I still remember the first time I looked at “Tab” on the internet. It was amazing. It was, like musical notation but SO incredibly easy to read. You just had to be able to count to 24 and you were set! Why would anyone ever spend the time to learn by ear when this resource is so easily available? There are so many well written tabs out there, why not use them?
This isn’t going to be an article about why tablature is the “wrong way to go” or that it “isn’t useful”. This is an article about why tab is more of a beginners improvement method then a jack-of-all-trades to learning music on the guitar. It is absolutely an effective method, but, nothing will be real experience using your own ear to learn songs. But, let’s disregard the fact that learning songs by ear is a more accurate way of transcribing. The big picture here, is that training your ear to recognize notes from songs, will equally train your ear to learn the songs and riffs that you make up in your head. This is very important because often times songs are written from an idea, instead of just notes and scales that you know on your instrument. This isn’t to say that not being able to learn things by ear makes you any less of the guitarist than anyone else, but it is a tool and a great tool to have on your side if you know how to use it. It reminds me a lot about the philosophy of going to the gym. When you first start it’s almost painful, it sucks, you don’t want to go, you REALLY don’t want to do it. But much like going to the gym and after a couple months in this amazing progress you’ve made, all that initial struggle was not only worth it but part of the experience.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of improving the connection between ideas in your head and your fingers on the fretboard, it’s almost impossible to describe. But you will absolutely notice the difference, it’s huge, it’s monumental. Things that never used to make sense before, finally do. You’ll start to notice the difference when changing one semitone in a five or six stringed chord.