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L5Larry

Standard Music Notation vs TAB

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A recent TAB thread and the eternal discussion/argument about TAB vs standard notation has rekindled the idea for a post I came up with a couple of years ago. Instead of making this first post a lecture or essay, let’s just open this up for “informed, educated and curious” discussion.

 

All of us have seen songbooks, or sheet music, for songs by our favorite artists. These are generally one-size-fits-all “lead sheets”, or “fake book” type charts. Guitar chords across the top, a staff with vocal melody with the words written underneath, and then probably treble clef/bass clef staves below that for piano. Possibly the vocal is just written into the treble clef piano line.

 

But have you ever seen a real GUITAR chart?

 

Below you will find a guitar chart. This is not a “lead sheet”, or a “fake book” chart. This is the guitar part as would be included with the other individual instrument charts, for professional recording or performance. For this demonstration it really doesn’t matter what the song is, but I got to give props to the great songwriter/arranger Sammy Nestico. Jazz heads may recognize that name from all the great arrangements he did for the Count Basie Orchestra, and he is also quite a composer in his own right. Unfortunately, not all guitar charts are written this well and complete, so I thought this chart would work as a good example of the information that can be included on a “guitar chart”. Most people just see lines, dots and chord blocks, BUT WAIT….. THERE’S MORE. As stated in the recent TAB thread, standard music notation ASSUMES at least a working knowledge and understanding of what you’re looking at. This “working knowledge” is something I recommend for any guitar player.

 

Now for the LEAGALEZE: The guitar chart below, “Shoreline Drive”, by Sammy Nestico, c. 1978 Fenwood Music, Inc., is shown here for educational purposes only, and IS posted with express written consent and permission of Fenwood Music, inc. (thank you to Mark Nestico). Margin notes by me.

 

15364757038_96c3a691e3_o.jpg

 

Ok, let the discussion begin!

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Yes... what Ryan said... Owwwww!!!

 

So how many times would you get to practice that or go over it before the real take?

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Not really sure what your aim is with this thread, but of course, I have comments.

 

First of all, it doesn't really matter what and how you learn. There is no method, right or wrong, to learning or playing a guitar, nor right or wrong for your motivation or goals. That said, there are real advantages to being able to sight read musical notation. Of course, the longer you work at it, the easier and faster it becomes. milod talked about the way we learn, and how we learn best. I've seen great improvisors who also knew a lot about reading and a lot about theory, and I never met anyone who didn't benefit from knowing how to read and knowing theory. But I also know that learning to read and learning music theory can detract from the time it takes to learn songs and learning to improvise. Some prefer chop building to learning to read.

 

I am not a great reader, so it would take me about a day to process that one page, including deciphering chords and playing notes. A lot of that time would be spent finding positions, so I'd end up learning the song in a couple of positions on the fretboard. If that chart had more actual notes, it might take longer for me to process. One thing I might say about TAB is that it leaves no room for determining the position of the note on the fretboard. The way that chart is written, it allows for most chords to be voiced in whatever way the player wants, except for a few triads, but even those can be played in several positions. That's good because it allows the player to play it in a position that flows. The use of slash chords will also limit the available positions for grabbing chords.

 

I also like knowing what key a piece is in, because that immediately tells me where the scales are all over the fretboard. Not that I do, but I know that many good readers not only identify note names but also see and hear the intervals when they read, and this also makes interpreting the music easier.

 

Not sure the reason for most of your margin notes unless they are to stress a few ideas. Seems most of the music is self-explanatory.

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So how many times would you get to practice that or go over it before the real take?

 

 

See that's the thing. A good sight reader could do it on the fly.

 

That chart is a mix of both because they are using the chord name above the bar with those slashes denoting the rhythm.

And I don't really consider that being defined as standard notation. Is it? Maybe I'm wrong.

 

You can still use the slashes and write them as 1/16,1/8 & 1/4 notes as you can see in measure 20.

But they quit using notation there. Which is fine.

 

So to say reading notation assumes you have/require a "working knowledge" of what you're looking at to me is a little unfair.

 

I would say I have a basic working knowledge of it. I can read and understand everything on that page.

The only thing new to me was how they identify the guitar as the lead instrument and then no longer the lead(solo, no solo).

 

So to sit down and read that piece you would have to know what an Fm9/Eb was. I know people who can figure that out

in a matter of seconds, I'm not one of them. Those people have spent years learning,, one of them is a Berklee grad and my old

guitar teacher.

