[sib-access] Re: Off-Topic: Guitar Tablature

  • From: Chris Smart <csmart8@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: sib-access@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 03 May 2012 17:56:20 -0400

Hi Dale.

Yep, classical guitar music is almost always written in standard 
Yes I'd imagine a pianist could play most classical guitar music on 
piano without much difficulty.  Not so going the other way though - 
many of those close-voiced chords on piano, really tight clusters 
of notes, are really nasty on guitar.

Don't forget that guitar music, for some strange reason, is notated 
in the treble cleff and transposed up an octave above how it 
actually sounds.  Why people didn't just use a grand staff, treble 
and bass cleffs, and not transpose anything is beyond me, but that 
seems to be how it is done.

So, 3rd octave E to your ear is written up an octave, 4th octave E, 
on the bottom line of the treble clef staff.  This odd arrangement 
means that the lowest string on the guitar, usually tuned to 2nd 
octave E, is notated below the third leger line down, on the treble 
cleff staff. Weird but true.


At 05:36 PM 5/3/2012, you wrote:
>Ah, thanks, Chris. That explanation helps much.
>So is classical music generally notated on a standard staff, that 
>is, with
>rhythms complete? If that is the case, could a keyboardist play a 
>score on a piano, just to hear what the score sounds like?
>I appreciate the time you take to write out thorough explanations 
>like that.
>Thanks again.
>-----Original Message-----
>From: sib-access-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
>[mailto:sib-access-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Chris Smart
>Sent: Thursday, May 03, 2012 5:25 PM
>To: sib-access@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
>Subject: [sib-access] Re: Off-Topic: Guitar Tablature
>Hi Dale.
>I'm not sure that it is off-topic actually.. If you play guitar or
>deal with sighted guitarists, it is bound to come up, especially
>since so few guitarists learn to read music as part of learning
>their instrument. The only exception would be classical guitarists.
>I try and talk my sighted guitar students into learning standard
>music notation whenever possible, because it tells you a lot more
>about how to perform a piece of music, and because I can produce
>standard notation a lot more easily than Tab. The exception I make
>is when I'm dealing with someone really young, who is new to music,
>is just trying to get decent sound out of the guitar, and has a lot
>of new information to cope with, without throwing the idea of the
>staff at them as well. In their case, say a seven year-old who has
>never tried to make a musical sound before, tab can help simplify
>things and at least help them remember where to place their
>fingers. It's a visual aid, but a very limited one.
>Guitar tablature is pretty simple as a concept.  Imagine six
>horizontal lines going across the page. the top line is your first
>string, usually tuned to E. The next line down is your second
>string, usually tuned to B, etc. All the way to the bottom line,
>which represents the sixth string, usually tuned to E.
>Now, imagine numbers written on those lines. The numbers refer to
>frets.  a 0 on the first line would mean play that string open,
>i.e. unfretted. A 1 would mean play that string at the first fret.,
>a 2 would mean play the second fret etc.
>If fret numbers appear as a vertical column they represent a chord.
>That is, tab is read left to right, but anything that lines up
>vertically is meant to be played simultaneously.
>Reading tab with a screen reader is annoying at best, since we
>usually read things a line at a time, so we miss the vertical
>aspect.  Plus, who wants to listen to their computer say something
>"dash dash dash dash 1 dash dash dash 3 dash dash dash dash dash
>dash dash 6 P 8 dash dash dash dash dash dash 4" I sure don't.
>There are some other notations included in tab, like H for hammer
>on, P for pull off, some sort of punctuation mark like a slash
>between two fret numbers meaning slide along the string from one to
>the next.
>So, Tab shows us fret numbers and a little about which left-hand
>techniques to use, but not much else. There is no timing shown,
>except that what happens at the left side of the page happens
>before the stuff to the right. No rests either.
>I've seen tabs where people try to devise a way to show this, for
>example writing E above every fret number meaning E for eighth
>note, Q for quarter, etc. So above the lines for the strings, now
>imagine e e e e e e e e  e e e e q e e e e e e e etc.
>But once you start adding all of that, you may as well learn
>regular notation which already conveys that stuff right? *grin* It
>gets a bit rediculous the more information you try to add.
>This is just one guys opinion. Some of the popular guitar magazines
>only show things in tab, and every book out there is going to show
>tab and standard notation. Nine times out of ten the sighted guy is
>going to glance at the tab, and then listen to the recording to
>figure out things like rhythm and articulation. That can work, if
>the person has a good ear. I'm not totally against it, for most of
>the hobbyists out there who just want to play their favorite Led
>Zeppelin riffs.
>One area where I think tab can be very useful is when someone
>writes a piece outside of standard tuning. This happens a lot in
>the folk or fingerstyle acoustic guitar world. In that case, even
>if you have a great ear, you might go crazy listening to a
>recording trying to figure out how some of those chord voicings are
>being played. Tab can clear up the mystery in a hurry.
>I used to advise students to look up tabs for popular songs they
>wanted to learn. But I don't do this any more. 99% of the tabs you
>find online probably have mistakes, since you're depending on
>whatever skills the transcriber has or doesn't have, and since
>there are always a few ways to play a bunch of notes on guitar.. On
>most of the huge tab Websites, you'll see 5 or 6 versions of a
>given song, and lots of comments from people about the relative
>accuracy of any of them.
>In a perfect world, guitar students would learn to read standard
>music from day one, just as piano, saxophone, violin, trumpet, and
>all the other instrumentalists do. I'm not sure why guitar has this
>anti-intellectual stance connected with it; perhaps because it is a
>popular folk instrument? And, that isn't meant as a slight against
>the folk crowd either.
>At 04:04 PM 5/3/2012, you wrote:
> >
> >
> >Would you be willing to write off-list and explain a little about
> >guitar
> >tablature? I am not a guitarist in the least, so be easy on me,
> >OK? <smile>
> >Thanks, Chris.
> >
> >
> >
> >Dale
> >
> >Dale.lieser@xxxxxxxxx
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
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