Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

658
Banjo Lovers Online


Oct 26, 2021 - 5:30:22 AM
likes this
4 posts since 10/11/2021

So, I play a few instruments and have always used the classic scale, bass clef, treble clef, up-is-high-and-down-is-low, standard music notation to recognize and play notes.
This is the first time encountering tablature and while I find it very easy to work out what my fingers are supposed to do, I do find it challenging to just read the music. Especially as I am getting better and looking at more complex pieces.
Would it be better to continue to stick to tablature or try to make the switch to standard music notation?

Oct 26, 2021 - 6:10:30 AM

atla57

USA

8 posts since 3/1/2019

If you're playing 5-string banjo, I believe that tab is the most popular way to read music. You'd be hard-pressed to find songs in standard notation, and reading them is a challenge thanks to the high 5th string. Try some of the tunes at freesheetmusic.net, they have songs in tab and standard, you'll see what I mean.

Oct 26, 2021 - 6:15:25 AM

jcland

USA

339 posts since 3/7/2006

Not sure what you are saying here.

First you said "So, I play a few instruments and have always used the classic scale, bass clef, treble clef, up-is-high-and-down-is-low, standard music notation to recognize and play notes."

Sounds like you already uses Standard Notation.

Then you said "Would it be better to continue to stick to tablature or try to make the switch to standard music notation?"

Please clarify if you already use SN and want to learn Tab or is it the other way around.

Regardless, my advice is to learn both of them like I did. They have both come in handy over the years. I have been using both for over 50 years and I would say that I use about 30% standard notation and 70% tab for banjo and guitar. For the bass, I use more standard notation.

Oct 26, 2021 - 6:42:23 AM

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

26546 posts since 8/3/2003
Online Now

You can use either to learn new songs; however, tab is usually better for beginners because there are so many different ways and places to find notes on the strings that learning by musical notation would be harder to figure out where the notes were and where your fingers go and on which strings. Just my 2 cents worth.

I used to go to the piano and pick out a tune using musical notation, and then try to find them on the banjo. As I got better and more experienced on the banjo, I learned to pick out the melody on the banjo by looking at the notes and then add the frills necessary to make it sound like bluegrass.

I got to the point where I could proofread/play from musical notation, but because most of the notes were above the clef, it was more difficult to transcribe.

Oct 26, 2021 - 6:43:35 AM

6568 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by atla57

If you're playing 5-string banjo, I believe that tab is the most popular way to read music. You'd be hard-pressed to find songs in standard notation, and reading them is a challenge thanks to the high 5th string. Try some of the tunes at freesheetmusic.net, they have songs in tab and standard, you'll see what I mean.


This is a false statement that was resolved sometime around 1855.

Oct 26, 2021 - 7:05:58 AM
likes this

6568 posts since 9/21/2007

It depends on what you want to do. Starting in the late 1870s and going until the late 1920s, notation was the standard and common way banjo music was recorded, sold, and learned. Notation for banjo started in 1855 but did not become the common and widely used method until the 1870s.

If you want to play bluegrass or the modern iteration of "old time" music, then tab by numbers or ear playing is the accepted and common norm.

There was tens of thousands of pieces of sheet music and over a hundred (hundreds?) instruction books and folios published. A large amount can be found for free digitized and in public domain.

Many British composers were turning out excellent music all the way up to WW2.

Today this music is called "classic banjo", but at the time was just "banjo", "guitar style", or "finger style" as opposed to "stroke style" (sort of like clawhammer) and plectrum playing. Early on, stroke style was also recorded by notation but as musical tastes changed you will not see much of this after the mid 1880s.

That said, with the popular banjo music today, "old time," and bluegrass, you are pretty much stuck with play by numbers or imitating recordings.

I cannot see how notation would be practical with bluegrass or old time. Old time makes frequent use of scordatura which could be a challenge. Bluegrass banjoists tend to play in only one or two keys and relies on a capo d'astro for key changes.

Oct 26, 2021 - 7:45:20 AM

USAF PJ

USA

274 posts since 9/19/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo



I used to go to the piano and pick out a tune using musical notation, and then try to find them on the banjo. As I got better and more experienced on the banjo, I learned to pick out the melody on the banjo by looking at the notes and then add the frills necessary to make it sound like bluegrass.

