easily done. Choose the individual note you want to change, then right-click for pop up menu, choose Format, then choose a text size from the menu. For instance Arial 14 bold will make the tab note bold and larger than default.


Thanks much!

Live and learn.

I'm on a Mac with a 1-button mouse, but Control-click is the equivalent of right-click.

Feb 28, 2020 - 3:47:57 PM
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2562 posts since 4/19/2008

Feb 28, 2020 - 5:16:28 PM
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6468 posts since 8/30/2004

Hi North,
Your suggestion sounds like a solution for people who can't hear the melody in bluegrass banjo playing. I tried highlighting notes in my tabs many years ago for a very long time. 
Doesn't work as people don't bother or know how to listen to melody and even with highlighted notes, they still can't find the melody. Banjo playing is very organic and must be learned by watching or listening to it a thousand times or more. I've had several hundred students over the years ask me how to listen to the melody or even find it at all. Well, as I said, I tried what you have suggested and they still can't hear the melody. The 5th string drone is one of the big problems and the surrounding notes of rolls, is another one. 
I have been teaching Theory and Improvisation at NYU in NYC for many years and Students are always given assignments to listen to the music before we start analyzing it. Your experience seems to be quite different. 
Reading notation is not the answer as this music is not borne out of academic study or written notation--Tablature does seem to help. People do not listen or even care to listen to the essence of the music they think they love--they just love the pure sound and BLAST of the banjo itself...This is just my learned experience, yours will probably vary...My best...Jack Baker

Originally posted by northernbelle

I've seen Jack Hatfield doing this in his book but why, by now, hasn't this become the standard practice?

It would completely eliminate the chief problem people have with tablature and one of the chief objections people have for using tab over ear learning.
SO easy to add/fix... actually knowing right away how an unfamiliar tune sounds bring it much closer to the experience and expediency of reading standard notation.

It would allow one to ween away from the tab version and improvise around those melody notes much sooner for a student. It just seems so easy and logical why hasn't it become the norm?  It just seems like common sense to me as a retired public school music director.


Edited by - Jack Baker on 02/28/2020 17:17:28

Feb 28, 2020 - 8:51:58 PM
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Mooooo

USA

7582 posts since 8/20/2016

The way I see it, tablature is for learning songs you want to learn. How do you know you want to learn them? Because you have heard them and love the way they sound. Before opening any tablature, you should be so familiar with a tune that you can whistle or hum the melody. When you start to learn it from tab, you will hear the melody notes. If you don't, you need to listen to the song more until you do.

It really seems everybody wants to be spoon fed these days instead of putting in the time to learn how things go. If you really learn how the melody goes before opening the tablature, you will remember how it goes long after you learn how to pick it on the banjo even if you don't play it for months or years. It is part of becoming a musician. Learning to listen and use your listening skills to learn. Then you will be able to eventually play by ear.

I could be wrong. But this has been my experience.

Feb 29, 2020 - 7:43:12 AM

10653 posts since 2/12/2011

You can hear the melody if you pay attention.

Feb 29, 2020 - 8:00:23 AM
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6468 posts since 8/30/2004

Mike,
The big problem is at least in the NYC NJ area, people just like the sound of the banjo itself. They may not even care for bluegrass or ever listen to it. People hear the banjo everywhere and in every form of music. I think much of that is going on here at BHO. The banjo is so aggressive and loud and that is what people listen to; much like most of our society today. The good and hopeful part is that when I do play a traditional banjo song, they like it...Jack
Originally posted by Mooooo

 

Edited by - Jack Baker on 02/29/2020 08:02:59

Feb 29, 2020 - 11:00:06 AM

chuckv97

Canada

47563 posts since 10/5/2013
Online Now

I repeat : play “Where’s Waldo?”.

Feb 29, 2020 - 11:07:23 AM

10518 posts since 6/2/2008

Assuming we're talking about banjo arrangements of vocal songs, the challenge in finding melody in a tablature is that the banjo version of the melody will be altered, with notes dropped, moved or changed. But I'm with Jack, Mike and Ken W.:  The melody is there to be heard.  I sincerely believe -- no sarcasm or condescension intended -- that if you work measure-by-measure and play the tab correctly as written then the melody should emerge.

All that being said, finding the melody in a tab expressing melody in your playing are two very different things. So the question would be: with melody notes highlighted in the tab, what are you going to do with them?

Feb 29, 2020 - 11:33:05 AM

1597 posts since 2/10/2013

I am comfortable using standard notation. In my case, having both tab and notation can be useful in improving my familiarity with the fingerboard. I can mentally identify a note in notation more easily than I can the tab for up-the-neck licks - I have to stop and think for minute.

Before I started working on improving my up-the-neck keyboard knowledge, I considered notation and tab for the banjo as a "pain in the neck". It required more paper for each tune and the notation was not used. Players who do not use standard notation can have this attitude. I'll bet more than one banjo player has thought "Man - I wish I had $10 for every person who did not use the notation in this Earl Scruggs book !! And if that isn't bad enough, that darn notation is in 2/4 time instead of 4/4 or "cut" time".

I can understand and relate to a person who doesn't use notation not wanting it in their tabs. I use both tab and notation for the banjo. I enter a tune using Tabledit, and print a copy of a tune with just tab and another copy with tab and standard notation. I use one copy to learn to play the tune, and use the copy with tab and notation to quickly figure out what is happening musically.
This works great when moving a "lick" up or down the fingerboard. The standard notation can be useful when playing a tune melodically or using single string techniques. And as I said earlier, I think it can improve a persons knowledge of the fingerboard.

I think many publishers and writers do not think the average banjoist has the same opinion as that in the original post.  Many banjoists just don't have any desire to use standard music notation.  More than anything else publications are sold to make money.  And publishers probably think adding standard notation increases publication costs and will reduce the volume sold.  I once contacted Mel Bay publications and "whined" about having to take publications to places where they could be spiral bound.  Mel Bay told me that vendor complaints about handling spiral bound books created that situation.  So I am still taking regularly used music books  out to have them spiral bound.

Edited by - Richard Hauser on 02/29/2020 11:42:38

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