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The age old debate: Standard Notation or Tablature for guitarists?

Standard notation is the traditional way to notate music. It's how most musicians read sheet music. This goes for music students, professional musicians to people who simply wanna communicate better with their musical peers. In contrast, guitar tabulature or "tabs" are particularly popular and even necessary amongst guitarists because they provide a quick and easy way to read (and play!) music without knowing the standard notation system or the notes on the fretboard.


What is Tablature and Why is it Used?

Tablature is the most common type of musical notation used for guitar and bass guitar. It shows you where to place your fingers on the instrument to play a given note or chord, by using fret numbers. This makes it different from conventional music notation as music notations only shows you the notes on a sheet and you have to figure out, where they are placed on the guitar.

The first form of tablature was developed in Italy during the 15th century by a violinist named Albinoni. He created this new form because he wanted to make the technique of playing an instrument easier for people who were not well-versed in reading music. This form of tablature became known as Albioni tabulatura due to its originator, and was later shortened just to tabulatura.


Benefits of Learning Guitar Tablature Over Standard Notation

There are som benefits of tabulature over music notation. It allows us to play chords more quickly, it allows for more accurate finger placement, and it provides a clearer image of the fretboard and it’s dead a dead easy system to figure out.


Benefits of Standard Notation over Learning Guitar Tablature

There are some drawbacks of tabulature however. In the old days of guitar tabulature, there were no rhythm notated on the tabs, so you had to figure that stuff out on you own which was actually very hard to do. In standard notation, the rhythm is right there on the paper, all you have to do is read it. The other drawback of tabulature is that it is only used by guitarists (and bassists). No other instruments use this system and therefore you will not be able to “speak” the same language as they do. So if you have the desire to play with other people in a band context, I would  recommend at least having an understanding of standard music notation.


Should a Beginner Learn Standard Notation or Tablature?

Tables can be a good notation for beginners. It's easier to learn standard notation because it has a more intuitive organization. Tablature has some disadvantages such as the inability to communicate with other musicians.

For most beginner guitarists, tabulature will be the easier option. This is a great alternative for beginners as it doesn't require as much knowledge in music theory than reading sheet music does.



About the author: Janus Buch is the founder and head teacher at Bredballe Guitarskole located near Kolding in Denmark. Bredballe Guitarskole is the countrys leading guitarschool. If your wanna take your guitar playing to the next level and you are local to the area looking up Bredballe Guitarskole would be a great idea for you. We always offer a free assessment lesson to get you started right. Look no further for guitar lessons in Kolding.

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