 


Sherry, Though I think I can do this..... this is sage advice. We maybe on the verge of something...no joke.

Are you able to take a quick moment and explain this in steps. To be able to read SN is a great help even when it applies to the banjo. Thoughts??  Speak to adding the frills also. Thanks!!!

(PS. be/c I do have a piano)

Edited by - USAF PJ on 10/26/2021 07:47:25

Oct 26, 2021 - 8:21:17 AM
likes this

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

26546 posts since 8/3/2003
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by USAF PJ
quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo



I used to go to the piano and pick out a tune using musical notation, and then try to find them on the banjo. As I got better and more experienced on the banjo, I learned to pick out the melody on the banjo by looking at the notes and then add the frills necessary to make it sound like bluegrass.

 


Sherry, Though I think I can do this..... this is sage advice. We maybe on the verge of something...no joke.

Are you able to take a quick moment and explain this in steps. To be able to read SN is a great help even when it applies to the banjo. Thoughts??  Speak to adding the frills also. Thanks!!!

(PS. be/c I do have a piano)


Start off  with a song (vocal) that you want to learn.  Find the Musical notation (MN) and lyrics.  NOTE:  songs are much easier to learn to start on than instrumentals. 

Pick out the melody notes on the piano.   Write them down; i.e., g, b, d, whatever.

Try to find those notes on the banjo.  Write them in tab form.  

Be sure that every melody note is in the correct measure and on the correct beat.

Then try to fill in the blanks (frills) by using slides into a melody note or a  hammer on to a melody note.  

Add a hot lick at the end of a musical phrase where the singer takes a breath.

That's a simple explanation, but maybe it can get you started.  As you get more proficient, you can add or leave out any frills. 

Remember:  it's your song, play it your way!

Oct 26, 2021 - 8:32:16 AM

atla57

USA

8 posts since 3/1/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks
quote:
Originally posted by atla57

If you're playing 5-string banjo, I believe that tab is the most popular way to read music. You'd be hard-pressed to find songs in standard notation, and reading them is a challenge thanks to the high 5th string. Try some of the tunes at freesheetmusic.net, they have songs in tab and standard, you'll see what I mean.


This is a false statement that was resolved sometime around 1855.


I guess I can amend my post to include "outside of classical banjo". The resolution you mention doesn't seem to be in use in any of the scores that I can find besides that one style.

Oct 26, 2021 - 9:05:16 AM

6568 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by atla57
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks
quote:
Originally posted by atla57

If you're playing 5-string banjo, I believe that tab is the most popular way to read music. You'd be hard-pressed to find songs in standard notation, and reading them is a challenge thanks to the high 5th string. Try some of the tunes at freesheetmusic.net, they have songs in tab and standard, you'll see what I mean.


This is a false statement that was resolved sometime around 1855.


I guess I can amend my post to include "outside of classical banjo". The resolution you mention doesn't seem to be in use in any of the scores that I can find besides that one style.


I can't help that those people don't know how to use the tools available to them, or seek out what is already established so they don't have to try and reinvent the wheel.

Or, they could look at guitar music and simply use a 0 next to 5th string Gs.

Oct 26, 2021 - 9:05:40 AM
likes this

12427 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo
Start off  with a song (vocal) that you want to learn.  Find the Musical notation (MN) and lyrics.  NOTE:  songs are much easier to learn to start on than instrumentals. 

As many times as this gets repeated it seems to need constant repeating!

The melodies of "songs" are easier to pick out than the melodies of "tunes" (instrumentals), because there are fewer notes and longer notes. For example the word "arms" at the end of the line "Roll in my sweet baby's arms"  starts two measures of no other melody. The note itself isn't that long, but it leaves a lot of empty space before the melody resumes.

In the typical bluegrass instrumental, whether a fiddle tune or a composed-for-banjo breakdown, almost every note can be considered melody. And it's rare to have even one measure, let alone two, of non-melody empty space to fill. Plus, the "melody" of many banjo pieces is difficult to identify.

 

quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo
 

Pick out the melody notes on the piano.   Write them down; i.e., g, b, d, whatever. Try to find those notes on the banjo.  Write them in tab form.  Be sure that every melody note is in the correct measure and on the correct beat.

