I want to learn how to translate guitar tablature into standard music notation.
October 20, 2004 12:16 AM   Subscribe

Guitar Tabs. Does anyone know of a web site that explains how to translate guitar tablature into standard music notation? Or, if this is relatively easy to explain, would anyone like to do that?
posted by epimorph to Media & Arts (7 answers total)
 
Although I’ve never done it, I can’t imagine it’s all that hard, if we’re talking lead.

Maybe you could use a fretboard note-map like this:



And from there you can tell which part of the tab refers to which note and work out in which octave so you can consequentially map it on onto the stave. Here is some guff on writing formal notation from what’s being played that might help.

PS: I’m sort of power-guessing so I might be wrong.
posted by ed\26h at 1:40 AM on October 20, 2004


That's about it. One of the big problems, though, is that standard notation is mensural (it shows the durations of notes), while most guitar tab isn't - a lot of early lute tab showed rhythms, but it doesn't really seem to have caught on with guitarists.
Quite often, to do this sort of transcription, you need ears too.
posted by monkey closet at 1:52 AM on October 20, 2004


Or, depending on the format of the tab, there is software available for reading/writing it which can output MIDI... which can then be displayed as standard notation. You might want to check out the about.com page for some ideas. Unfortunately, it's likely that this software will be unable to import the vast majority of tab you'll find (since it's mostly cobbled-together text typed by someone with a guitar in his lap), but it's worth a shot nonetheless.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:43 AM on October 20, 2004


> Maybe you could use a fretboard note-map like this:

I took a large sheet of illustration board and drew a HUGE guitar fretboard on it, big enough so that I could then draw an actual staff at each string/fret position showing the note, not just naming it. I actually saw such a thing once included as a foldout in a magazine but that one used treble clef only; I write guitar stuff out using both treble and bass clef so as to avoid having all those ledger lines below the staff when you write low notes.

> a lot of early lute tab showed rhythms, but it doesn't really seem to
> have caught on with guitarists.

What helps me most is a sort of homegrown hybrid that uses standard notation with the fret numbers in place of the note heads. With this system only whole and half notes are indistinguishable and you can tell that from mensuration usually.

> Quite often, to do this sort of transcription, you need ears too.

And fingers! Clams can't do it because they lack fingers!
posted by jfuller at 10:13 AM on October 20, 2004


http://www.power-tab.net/

Enter your tab into this editor and it automatically translates into standard notation on the upper staff.
posted by mischief at 12:30 PM on October 20, 2004


Thank you, this is all very helpful, especially that note-map. I don't mind putting a little wear and tear on the ears and the fingers in the process. The huge fretboard jfuller described would be ideal. Maybe I'll just make one someday.

The Power Tab Editor looks pretty neat from the screenshot they have, I'll give it a try.
posted by epimorph at 12:51 PM on October 20, 2004


> I write guitar stuff out using both treble and bass clef so as
> to avoid having all those ledger lines below the staff when
> you write low notes.

Guitar should be notated 1 octave higher than it's played (with a -8ve mark above the stave) to avoid just that problem...

And as for tab->staff conversion, well, you've got most of the information you need here. Just remember that there are a number of frets which will sound the same absolute note, but will have a different tone (effectively, playing the same note on a different string) and a lot of guitarists will specifically choose a position to get the tone they require. Tabbing will give a guitarist all this information, standard notation won't - even using fingering information can be ambiguous at times.
posted by benzo8 at 6:06 PM on October 20, 2004


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