Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Tabs but no lessons

I need help learning tabs by themselves, without @BanjoBen’s awesome videos, I have the Douglass Dillard tab book, and am wanting to learn them but I have a hard time moving the music on the page onto the banjo, I have tried listening to the songs themselves while reading the tabs but that doesn’t seem to help, any ideas?

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since i play by ear, i dont really have your problem but i will try to help. Slow down the song you want to learn and try following along on the tab with your eyes. Dont try to play the song until you can follow along with your eyes. After that, start trying to play the song. Even if it does not sound right, keep at it until you can start speeding it up. Suddenly you will be suprised when at what you can play. IT won’t come over night but if you keep playing, eventually you will start hearing the song come off your banjo.

Hope that helps.

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I will definitely try that thank you. Playing by ear scares me. :woozy_face:

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I’m not sure if this will help or not but I thought I’d share my experience with tab. When I first started to play I would look up tabs for some of my favorite songs and try to play them. Needless to say it sounded like I was playing a whole different song. My brain and fingers where just not in tune yet (pun intended) in other words I wasn’t ready for that advanced of a arrangement. To me using tab is like scanning a list of words, names etc. with a ruler. Your not reading them your looking for abnormalities. Your brain is faster than your eyes. Again this was MY problem I’m not saying it yours. :slightly_smiling_face: I decided to stick to Banjo Ben for the most part because he builds your fingers and brain for the more advanced stuff. In other words I started with simpler tab and worked up untill my brain recognized not read tab. I still have trouble with some tab but not near as much as I did. Recognizing tab will register eventually but it takes time like everything else. Using tab is ok for the most part but I would encourage you to explore the world beyond tab. I didn’t really have the urge until I got in to Ben’s intermediate lessons and I started to understand what he’s doing when he comes up with his own arrangements where the notes are, how to get there etc. With led me to come up with my own break for Haven of Rest (not very good but it was fun) Anyway, hope this helps. :grinning: :wolf:

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Yeah I think I’ll wait a while for it. I’m happy right now because I’m figuring out backup and am comfortable playing with the rythm tracks and boy do I love those things it’s like playing with my very own band! One thing stays the same though I hate the foggy mountain lick, love the song but I am have a horrific time trying to play the lick.

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This might sound harsh, but… I feel like it really might help you if you learn anything like me (Please, don’t take this the wrong way- I don’t want to sound mean).

Just try this for a time. Throw your tabs in the garbage. Forget tab entirely, and play 100% by ear for maybe a month, or maybe just a week or two. I’m not saying all tab is bad, but you need to view tab as a tool to use, not something you need to depend on. I bet if you try playing by ear, you WILL see some improvement, and the result will be that you can do what you want with tab. I think the reason you have problems with tab is because you’d truly be better playing more by ear. It might sound scary, but there’s nothing to be afraid of. So conquer your fears, stop lying to yourself and telling yourself you can’t do it, and play! You have more capability than you think you do. Not everything is going to be comfortable, and sometimes you’ll need to take risks.

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Ok tell me where to start cause I dont even know what playing by ear means honestly.

@Hillbilly_picker, Check out the Make a Break lesson. That lesson is literally teaching you how to play by ear. just forget you ever knew what tab was and follow what the lesson says. Play the base melody, add forward rolls or whatever other roll suits the song then start adding licks. IT dosen’t matter how simple they are. Once you do that, you will be playing by ear. Playing by ear is basically a term used to describe a method in which you play a break without any notes or tabs. You simply listen to the melody and make a solo based entirely off the melody.

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Yes @Shaky_loves_banjo I’m finding thoes help me the best

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Great stuff, I’ll try in practice session tomorrow. Thank you

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Hi Jesse

Learning tunes from TABs books is hard. When I was a beginner I learned to play banjo by ear using the Murphy Method. Murphy is a great teacher for beginners learning the basics but once I reached a certain point I knew I would have to learn TAB if I wanted to move beyond the basics. I opted to learn from the Janet Davis books and The Earl Scruggs book but I really didn’t understand how to use TAB and everyone on the Banjo Hangout gave a different viewpoint. I was very fortunate that Geoff Hohwald came to my rescue and sent me some free lessons on how to read tab. Progress was slow but gradually over the course of about two years I was able to go back to the books and. Learn a few things but if I am honest the tunes I was learning from books really didn’t sound like the tunes I was hearing the bands playing.

Check out this lesson by @BanjoBen. Take your time there is a lot of great info here which will help you when you work through the Doug Dillard book.

https://banjobenclark.com/lessons/how-to-read-banjo-tab-banjo

Doug has his own distinct style and roll patterns which differ from other styles of playing banjo.

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We all all learn differently Michael. Some folks have a gift others do not. I struggled with tab at first but I come to realise it’s a great learning tool. I still struggle to pick out a basic melody from scratch but once I learn a tune from TAB or from a video lessons I am good to go.

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Of course. I’m not saying that tab is always bad. I’m just saying that too many people have a reliance on it. Tab needs to be a tool, not a crutch, which is why I made the suggestion to ignore it completely for a time. Not forever, but long enough to build up the ear and break the dependence. :+1: A great goal is to learn from both tab and listening to the point where you can come up with your own arrangements and write your own tabs.