Then try to fill in the blanks (frills) by using slides into a melody note or a  hammer on to a melody note.  


Yes and no. Sometimes -- often times? -- the desire to hit a melody note on a certain string with a certain finger or to banjoistically perform a piece of fill can lead us to shift (displace) a melody note one position forward or back. Typically by one eighth note if you're counting the piece as 4/4.

Sometimes we'll drop melody notes because there are still too many of them and to hit each one (in a series of quarter notes for example) might lead to a plunky back-and-forth sound and not the fluid sound of a roll.

So it's very common in transferring a vocal melody to banjo to pare it down to its essential notes. The "core melody" I've seen it called. I've used Rocky Top as an example in the past. If you want to play a solo recognizable as that song, you really only need the notes for the words or syllables:   Wish -- I -- on --- Rock/ - top,   down -- Tenn/ --  hills.    And maybe not even all of those. 

Oct 26, 2021 - 10:20 AM

11023 posts since 4/23/2004

quote:
Originally posted by SnailIsFast

So, I play a few instruments and have always used the classic scale, bass clef, treble clef, up-is-high-and-down-is-low, standard music notation to recognize and play notes.
This is the first time encountering tablature and while I find it very easy to work out what my fingers are supposed to do, I do find it challenging to just read the music. Especially as I am getting better and looking at more complex pieces.
Would it be better to continue to stick to tablature or try to make the switch to standard music notation?


As you may have divined, the answer is: "It depends".laugh

Even for someone like myself, who has been using tab for 40+ years (and notational staff for 50), trying to "read" tab is difficult; "read" in the sense of looking at it and hearing pitches in my head or trying to follow the arc of the tune. Standard notation is far, far better for that purpose. What I can do is look at a given tab and very quickly determine my ability to play it, that is simple familiarity though.

It used to be that tab was terrible (quite a bit still is). However, properly made modern tab is the equal of notation (with the above exception) and more efficient for fretted instrument use in many ways...again, if properly done. Standard notation, when properly appended and coded for fretted instruments is essentially equivalent to proper modern tab (plus reading)...but the page gets really busy with all the additional notes and codes.

So, if you want to be able to read and sort thru pieces to determine whether you like them or wish to attempt them...notation.

As Joel states above, if you wish to learn a Bluegrass or OT genre tune then tab is probably your best bet.

If you wish to work with music (building chords, harmonies, etc.}..notation.

There is no real reason to choose one or the other, they are just tools in the toolkit. I'm a tool user!

Oct 26, 2021 - 10:48:20 AM

6568 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory
quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo
Start off  with a song (vocal) that you want to learn.  Find the Musical notation (MN) and lyrics.  NOTE:  songs are much easier to learn to start on than instrumentals. 

As many times as this gets repeated it seems to need constant repeating!

The melodies of "songs" are easier to pick out than the melodies of "tunes" (instrumentals), because there are fewer notes and longer notes. For example the word "arms" at the end of the line "Roll in my sweet baby's arms"  starts two measures of no other melody. The note itself isn't that long, but it leaves a lot of empty space before the melody resumes.

In the typical bluegrass instrumental, whether a fiddle tune or a composed-for-banjo breakdown, almost every note can be considered melody. And it's rare to have even one measure, let alone two, of non-melody empty space to fill. Plus, the "melody" of many banjo pieces is difficult to identify.

 

quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo
 

Pick out the melody notes on the piano.   Write them down; i.e., g, b, d, whatever. Try to find those notes on the banjo.  Write them in tab form.  Be sure that every melody note is in the correct measure and on the correct beat.

Then try to fill in the blanks (frills) by using slides into a melody note or a  hammer on to a melody note.  


Yes and no. Sometimes -- often times? -- the desire to hit a melody note on a certain string with a certain finger or to banjoistically perform a piece of fill can lead us to shift (displace) a melody note one position forward or back. Typically by one eighth note if you're counting the piece as 4/4.

Sometimes we'll drop melody notes because there are still too many of them and to hit each one (in a series of quarter notes for example) might lead to a plunky back-and-forth sound and not the fluid sound of a roll.

So it's very common in transferring a vocal melody to banjo to pare it down to its essential notes. The "core melody" I've seen it called. I've used Rocky Top as an example in the past. If you want to play a solo recognizable as that song, you really only need the notes for the words or syllables:   Wish -- I -- on --- Rock/ - top,   down -- Tenn/ --  hills.    And maybe not even all of those. 

