Actual Tabs vs. Bass Covers

Absolutely -
Look, these are all my favorite things to do on bass - tap, slap, chords, fingerpick, etc.
And they certainly work with others great if, as you say, the arrangement takes all these things into account.

I’m happy to show students all of this stuff, but it is very important to also be very clear that - in 99% of the situations where people would want to play music with you, a bassist, these techniques will not be useful.

Impractical bass lessons with Gio Benedetti.
It’s my thing.


I use Songsterr as well and I have found that most of the time the tabs there are inaccurate. Some of the super popular songs are transcribed correctly but I suspect that’s because there’s a lot of source material to go off of for those. Most of the time if I want to learn a song I will use Songsterr as a starting point just to get the basic rhythms of the song and chord progressions, but the only way to really learn a song for me is to listen to the isolated bass track. You always pick up on things that were missed in the tabs.

As others have said though, you can sort of fake your way through a song as long as you stay in key and nail the root notes of the progression. I just did a cover where I didn’t play the song as it was written or recorded and it still sounds great because what I’m playing fits with the music.


I wouldn’t say most of the time in my experience but it is certainly common for the genres I like. One thing I have noticed is a bad case of what looks like “this is how I play it” syndrome - i.e. changes or adding things that the original artist absolutely did not do. I’ve usually seen this where the tab indicates fretting something rather than using an open string like the original, or adding octave fills to things the artist plays as a straight chug.


I like Guitar Pro myself, there are enough examples on various sites that you can find a good one.
I am interested in any people have made and have a fair few open source ones I can share also.


Please share!


No worries,
best way to start is the sites I use.
All free and open source so no piracy involved
Here is the best one:

many versions of a wide variety of popular songs/bands with some obscure ones also.

Mr Constantine’s site (this is a very good one):

Goth Tab archive (not the best but it does have some hard to find ones like a ‘passable’ version of this Corrosion’):

These are ok and have some less common artists too:

I think I have some others book marked on the music laptop downstairs.


I am still a fan of using

The tabs are “hidden” in the Rocksmith song format, but you can either convert it to GuitarPro using Tonelib Jam or (the more complicated) Rocksmith Custom Song Toolkit (

The quality can be hit & miss, but I would say that it’s better than most Songster tabs I have encountered!

More info here: List of play-along songs with synchronised tabs on Youtube

Took a quick pass and these are not bad! The JD “Disorder” one is widely used on other sites (and is also wrong but not terrible). All of the Sisters’ ones I spot-checked looked fine.


Can you check mine??

Disorder (V1) Joy division.pdf (489.5 KB)

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Tab is close.
Sheet music has issues (a bunch of weird extra rests, the eighth notes are notated kind of oddly, the sharp should be in the key signature, and the tempo 100% does not change like that, but that’s a known issue with all of these machine transcriptions. Real songs do not do this; I think this is the software responding to wonkiness in the original recordings. Other minor issues).
Measure 51 is incorrect (or at least not how I learned it) but might sound ok; there’s a lot of different interpretations of that descending bit.
I don’t think that ghost note in measure 75 is real.

Overall not too bad.


I thought so :slight_smile:

This is the tab done by the Rocksmith team itself, so it’s part of the Ubisoft content offer.

I read an interview with Jarred McAdams some time ago, where he explained how painstakingly they (re)created the scores. The quality of the game depends upon it.

It sounded quite legit to me!

So, the previous PDF was exported from ToneLib Jam … this one is exported with CustomsForge Song Manager:

Joy Division - Disorder.pdf (360.5 KB)

I don’t think there’s a difference, but if there is, Tonelib Jam might be the culprit.

That’s sort of what I meant. They’ll get you close most of the time but often Songsterr tabs are transcribed in unnecessarily difficult ways to play. I don’t think I’ve ever learned a full song from tabs and I wouldn’t recommend it to others but it’s a good place to get started :man_shrugging:t2:

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You’ve mentioned this before and I was hoping we could discuss in a bit more detail. My experience doesn’t line up with yours and I’m curious why that might be.