 

I could never sit down and play that. It would take me a couple of weeks depending on how awkward or unfamiliar the chords were.

 

 

So to cut to the chase,, is this better than tab? Well, I suppose as long at the transcription is well done then yes it well

may be. But I don't think it's for everyone and I would never denounce any player for ignoring it completely.

 

So for many people, tab is just fine. I's far easier to get your head around.

 

And there are good and bad transcriptions of both out there.

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That's a lot more detail than usual for sure. I did a lot as a piano player. Most of the job involved knowing where to fill in the gaps in the horn section. I completely lost my skill now though.

 

Here is the tune for you to follow along. It's actually not too complex, even though it looks pretty intense from the sheet.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6jyj6tjJlI

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My point here is not the song, but the chart.

 

Specifically, the information contained on a real guitar chart other than just notes and chords. A professional guitar chart is not a "how-to-play", but a "what-to-play". I chose the chart above because, on one page, it contains a little bit of everything you might find on a guitar chart.

 

I figured most people around here had never seen a real guitar chart, and I though you might find it interesting.

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Looking at that, or even Tablature, sometimes I will think "jeez, i dunno". it can be intimidating. then i will just listen to it on cd, and think "oh, ok". After all these years, I can visualize where it is on the neck as I listen. Not all the time. sometimes, depending on the player, as I listen, I still think "what the ... huh?"

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Looks like regular sheet music but written with a simplifying short-hand notation. It actually removes some of the reading difficulty... repeating rhythm patterns and changing only the notes played.

 

Having originally learned to read for trumpet, I found guitar music a bit more of a challenge, but not too terribly difficult. It was a bit like going from addition to multiplication.

 

The first time I ever saw tablature however... sheesh! [scared] It was like trying to read a novel written without vowels. [confused] This chart is a happy medium.

 

 

Serious question: with four flats would you prefer to G-Force down a half step, or just play "inside" chords up the neck?

 

Σß

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Serious question: with four flats would you prefer to G-Force down a half step, or just play "inside" chords up the neck?

 

Σß

 

The detuning question occurred to me. Eb is a bit awkward for guitar especially if you are playing rhythm down by the nut. For example, Larry raises the point of the Fm9/Eb chord. So here we have the fourth inversion of Fm9 with Eb in the bass.

 

Fm9 = F, Ab, Bb, C, Eb, and the ninth G. You can't play that chord at the nut in standard tuning if you want the seventh Eb in the bass. You can use the drop 2 trick of leaving out the root and playing a short chord of barring Eb, Ab, C and extended the pinky to the third fret G first string is one option. Or otherwise go up the 6th fret and play an "inside" chord with Eb 6th fret fifth string.

 

Great thread Larry.

 

Pity about the thread re chord progressions on the ES section died because it is in the "wrong" section. See

 

http://forum.gibson.com/index.php?/topic/116179-the-love-affairs-is-over-whats-next/

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The thing with notation, like the piece above, is people see it and get scared off or think they should be able to read it in a short period of time, having never had any experience with reading.

 

However, notation is pretty much like learning any new subject - the more you practise the easier it gets and before long it's just second nature to you like reading a book. Obviously you will still be presented with a very challenging piece from time to time though, no matter what level you are at!

 

I recently tried to get a student into reading notation, but because he had been playing for some time and using TAB he just never would even try! I also think some guitarists are put off because they think the idea of playing basic tunes again is below them and they don't realise the true benefit reading will have for them in time. It's a shame for many players that they don't even give it a try.

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Looks like regular sheet music but written with a simplifying short-hand notation. It actually removes some of the reading difficulty... repeating rhythm patterns and changing only the notes played.

 

Serious question: with four flats would you prefer to G-Force down a half step, or just play "inside" chords up the neck?

 

It's also worth posting what real guitar notation looks like

 

Sometimes I forget that JAZZ isn't the only type of music in the world. Jazz charts ARE written in a shorthand know as "jazz notation".

 

When I was learning to read jazz charts I was being tutored (by long-distance telephone) by a very accomplished classical guitarist. It took him a little while to decipher the shorthand of jazz notation. As posted above, the classical chart looks very different. Is this because it's a classical piece, or because it's a solo piece. I would suspect a little of both. As has been said about the jazz chart I posted, much of the auxiliary information shown on the classical chart is Greek to me.

