Another way to learn guitar music
by Fred Harris
Copyright Fred Harris 2016
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Table of Contents
What is dTAB?
What dTAB is not is a replacement for TAB music, dTAB is complimentary to TAB. It is an additional tool. If you are new to guitar playing dTAB could be extremely helpful in those difficult early stages. If you are a seasoned guitar player and an efficient reader of TAB music then you will not want to switch to using dTAB but it may well still prove useful.
When I first started learning the guitar I found TAB music a little intimidating, this effect reduces in time but even now I can find some TAB music hard to follow. I wanted a way to get some reasonable tunes out of my guitar but I found trying to follow TABs with numbers, lines and symbols proliferating all over the place distracted me from learning finger technique. I soon became discouraged. It wasn’t until I found a simple way to write down the notes that I began to play some proper tunes and it wasn’t until I was able to play some proper tunes that I made any real progress.
The solution I came up with was dTAB. Not that TAB music is hard to understand, it certainly isn’t however when you are wrestling with fingers that refuse to go where they need to be and a TAB sheet with numbers everywhere some simplification is very much in order. dTAB is basically less complicated to look at and read which means you can concentrate on what your fingers are doing.
How does dTAB work?
Simply put dTAB replaces numbers on lines with just numbers.
The big problem with a guitar as opposed to a piano is that it is not obvious where the notes are on a guitar fretboard. On a piano the notes are arranged neatly in a single row so that once you know the notes of the white keys in relation to the black keys it is easy to know which note you are playing eg. There are two groups of black keys (the sharps and flats) one group of two notes and one group of three notes, ‘C’ is the white key immediately before the first black key in the group of two black keys.
With some practice finding the notes on a piano keyboard is relatively easy. On a guitar fretboard it is not nearly so easy there is nothing to tell you where any of the notes are. Everything is not lost if you are unable to learn where all the notes are, even some very accomplished guitarist have never been able to memorise where all the notes are but it can definitely help if you do know what notes you are playing. This is where TAB music has a serious weakness for it does not tell you what notes you are playing.
Imagine that each string on your guitar is a single piano keyboard and the notes on that string are arranged in the same way as the piano keyboard (being left handed means they are in reverse order for me) then the only difference is that each string has a different starting point.
In dTAB each string has a designated number:
If we arrange them as per standard TAB they are upside down as follows
High E = 10
B = 20
G = 30
D = 40
A = 50
Low E = 60
The high E is the thinnest string (at the physical bottom when playing the guitar) so 10 is the open E string. 20 is the open B string (2nd one up) ect.
Now we count the notes along the strings so that 11 is the first fret on the high E string (the note being F). 24 is the fourth fret on the second string up, the B string (note being Eb)
Obviously this works well until we reach the 10th fret. By these calculations the tenth fret on the High E string for example should be 20 but 20 is the open B string and so the tenth fret on the High E string is not 20 but 110. So the eleventh fret on the A string (50’s) becomes 511 and not 61 which is the first fret on the Low E string (60’s)
How is dTAB used?
Here is an example of some dTAB music
The beginning of Malaguena
As we can see this starts on the High E string (10’s) moves on to the B string (20’s) then on to the G string (30’s) then back to the B string and ends on the G string.
If the player is required to play more than one string at a time then it can be written like this
20, 30, 42
The player plays the open 2nd and 3rd strings and the 4th string second fret all together then the open 1st string and 2nd string second fret both together
As you can see it is immediately obvious which string needs to be played and it is much easier to work out which notes you are actually playing. If you use the free dTAB player or dTAB composer, both available as Android Apps, then they will display the notes for you.
Another big advantage to using dTABs is that there is no need for any special paper, you can just jot it down on any old piece of paper any time anywhere, brilliant if you happen to be a composer or need to quickly write the notes of a song down on the fly.
Another way too present dTABs may be actually on the music like this
This is a scoresheet with dTAB symbols added. I did this by taking a PDF file of the scoresheet then in the Free Acrobat PDF reader I added the dTAB symbols using some custom made stamps which can easily be made in the free reader. The different colour squares denote the string to be played. This is a poor picture, in the actual PDF the boxes are easily readable and could be made smaller in order to enter more than one at each point. This is a scoresheet but it could just as easily be a TAB sheet.
If there is any interest in using this system I could probably make my custom stamps available for download
Other Books by Fred Harris
To put a smile on your face
Brollies and Grannies
A Risk Assessment of Life
Colin Roberts and Fred Harris
This book describes a simple method for writing guitar music. The main objective of this method is to help learners and those new to the guitar learn songs quickly. It should also prove useful for more accomplished musicians as well. It is not a replacement for traditional methods or more specifically a replacement for TAB music. It is best used in conjunction with TAB music whereby it serves to make the music more readable for beginners and easier for experienced guitarists to jot down musical phrases whilst working on a song.