TAB On The Rocks?

Coke or Pepsi? TAB or … TAB Diet? The debate surrounding tablature is nothing new to Bass Player; we’ve been debating it on staff, with columnists, and with readers for years.
By BRIAN FOX, EDITOR ,

Coke or Pepsi? TAB or … TAB Diet? The debate surrounding tablature is nothing new to Bass Player; we’ve been debating it on staff, with columnists, and with readers for years. So when I posted a comment about it on our Facebook page last month, I was somewhat surprised that it continues to be a hot topic. The question, shown below in Court of Opinion, was whether it would be worth ditching in our monthly Transcription to create space in the mag for other instructional content. I invite you to read some of the responses.

I myself am somewhat ambivalent about TAB. Naturally, it can be a great thing for players new to bass who want to learn a few of their favorite licks. And the technical information it conveys (i.e. fingering) isn’t as elegantly shown in traditional staff notation. But as a player, I find it a terrible temptation to be a lazy reader. Why think when I can just play? Perhaps my post was just a selfish attempt to turn one of my favorite parts of the magazine into a personal challenge to improve my own reading skills. I’ll cop to that. But can you blame me? After all, Bass Player has always been all about digging deeper and getting better as players. And, to borrow the famous Hair Club For Men commercial, I’m not only the Bass Player editor, but I’m also a reader.

I accept—and embrace—that our readers span from rank beginners to technical experts, and I don’t want to do anything to alienate those for whom notation is an indecipherable jumble of dots and lines. But are those people really going to slog through songs like “Cruise Missile,” “Iambic 5 Poetry,” or any other of the truly gnarly tunes we occasionally transcribe? That was the root of my query.

This month, I went out on a limb and asked John Goldsby to transcribe an amazing live performance of Ray Brown and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen with the Oscar Peterson Trio. Without TAB. Consider it a bone thrown to those who loathe TAB and wish it would go away forever. Enjoy it while you can, because TAB isn’t going anywhere, and will return in next month’s transcription. For those who only read TAB, there’s still good stuff for you in the features and Woodshed. As for the TAB-free Transcription, think of it as a friendly invitation to up your game. It’s an invite I send myself every day.