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The ALEX VAN STARREX Website


GUITAR TABLATURE


INTRODUCTION

For the benefit of the non-musicians and beginners out there, tablature is simplest and most convenient way of writing out music for the guitar. It uses a six-line stave (as opposed to the five-lines of conventional music notation), with each line representing a string of the guitar. Numbers on the line represent the fret position to be played, and more obscure marks are used for the numerous types of bends, slurs, trills and other effects that the guitarist is able to play.

fretting Although some musical purists scoff at the idea of using anything other than standard musical notation, there is really no competition for tablature, when it comes to notating music for the guitar. This is particularly the case when a single note or phrase on normal sheet music could be played at three or four different positions on the guitar neck - and the player has to choose which one to play. I myself have been using tablature for over twenty years, and wouldn't consider using any other form of notation. Of course, if you simply want to play the occasional folk or pop-song, a chord chart is even simpler and more convenient.

FILE FORMATS

The universal and, until lately, only way of distributing tablature files by computer has been by ASCII format - the plain text that makes up normal, everyday documents. The advantage of presenting files this way is that they are universal - they can be created, saved, copied, distributed and printed out as desired. The disadvantages are numerous - complex rhythmic information is lost, subtle playing information can't be included and - worst of all - there is little indication as to how the music is actually supposed to sound when it is finally played.

Thankfully computer programmers have come to the fore and created new tools that rival programs for conventionally notated music. MIDI playback, the choice of main instruments and the ability to integrate other instruments into a musical score mean that guitarists no longer have to drag their heels behind their keyboard playing bandmates when commiting their ideas to paper (or, at least, file). There are however two main drawbacks to this approach to tablature:

In the time I've had to look at tablature programs for the PC, no single program has come to my attention that totally satisfies me - from both a writing and replaying point of view. Using the available shareware and demo programs as a guide, it's become obvious that there are a lot of lesser programs around (which I won't name, so as not to offend the programmers and users) but only two major programs of note. Both Guitar Pro and TablEdit can do all of the things noted above and more. Here, then, are my opinions of them - though readers should note that my experience with them comes from using the demos, not the full programs:

I should mention here that my first tools of choice for transcribing are a pencil, eraser and music notation book (with an extra line added to each stave for tabbing the six guitar strings). But tabbing software can be ideal for fleshing out basic ideas, testing/demonstrating the results and sharing transcription files.

Since my first love as a musician is guitar playing, I will probably end up registering for at least one of these programs - if not both. But neither can fool the casual listener into believing that the guitar was being played by a real person. Maybe these things will come later - one can only hope.

THE FUTURE

TablEditCertainly other music programs can, at present, handle real time recording - and decent guitar-to-MIDI pickups are available for guitars. there are even audio pitch-to-MIDI and MIDI-file importation programs available to the desktop musician. I therefore look to the day when a guitarist such as myself can simply plug in (or mike up) a guitar and record notated music without actually having to worry about scoring the music. For whilst technical ability is the musical backbone of any performing musician, guitarists tend to suffer more than other musicians when it comes to converting their primal passions into musical notation.

SOFTWARE LINKS

TABLATURE LIBRARIES

Each of the major guitar transcription programs has both a dedicated user base and a large file library to either borrow from or contribute to. But this won't help users of rival programs, or other computer platforms. Nor are ther libraries anywhere near as large as the major internet ones such as OLGA. So here are the main ASCII tablature libraries. There are two references for Harmony Central because these are 'mirror' sites. Depending on where you are, one site will allow downloading faster than the other.

ORIGINAL TABLATURE FILES TO USE/DOWNLOAD

Ideally, I would have loved to have painstakingly transcribed not only the songs on my Solo Guitar Songs page, but the wealth of original solo guitar pieces of mine, my own band compositions and my transcriptions from songs by popular recording artists. But I simply don't have the time to do this - nor would it be worthwhile to attempt the task without having a fully registered version of at least one of the above programs. Besides, I'm much more enthralled with the prospect of recording my existing music to CD-ROM at its maximum fidelity then trying to reduce it to some vague caricature of the same.

Many of the songs on the Solo Guitar Songs page have already been attempted by other guitarists - often to surprising effect. On the whole, I tend to prefer my own arrangements, though I'm tempted to steal the odd harmonic idea here and there. But even the simple fact that other people are doing these things is - together with my present lack of interest for playing the - quite enough to dampen my enthusiasm for doing more transcription work.

Here then are just a few tablature files - in either ASCII format or as proprietary Guitar Pro files (with other file formats available where indicated). PC owners can always download the demo of the Guitar Pro program to hear what the latter files sound like. Unfortunately I've encountered serious limitations and/or bugs in the ASCII reading facility of both Guitar Pro and TablEdit, so I cannot recommend trying to load ASCII files into them. Bearing in mind the limitations in file size that I have a the moment, readers will have to use their personal knowledge of the existing songs structure when playing any of the commercially available songs.

I may also be try my hand at a few "band" compositions - in 'lead and rhythm guitar, bass and drums' format. First cab off the rank would be the Happy Time extract from the Real Audio file which is available on my Music Files page. Whether I get around to producing many more tablature files, though, will depend on how active I am between now and the time my shareware version of Guitar Pro runs out.

NEWSGROUPS


OLGA - The On-Line Guitar Archive - search for guitar tablature by song or artists's name

NOTE: In case the OLGA has closed, try visiting the OLGA home page at www.olga.net to find a mirror site.

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