 

Kimbabig, why don't you do some margin notes on this piece for us, so we can learn what all the fractions and roman numerals, circled numbers, etc, mean.

 

As for the odd keys, specifically Eb in this discussion, jazz is generally horn music, and therefore written in what I call "horn keys", Eb, F, G, Bb, C. Jazz ensemble accompaniment is mostly played with inside chords, so the key really doesn't matter to the guitarist. Very seldom will you ever play a barre chord or an 1st position "open" chord.

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quote name='L5Larry' timestamp='1413648162' post='1579050']

Sometimes forget that JAZZ isn't the only type of music in the world. Jazz charts ARE written in a shorthand know as "jazz notation".

 

When I was learning to read jazz charts I was being tutored (by long-distance telephone) by a very accomplished classical guitarist. It took him a little while to decipher the shorthand of jazz notation. As posted above, the classical chart looks very different. Is this because it's a classical piece, or because it's a solo piece. I would suspect a little of both. As has been said about the jazz chart I posted, much of the auxiliary information shown on the classical chart is Greek to me.

 

Kimbabig, why don't you do some margin notes on this piece for us, so we can learn what all the fractions and roman numerals, circled numbers, etc, mean.

 

As for the odd keys, specifically Eb in this discussion, jazz is generally horn music, and therefore written in what I call "horn keys", Eb, F, G, Bb, C. Jazz ensemble accompaniment is mostly plated with inside chords, so the key really doesn't matter to the guitarist. Very seldom will you ever play a barre chord or an 1st position "open" chord.

 

I apologize for my wording. I realize my sentence came off now as, "It's also worth posting what REAL guitar notation looks like." I should have said. It's worth a look at what standard notation for the guitar is written as, to help with the troubles of figuring out where the notes are. I understand that the Jazz chart is very helpful, especially to the studio musician/ band player. Even among classical guitar notation, there can be slight differences as to how things are written, depending on the particular publisher or editor.

It is written this way to give the performer the most amount of knowledge about the piece. It is written for the performer who has months to dedicate to perfect this particular piece of music. While a good sight reader could play the piece decently on the first run, a concert piece takes perfecting. I don't believe this type of notation has anything to do with the type of piece being performed, solo or classical. It is written in standard notation because it tells the performer the most about the piece in the least amount of space. It is also, how we Westerners traditionally write music, with more information given for this particular instrument.

I must admit that the system you posted saves a lot of space if the piece calls for a lot of repeats of the same chord. If the piece were to be notated by standard musical notation, it would take up much more room. The Jazz system seems to be more practical for playing in a band setting, as solo pieces are written to of course be written, unaccompanied, and Jazz guitar (soling and improvisation aside) is written to complement the other instruments

Anyway, here are my notes on the system, please pardon the hand writing.

P1100059_zpse382c7b0.jpg

As a side note, and this has nothing really to do with notation, the way chords are viewed in classical music (Romantic era aside) A jazz musician would see the chord FACD as an F6 chord, whereas a classical musician would view it as an F major chord, with the D note (called a Non Chord Tone) needing to resolve down to one of the three chord tones.

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I guess I was damned with poor music reading skills. I know how and have since I was 4... it's just that it doesn't click in the brain. That's either the classical guitar or jazz charts.

 

Even a well-done tab is "slow reading" although more helpful to my brain.

 

I think each of us learns in different ways; "meaning" comes to us each in a different fashion.

 

Foreign languages were H-E-Doubletoothpick for me in school - yet I can read somewhere around 50-80 percent of stuff in German (somewhat less in Dutch unless I sound it out), French, Spanish and Portuguese. Friends I took Latin with (those with whom I took German are far, far away from where I live now) don't understand how I got poor grades in Latin given that I can read those other language in a half-functional manner.

 

It's kinda like that for me with reading music: I know what the notes are and mean, but they just don't "click." At least they don't until I hear a piece.

 

In effect, I think that "reading music" is something like reading words. "We" have varying ability to translate the chicken-scratches into meanings in both.

 

So to me the bottom line is that "we" learn differently. Some "dyslexic" folks can come up with incredible art in words and yet go through some sort of purgatory in seeking to read what others have written. I think it's the same with music - to the point where many "ear" musicians simply don't bother with any sorta chart much beyond a basic chord chart with music that's new to them or they wish a reminder.

 

m

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