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Guitar Tablature Or Sheet Music?

Aug 18, 2007
Is it necessary to learn ordinary music notation for guitar or is it sufficient to know how to read tabs? Is it worth the price to learn to read ordinary guitar sheets?

Many guitar books available with tablature notation will also have a staff above with the guitar sheet music notation. It is also very common today that classical guitar books also have a guitar tab staff below.

This was not very common a few decades ago. Tablature has by some guitarists been considered cheating. Is it cheating or is it a help to have tabs at your disposal?

Personally I have as a guitar teacher experienced many instances when tablature has been a great help to my pupils. however, I would be very happy if young musicians would put more energy into the endeavor to learn to read sheet music notation.

It is a great advantage to have a working knowledge on how to read and understand music scores and the various symbols pertaining to it.

Let's take a look at the advantages of being able to read guitar music notation:

1. You will be able to play a piece of music the way the composer has intended without having heard it before. This is possible because music notation consists of descriptions concerning the pitch and also the length of the notes and other symbols telling you how to play the notes and performing the music.

2. You will have an enormous library of sheet music from various time periods at your disposal. It is possible to play music written for other instruments as well as music notation doesn't describe how to play the notes on a particular instrument but more which notes to play. This makes it possible for a guitarist to play violin exercises and vocal scores and so on.

3. You will as a guitarist be able to write and arrange music for other instruments in your band making it possible to shorten the rehearsal time and facilitating the use of more complicated musical arrangements.

4. Being able to read and use sheet music will help you as a composer to notate all your ideas in a way that you will remember and that you easily can share with your friends and others.

Let's look at the advantages of using guitar tablature:

1. Being a poor sheet music reader can hinder your from playing on the level of your techniqal skills. It's a pity that many guitar pupils play just a few boring sheet music melodies when they could really be playing melodies using the entire fretboard just by the use of tablature.

2. It is very easy to describe chords, licks and complicated riffs with the help of tablature especially if you have audio examples of the music.

3. Tablature notation is still as easy to read even when you use alternative tunings as the tab notation still tells you only how to put your fingers. Using sheet music notation with alternative tunings on the guitar is a bit difficult to say the least.

4. Internet is flooded with more or less accurate tablature renditions of popular riffs, songs and more.

Okey, but what is the best alternative, guitar tablature or guitar sheet music?

My opinion is that you can use tablature as much as you want but I recommend you to really learn to read sheet music notation because of the many advantages you will reap from it.

If you start by learning the names of the notes on the frets of the guitar you have already gained an important skill that will help you as you start to learn the notes on a music score staff.
About the Author
Peter Edvinsson invites you to download your free sheet music, guitar tabs, ebooks, music lessons and read his music blog at Capotasto Music.
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