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Eminent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 14
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Hi Guys,
I have just started going for classes for Acoustic Guitar and later I am going to learn Electric. But my teacher is currently teaching me standard notation, what do I do? As everything nowadays is tablature (not that I know anything about music), should I relearn everything later or is it easy to convert?

Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5840

If your teacher is going to teach you standard notation, grab the chance with both hands! Tablature takes about 5 minutes to learn, but is useless unless you know the song to start with. I know that there are attempts to integrate timing from standard notation into tab, but 99.9% of tabs out there don't use it.

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
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Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 6348

I really dislike TAB.
learning to read music is fantastic.
I learned when I was getting guitar lessons. years later it has never failed me.
I say stick with your teacher.
as the above poster said, Tab can be learned quickly.
you will get more out of notation . good for you!.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5108

And if you do buy guitar transcriptions of recordings, it will most likely be written out in both tab and standard notation.

Well we all shine on--like the moon and the stars and the sun.
-- John Lennon

Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1882

As everything nowadays is tablature

Every building these days has ramps and elevators, but learning how to use stairs is still a useful skill :wink:

If you've got a teaches who will teach standard notation, then make sure you learn it.
You'll be able to play anything, not just stuff that someone else has taken the time to do a tab for.

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So I looked like I was deep

Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5342

The good thing about being able to read standard notation is that if you go for an audition or a session and you're handed standard notation and can't read it - you're stuffed.

I can read standard notation, so if somebody puts a score in front of me I can make a good stab at playing it right.

Nobody ever got fired from a band because they could read music. Limiting yourself to Tab is a short-sighted approach.


A :-)

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Estimable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 124

while tab may appear to be more common than standard notation it is not better. most of the main reasons have already been stated. However IMHO I would like to add that songs which are written in standard are more likely to be acurate, if only because they are more likely to be written by someone with formal training in music.

wherever you go, there you are.

Noble Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 2171

First, tab is not more common that standard notation. Probably less than 10% of the music that's ever been published is available in Tab.

Second, tab is useless if you want to communicate with someone playing something besides a guitar or bass.

Simply put, it's an essential and fundamental bit of musicianship.

So what you should do is learn it as well as you can. You won't ever regret having knowledge.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST

Noble Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 1259

Consider yourself lucky to have the chance. I know a bit of theory, and can read sheet music but only after examining it, I can't really sight read. I wish I could, I was supposed to take a university course in the fall on that kind of thing, but I have to take math instead, so I'm missing out on a great oppurtunity, don't be as foolish as me.

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Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 375

I don't agree with any of this whether I'm a beginner or not. What's the goal?
1) To play songs
2) read sheet music

Isn't the goal #1? Your going to take someone with no musical background and the first thing you do is make him read notation? Do I have to list the number of musicians that don't know how to read sheet music? Did it stop them? NO!

I say, if your goal is number #1 - find another teacher!

Bob Jessie

Noble Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 2171


the assumption is that a good teacher will be working on both. It's not an either-or proposition.

However, if you want to be a musician, you have to be able to do the things musicians are expected to do. One of those things is to be able to adequately communicate with other musicians, which means knowing how to read standard notation.

Not knowing how to read standard notation is a handicap. It makes one functionally illiterate as a musician.

Lots of illiterate people have been very successfull in life in spite of this deficiency in their training, but most of us still expect our kids to learn how to read.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST

Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 4921

I constantly hear that argument = "look at all the successful musicians who can't read!"

The truth is, most guitarists don't read. Probably well over 90%. Of course, most guitarists don't make it, either.

But that fraction of a percent that do make it certainly includes some folks who can't read. And for every one of them there are 10,000 or so who can't read and never make a dime. So not reading isn't any sort of advantage.

Most of the guitarists who can read don't make a living in music either. But if you survey working guitarists - those people who earn a full-time living as teachers, sidemen, studio musicians, performers, etc. - you'll find the vast majority DO read. Probably more than 90%.

Which leads to an interesting observation - guitarists who read music are about 100 times more likely to make a career out of music than guitarists who don't.

That's because when you learn to read, you get a whole bunch of advantages that improve your musicianship. You get:

- a strong visual image of the fretboard pitches, which suggest other ways to play the same riffs

- exposure to a vast number of songs (compared to those who read tab or learn by ear). You might be able to play through a dozen 2-minute tunes from tab in an hour - or you could sight read 30.

- greater ear training ability, directly related to the mental fretboard map and the exposure to different music

- a foundation to study theory, harmony, analysis, etc.

- the ability to play transcribed solos from any instrument. Not too many people are tabbing out Charlie Parker tunes for guitar.

As far as taking someone with no musical background and teaching them to read... there is no better time. Reading starts with basic fundamentals. If you can already play the basics, doing it again while reading is boring; if you're developing technique and reading ability at the same time, reading becomes second nature.

A decent teacher will certainly teach things besides reading. For one thing, you always start to read in the key of C, and C has that F chord - which is tough for beginners. So besides reading, chords are taught in more guitar-friendly keys, fretboard navigation is learned, single note techniques are taught... lots of stuff. And all of it (including reading) is done with songs.

You never sacrifice learning songs in order to read. But that doesn't mean sacrificing reading to learn songs is a good idea.

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Reputable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 297

I think it's great you're getting taught standard notation. However, I would also hope that your teaches balances the lessons.

Learning only standard notation as a beginner might get a little boring if there's no context into which it can be put.

So I would grab the opportunity to accept the tutelage in standard notation, but I'd also be sure to convey my goals to the teacher.

From little things big things grow - Paul Kelly

Eminent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 31

I don't know how to read standard notation. I would love to be able to, but I have limited amount of time to put towards guitar and right now I don't think it makes sense for me. I have my hands full of techniques and songs to practice to fill up my 30-45 minutes/day of guitar time. One day if I have more time, I'd love to learn standard notation, but I simply don't want to right now. (I'm playing folk, which I understand is one of the easiest styles without knowing standard notation.) I enjoy playing, its why I'm doing this, and the idea of cracking the books and learning a whole new alphabet so I can haltingly read some simple sentences just doesn't appeal to me right now.

Learning anything takes time, effort and usually money. You want to spend that time/effort/money learning so you will get the biggest bang for you buck. Lots of us know we aren't making music our career... we aren't musicians, we just want some music in our lives. Our time/effort/money budgets are pretty small. For those of us in that position, I say "Learn standard notation if you want to." Its your coin. But tabs are damn cheap for those of us on a limited budget.

I don't have any disagreement with the premise that "standard notation is a good thing". But if I were a newbie (well, more of a newbie) and read this thread I would come away with the impression that if you don't learn standard notation, you are doomed... and I don't think that is fair.

We ain't all pros. We ain't all young. Guitar isn't our "life" for everyone here. Some of us will want to take the easy/lazy short-cut and its not always the wrong decision.

Thats my opinion, anyway... There are a lot of things that are holding me back as a guitarist right now and I don't think lack of standard notation is even in the top 5 at the moment. :)


Trusted Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 39

donzo. I am sure you could spend 15 minutes a day to learn Notation. That's what I am doing and I can see an improvement week on week. A lot of that time can be spent away from the guitar. I am currently working through a book of Eagles music. It sits beside my chair, and everytime I have a minute I pick it up and read what I can. Even when watching TV it fills the adverts. My previous teacher always gave me sheets with both the Notation and Tablature. Guitar Pro is great for that. I just wish I had started Notation earlier in my musical life.

45 years playing and still rubbish.

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