This is likely one of the biggest debates that musicians have. Or even people who are not musicians have.
Some people gravitate towards guitar tablature and some towards standard notation but usually, their reasons for doing so are incomplete. People who gravitate towards tablature tend to do so because that was what they first learnt on the guitar or because it is easy to understand. Other people, usually either classical guitarists or people who play instruments like piano believe that standard notation is the holy grail of music. Neither of these opinions are entirely complete.
There are positives to learning how to read music however but there are also positives to focusing on tablature. Let’s go through them all.
Guitar tablature advantages
– One of the advantages of learning tablature is that it is extremely easy to understand. Even if you picked up the guitar yesterday, it won’t take you long to understand tablature. There are 6 lines, the lowest being the thickest E string and the one at the top being the thinnest e string and all the other strings in between are laid out from the thickest string at the bottom and getting thinner as you go higher.
If you see a 0 next to a line it means you hit the string on its own and if you see a number on a line that is the fret you play on that string. It is really straightforward.
– Another advantage is that beginners, intermediates and even advanced guitarists can learn some songs they like pretty quickly which is great for beginners can say they can play through something as opposed to being stuck on reading notation.
Guitar tablature disadvantages
-There are of course disadvantages of learning tab.
-One of them is that you do not learn any rhythms or anything about playing rhythms since there is no rhythm in tab. This is limiting as if you look at t song on tablature, unless you know how the song goes pretty well, you will likely be confused as you will not be sure how to play the notes rhythmically. Playing in time is harder to develop this way. In eventably, you will have to learn how to write out rhythm as well.
– Tablature also discourages growth in a very strong skill called ear training. This is a skill which will allow you to unleash the music that is locked inside your mind onto the guitar. But learning tab discourages you from ever developing this skill which is why a lot of guitarists struggle as musicians today.
Standard notation advantages
– One of the advantages of learning notation is that you learn about rhythms and rests and being able to play them. Having an understanding of rhythm improves your rhythm playing, creativity and ability to play the songs you like without getting confused on rhythm.
– Learning music notation can open up doors for you that would have remained locked tight. For example, you will be able to be a jazz musician or play in orchestras, or if you want to play classical music you will be able to do so. You will not be able to do this if all you can read is tablature.
Standard notation disadvantages
– The issue with learning standard notation is that it is very hard and confusing at first. And the problem is, it can be a long time before you can actually play anything if you tried to learn this in the beginning. Of course, this discourages a lot of beginners and for that exact reason, a lot of the excitement they had to play the guitar often gets destroyed this way.
– Depending on what you want to do, learning how to read standard notation may not only be hard, time-consuming and even boring, it can be a waste of time learning it. If you want to be a rock musician, write your own music in a style that doesn’t use notation, perform in a band, record your own music etc. then learning standard notation is not necessary.
Bare these things in mind whenever you are trying to decide to which one to learn.
About the author: Jake Willmot has been playing for quite a few years and has also been training to teach the guitar for quite some time. So it is not likely that you will find a better guitar teacher in Exmouth than him. This is something that he is very passionate about and there is nothing better than a guitar teacher who is passionate about helping his students grow.