Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

Dec 3, 2021 - 8:23:08 AM
432 posts since 9/23/2009

Dear banjo friends,

I would like to put together a collection of clawhammer tabs (5-string, any tuning, with or capo) to go with the Portland Collection books 1 & 2, for use in jams and sessions. (Somewhat to my surprise, such a thing doesn't seem to exist already.) Given a song title, there are of course many sources for tabs, including BHO; the Banjo Newsletter (tabs downloadable for a small fee); and general Internet searching. For example, the first song in Portland 1 is Abe's Retreat, and there are several versions in the BHO tab archive and one in BNL, and others can be found by searching.

My question for you is: what's the best way to do this? I'm thinking something like a spreadsheet with title, key, tuning, capo setting, and link(s) to the tab(s), but that's just my initial idea, I'd be glad to hear your thoughts. And then: how to maintain such a list or document? It should be edit/update-able by the community, so open-access in that sense. Could that be done directly using some feature in BHO? Again, what are your thoughts?

Thanks in advance for your advice, be well, and happy (early) holidays.

Dec 9, 2021 - 7:55:19 AM
like this



3497 posts since 3/12/2006

As you say John, many of the same tunes are already available as tab in other books. I, for one, have tabbed out a great many of the tunes over the years and they can be found in my books from Mel Bay including Old Time Festival Tunes for CHB, Old Time Favorites for CHB and Beyond the Waterfall - Extraordinary Tunes for Fiddle and CHB. All of these have a standard notating line to guide you from and OTFest and OTFavs also have a fiddle/mandolin version of the book available. (Go to and click on a book cover for the contents).

That said, have you done such a project before? There are simple ways to tab from pen/pencil and paper which you can scan in to make a pdf, free tab programs such at TabWrite and TablEdit or more powerful programs such as Finale' (which is what I use) that can cost a lot but be much more flexible and powerful allowing you to do more to the tab.

The only other thing I might suggest is that you make sure that the tab you write is readable and works when you play it back after you wrote it.

I have offered instruction and workshops on writing tab and working with Finale'.

SO, it might be good to have a better idea of what you want to produce and how you were thinking of distributing it once it was done. Hope this helps.

Play Nice,
Dan "Clawdan" Levenson
Dec 9, 2021 - 9:30:50 AM

432 posts since 9/23/2009

Thanks! However, I have received word from that authors of the Portland Collection that they cannot authorize such a project, owing to many factors including the complexity of copyright arrangements with many authors of tunes in the Collections.

Dec 9, 2021 - 11:16:15 AM

4750 posts since 2/24/2004

Haha--I agree with Dan. Why would you want to tab out a book of someone else's arrangements ?  Its a pain in the neck to tab out tunes of your own arrangements & to go back and edit & check for fingering ease too. and then you have to write notes for them too.  I can barely keep up with my own tabs--no way am I tabbing out someone else's work for them :)

If you just love to tab--tune up and play along with the collection--most of the tunes are easy and in a standard popular key--then tab out the arrangement you came up with & put them online to see if anyone wants them--just don't claim to be the Portland Collection or use any of the copyrighted songs.

But there are tons of tabs to most of the traditional tunes and it does seem like a huge project :)

Or you can just play on fretless instruments--so you don't have to tab at all cause there are no frets :)

Best wishes & happy tabbing,

Mary Z. Cox


Dec 9, 2021 - 1:37 PM

432 posts since 9/23/2009

Actually my solution is simplicity itself: play 'em on 4-string (plectrum), where I can sight-read all night long. wink

Edited by - KingStudent on 12/09/2021 13:38:27

Dec 9, 2021 - 2:26:51 PM



3497 posts since 3/12/2006

Originally posted by KingStudent

Thanks! However, I have received word from that authors of the Portland Collection that they cannot authorize such a project, owing to many factors including the complexity of copyright arrangements with many authors of tunes in the Collections.

Sorry and don't mean to sound confrontational, but they really have no say if you want to tab traditional tunes. In the case of newer, copywritten tunes, again it is the composer and not the portland authors that have the right to give you permission which, just btw, is not complex at all. Contact the composer, ask for permission to use it in your book, get it in writing. None of this changes my former comments though.

Edited by - Clawdan on 12/09/2021 14:28:29

Dec 10, 2021 - 6:01:29 AM

432 posts since 9/23/2009

All valid points, and thanks for the discussion.

Here's the scenario: someone calls an unfamiliar tune in a jam out of one of the Portland books. It's straightforward to play it on 4-string (plectrum or tenor) - just like (sight-) reading on piano or whatever - but 5-string is more suited to the style. So either you have to be Bela Fleck and use your virtuosity to play anything in standard G tuning, or you have to choose a tuning & capo setting and work it out on the fly as best you may. I have no great love for tablature but (as you know) a good arrangement makes choices about which string to use for which note, hammer-ons, aspo's, etc., so you're not trying to do that while sight-reading. I can do that (kind of) but I get a better result with the 4-string, plus I can practice my flat-picking.

On the rights question: I've tabbed out >60 public domain tunes for the clawhammerers at our local sessions (I know Finale & TablEdit from my composition work), but if the Portland authors are not comfortable with the creation of a clawhammer companion to their Collection so be it. Not every idea has to be followed through!

Be well - JB

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories