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Is TAB really that evil?


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#31 Coilte

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 10:41 AM

View PostLozz196, on 18 August 2017 - 02:16 PM, said:

Many have wrong bits in them, but as a starting point, and for bits that are difficult to hear, I find TAB is an excellent tool.

I would agree with the above. The problem IMO is when people become over reliant on tab to the exclusion of other aspects of learning. If a person wants to make progress along the learning path, they won't get too far by relying entirely on tab. If on the other hand they are content to stay in their comfort zone and have no wish to take their playing any further, that's their call.

#32 ambient

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 11:14 AM

View PostCoilte, on 19 August 2017 - 10:41 AM, said:

I would agree with the above. The problem IMO is when people become over reliant on tab to the exclusion of other aspects of learning. If a person wants to make progress along the learning path, they won't get too far by relying entirely on tab. If on the other hand they are content to stay in their comfort zone and have no wish to take their playing any further, that's their call.

I've likened learning music the way the average person does, to reading a book. People dive in halfway through, then start to realise they don't know half the characters, and really aren't sure of the plot. So they start skipping back to earlier chapters in an attempt to find out who someone is.

Obviously the whole thing would be easier if they'd started at the beginning to start off with. Such is life though. People often want the rewards without expanding too much energy. They also rather bizarrely equate learning to play an instrument, with it being dull and tedious, which is something I never found it to be.

I love teaching people who've been playing for years, all the stuff that they've missed in the earlier chapters.

Edited by ambient, 19 August 2017 - 11:54 AM.

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 11:36 AM

It may be worth pointing out that for some stringed instruments and styles, some form of tablature is still the default notation format AFAIK (I'm thinking particularly of 5-string banjo and Flamenco guitar, but I have a feeling there are others*). In general terms I agree with the idea of learning standard notation if you can, but tabulation-type notation still has a function despite it's obvious shortcomings.

*Footnote: banjo and flamenco can both be written using modified forms of standard notation of course, but the basic point remains valid.
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Posted 19 August 2017 - 11:56 AM

I'd say it's an error to connect reading standard music notation and learning (understanding...) music theory. It's very possible to do either without necessarily doing the other. Playing from tab and having music knowledge is perfectly feasible, too. Reading from a score is obviously better than not being able to (as is reading ancient Greek or Somalian; other foreign languages are available...), but does not preclude musical ability, technique or talent. Sight reading (that's to say, being able to play at the tempo of the piece from first read-through...) is yet another aspect, and a useful skill to have, but not indispensable for many musicians.

Edited by Dad3353, 19 August 2017 - 11:56 AM.

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#35 SpondonBassed

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 01:27 PM

View PostCoilte, on 19 August 2017 - 10:41 AM, said:

...If a person wants to make progress along the learning path...

That would be THE learning path would it? Like there is only one. Sorry, I can't see it from your point of view.

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#36 LeftyP

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 02:32 PM

I am trying to learn to read the dots and play from chord charts but find TAB to be a help in finding where to start on the fret board. There are many different places to play any of the notes on a guitar neck and Tabs give me a good starting point. Once I'm in the right place - and perhaps used the TAB to work out my fingering, I switch to notation. TAB is handy but I try not to rely on it.

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 03:31 PM

IMO anyone who thinks that using tab, chord diagrams or any other tool that helps a player learn their instrument is somehow "wrong", belong in the same category as bassists that believe using a pick is also somehow "wrong".

Edited by Grassie, 19 August 2017 - 03:37 PM.

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#38 Coilte

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 03:35 PM

View PostSpondonBassed, on 19 August 2017 - 01:27 PM, said:

That would be THE learning path would it? Like there is only one. Sorry, I can't see it from your point of view.

It would indeed. To each their own, but there are tried and trusted ways for us to learn. As with "ambient's" earlier comparison of learning music to reading a book. In order to learn how to do the latter we generally take a certain path. We start off with our ABC's, we get familiar with the sound the letters make. Most people remember at infant school, constantly saying out loud..."D-O-G" = dog....C-A-T= cat etc. We move on then to bigger words and then on to constructing sentences. We then start reading child's books, maybe with pictures to help us get the gist of what the written word says. Finally we move on to adult novels and literature etc.

Do you see a certain path being followed here ? I certainly do. It is THE ..(there's that word again ;) ).. learning path to reading and writing. One that I'm sure the vast majority of us have taken. Like the content of the book, music is also a language and has it's own learning path. So in this context I think the word "the" is valid. Granted, some people choose to join the musical path somewhere in the middle. They then often find themselves having to backtrack.....mostly this brings them back to ground zero...which is the most beneficial place to start.

Edited by Coilte, 19 August 2017 - 03:36 PM.


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Posted 19 August 2017 - 03:48 PM

I learnt standard notation through being a woodwind player from an early age.

I can pick up sheet music and read it without an instrument and know what it is supposed to sound like.
With tab I can have the music and an instrument and have no idea what it's supposed to sound like without a reference recording.

I can sight read standard notation, playing it directly from the sheet without having to think about where my fingers are supposed to go... just as I can read sentences without having to think "curly kuh, ah, tuh... cat"
It is not possible to sight read tab if you don't first know what it's supposed to sound like.

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 04:25 PM

View PostCoilte, on 19 August 2017 - 03:35 PM, said:

It would indeed. To each their own, but there are tried and trusted ways for us to learn. As with "ambient's" earlier comparison of learning music to reading a book. In order to learn how to do the latter we generally take a certain path. We start off with our ABC's, we get familiar with the sound the letters make. Most people remember at infant school, constantly saying out loud..."D-O-G" = dog....C-A-T= cat etc. We move on then to bigger words and then on to constructing sentences. We then start reading child's books, maybe with pictures to help us get the gist of what the written word says. Finally we move on to adult novels and literature etc.

Do you see a certain path being followed here ? I certainly do. It is THE ..(there's that word again ;) ).. learning path to reading and writing. One that I'm sure the vast majority of us have taken. Like the content of the book, music is also a language and has it's own learning path. So in this context I think the word "the" is valid. Granted, some people choose to join the musical path somewhere in the middle. They then often find themselves having to backtrack.....mostly this brings them back to ground zero...which is the most beneficial place to start.

You do it your way and that's great, but please don't try tell everyone its the only way to play/learn. Each to there own.

I have been playing bass, drums and guitar for 52 years and never found the need to learn to read music. If I had wanted to play in an orchestra or a big band then I would have had the need, so I would have made the effort. I began playing in the 60s during the birth of pop and rock and it was the very fact it had no formal requirements or education that made it "Our" music. It was made up, and never written down. The vast majority of great musicians I have had contact with can not read music, with the exception of most keyboard players.

I have never been handed a sheet of music at a rehearsal, gig or audition, If you cant learn the required songs from a recording in the time available then you obviously cant cut it. The best keyboard player I have ever played with is 71 years old, and the only pianist I have ever meet who cant read music. To counter this he can pick up any song you care to play to him from one or two plays through. Now that takes talent. Written music is fine for those who need it, for the music I play and the bands I have played in, both originals and covers, it is not a requirement.

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 04:35 PM

View Postmikel, on 19 August 2017 - 04:25 PM, said:

Each to there own.

That was the second sentence of my previous post. ;) Far be it from me to tell people how to learn. I could not care less. I am merely expressing my opinion. :)

Oh... BTW.. I am not just talking about reading, but basic theory in general...all the things that makes for a good all round musician.

Edited by Coilte, 19 August 2017 - 04:37 PM.


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Posted 19 August 2017 - 04:53 PM

View Postmikel, on 19 August 2017 - 04:25 PM, said:

To counter this he can pick up any song you care to play to him from one or two plays through. Now that takes talent.

If he could read he maybe wouldn't need to run through?

It's also maybe got something to do with the fact he's been playing so long, not necessarily talent.

Personally I really couldn't care less what approach people take to learning, the fewer people who can sight-read, the more work there is for those of us who can :).

Whether you get given a chart to read invariably depends on what circles you work in, it's not an indication of that being how things work.

Edited by ambient, 19 August 2017 - 05:28 PM.

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#43 mikel

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 05:20 PM

View Postambient, on 19 August 2017 - 04:53 PM, said:

If he could read he maybe wouldn't need to run through?