 


A lot (but not all) of banjo music (as well as Spanish/Classical Guitar music) is written with two parts on one staff.  The melody and accompaniment will have stems in opposite directions.  This makes it very easy, at sight, to read the melody and accentuate those notes over the harmony. 

Below is a good example of this.

Well edited banjo notation could not be any easier to read.


 

Oct 26, 2021 - 11:00:36 AM

4141 posts since 11/29/2005

I started music with piano in 3rd grade, so I've always read music (piano, trumpet, bugle, and guitar). When I started learning the banjo, I tried music, but the high G was automatically assigned to the 5th fret of the 1st string, which made drones a real pain, so I learned tab for banjo.

I have lately been working more on "classic" banjo via the Bradbury method, and attempting force my thumb to react automatically to the 5th string when that note pops up in the score.

Both are helpful.

Oct 26, 2021 - 12:33:41 PM
likes this

Fathand

Canada

11826 posts since 2/7/2008

Sounds like you already know Standard Notation and are learning Tab. There is no reason to choose. Using both opens your options.

I can read Tab pretty good and can eventually read a piece in Notation. When I look up a song I look for a banjo or even a guitar tab because they're easier for me. If I can't find one, I look for notation. Either way, I adapt them to my own arrangements.

Good luck trying to find Sledd Ridin in Notation or Bare Necessities in banjo Tab. If you can use both you will have it covered.

Oct 26, 2021 - 4:00:35 PM

104 posts since 5/8/2021

I would probably just stick with tablature. I read music very well when I play bassoon, in fact, I need music to play bassoon. But I don't read music at all when I play banjo.

But I understand exactly what you mean. With traditional notation, I can get a pretty good idea of how a piece is supposed to sound by looking at the score, even if I've never heard it. But with tablature, I have no clue how it's supposed to sound. If I'm learning something by tab, I'll spend at least three days listening to it while looking at the tab before I try to learn it with a banjo in my hands.

Oct 27, 2021 - 8:41:13 AM
like this

RB3

USA

1142 posts since 4/12/2004

In your original post, you indicate that you have begun to use tablature, but you don't specify if you're using hard copy tablature or if you're using a computer based tablature program such as Tabledit.

If you have the tablature for a piece of music in Tabledit, the program will also display the standard notation. Moreover, the program will play the tablature in a midi sound format that simulates the sound of a banjo.

If you're not familiar with computer based tablature programs, I would advise you to investigate them. They have a lot of powerful features that can be of benefit to you in the learning process.

Nov 14, 2021 - 9:23:10 AM

2868 posts since 2/10/2013

I play 5 string, fiddle, and guitar. For fiddle, I just use standard music notation. For guitar I use tab and sometime standard notation. On the banjo, I use tab. When I play using standard music notation, I am immediately aware of what note is about to be played.
When I play guitar, I like notation when I am playing "down" the neck. But when I am all over the 14 frets, tab is easier to use than standard notation. I have to think a bit to figure out what notes are involved.

On the banjo, the standard GDGBD tuning makes reading notation difficult. Heck, you only have 3 notes and one of them is a drone. So I use tab most of the time. But sometime I will want to quickly recognize noting patterns, and print both tab and standard notation for a tune. TabEdit provides this ability. This is not a "plug" for TabEdit. I am aware of the fact that just playing tab causes my standard music reading abilities to deteriorate. So I started playing fiddle more often in order to maintain my standard notation reading skills.

If I were you, I would use tab when playing 3 finger style banjo. On guitar I use tab most of the time. On guitar Normal Blake was quoted as saying "The $$$ are in playing in the lower neck positions".

Here is something I do on banjo and guitar. I will print standard notation for the noting pattern of a lick that is played "down" the neck. Then I will recreate the same noting pattern "up" the neck at a higher octave. So when playing that part of the tune, often an ending, I play the same noting pattern "down" the neck, and the next ending for that part of the tune, "up" the neck. Provides more variety. And some folks will be impressed and think you are a better player than you actually are. When receiving praise, just smile and act humble.  

Edited by - Richard Hauser on 11/14/2021 09:25:14

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.1894531