Let's talk notation, hacker style!

Ask general music theory or songwriting questions, get feedback!

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Re: Let's talk notation, hacker style!

Post by Basslint »

thumbknuckle wrote:
Basslint wrote: I am an amateur guitarist, guitar tabs are very common and definitely not reserved for beginners. Using traditional notation for a guitarist is not very useful...
I am not a guitar player, I play bass, and I don't do a ton of reading gigs, but I play with lots of different guitarists and have never seen a guitar chart in tab form on an actual gig. I don't mean this figuratively, I mean literally never. Not on a big band gig, not on a musical theater gig, not on a jazz gig, not on a chamber music gig. Never. I went to college with classical guitar majors, none of their charts were tabs either.

Where are you seeing all these tabs?
I don't play on tabs either, I mostly work with chords or roman numerals, but I know for sure tabs are used for educational purposes (as I read some guitar books).

Also keep in mind that tabs are often memorized, so if you see someone playing a cover of a rock song, they probably either learned it by ear or by practicing over a tab.
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Re: Let's talk notation, hacker style!

Post by CrocoDuck »

It has been so many years since I had read anything that I forgot how guitar scores are like.
Basslint wrote:and things like legato can be played in different ways which sound different, so if a guitarist has to be accurate, they need tabs.
You can notate all ornaments like vibrato, ghost notes and much more with ordinary scores. Very often, even the effect you should be using (for example distortion or reverb) is notated. You can find notation that express how to control the effects as well. I do remember lines going up and down giving some indication on how to operate a wah-wah pedal, for example, but I cannot dig that out right now. See below an example from a transcription of Manhattan by Eric Johnson notating legatos, vibratos, bending and acciaccatura:

merlyn wrote:Music specifically for the guitar includes positions, fingerings and strings.
Ah yeah, I forgot about that.
Basslint wrote:Using traditional notation for a guitarist is not very useful, because they'd have to look ahead (or be well acquainted with the piece) to use efficient fingerings.
I don't think so. I have never got to the point I could sight-read a piece I never seen or heard before, unless it was pretty simple stuff, but I got plenty of friends that could do it on guitar. If I remember well enough how I used to feel back in the day I would practice and play regularly, I got to the point of liking scores much better than tabs because they would actually allow to sight read much better. The reason is that when you read a score, as you play one figure of it, you are reading the next one. On a score you parse exactly what that means in musical terms and execute it. On the tab it always took me a bit of time to figure out how to move from where I have the fingers now to where I am required to have them next. Like: imagine somebody sitting next to you while you drive a car. He can say "turn right" or it can list all the required actions (look at the mirrors, turn on the turn signals, slow down, etc... etc...). The first option turns out to be the easiest, unless you are learning how to drive.

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Re: Let's talk notation, hacker style!

Post by S1gmoid »

It definitely did develop into an interesting discourse here. :)

Personally, even though I initiated the discussion and panned traditional notation quite prolifically, I am ultimately a fan and follower of it. It's a semantic description of music. It emphasizes some things, and de-emphasizes others, like how a triad always looks like a triad, but to know what sort of triad it is requires parsing the key signature, accidentals and its place on the chromatic scale. It can be gotten used to, and the more I practice reading the easier it gets. (Kinda like reading Japanese, another system of writing replete with what in the software profession we'd call 'crippling technical debt'.)

I still somehow hope for an eventual reform notation to win out, but it's kinda unlikely. The best we can shoot for is to find a workable shorthand notation system that's expressive enough for compositional use, and just transcribe into traditional notation for wider sharing. :P

As for tabulature and other instrument-specific stuff, I guess it has its place, but in the light of the discussion above, I'm not sure I'd consider them more than teaching aids.

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Re: Let's talk notation, hacker style!

Post by Openmastering »

The question I have at the moment is how do we go about it with kids?
My daughter has started playing the violin. She'll eventually have to learn traditional classical notation. If I introduce her to another type, is it a good move or just another useless attempt to be different?
Do you need to learn Esperanto when you already know English? English is more widespread anyway...
Even though I see the point of teaching something "better", if it's just theoretical because nobody uses it, it's kind of useless.
I'm not seeking advice for this specific case, but more about how we altogether deal with new notations and kids. It's really hard to get"out" of a century old well established standard.
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Re: Let's talk notation, hacker style!

Post by S1gmoid »

Hm the Esperanto parallel is a bit of a flawed allegory. Esperanto has kinda grown into a subculture as opposed to a genuine lingua franca it set out to become. You learn Esperanto to read Esperantist literature, and to talk to other Esperantist. You learn it to become part of this international multigenerational club of artists, geeks and dreamers. It's a bit like being a freemason, and knowing the secret handshake.

As for notation and kids... I'd probably teach kids traditional notation, so they can get used to it. I mean, I'm Hungarian, and I don't feel that the Hungarian language is "hard" or "complex", even though it's reportedly one of the hardest to learn as a foreign language. Sure if I sit down and think of it, like "wow there's totally no rhyme or reason why we say this this way and that that way, crazy", but it's internalized. I think for a musician, it would be great to have this internalized feel of traditional notation, which ultimately is the de-facto written language of music.

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