It's also maybe got something to do with the fact he's been playing so long, not necessarily talent.

Who cares? He is a good musician and does what he does, in his own way. I have never suggested that reading music was a drawback, simply not a requirement in the bands I play in. He could site read like an orchestral conductor and it would make no difference as we don't write our stuff down. :D

#44 SpondonBassed

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 05:46 PM

View PostCoilte, on 19 August 2017 - 03:35 PM, said:

It would indeed. To each their own, but there are tried and trusted ways for us to learn. As with "ambient's" earlier comparison of learning music to reading a book. In order to learn how to do the latter we generally take a certain path. We start off with our ABC's, we get familiar with the sound the letters make. Most people remember at infant school, constantly saying out loud..."D-O-G" = dog....C-A-T= cat etc. We move on then to bigger words and then on to constructing sentences. We then start reading child's books, maybe with pictures to help us get the gist of what the written word says. Finally we move on to adult novels and literature etc.

Do you see a certain path being followed here ? I certainly do. It is THE ..(there's that word again ;) ).. learning path to reading and writing. One that I'm sure the vast majority of us have taken. Like the content of the book, music is also a language and has it's own learning path. So in this context I think the word "the" is valid. Granted, some people choose to join the musical path somewhere in the middle. They then often find themselves having to backtrack.....mostly this brings them back to ground zero...which is the most beneficial place to start.

Forgive me for saying but that sounds ever so condescending.

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#45 Dad3353

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 06:14 PM

View PostCoilte, on 19 August 2017 - 03:35 PM, said:

It would indeed. To each their own, but there are tried and trusted ways for us to learn...

Nice, but your analogy implies that we're learning to read music (as a language...) from a very early age, in which case I'd agree with you. However, I was taught French at grammar school, from age 11 till 15, and clearly remeber failing dismally, thinking to myself that I'll never use this stuff, so what's it for..? My O-level results reflected this: 2% for the oral, 4% for the written. Note: that's percentages, not a mark out of 10 or 20.
Fast forward to my mid-twenties... For diverse reasons, I moved to France. I spent 6 months unable to understand, and 6 months more able to understand, but unable to reply. Over time, the lingo has filtered in, by necessity, and I would class myself now as modestly fluent, without formal training (and so 'warts 'n all'...).
All this to illustrate that, depending upon one's motivations; needs and imperatives, there are many paths to Rome. Learning (anything...) is a complex affair, and does not work in the same way for everyone, at every age.
I'd finish with another, equally flawed, analogy. Learning to fly model aircraft is a skill set. Flying a light aircraft, solo, is an extension of that. Becoming a commercial pilot takes it further, test pilot further still. To become an astronaut one has to build still more on the rest. Those playing music on the 'model aircraft' level would glean little advantage in following the career path of an astronaut. To each his orher own.

Edited by Dad3353, 19 August 2017 - 06:16 PM.

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#46 lowdown

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 06:58 PM

View Postmikel, on 19 August 2017 - 05:20 PM, said:

He could site read like an orchestral conductor and it would make no difference as we don't write our stuff down. :D

That wouldn't help much. An Orchestral Conductor Score is mainly for reference.
Orchestral Conductors read very little on the stand, other than bits here and there, or important things (to them anyway).
It's mostly committed to memory and very well mentally rehearsed.
Reading a full Orchestral score isn't difficult, but committing to memory, all and every line is.
Yep, Classical musos have ears as well. :)










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#47 Coilte

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 08:04 PM

View PostSpondonBassed, on 19 August 2017 - 05:46 PM, said:

Forgive me for saying but that sounds ever so condescending.

Sorry if that's how you interpreted my my post. It was n't my intention. :)

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 08:41 PM

View PostCoilte, on 19 August 2017 - 08:04 PM, said:

Sorry if that's how you interpreted my my post. It was n't my intention. :)

Accepted. You needn't worry though, I didn't take offence because I'm used to it.

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 04:01 AM

View PostJazzjames, on 19 August 2017 - 09:05 AM, said:

So you can easily recognize rhythm, but not pitch? Why should one be easier than the other?

coz my hearing is bad from standing next to drummers' cymbals for 20 odd years

I can hear a kick and snare and the rhythm of the bassline very easily. The difference between two notes not so easily when you are half deaf in one ear and have constant loud tinnitus

I can still work out basslines by ear. Takes me a bit longer than it used to. I use TABs too for bits I can't work out by ear

Edited by bazztard, 20 August 2017 - 04:09 AM.

