First of all, this “guitar tab blog” was inspired by a drum blog called groovelibrary.blogspot.com. I couldn’t figure out a particular drumbeat, so I did a web search on the song. Groove Library came up, and I was surprised to find real notation! This blew my mind. I went on to use that blog to learn a few more songs on the drum set (some that I had never heard before, but I was inspired to look them up nevertheless). Really, all I needed from this particular website was the notated grooves (usually from 1-4 measures long), but I always did read the articles (often just a paragraph long) as well and found them very interesting. Then I thought, I want do this for guitar. For those who are interested, I use Finale Music Notation Software to make all the tabs on this website.
Piano, Vocal, Guitar Sheet Music
In general, for this blog, I try to pick songs that I can’t find real sheet music for. By “real” sheet music, I don’t mean piano reductions that include “guitar chord symbols.” These are commonly labeled as “Piano, Vocal, Guitar” sheet music. Usually these come with simplified piano parts that incorporate the vocal melody into the piano accompaniment and guitar chord diagrams that are usually different voicings than the ones from the recording. This is fine for a piano student who merely wants to play a simplified solo instrumental version of their favorite song, or even for a vocalists wanting an accompaniment to back them up. However, even piano players wanting an accurate transcription will not find that here since the vocal melody is incorporated into the piano accompaniment. This seems redundant to me since the melody is already written above in it’s own staff for the vocal part. Personally, I would prefer an exact transcription of the instruments they are actually playing in the recording. This philosophy was taken to the extreme in one of my all time favorite books: The Beatles – Complete Scores. Every part was transcribed: drums, piano, guitar, bass, clarinet, strings parts, basically everything. It’s all there like a score for a symphony. Accurate transcriptions of the guitar part are often found in books labeled as “Authentic Guitar Tabs” (below).
Authentic Guitar Tab
Authentic Guitar Tabs usually include both tablature notation and standard staff notation. I should say that these tabs are not always perfectly “authentic” or accurate. Usually they do get the notes right or at least very close, but of course on guitar there are multiple ways to play certain notes, chords, and licks. From time to time I’ll read interviews from great guitarists talking about various ways these transcriptions get it wrong. This sometimes happens because guitarists will use a strange tuning or capo position that the transcriber is unaware of. This can result in tabs that are much harder than they should be. Also, sometimes great recordings have multiple guitar parts that have been overdubbed making it harder to pick out individual parts. That said, these are quite good most of the time even if they are not always exact representations of what the original artist played.
The Authentic Guitar Tab versions are often published in book form or in guitar magazines or can even be found online as “digital sheet music.” A great website for classic rock “digital sheet music” tabs is http://www.guitarinstructor.com/. If I don’t already have it in book form, I’ll look there first because it costs just over a buck for an accurate tab. Most digital sheet music websites charge around $5 per chart.
By the way, the above style is what I use most often in my transcriptions for this website. However, periodically for rhythm guitar involving strumming full chords, I’ll just use chord fretboard diagrams with rhythmic notation like the example below:
Simple Typewriter Font Tabs
Also, I prefer the aforementioned “authentic” tabs to the tabs you can find online made by the layperson using plain-text fonts. They can be hit-or-miss. Actually, some of them are very accurate and well made, but I definitely miss the standard notation or even just basic rhythmic indications (although some do take great pains to indicate where the beat is). As a result, these are only good if you know the song well or have a recording that you can listen to (which is not a problem anymore. Thanks internet!). Of course, a good percentage of these are absolutely terrible. One good thing about them is you can find multiple versions of the song you are looking for, so you can often find one or two that will point you in the right direction. Here’s a basic rule of thumb when you are trying to find a good version of this kind of tab (if there are multiple versions to be found):
First of all, many of the guitar tab websites have user ratings that are sometimes helpful. This isn’t always true, but of course the best ones typically are the highest rated. The second rule that’s proved to be somewhat reliable is if the tab is neat in appearance, it tends to be more accurate. The sloppy looking tabs are commonly inaccurate. Of course, this isn’t hard and fast, but the people who have more experience with making tabs develop some skill with making neat tabs.
On a personal note, I made a couple of tabs in this style before I knew how to use Finale, and it is a painstaking process.