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In my experience I’d have to agree with Michael. I have an entire binder full of almost every tab that @BanjoBen has put out and less than half of them are memorized or can even be played up to speed let alone put my own spin to. Now I don’t know if this is a great approach for everyone, or even the quickest to becoming a great player, but when I started transcribing breaks that I really like a weird thing happened. Not only did the songs I learned get stuck in my memory and are now almost impossible to forget, I’ve found that I’m able to use some of those licks that I’ve learned in other songs without even thinking about it. And another thing that happened was the other day I went back to Ben’s binder and a lot of the songs that I haven’t played in awhile I was able to play better than I ever had and at faster speeds. It could be anyone. For me it’s Billy Strings and his versions of old Doc Watson, Stanley Brothers, and songs like that. I love his take on those songs and the time it takes to transcribe them has paid off exponentially. I’m actually starting to go back through some of @BanjoBen’s lessons and relearning them without the tab for that same reason. Once in awhile I’ll look for a tab because it’s a lot easier, but I find that it takes me a lot longer to actually memorize it and really feel comfortable with it. Tabs are a great tool, but for me I can see where they’ve actually made it take longer to learn songs.

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What do you think I should do to be able to play a song from tab, I dont want to reinvent the wheel, because I like how the song was performed, but I have experienced what you described in that it takes longer to learn a song from just tab.

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I’m not sure if I completely understand what you’re asking. There’s nothing wrong with the tabs, and I think it’s actually quicker to initially use the tabs to learn a song but for me it takes way longer to get it memorized. So what I do when I find a song I want to learn is I’ll just go to YouTube (or the lesson site) and just literally play one measure (usually at half speed) and pause it and try to figure out what is being played. Then I work through the whole song like that. The first time I did it it took me like 6-7 hours. It was the famous basement version of Dust In A Baggie by Billy Strings. The more I’ve done it the quicker it gets. Now if you wanted to just use the tabs, you just have to be intentional about going one phrase (or maybe even one measure) at a time. Play it then take the tab away and play it. And just repeat that process over and over for the whole song.

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If you don’t already have TablEdit I would encourage you to get it. Tab out the lessons from Doug Dillard’s book. Then with the software play back the TAB Tef file. That way you 'll hear the notes whilst reading the TAB. @BanjoBen has Tef TAB files with all his lessons and whilst his goal is for his students to be able to play without TAB, Tabs play an important part in his teaching toolbox. I personally find that I learn tunes quicker when I incorporate video, TAB with TablEdit Tef files and listening, We each approach learning differently. You gotta figure out what works for you.

I would add that most teachers, teaching banjo use TAB as a teaching aid. Not all use TABs that are of the same high quality - note-for-note as @BanjoBen

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I’m far from a great player, but here are a few ideas. Play very slow. Much more important to keep good timing and rhythm instead of speed. Eventually the melody will emerge if you’ve listened to the melody played by others before. Memorize the chords as quickly as you can. I like to play the song three times through with the middle play simply improv around the chords. That will help you build the “by ear” mentioned by others. Also memorize the tab. You don’t want your brain to have to see the tab to play the music. The sooner you are linking hearing the music to your playing the better. And knowing the chord patterns helps with that as well. There’s a book called Brainjo that covers that concept. It’s a good short read and really helps explain the goal of “playing by ear” and your neural pathways. It’s written by a neurologist by the way who happens to play a really good clawhammer banjo.

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@Hillbilly_picker I would probably say this in general about learning music, especially for someone with limited time.

Music learning can be best worked out if practice is done in developing skills in this order 1. sight reading, 2. playing by ear, 3. creativity/imagination. You don’t have to complete one area to go to the other but sufficient practice would be good to move to the next one in that order.

Before you do that, you require some basic music theory to get optimum use in these practice areas.

In sight reading, you work on all the techniques - pick hand fundamental, clean picking, hammer-on, pull-off, slide, finger picking, cross picking, double stop etc. etc. In Ben’s lessons you learn these techniques. At the end of the lessons, you not only complete a song that gets you well versed in one or more of these techniques but the arrangements nice for public performance too.

As part of sight reading, you also work on chords and different scale patterns just to develop muscle memory. The lessons incorporate these too for the songs, but learning more chords and scale patterns help too.

As you learn sight reading, you can move on to playing by ear, and creativity/imagination. The problem sometimes is, you become so lazy and dependent on tabs that you don’t move on to develop the other skills. (Then you would need someone to come and say, throw your tabs out of window! :wink: )

Now if you can’t read someone’s tab means, I guess it is an indication that you require more effort in sight reading. So do beginner and intermediate lessons.

That said, some of these tab books are more for advanced players or sometime just tricky too that it would be hard to move around the fret board without all the techniques, chords and scales understanding. So if you take that route, you don’t make much progress. But if you liked those songs, I would suggest you simplify to the patterns you know to play them before you attempt it as written.

Just some thoughts…

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Wow. You’ve done this before haven’t you, thank you I will do this is. This answered my question thanks.

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