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 06:56 AM

As a 13 year picking up the bass for the first time in 1988, tabs helped me a lot where available. I had no interest in reading music at the time so a combination of tab books and working songs out by ear were the foundations of my development. With the increased availability of isolated bass tracks on YouTube, it has become clear that most of the tab books I used to have are full of errors, examples are the lines to Master of Puppets and Battery by Metallica. This has turned me more towards notation and ear training.

In recent years when I have done productions and been handed the bass score, I have improved my ability to read notation.

The Standing in the Shadows of Motown book has been a steep learning curve for me. I really enjoy it though.

Given the choice, I would go for notation now. That's just personal preference though, not because I think it is the 'right' way to do it.

Edited by interpol52, 20 August 2017 - 07:13 AM.


#51 mikel

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 06:58 AM

View Postlowdown, on 19 August 2017 - 06:58 PM, said:

That wouldn't help much. An Orchestral Conductor Score is mainly for reference.
Orchestral Conductors read very little on the stand, other than bits here and there, or important things (to them anyway).
It's mostly committed to memory and very well mentally rehearsed.
Reading a full Orchestral score isn't difficult, but committing to memory, all and every line is.
Yep, Classical musos have ears as well. :)

Pedantry apart, we are discussing a previous posters assertion that the ability to read music is the measure of a real musician. My personal view is that there is nothing wrong with learning a bass part from Tab, or being able to play the piano without being able to read music. What is your view. :D

Edited by mikel, 20 August 2017 - 07:11 AM.


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Posted 20 August 2017 - 07:51 AM

Tab can be seen as a bit of advice , often helpful to some extent , to save time when working something out

I'd like to see less open strings and more finger positioning , but then I don't post it so can't really complain , it's saved me time at short notice before on many occasion
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Posted 20 August 2017 - 09:04 AM

View Postmikel, on 20 August 2017 - 06:58 AM, said:



Pedantry apart, we are discussing a previous posters assertion that the ability to read music is the measure of a real musician. My personal view is that there is nothing wrong with learning a bass part from Tab, or being able to play the piano without being able to read music. What is your view. :D

More a general learning thing really. It's fine doing that until you arrive at the gig and they change the key. That has happened to students of mine, and they were flummoxed, which is why they've ebddd up as students.

Edited by ambient, 20 August 2017 - 09:10 AM.

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 09:08 AM

View Postmikel, on 20 August 2017 - 06:58 AM, said:



Pedantry apart, we are discussing a previous posters assertion that the ability to read music is the measure of a real musician. My personal view is that there is nothing wrong with learning a bass part from Tab, or being able to play the piano without being able to read music. What is your view. :D

I was just jesting really.:)

My view ? I suppose do whatever you are comfortable with in the musical learning process. Certainly using TAB doesn't make someone less of a musician. However, if someone wants to make a career out of music, reading the dots would be much more of an advantage than having just a good command of TAB's. You would be more employable.

Apart from the playing side (shows/sessions etc) there are numerous opportunities for income from other sources, providing you know what you are doing with the dots.


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Posted 20 August 2017 - 09:44 AM

View Postmikel, on 19 August 2017 - 05:20 PM, said:

Who cares? He is a good musician and it would make no difference as we don't write our stuff down. :D

Many bands though do write stuff down. Most keys players I know are extremely mercenary in the gigs they take, they're able to be, they'll just turn up and play from cold the parts they're given. So sure, I agree that playing by ear like your friend is doing is fine, but it does have its drawbacks, and though he's probably quite happy playing the gigs he does, there are door closed to him.

My gig this afternoon isn't the best paid on the planet, still £75 for a couple of hours, it involves some sight reading, and lots of improv from lead sheets, no run through.

Edited by ambient, 20 August 2017 - 11:07 AM.

