Now that Wikipedia is done with it’s 24 hour blackout I had a chance to research more about the topic of tablature. I know how many of you were absolutely enthralled with yesterday’s tablature article so I’ve decided to write another one. The first known occurrence in Europe is around 1300, and was first used for notating music for the organ. Tablature also exists for Harmonica, Ocarina, Harp, and all stringed and fretted instruments. It differs from standard notation in many ways. Here are the difference between the two systems as indicated in Wikipedia:
- Direct visual representation
- When compared to standard notation, tablature is a closer visual representation of the instrument’s fretboard. It does not require as much training for players to be able to read tablature; therefore it is often easier and quicker to interpret for beginners.
- Fingering position determination
- Tablature removes the requirement for the player to determine the fretboard position within which the notated music is to be executed. Notes on the guitar can be played in different fret hand positions and upon several different strings; for example the note C4 could be played on the third string at the fifth fret or on the fourth string at the tenth fret. In the case of fretted instruments such complexity makes the relationship between staff notation and playing technique less direct than in the case of the piano and many other instruments. Whilst standard staff notation can remove the string/fret ambiguity by further indicating the playing position (usually with Roman numerals), tablature does not contain this ambiguity. Tablature has two additional advantages. First, it clearly identifies the note. Tablature makes explicit all instances of musica ficta, so that there is no guesswork about whether a note is, for example, an F or an F♯. Second, tablature can notate music in different tunings and scordaturas.
- Simple typewriter-font representation
- Tablature can be easily (albeit crudely) represented as ASCII tab. This is a plain-text computer file using numbers, letters, and symbols to construct tablature. This characteristic makes it easy to distribute tablature electronically, a practice that has become very widespread; it is now possible to find free tablatures for virtually any popular music on the Internet, although a considerable number of those tablatures may be inaccurate and also illegal. (See Tablature (Legal Issue) below.)
- Tablature is instrument-specific, while staff notation is generic. Tablature does not provide any skills transferable to other instrumental or general musical study. Tablature can only be read easily by a player of one particular instrument, whilst music written in staff notation can be played on any suitable instrument. Reading solely from tablature compromises communication with other musicians such as flаutists or violinists, who are commonly trained only in the use of standard notation. Reliance solely upon tablature limits the repertoire of the player to works published in tablature or transcribed into it. A player who can read both forms of notation is at a decided advantage.
- Inherent harmonic or analytical information
- The science of harmony and musical analysis is codified by recourse to standard musical notation. Standard musical scores enable musicians to utilise advanced tools for such analysis. These tools cannot be easily applied to, or from, tablature. Therefore the study of musical theory is hindered by reliance upon tablature.
- Rhythmic information
- Tablature notation provides limited information on rhythm and timing. Tablature writers sometimes provide limited rhythmic information by adding note stems, flags and beams above the fret glyphs but the system is not as well-defined as in standard notation.
- Distinction between musical parts
- Multiple parts cannot be rhythmically distinguished within tablature notation. This is a serious limitation when conveying information required for the proper rendition of multiple-part music on any polyphonic instrument.
- Indication of pitch
- Tablature notation shows how the notes are fingered; relative pitch is shown and actual pitch can be calculated by considering the tuning, but it takes experience for a player to sing (or internalize) the notes by sight. Dynamic markup is usually left to the performers artistic sense. It can be difficult to get a general outline of the music by simply studying the tablature page without recourse to playing it through or listening to a recorded version beforehand. In contrast staff notation allows musicians to sing from sight.
- Posted by Grosse Pointe Music Academy Staff
Katelynn Kiesgen says
Some people may get discouraged and overwhelmed if they can’t learn a (stringed) instrument fast enough. Tablature is just a different way, some say it’s easier, some say it’s faster to learn, I say it’s great! Especially for those who may not have the time to fully dedicate towards learning a new instrument, tablature is great for the beginning steps. Thanks for the research!
Tablature is very easy to understand quickly. It doesn’t mean that it is an overall easier method to learn to read all music on but in the initial stages it certainly appeals to a lot of music students
Tabs is the best. I learnedd by tabs and never had lesson.
not everyone is leaning guitar to be some sort of guitar god. some people just want to learn their favorite songs and that’s it. Tab’s great if you’re not interested in learning theory or how to read music
Wouldn’t it be cool if there was an actual Guitar God that we could see playing out in the sky on a clear night next to the moon and stars?