Classical Guitar Tablature and Sheet Music

We did it! Tabs Now Available

Our long time students, fans and followers are likely reading this announcement in disbelief and/or delight. As you know, we have been staunch advocates of learning standard sheet music notation as part of rigorous classical training to attain proper technique. We’ve consistently cautioned against the disadvantages of exclusively using tablature for many years and will continue to do so. In fact, we’ve maintained this stance since before the founding of the guitar academy and its publishing division, LAGA Publishing.

laga classical guitar tablature - tabs

Tab versions released, May 2016

Due to the overwhelming popularity of our video releases on YouTube channel, our repertoire of works arranged and performed by Dr. Emre Sabuncuoglu have attracted a wide range of guitarists, musicians, and enthusiasts looking to begin playing the guitar. We are humbled that a majority of these individuals were subsequently inspired to play these pieces – even beginner level guitarists with no sightreading training.

That said, students who are serious about their guitar education must develop the required technical level and sightreading skills through rigorous training under the guidance of an instructor or as part of a multi-year program at a music school. Our online curriculum, LAGA Online, is designed to do just that. However, most hobbyists neither have the time to commit to a 2-3 year program and daily practice routine nor have the desire to play at a professional level. So they seek shortcuts.

Others are simply interested in seeing where the fingers are to be placed on the fingerboard to play such pieces on the classical guitar. Our videos, unlike most sheet music retailers, showcase the full performance of the works. Those who have purchased the sheet music and have some sightreading experience find it sufficient to follow along with these videos. Others with no sightreading background, however, seek additional visual aid.

As a result, we have been bombarded with tab requests both on our channel and our support desk over the years.

Here is a quick recap of the advantages and disadvantages of tablature notation for those who are new to the discussion.

Advantages of Tablature

– Supplementary visual aid: Fingering placement on the fingerboard is readily visible. This is especially attractive for beginners or even intermediate to advanced guitarists who are technically capable but not trained in sightreading.

– No guesswork: Working through multiple fingering possibilities for a given passage on the fingerboard can be overwhelming for beginner players. Classical guitar tabs take out the guesswork and make it easier by suggesting a single fingering option. Note that in some cases this can prove a disadvantage for intermediate to advanced players (see below).

Disadvantages of Tablature

No standardized practice:

Notations, symbols and styles used in tablature notation vary greatly from source to source.

Note durations:

Even with enhanced tab notation featuring rhythmic structure, there is no differentiation between quarter and half notes. Though some experimental practices using circles around half and whole notes exist, they are not consistent and create other notational issues.

Lack of fingering numbers:

Since tabs consist of fret numbers on the strings, when fingering numbers are added to the tab notation, these additional numbers make it extremely difficult and confusing to decipher. In short, tablature will tell you where a note is fretted on the fingerboard but it won’t tell you which finger to use.

Harmonics issues:

Traditional sheet music uses a few different methods for notating harmonics – the most accurate and commonly used version being the diamond noteheads with proper fingering and string numbers added. Without fingering numbers or additional footnotes, tabs further complicate this already problematic issue of harmonics, especially at advanced level arrangements. For example, a right hand harmonic at a fifth interval higher on a second string A note will be next to impossible to decipher on the tab notation alone.

No further learning opportunity:

Unlike most other instruments, a given note can usually be played on several different strings and positions on the guitar fingerboard. This is the aspect that makes the guitar such a prolific instrument. This is also what makes it possible to arrange and perform seemingly impossible repertoire on the instrument. Even if the goal is not arranging music, practicing and studying this multi-dimensional aspect of the guitar will give the students of the instrument tremendous insight into any repertoire they are performing. Fingering structure of a classical guitar piece can be thought of as an ant’s path starting at the trunk of a tree going all the way up to a leaf on a branch. There will numerous possibilities – some easier to travel, some harder, and some possibly ending up on the same target leaf, as some branches may be overlapping. Tablature notation gives you only a single option and leaves no room for creativity. The player is not given a chance to experiment with different fingering options, navigating through the fingerboard and creating their own fingering. Although standard notation will have suggested fingering numbers, it is easy enough for the guitarist to mark their own fingering ideas if they disagree with the arranger’s fingering for any technical, physical or musical reasons. You may also think of tablature as consuming prepared food rather than cooking your own meal, which over time gives you better experience and appreciation. If one can resist instant gratification of using tabs, the payoff is becoming a better musician over the long term.

No clear texture differentiation:

There is no clear separation of inner and outer voices in tab notation, even on tabs with rhythm notation. Since pitch change is reflected as different numbers on the same line, tab lines do not allow any room for various groupings of beams of multi voices, allowing no visual reference for contrapuntal lines. Standard notation is more three-dimensional, much like viewing a painting in person at a museum as opposed to looking at the same painting on a smartphone screen.

Missing other key elements:

Articulation, ornamentation, phrasing and harmonic context and structure (such as key signatures and modulatory changes) are non-existent in tablature notation without cramming cumbersome symbols and footnotes on the score.

Because of these reasons, our tab editions are always placed below the actual standard notation staff, and we always recommend following along the standard staff when sightreading tabs.

J. S. Bach Manuscript

Last but not least, aesthetics:

We are not saying tabs are ugly. But sheet music is beautiful. Some of J. S. Bach’s manuscripts illustrate how sheet music can be considered artwork in of itself. The digital age and tools of modern technology such as notation software certainly take away some of the flair and character though still more elegant than numbers on lines.

Use it with a grain of salt

Potentially deceiving: When exclusively following tablature notation, given the above caveats, should you come across a passage with unusual fingering, we encourage you to analyze the context carefully by cross checking against the standard notation. It may likely be an advanced level passage with a contrapuntal/sustain issue that may be more clearly visible on the standard notation but disguised within tablature.

Sheet music purists – Do not fret!

Professional guitarists, educators and idealists, no worries! In addition to the newly released tab + score format, the original ‘sheet music only’ format untainted by the tabs will also be available in the same downloadable file.

Already own our sheet music?

Those who have purchased scores from us in the past and wish to obtain the new tab release – you are covered! Just send a message to our support team via the contact form or by replying to your purchase email, and we will send you a 50% discount coupon for the new release right away! Please remember to include your order ID(s) in your message.

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