As an example, let’s take Wave of Mutilation by Pixies. It’s listed as a 132bpm song, and analyzing it with RipX confirms this to be the case:


OK great, let’s fire up Reaper, set a new project to 132bpm, import the song and line up the beat markers:


OK, so far so good. But by bar 3 we are already starting to see drift. And when we get to bar 11 it looks like this:


And by the time we get to the end of the two minute song, it’s drifted so far that it’s almost in time again:


So clearly there exists at least one song that is recorded without strict adherence to tempo. The differences are pretty small bar to bar, but they appear early on and add up over the course of the song.

OK, let’s do one of those machine transcriptions. We’ll export MIDI from RipX and import into Guitar Pro and pay close attention to the tempo changes it notes (yes this transcription is ugly, ewww):

Throughout the piece, the tempo on a bar-by-bar basis ranges from 131bpm to 135bpm. From one bar to the next, I never see a change of more than 2bpm. Most often it’s just a single bpm.

Let’s look at what a 2bpm change equates to at that tempo:

Beats per Minute 132.000 134.000
Beats per Second 2.200 2.233
Seconds Per Beat 0.455 0.448
4/4 Bar (Seconds) 1.818 1.791
Absolute Difference per Bar (Seconds) 0.027
Percentage Difference per Bar 1.493
Absolute Difference per Beat (Seconds) 0.007
Percentage Difference per Beat 1.493

OK, so play a full measure just 27 milliseconds too fast or slow, and you’re off by 2bpm. I’m sure the drummer is attempting to play a consistent 132 bpm and probably is under the impression that he did exactly that. But clearly it’s a human drummer and there are these small variations that come with the territory.

So yes, in my limited experience real songs do in fact do this when objectively measured. They’d still write “132” on the sheet music, though, and people would still try to play it consistently at 132, with variable results.

OK, so what am I missing here, what am I getting wrong? I’d love to be able to set the tempo on my DAW and just have the beats line up, but it never seems to work out that way. I’ve recently discovered that tempo mapping is a thing and need to understand that process better, but @howard I don’t recall you mentioning ever having to do anything like that.


Overwhelmingly likely they didn’t record to a click. The natural minor variations in tempo being a pain in the ass for producing is why recording without a click is getting more and more rare.

Yes exactly - I 100% believe the recordings do this due to various reasons - imperfections in people’s timing, imperfections in the recording gear, etc. I have never disputed this - it is measurable, in fact.

What I am saying is that no one does this on purpose. It is an error that should not be reproduced in the sheet music.

The goal of music notation is to provide a language to convey how a piece should be played. Covering backing tracks precisely is a niche and is not something you want to optimize for in general for making music.


You are lucky if you try to get a tab for popular songs, and nothing too complicated. I looked and looked no one is doing this iconic song, :joy:

I ended up doing the tab myself. It’s still in progress but it was fun and quite rewarding. I’d probably stop at 3:00 after that it’s beyond my ability, :laughing:

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Right on, we’re 100% on the same page on that. My apologies for misinterpreting your take on it. I was seriously wondering how a smart, reasonable guy like yourself could have such a crazy view. The answer if course is that you did not in fact have that view. My bad!

That said, I really was hoping for a silver bullet on the DAW tempo. It didn’t occur to me that you might be doing it all from scratch, in which case trying to match a DAW tempo setting to a previously recorded track wouldn’t be an issue you’d have to contend with.


Yeah, I don’t use backing tracks at all so matching them is not an issue for me. My only use for the original recording is to chart out and analyze the original song structure.

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Man, I like how your mind works!

As I had my fair share of discussion with @howard and @gio about this, maybe @fennario 's analysis explains it all.

For my List of play-along songs with synchronised tabs on Youtube I never intended to create sheet music, but synchronised tracks.
If @fennarios analysis is right (which it is), this explains the variations in tempo.

I will take the most discussed songs and run those through RipX to see if it finds tempo changes.

And than let’s rediscuss it, as it is big fun :slight_smile:

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My comments about sheet music extend to tab too :slight_smile: