Are you a fan of piano tabs? Incidentally, what is a piano tab anyway? Is it a piece of paper attached to a piano stating how to clean the instrument? Is it a button that opens a secret compartment on the piano?
Simply stated, a piano tab is a method of showing you how to play piano without reading notes from a traditional treble or bass clef staff. If you are just getting started as a pianist or are simply looking for the notes to your favorite tune, then tabs have a place in your life.
Piano tabs are not a substitute for learning traditional notation. Even if you are a visual person, you should eventually learn how to read music from a staff, as not doing this limits your ability to read anything that has rhythmic, harmonic or textural complexity.
If you want details with respect to piano tabs, check out http://www.tabnabber.com for detailed explanations on the workings of typical piano tabs. Basically, tabs contain the letters of notes and a numbering system indicating which octave on the piano you place these lettered notes.
Apart from tabs, there are many visual methods of learning that break away from traditional notation. Computer programs offer wonderful graphics and charts. In the link below, you can select a chord or scale and the keyboard display will show you the notes that need to be depressed in order to play what you have selected. Here’s the link:
The problem with the keyboard display in the above link is that you do not have fingerings included. Also, scales often carry on for more than an octave and chords have multiple ways of being voiced. These options are much easier to show using traditional notation. Even if you are a visual learner (learning through pictures and charts) you will eventually be able to process music by reading notation. It may take you a bit longer, but you’ll come around. I’ve never encountered a student that I wasn’t able to teach reading skills to, regardless of their personality and/or learning preferences.
So why is fingering so important in piano laying? It’s a good question. For starters, let’s talk about what piano fingering actually is. In traditional music notation, pianists have the option of placing numbers over notes in order to determine exactly which fingers plays which keys. This type of meticulous detail allows a pianist to repeatedly play the same notes with the same fingers. Since memory on an instrument is mainly acquired by touch, this type of detailed work is crucial in learning a piece securely and properly.
As a concluding thought, pianists who read traditional music notation well should also acquire the skill of being able to identify chord symbols (both popular and classical). So much popular music has simplified transcripts, and being able to identify a chord associated with a music measure that you are playing frees you up to be a more effective improviser. Your playing becomes more adventurous. If you read notes well and you are deciphering chords well, you are well on your way to becoming a well-rounded musician. Well done!
- PianoMaestro guides pianists through the music (gizmag.com)