Tabs? Where can a person find good tabs for free?

I never want t buy tabs and the ones that are free never seem to be any good. Where do you guys find your tabs?


Buying them is legit - Bass Player magazine has great transcriptions - worth the subscription price just for their TABS. I say - pay for them. Internet TABers are a special kind of incompetent.


Yeah, it’s tricky. The free ones are mostly free because nobody would pay for tabs that bad!

The problem is that some internet tabs are okay, but if your ear isn’t good enough to tell the difference, you’re putting yourself in danger of learning songs wrong… and if your ear was good enough to tell, then you wouldn’t need the tab. Catch 22.

Long term, the best solution is to do a bunch of ear training and make your own. :slight_smile: In the meantime, Bass Player magazine is good, and you can often find published books of song tabs that are way better than what you’ll find online.


My advice is to learn to read music. Tabs are great and if you Google “Free Bass Tabs PDF” you will find lots of actually quite good tabs out there… but… honestly, it is not actually very hard to learn basic music reading skills. I am just in the middle of doing this now.

When I switched from being a mediocre guitar player to a mediocre but happy! bass player 2 years ago, I decided I was going to learn to read music. Actually… that is not true exactly… I went on Amazon one night rather late and purchased this book…

I didn’t look at it or read the description before I bought it. It has no tabs. When it arrived, I was gutted and just as I was preparing to send it back, it dawned on me that this might just be perfect. I would have no choice but to learn to read.

It is a great great book and starts very simply. Before long you are reading music. The advantage is that the world of music will open up to you. You can then play cello music, trombone, bass, and any other instrument using the bass clef! Lots of fun. I would never go back and have no regrets. I am also pretty proud of myself. I feel like I have/am learning a new language!

Give it a try. Tabs aren’t going anywhere but there is a whole world of music available to the music reader!


I agree that reading music is an important skill to learn and is very useful. The problem with this plan is that the availability of standard notation sheet music for bass is much, much smaller than tabs, and in some genres, is nonexistent.

Many tab sites will autoconvert tabs to sheet music notation, and many DAWs will be able to generate sheet music notation from MIDI files (which you can usually download from better tab sites). But generally there’s just a vast, vast difference in overall availability.

Which is unfortunate as I prefer sheet music myself. C’est la vie.

I know a lot of people poopoo Ultimate Guitar, but it’s a great starting point, at least for me it is.
I pay the subscription to get the “official” tabs. What that means is they have a team of people that will transcribe the songs in all the assorted instruments
Here’s an example of Cake’s I will survive. Lots of instruments = lots of work

I then record the song from youtube using Audacity. With the music in hand I run it through Moises to separate the bass track. With the bass track I then go through the tabs to check if everything looks good, or if my ear tells me, no, that’s wrong. I then grab my Uke Bass (very handy for quick transcribes) and try to figure out the corrections.

I then upload the tab to my MobileSheets app and I can annotate the sheet in the software
Here’s an example of Miley Cyrus’s Flowers I’m working on. This is just alternative fretting to having to go all the way up the neck


Et Voila, you have your tab, handy on your tablet, or print it out for paper copies to hand-annotate the sheets.

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The nice thing about the modern tabs from Songsterr or UG-Pro like those is that they actually contain more information than standard notation sheet music.

Getting the tabs for all instruments in one place is also very nice for my bandmate and I when doing covers; usually the drum tabs are close enough for me to get a basic drum track laid down in under an hour, and then I add the bassline after that and send the rough track at that point to my bandmate. He then uses the guitar tabs. The keyboard tabs are annoying though, so I just use them as a starting point and figure it out.

Ironically even the vocal line tabs are useful because after laying down the vocals you can then check against them by using Melodyne to analyze the vocal track.


super old thread, but to answer the OP’s question…good luck. Most internet tabs are terrible. Some might get you started, but often times they’ll transcribe the song in an unnecessarily difficult way to play. I basically only use online tabs for a reference point, but here is my process.

Run a song through Moises, isolate the bass track. Put the bass track into GarageBand (or whatever DAW you use), highlight a small section of it and play it on a loop. Using the online tabs, I will play along with the bass track and identify if the tabs are right or not. If they are, I will keep what’s right, and then progress through my song piece by piece making changes as I go. Most of the time, transcribing will be intuitive. You’ll say “Ok, I finished that last bit on E, 7th fret of the A string, the next note is lower in pitch, where is it?” I do this for the entire song and make my own tabs.

What I often find is helpful about online tabs is they will sometimes get a lot of the notes right, but they’re just played in the wrong spot. So, maybe the note is a G#, and the tabs tell you that’s E4, when it should be played higher in pitch on A11. Often I will just write down the note names in succession, then play them all over the neck until the pitch is accurate. This is the best and only way I have found to get near-perfect tabs

This is really often the case. Most commonly you’ll see people jumping through hoops to avoid open strings, when in many cases they are simply better, but instead the tab author will choose some unfortunate fingering to avoid them.

I like UG too, the only thing i’ve found that was completely wrong was their drum part for “come together” and the vast majority of people get that wrong anyway.

Usually if i want to get tabs that are “correct” i’ll check UG, check YT and read the YT comments for people pointing out errors and that’ll give me a good start, because i’m lazy :laughing: many artists play songs different ways on albums vs live too so there’s usually not just one way that’s “correct”.

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sometimes the original artist plays something in an unnecessarily difficult way :slight_smile:

You don’t need to be all that proficient on bass to understand how you can change fingerings, it’s not THAT complicated… as long as you can add/subtract 5, you’ll be fine :slight_smile:

When i play from standard notation i’ll usually default to playing open strings and the first 4 frets where possible but then make changes after to play further up the neck where desirable.

I don’t worry too much about tabs being “right” as long as they’re not terribly bad… playing is playing, i’m not playing in a cover band where people are playing to hear it like the original artist played it. Many bassists don’t even play covers “correctly” note for note anyway.

There are so many mixed messages for new bassists… don’t play tabs because they’re wrong but you should also learn to play your own bass lines and improvise, and you should learn to play from standard notation (which is still often wrong) and which will probably mean you don’t play songs “correctly” as you’ll choose different fingerings which have a different timbre.

When you’re just starting out learning, i don’t think you have to worry that much about what’s “correct”, just what’s intended; your technique is what’s really important. Telling someone who’s just starting out on their musical journey that they should transpose their own tabs is a bit silly too and not likely to be more accurate than any tabs they’ll find for free.

For sure. What I usually do is just change the tab though :rofl:

I’ve fixed several bad tabs on U-G.

Yeah these really irritate me; there’s a lot of misinformation about tabs that people like to parrot. Or worse, people learn to read standard notation and become kind of elitist or winesnobby about it, which is actually pretty amusing to me, as like most people that had a strong music program in school, I have read it since grade school and was used to kind of assuming everyone did, because in our school, almost everyone did. Notation elitism sounds to me like a kid flexing that they know the alphabet better than their peers.

Bottom line is tabs are a valuable and useful resource for communicating music. Wasting them as an opportunity is wasteful and shortsighted, IMO. And it’s not like the error rate of online standard notation is any better.

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That reminds me of people editing wiki pages in order to win an argument :joy: :joy: :joy:


Hey, if the tab is wrong and fixing it works :slight_smile:


This was great for a bunch of good free pdf tabs for me

This free trial (no credit card reqd):

The punchline is the fact this is Hal Leonard owned so you get access to a catalogue of over 1500 downloadable Hal Leonard bass tab pdfs in that time

A good range of different music and these are quality tabs that many people pay for in the Hal Leonard books (or paid downloads)…worth taking the time to look through in the free trial period

Also my free trial week lasted a month which was nice

Here is where I start, there are usually several versions and you can pick the best or use as a starting point

I’ve had a bit of success with an app called Songsterr. Not every tab in these is 100% correct, I’m sure, but the library is quite impressive and even in the free version has a decent play along feature.

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