Guitar tablature or Standard notation – Part I

This is one of the most common questions we get from our beginner students. Should we use the Tablature for guitar or do we start the Music Staff from the beginning?

If we draw a parallel to a piano tuition lesson, you will see that this is not problematic at all, as the piano keyboard has a very clear pattern that visually aids the piano student from lesson 1 to find then notes quickly and efficiently. Also, on the piano, every note is drawn in a specific place on the music staff and is note repeated. On the contrary, on the guitar, one note can be played in different frets in different strings, what will change is the timbre but not the pitch. This is why lots of students prefer the Tab system (shorter of Tablature) this is a very old method to read the notes and it was used for lute players in the Renaissance and Baroque period.

The Tabs allow us to find the precise location of the notes, facilitating the playing, but the negative counterpart is that does not provide any information regarding the duration of the notes, or rhythm, and that has been a flaw in the system for many years, as the performers should know the song or piece previously; otherwise, it is impossible to play it!

This reason might be why many teachers choose the Music Staff system to read the notes as it provides all the information needed: notes (pitch), duration (rhythm or note values), articulation (how smooth or detached the notes should be played) and dynamics (how loud or soft the music should sound). Also, we should consider another important and practical aspect of the Staff of Pentagram: it is a universal code that all musicians understand, no matter the instrument that they play!

LAO invite you to read this series of articles written by Thomas Rickerby for all guitar and music students by clicking on the links aforementioned. Hoping you find it helpful and makes you aware of the difference in learning one way or another.