Guitar Teaching: TAB or Notation?21st November, 2016
The subtitle to this blog could be ‘Is it possible to teach guitar playing without teaching the additional skill of reading music’. The subject of ‘TAB versus notation’ occasionally crops up in guitar-based (non-classical, that is) magazines, and is one that is often hotly contested – by which I mean guitarists usually have firmly entrenched views on the matter.
From a guitar teaching perspective it’s an extremely relevant as well as recurring subject unless it’s only classical guitar that you teach. It’s relevant because with regards to guitar pupils, particularly from early teens upwards, a large proportion will view the acquisition of the skill generally known as ‘reading music’ to be unnecessary.
If a pupil has no interest in the classical guitar then that pupil is most likely to favour some form of rock or pop music, which in turn means that somewhere along the line they’ve discovered that their favourite player cannot distinguish a crotchet from a quaver or cannot understand why it makes no sense to refer to A flat when you’re playing in the key of E major.
In fact it’s not uncommon to detect an outright rejection, and sometimes a virulent disdain towards, any theoretical knowledge e.g. “…….look, I couldn’t care less if it’s a diminished, demented, or whatever you want to call it chord….it sounds good and that’s all that matters isn’t it?”
So as a guitar teacher you will inevitably be faced with the challenge of persuading the budding rock star why it might not be a bad idea to give music reading a try. Ok, I admit that in the case of a certain number of teenage pupils I’ve taught over the years I’ve saved my breath and just got on with ‘tabbing’ up the requested solo by Slash/Satriani/Jimmy Page etc.
Sometimes you have to retreat, regroup and reconsider your approach to persuading said pupil exactly why he/she would benefit hugely from being able to decipher those funny dots with stems that are found on that series of five lines and four spaces, otherwise known as sheet music or standard notation.
If you are a guitar teacher there is, of course, a way out of such a dilemma: teach only classical guitar. Unfortunately, you’re likely to attract considerably less pupils.
In my next instalment I’ll look at the arguments for and against music reading.← All Posts