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Tabs & Chords

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Estimable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 94
Topic starter  

When learning a song on the guitar which is more accurate, tabs or chords? Also, which one is easiest to learn a song on? Do you still have to practice moving between them or is it easier using a tab? Thankyou. :)

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Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 245

I'm not sure of the acuracy of one over the other. I guess it all depends on the transcriber. Especially if you are getting it off the net.

I'm still playing open chord songs so I prefer them over tabbed music. I have some tabbed music but am finding it a bit difficult to follow along with. :?

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Illustrious Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 8184

Well , since you are a beginner chords will suit you more.

Don't be afraid to read tabs too.It all starts coming together once you progress.

Good Luck !

Illustrious Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 8184

Wouldn't it depend on the song you're learning to what's easier? I've learn songs like Violent Femmes and Ben E King using chords. But I can't see myself learning Nirvana or Kittie that way.

Honorable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 418


Chord files (assuming they're correct) will give you an easy way to play a (usually) simplified version of a song on any kind of guitar. They're fine for beginners and intermediates, or any song you are just going to play along to once and forget. Advanced players may not need to look at chord files because they will have already figured out the chord progressions and will be doing their own thing - probably making coffee whilst soloing in the mixolydian hungarian gypsy scale and solving Fermat's Last Theorem while picking their nose.

Tab files are more detailed, but often have mistakes. They often feature leads or complex passages which might be specific to a certain instrument in the song, for example if you are playing an acoustic you might find it a lot harder to keep up with some of the leads. Tab files are annoying because they don't usually fit on one page/screen. Since tabs contain more information, it is sometimes possible to pick out just the parts you are able to play, which means one tab file can be used at different levels by beginner, intermediate and advanced players. So it should be possible to look at a tab file and just play the basic chords, although some tab writers are too lazy to put the chord names in.

Also in my experience some people have trouble getting to grips with reading tabs, although familiarity should set in after about 10,000 of them.

As a general rule I would say chord files if you play acoustic and tabs if you play electric, but there a lots of exceptions. You seem to be into Green Day so I would recommend tabs for that because there are some easy beginner ones out there.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5349

Accuracy has nothing to do with the format: even commercially availlable sheet music has it's screw ups. Chord and tab are two formats that are designed for specific purposes. Chord sheets give the 'foundation' of the song on which all instruments are played. The lyrics plus chord sheet would be all you need to make your own arrangement of the song and as such it's is perfect for singer/songwriter stuff.

Tab, on the other hand, gives a somewhat accurate notation of how the guitar part sounds. If you're trying to play a solo you'll either need the tab or official notation, a chord sheet won't help much. But you'll often find that if you play the exact guitar part as written it sounds bland and dull without the bassguitar and drums.

What you'd usually want is the chord sheet so you know the structure of the song plus any tabs of the 'core riffs', the melody lines that everyone associates with the song. Once you've got that you just fill the rest up according to the chord sheet in whatever way you feel.

For example, I disagree with Martin on Green Day: most of it is tight rhythm guitar. You don't need to write in tab to play that powerchord 40000 times, just indicating where to change chords would suffice. And once you've got that down you can check out some tabs to bring some of the original riffs to your powerchords. Again, just tab won't get you anywhere if it gives the lead part and looks lame when it concerns rhythm guitar. Get the chords right then add the fun stuff, not the other way around.