Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Reading Tab

Any tips to help a Dyslexic learn how to read TAB?
I’m far from a newbie… played guitar 50 years.

I go 3 bars along and have to completely re-orient. 

It seems completely backwards…
The notes should be coming at you from the left… Or… The TAB should be written exactly inverted.

On a related subject... Piano music should be turned a quarter turn to the right... So the keyboard notes would line up with the notes on the scale. 

And while I’m on a roll… Why didn’t they call the chord with no flats or sharps… An A… What were they thinking!!!
Waiting to build my time machine so I can rant to the people responsible… Lol

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Hi Harvey Here is a lesson on reading banjo TAB ( guitar & mandolin is much the same) which should help explain things. I struggled to learn from TAB but once I had it explained to me it just got easier and easier with each new lesson.

My advice is to focus on learning two measures at a time at first then progress to four measures or a musical phrase. Your goal is to learn the vocabulary of TAB that is a challenge in itself.


I’m sure you probably know this but I had a friend who I was helping learn guitar. Anyway she had dyslexia and she mentioned she saw things better if it was printed on red paper. When I put stuff for her together I started doing it on red. It really seemed to help her. Anyhow hope this helps. Happy picking!!!


If you ever do, let me know so I can reinvent standard notation.

It all depends on cognitive bias. I initially started with tab and I see a lot of flaws in sheet music. Why bother with sharp and flat symbols when you could just use a chromatic system?!

Tab corresponds directly do your instrument. To a lot of people it seems inverted, but it’s written from the perspective of looking down at your instrument. It’s the strings, not the notes.

“How did you do it Michael” you ask?

I ended up playing by ear and pretending that I’m good at reading tab :nerd_face:


I did this with an accordion, In my case it was that I couldn’t read musical notation and play at the same time. Once I knew the melody I was off. My teacher thought I was great but in reality I couldn’t read music. But banjo is not so easy I guess because the tunes are less familiar and finding the right notes on the banjo is not as easy as finding notes on a piano keyboard. Once I learn a tune from TAB I put the TAB away and focus on my hearing skills.


Good point Archie. I do the same… And as you know, once you’ve got it down, it’s nice to begin adding licks or ‘seasoning’ the arrangement to match your taste, essentially creating your own arrangement. I don’t think it’s BB Clark’s goal for us to play exactly like him.


That’s a skill I have yet to master


Same. I often feel like the tabs are a guide to help me along and i can almost feel whats coming next. ALmost like i pretend i’m righting it and i can really get into the feel of the song on the spot.


@hdmccluskey, As someone who was a tab monkey and since moved to learning by ear. I have found that tab actually got in the way for me. I have found that learning by ear has made it so the tunes stick and like most skills they get better with age. To help with learning by ear, you can download a free program called audacity. It runs on multiple platforms.

Here is the process I use.

  1. Open Audacity.
  2. Open an mp3 file.
  3. From the Select menu choose select all.
  4. From the Effect menu choose change tempo. Enter the tempo the song is currently at and then the target tempo and click ok. (The change tempo effect will change the tempo but keep the pitches the same. If you use change speed then the pitches will move lower if you slow it down or move higher if you increase the speed).

This allows you to gradually increase the speed to your abilities. When I was first starting , While Ben kindly provides different speed tracks many times my ability would not allow me to keep up with the jumps in speed his tracks required.

Hope This Helps.



Thank you every one for your kindness… I’m just beginning the luxury of slowing the lessons down. I have to break the process to the simplest possible elements in order to figure out how the pieces together.
I’m back after taking a few years off… Plan to give it another go…

 All the best,



Welcome back!

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