Many guitar players wonder whether or not using guitar tab is a form of cheating. They think that if they can’t play by ear that they’re doing it wrong. The truth is that there’s no right or wrong way to learn songs. If you know how to play a song and can play it well, then what difference does it make how you learned it?
Tab Vs Ear
I have learned over the years by both reading guitar tab and playing by ear. Most musicians rely on some form of notation now and then, some more than others. It all depends on what works for you. If you can’t figure out something by ear, then there’s certainly no reason to give up. Get the tab! If you can pick up on something by ear quicker than you can read the tab or sheet music, then do it.
Forms of notation have existed for as long as there has been people playing music. There’s nothing wrong with reading guitar tab, reading standard musical notation, watching a video demonstration or having another guitar player show you how to play something.
Playing By Ear
If you want to try using your ear, then go for it. It definitely can help your development. And you might enjoy the challenge. If you get stuck on something, consult the tab. The more you learn the more you’ll be able to figure out on your own.
Getting Good at Playing Guitar
When it comes to getting good at playing guitar, the important part is to get good, somehow. It doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you get there.
I would add that the more you learn about music theory for guitar the better able you’ll be able to figure out songs. Knowing what chords and scales are used and understanding how things in music go together will take a lot of the guesswork out. To learn more about guitar theory, sign up for a free preview of my book Fretboard Theory.
Do you have a good ear or do you always require the tab? Feel free to leave comments and share what works best for you.
To learn more about music theory for guitar, including scales, chords, progressions, modes, and more, sign up for a free preview of my Fretboard Theory books and DVDs by using the form on this web page.
Play Until Yer Fingers Bleed!
Mr. Desi Serna
Good point. I always get told to learn mostly by ear, but sometime it feels like I would be better served with my time turning to tab when it is too difficult for me.
I have nothing really against tab or notation,
but you will only be as good as your ear will allow.
Just knowing the intervals of the major scale and placing number to these 7 note will take you pretty far.
There are gravitational pulls in music, in other word chords have a mind of there own.
This stuff is not that hard but some theory even the good old circle of 5 ths apply.
The 5 chord always want to resolve to the ! chord
“but you will only be as good as your ear will allow.” To be honest you make it sound as if learning tab means your ear will not develope very strongly. I believe it depends on how much you rely on it.
“If you get stuck on something, consult the tab. The more you learn the more you’ll be able to figure out on your own.” This statement is key, using tab as something to go to when you are stuck is not going to keep you from developing a strong ear. Like the author said, the more you learn the more you’ll be able to do it on your own. Until eventually you wont need tablature. You can transcribe music for yourself. The point is don’t rely to heavily on it. Use it in the beginning when you are new to learning songs. But then take away the tabs and push yourself to learn by ear. Go to the tab only when you really can’t get something and when see what is going on you’ll learn from it.