Avoiding TAB by annotating notes on sheet music?

If one sometimes annotates notes on sheet music with numbers from 1 to 6 to indicate which string a note sits on, is there any need for TAB (other than for people with no interest in reading)? I just thought of this and wonder why I have not seen it before.

I used to hate TAB, then I loved TAB (for showing the string layout), but it looks like I can go back to being a hater again. Thoughts?

Hey kgk!

The only problem I find with tabs is that they don’t specify the rhythm of the music, just the location of the notes on the fretboard.

This causes that new musicians with no knowledge of rythmn get to play music not caring about rythmn, which could result damaging.

I myself prefer standard notation but tabs are cool as well, there are tabs that include rythmn notation, very cool resource to save space in books

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Right, but standard notation doesn’t specify which string, so it is not specific enough to avoid trapping the pick by accident, hence I was also writing TAB. Now i think that i can stop with TAB.

I’ll try this out, but am very surprised not to see it done before, why not? :thinking:

I don’t think TAB needs be good or bad. Use the right tool at the right time. Standard notation for your cello player, MP3 your bass player that doesn’t read and TAB for your 8 year old student learning some AC/DC to get inspired.

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I think a happy medium between notation and tablature is tabbing out but also having the rhythm above like on songsterr or guitar pro. I either use tabs or ear when learning songs and have never seen myself using notation unless I am sight reading a classical piece. I’m a metal musician but classical guitar is my minor and we use sheet music. The problem with indicating the 1-6 strings on the staff is that it takes a lot of time and effort to be able to learn notation and the writer could easily make bad practice of notating incorrectly. You couldn’t just use any E note on the staff and say which number string it is because the staff is laid out for voicing’s. Guitar is in the alto soprano range or in the treble clef and where you place notes matters. Plus, one note could be in multiple positions on guitar which takes a lot of fretboard knowledge to figure out where it should go. I myself have purchased the songsterr app and also guitar pro 7 and have really enjoyed using them. It shows rhythm, fret numbers and also allows playing in real time.


This is why I prefer the way places like Guitar World or UG official tabs do it with a mix of tab and rhythm. I find that perfect for the common plucked string instruments. Sheet music works best for instruments with only one way to play a particular pitch like keyboards. I could easily write an essay on how silly using sheet notation invented in the 1700s is for electric guitar is especially when you throw bends (no quarter step option in classical notation) into the equation.

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I’ve seen lots of Jazz Guitar books that use the String Number convention in standard notation without tab.

Of course many sheets do not, because there are often multiple solutions for the same passage - and improvisers tend to advocate for flexibility in position/fingering rather than having a “stock pattern” that’s the same every time.