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#56 Les

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 10:30 AM

TAB scores highly on the readily available and free category
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#57 lowdown

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 10:54 AM

View PostLes, on 20 August 2017 - 10:30 AM, said:

TAB scores highly on the readily available and free category

So does sex, but unlike TAB, it needs to be accurate.
:D
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#58 ambient

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 11:08 AM

View Postinterpol52, on 20 August 2017 - 06:56 AM, said:

As a 13 year picking up the bass for the first time in 1988, tabs helped me a lot where available. I had no interest in reading music at the time so a combination of tab books and working songs out by ear were the foundations of my development. With the increased availability of isolated bass tracks on YouTube, it has become clear that most of the tab books I used to have are full of errors, examples are the lines to Master of Puppets and Battery by Metallica. This has turned me more towards notation and ear training.

In recent years when I have done productions and been handed the bass score, I have improved my ability to read notation.

The Standing in the Shadows of Motown book has been a steep learning curve for me. I really enjoy it though.

Given the choice, I would go for notation now. That's just personal preference though, not because I think it is the 'right' way to do it.

Can I ask, where did you get TAB from then?

Agree totally about the standing in the shadows of motown book. It's one I use a lot to demonstrate to students how bass lines work.

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 11:25 AM

View Postambient, on 20 August 2017 - 11:08 AM, said:

Can I ask, where did you get TAB from then?

I had not really indulged in TAB so have little knowledge about it. What I did see always seemed limited to me.
However, this thread got me looking deeper into it. It's still of no real use to me what so ever, but the Wiki info is quite interesting regarding it's advantages and disadvantages. Historical wise, it played a big part in the Renaissance and Baroque eras.

https://en.m.wikiped.../wiki/Tablature



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#60 Steve Woodcock

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 11:57 AM

TAB is a mechanical instruction rather than a musical one, i.e. 'put your finger here' rather than 'play this note, on this subdivision of this beat, for this duration'. It is a crutch, it may give you a short term gain but reliance on it will ultimately hinder your potential to be a well rounded musician.

As has already been acknowledged, TAB does not contain all the information you need to perform the piece, meaning it needs to be viewed in conjunction with something else - i.e. either a recording or notation - therefore, as a means of communication it is flawed.

Notation enables us to do the following:
  • Perform a piece of music at sight, accurately and authentically, having never heard it before.
  • Read and write music intended for other instruments - '3rd fret on the A string' means nothing to a pianist, horn player etc.
  • Identify the key of the piece and the harmonic movement contained within
  • Discern the harmonic rhythm of the piece (the rate at which the chords change)
  • Recognise familiar melodic or rhythmic groupings of notes - the benefit of this is that these groups can be recognised as a 'whole', much like you are recognising the words in this sentence rather than reading each letter separately, and executed promptly from muscle memory
  • Quickly see the ascending and descending contour of a line, identify where things move by step or by leap etc., spot potentially tricky passages
  • Easily recognise sequences and other repeating patterns, even if they modulate to another key
  • Combined with a rudimentary ability to sight sing allows us hear the piece in our head, and therefore learn it away from our instrument
By using notation rather than TAB, you are having to think notes rather than simply positions - this will increase your knowledge of the fingerboard far more as you will make the association of 'this is an A, this is a C#, etc.' each time you play a note. More work in the short term but the rewards will pay dividends.


View PostDad3353, on 18 August 2017 - 02:19 PM, said:

Before what is now 'standard' notation, tab (short for tablature...) was the means of communicating for all serious musicians and composers

True, this existed for keyboard instruments and lutes in the sixteenth century but it was found to be unsatisfactory and was replaced by notation for good reason; the systems used also differed from country to country.

View PostGrassie, on 19 August 2017 - 03:31 PM, said:

IMO anyone who thinks that using tab, chord diagrams or any other tool that helps a player learn their instrument is somehow "wrong", belong in the same category as bassists that believe using a pick is also somehow "wrong".

But here's the rub, TAB doesn't help a player learn their instrument, it merely tells them where and in what order to put their fingers, it doesn't even teach them what the note is. In the same way as being told to move your Pawn from b4 to b5 in chess doesn't teach you anything about how to play the game, nor does painting by numbers teach you how to paint. To be clear, used in conjunction with another source (recording or notation) TAB may help someone learn to play a song, but they are not learning anything about the instrument.





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