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The Trouble with TAB

A Form of Musical Notation Using Numbers and Letters on a Staff.

Published: 02 Jan 2005 Updated: 19 Jun 2021Visits: 87Code: UL43

Topic: Reading ukulele guitar bass banjo mandolin Subjects: Reading Intermediate Tab Basics Advanced

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The Trouble with TAB

TAB, short for tablature is a form of musical notation using numbers and letters on a staff that that corresponds to the number of strings of fretted string instrument. Theses number tell a player which fret to place their fingers on rather than which pitches to play.

TAB has a history with lute music from centuries ago and has found wide use in the music publishing industry catering to the guitarist who can't or doesn't want to learn to read. TAB doesn't exist in mainstream music, primarily by some music magazines and on the Internet.

Learning to read TAB can be accomplished in minutes. Learning to read standard music notation takes a lot of dedicated work and is well worth the effort.

"I think anything that separates guitar players (ed. ukulele players also) from the rest of the music world is bad. Tablature is a certain secret code only for a guitar player. So you have guitar players who can read tablature and not music." - Peter Bernstein

One other real benefit to being able to read standard music notation is you then have access to a wider range of material from other instruments and not limited to ukulele TAB.

Links & Resources

You really only need a few links to drive home the point that, learning to read standard music notation is good.

These should be MUST viewing. Adam Neely , is one the most articulate musicians that can explain what is going on with music.

TAB, does have its place and is just one tool that can be used to help with learning music. It is not a replacement for learning the read music. TAB is great for beginners and a way to indicate exactly what strings and fret to play a given note.


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Related Lessons

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Reading Ukulele TAB - Alternate Notation • Updated: 12 Feb 2020

"TAB" or "Tablature", is an alternate form of musical notation, which tells players where to place their fingers on a particular instrument rather than which pitches to play. TAB is sort of a secret language between guitar players and ukulele players. Although a shortcut to getting started it actually serves to alienate one from the rest of the music world.

Natural, Sharp and Flat Notes of the `Ukulele Fingerboard - C Tuning • Updated: 03 Aug 2018

Standard music notation, the natural, sharp and flat notes of the ukulele fingerboard for C tuned ukuleles. Covers both high C and low G tuning variations.

Learning the `Ukulele Fingerboard (Finally!!!) • Updated: 20 Oct 2021

Most players struggle with learning the names of the notes of the ukulele fingerboard. There doesn't seem to a pattern and notes repeat. There is an easy way and "it's easier that you think." Most players know the names of the open strings for their favorite tuning.

Related Books

Related Books for The Trouble with TAB.

Ukulele- Reading Music Series - Primer
Updated: Jan 3, 2020

Learn to read single note melodies in the first/open position. It is a lot easier than you might think with this step-by-step easy to use approach. Tunings: C with low or high G - (GCEA or gCEA).

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Just browsing over both books, they look fantastic! I'm a guitarist and uke player for over 25 years and was thinking about writing a ukulele book but you've already written what I think are the best, most comprehensive and thorough books I've ever seen for the instrument. I just might end up buying every book you've written and I'll be giving my highest recommendation for your books to my friends and students. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such great books!Peter Rhee

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