Many people who play at the guitar ask me why I don’t use TAB in my teaching. I have several valid reasons.
Students who study orchestral instruments, which includes piano among a myriad of other instruments learn to read standard notation without question. It comes with the territory. Guitarists seem to have the idea that they can forgo learning to read standard notation, until of course they find a piece written in standard notation in front of them. Then the panic sets in!
Oh we do have our chord charts and fingerboard charts and TAB. Each has some merit and validity depending on the purpose. For one thing, I’ll readily admit that in order to read chords in standard notation requires not only that one can read standard notation but also that one can read standard notation extremely well. The guitar fingerboard is highly complex and, although visual in nature, it’s not nearly as readily visual as the piano keyboard.
Regarding the guitar fingerboard, think of six pianos that look exactly alike except the notes on each separate keyboard are a 4th apart from the notes on the keyboard next to it...except for the 5th keyboard over from the 1st keyboard on your far left which is a 3rd from the 4th keyboard from the left. No need to reread that. If you’re confused by it, that’s the idea here. Lastly, unlike the piano as well as many other instruments, the guitar has the same written pitch in several locations. I attempted to teach ONE student the basic Cowboy Chords using standard notation. After two lessons I decided Chord charts are better. They’re quick and dirty.
TAB has a history as it can be traced back well into the 15th century. So, if you wish to play early music and perhaps transcribe those pieces to the present day guitar, learning to read early TAB is obviously a necessity. Beyond that, relying on TAB and avoiding making the leap from a obsolete 15th century notation to the modern world will become more and more limiting to a guitarist should they, as they should, devote their practice and study to mastering the instrument, understanding the theory behind the music and developing their ability to be a truly creative artist.
Oh I can hear the argument even now: “Well, I see TAB in published music books!” Yes you do.
1. It’s there to sell a book. 2. Try using TAB to play a piece you’ve never heard before. 3. Good luck.
Here’s my advice: Take a leap into the brave new world; learn to read standard notation and then master the guitar fingerboard. Make sight reading a regular part of your daily practice. Become a reader. Don’t be an illiterate guitarist. There are far too many.