A benefit of playing from tabs

I play a lot of stuff on Yousician, i consider it like running on the treadmill at the gym; it gets me lots of time in on playing without having to think about other stuff too much. I’ve been working on their Christmas stuff lately and man it uses a ton of open strings! I like playing open strings but usually don’t end up playing them so much because it takes a lot of extra work to mute them (and I’m always efficient/lazy), so playing all these open strings is really making me work hard on my muting and come up with some creative tricks to mute strings.

Sure i could always do that playing from notation, but i don’t. Playing a lot of stuff on the SBL players path seems to be structured that way too, “forcing” you play open strings and up the neck when you could more easily play across it.


Lately there has been a lot of discussion on this forum about the benefit, or lack thereof, of using TAB.

I can read TAB and Standard music notation, for both the Bass and Treble cleffs, in other words the Grand Staff. Now the odd thing is this works all well and fine for me with Keyboards, Ukulele, Guitar and Bass BUT when it comes to Bluegrass Banjo ie. Scruggs style, I always end up using TAB versions of songs.

I think the reason for this may be that there are a lot of melody notes in Bluegrass Banjo songs and when you combine that fact with the BPM (Beats Per Minute) range of the average Bluegrass music it is just too fast to use standard notation, especially for a song you do not know. As an example classic Bluegrass songs like Cripple Creek are usually best played at 160 - 200 BPM. This BPM range is typical of a lot of Bluegrass songs.

A lot of people on the forum give TAB a bad rap and every time I see those comments the first thing I think is ‘I wonder how those same people would feel about TAB if they decided to give Bluegrass Banjo a try’’?

As @howard has said many times, TAB is a tool and can be very useful in a lot of cases and should not be just scoffed at or thought of as being useless. For me if it wasn’t for TAB with Bluegrass Banjo I hate to think where I would be without it. Just sayin’ :slightly_smiling_face: :slightly_smiling_face: :slightly_smiling_face:


You definitely need to have patience for banjo too, endless hours of practicing rolls. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

I think banjo really has its own vibe, learning stuff seemed different than any other instrument I’ve played. Maybe because of the whole country/folk thing…mandolin is probably similar.

I love Jim Pankey’s channel.

I tend to avoid open strings, even when called for in a tab I try to fret the note on the next lower string, which often sounds better with the added bass tone.

I take tabs as a suggestion. I play the note it calls for, just sometimes move it if it suits me. Tainted Love is a good example. The tab is if I recall it correctly

g -----------------------
D -----------------------
A ---------6-6----------
E 3-3-6-6-----68-------
B ------------------------

I like it as

g -----------------------
D -----------------------
A ---------6-6----------
E -----6-6-----68------
B 8-8-------------------

I have not tried Yousician, but Rocksmith doesn’t care where I play the note, if it can even tell the difference, the hertz is the same after all.

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Yeh he’s quite the guy.

Recently he’s had a few serious medical issues requiring surgery.
I pray he’ll pull through it OK :+1: :+1: :+1:

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I’m kind of the opposite. A lot of tabs I have seen needlessly try and avoid open strings out of some perceived stylistic benefit, when often the open string actually sounds better and is much more appropriate from a utility standpoint.

I’ve actually offered suggestions on fixing tabs with this before, including linking videos where the original artist uses the open string :slight_smile:

Huge fan of open strings.


Well, I’m here to change that sh!t real quick!

I love tab and I have no significant interest in learning to read sheet music. Tab makes the whole process of being a beginner a whole lot more fun. There is a reason it’s used in B2B instead of sheet music.

Reading music and playing bass are two separate skills. Tab makes learning to play bass a whole lot easier and sheet music makes it a whole lot more complicated.

I’m not downing anybody that can read sheet music. If you’re into it, that’s awesome. If you’re not, that’s fine too. Use whatever gets the job done for you. If that’s tab, more power to you.


Totally this! I 'm definitely a TAB man at heart but I will say that standard music notation makes it easier to see the rhythm and phrasing if you can work it out.


Not anymore. Modern tabs have that too. I recommend Songsterr.



You beat me to it. :+1:


I really think it’s actually a very small number of people, and yeah I just don’t understand wanting to give up a useful resource for no real reason, but whatever.


Just to clarify, this is bad rap.



This is so true. I’m learning how to read tabs now. It’s very convenient to play as intended finger positioning wise. Especially, the ones that are well made like the example @howard beat you to it ,lol.

Same Notes on the fingerboard can played on different strings sometimes the economy of motion dictates the best way to play them, or vice versa sometimes you get extra style points moving from one end to the other.

While I can read sheets music like numbers I understand the value of each of the note but like math equations knowing the number and understanding the theory is an entirely different thing altogether.

My thoughts on open strings, it’s a necessary evil, you need this skill in the tool bag. I’ve come to appreciate the usefulness of open strings, it’s more versatile than duct tape,lol.


Yousician doesn’t care where you play the note either, I often play notes in “different” places, and you can play from notation too.


Marc @ talking bass did a video last year on how he’s been playing Teen Town wrong for almost 30 years compared to how Jaco played it, where Jaco uses a lot of open strings.

I like them in theory but not always so much in practice :smiley: when you have a run up and down several open strings, it makes the muting challenging but I think that’s a good thing to have to work on that and I like the sound of open strings. Sometimes you can use them as a “break” to move to another position.

It is pretty typical of string instruments not to play open strings because it makes embellishments difficult and it’s not as easy to do vibrato on an open string.

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Another example of not playing open strings is songs like Come As You Are. Nirvana tuned the bass down, but I can play the whole song by shifting frets without tuning down, so long as I avoid open strings.

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If say that if you wanna use tabs, then use them…. If you wanna use sheet music, then use them…. If you wanna use your ear, then use it…. If you wanna use your own style, then use it…

The key is to “PLAY” bass - no matter what you use to direct your path, just be sure to play IN TIME… and play from your HEART…. Just “Lock In” and have fun…

I always think to myself…. How would I play music if I were blind??

Just my 2 cents….

Keep on Thumpin’!


You’d play music exactly the same way; playing music really doesn’t require sight. If you wanted to read music, there is braille music notation… but playing/composing music does not require any method of recording unless you want someone else to play it.

Now there’s a good question: what does it mean to play in time, and is it really required? Things like Dilla swing / drunk drumming are not “in time”. Quite a bit of hiphop, especially early stuff sounds like a 4 year old is playing the beat on their first drum set.

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There are a lot of songs that use drop tuning where the open string is extremely useful as you can play it as a drone note which is difficult with a fretted note unless your name is Lewis Johnson. :smiley:

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