DISCLAIMER: I’m about to make some sweeping albeit personal statements about TAB in the following post. THEY ARE SPECIFIC TO GUITAR. If you’re a banjo player, these comments don’t really apply to you so when you find yourself in violent disagreement with me, just close the thread and move on. Thanks!
I am finding Ben’s guitar lesson tab/tef accompaniments 100% invaluable to my comprehension of both his lesson material AND the song itself; without these study aids, I would be missing key elements of his instruction. I’m going to spend a few minutes of your reading time explaining to anyone interested just why I feel this way, what it is I’m using the material for, and how I’m going about it. Specifically, I’m going to tell you exactly how these materials are making me a better guitar player.
BECOMING A COMPETENT RHYTHM GUITAR PLAYER
First and foremost, when I approach a new lesson of Ben’s, I watch the lesson Overview pretty much like everybody does. Then I download BOTH the tab AND the tef files, because I intend to use them both in my study, but for different purposes.
The first thing I do is try to run through the song as a rhythm guitar player. I do this because I will undoubtedly spend more time accompanying a group as their guitar player than standing in front of my sidekicks pretending that I’m Tony Rice. This, to me, is the heart of my approach to these tabs at the moment, in my quest to replace Jimmy Martin (no,… just kidding, Mr. Martin). Since we’re talking about a maximum of around three to five chords per song, it’s not like I have to learn (left hand) new motor skills most of the time. Anyway, I like to run through the tab as written and play rhythm guitar to the exact note values written in the tablature. That’s right,… I am a proponent of my being able to sightread BEAT, using the exact timing values Ben has written, and even more important, using the down/up principals that Ben has gone to so much trouble to expose both in his tablature AND in his video explanations. Will I ever end up fronting a group playing guitar like this? I sure as heck hope so, because it’s up to me as the band’s percussion-and-rhythm section to make sure I don’t fight the singer or the soloist on the phrasing of the tempo. And that of course goes double for when I’m backing myself singing. Clearly there’s more to strumming rhythm than standing there going down-up down-up chick-a-boom for six minutes. And using the lead line phrasing to mold my rhythm-and-strumming is a great place for me to start. I even try to relegate my cross-pick phrasing into the written beat, a lesson in itself most of the time.
Now,… will learning from Ben’s tablature dilute or inhibit my musical creativity? I only wish the words “are-you-flipping-insane” had a better two-syllable shorthand than “SayWhat?” I mean, does anyone seriously believe that learning to read music stifles your inner Beethoven? “SayWhat?”
BECOMING A BETTER GUITAR STUDENT
I am making it a serious point this year to learn to sightread tab for guitar, specifically because it will simply make the lessons go faster and a little more to the intended tempo. I can’t think of a single skill I wish I had more right now than the ability to sightread Ben’s tablature. So by this time next year, I’m hoping that this will have become a reality.
I know that the tef files and the associated reader hold huge promise for my learning, but seriously, at this point in time, I find the tab files completely adequate for my needs. I use the tef file to spend time listening to two or three measures at a time, in repetition as I try to commit a lick or a phrasing to muscle memory.
I’m beginning to appreciate the huge amount of time and effort that Ben Clark has put into each and every lesson he offers, and the thought that he has placed into the lesson plan and his use of media to convey musical instruction.
So in short, let me recap my feelings here very succinctly: I believe that being able to actually read Ben’s tablature is making me a better guitar student, and consequently a better guitar player.
Your mileage may vary. Alot.