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Post new topic Performing with TAB?
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Author Topic:  Performing with TAB?
John D. Carter

Canton, Ohio, USA
Post Posted 17 Oct 2017 7:23 am     Reply with quote

I have always memorized my music when performing in public. One time I got lost in the middle of the song and found it difficult to get back on track, and I wished I had something to help me apart from memory. I am working on a new song that is loaded with slants and I am thinking of using TAB when performing it, but I find it hard to read the TAB and look at my fingerboard at the same time. For some reason, reading TAB on steel guitar seems to be different than reading music with other instruments. I think it is because I am so use to looking at the fingerboard that I can't do both at the same time. How do any of you do this? Do you use TAB when performing? Any advice or comments on this?
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Mike Bonnice

Arizona, USA
Post Posted 14 Nov 2017 7:52 pm     Reply with quote

I use tab often when performing in public. It still takes rehearsal to not get lost between looking at the fretboard and looking at the tab. After repeated playings, I get accustomed to where on the page is the material I am playing.

My approach is to read ahead, scan the tab for the next few measures, fix in my mental map a reminder of how I play it, then play it while looking ahead at the next few measures.

I can still get lost, in which case I just have to rehearse more next time.
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James Hartman

Pennsylvania, USA
Post Posted 15 Nov 2017 8:28 am     Reply with quote

I've never used tab on the gig but I often work from charts or lead sheets, when doing one off gigs filling in for someone else. Just takes a lot of practice learning to read ahead. It is a challenge on steel.

I've played standard (non-steel) guitar in theater orchestras where there was no way I was going to memorize all of a lengthy score, so learning to "sight read" was a necessity.
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Stefan Robertson

London, UK
Post Posted 16 Nov 2017 4:47 am     Reply with quote

Modify the Nashville number system and add melody notes above chords or slashes for forward and reverse slants.

Know your fretboard forget the tab.

Stefan aka Bilal Khalif
Bill Hatcher custom 12 string Lap Steel Guitar
E13#9/F Bebop Tuning

Head & Hands to Steel your Heart.
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Brad Davis

Texas, USA
Post Posted 16 Nov 2017 7:49 am     Reply with quote

Unlike other stringed instruments I can barely sight-read tab for steel, because I need my eyes to play. Its a constant back-and-forth looking at the tab and my fretboard. I've gotten less clumsy at it, but tab is only useful to me for learning a version of a song.

But even on other instruments I never perform with any sort of tab or other notation. If I'm reading something then I don't really have much artistic freedom. Anything I perform I do the work to internalize it, then I can make it my own when I know it cold. Typically we're talking a couple hours serious work here at most, although repeat playing over time without the crutch helps make it more solid. In the process of memorizing I usually find I've made small modifications, but that's okay. The only very rare exception is when someone gives me a chart or sheet of lyrics with chords for a song I may not know that well to follow along, although I have no experience trying that with steel.

Also with tab its too easy to get lost if things go awry, a timing stumble in the ensemble, or you looked away for a moment and can't get your eyes focused on the right place in that sea of chicken-scratch, while you're in the middle of a piece with an audience sitting there staring at you struggling to get back on track. At that point if you're dependent on the tab you may be sunk, or just have to fake your way out or start over a section (last/worst resort, ugh).
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