I'm sure most of us wish that years ago, when we first started playing the guitar, we would have had access to guitar tabs. Unfortunately, for those of us who were playing and performing through the sixties, seventies, and eighties, guitar tabs had not been perfected yet. To learn a song, many guitarists were forced to place their ears up against a speaker and learn the song in real time. Of course, for those who could sight read music, the task of learning a song was quite simple.
In today's musical environment, guitar tabs have become a great source for learning songs, guitar solos, and guitar chords quickly. It's very important however, not to rely on guitar tabs as a substitute for an authentic music education. Guitarists who intend on progressing to the national and international stage should constantly strive to become more educated.
Nothing can replace a thorough knowledge of music theory. Especially when it pertains to guitar. Perhaps you've heard the old saying, the guitar is the easiest instrument to learn, but the hardest to master. There's a good reason for this saying. There are hundreds and hundreds of musical options that can be utilized on the guitar when approaching any playing situation. In other words, the more informed choices one has regarding an approach to a particular musical scenario, the better the outcome. Informed choices are a result of authentic education.
Imagine walking on to a stage with complete strangers. The musical director announces that the song structure is a ii, IV, vi, V, I chord progression in the key of five flats and to extend the IV chord to it's furthest diatonic extension. The very next thing heard is the drummer clicking off the tempo. This scenario would be quite intimidating for many guitarists.
All of the guitar tabs in the world won't help in that scenario. In other words, for those who had been relying only on guitar tabs for his/her musical background, the above referenced chord progression would, most likely, turn into a musical train wreck. Contrast that with an ability to walk on to any stage, with any artist group, and play through every chord progression, in any key signature. Once again, guitar tabs do not, generally, educate one in overall music theory. Most often, guitar tabs help one learn to play something that already exists.
Visit any music store in the world. There is bound to be someone sitting on an amplifier speed picking arpeggios or some other scale. At first glance, many might think that this individual is very, very, talented. In fact, he/she might very well be very talented. However, if this individual has been relying only on guitar tabs, he/she would, most likely fall short, if confronted with a difficult chord progression or key signature change.
Far too many guitar players are relying on speed and flash! However, when all is said and done, the individuals that have taken the time to learn their instrument and all related music theory will, most likely, be the most successful overall. It's actually very complimentary to get a late night call from a producer who needs help with creating a well-constructed guitar solo or help with the overall flow and dynamics of a song. Once again, guitar tabs, in general, will not help in this situation. However, education will!
Confidence, as a guitarist, is a great feeling. Knowledge of chord construction, chord function, guitar scales, guitar scale formulas, key signatures, extended guitar chords, altered guitar chords, chord inversions, guitar chord and guitar scale substitution principles (and so much more) is the greatest confidence builder that a guitarist, or any musician, could hope for. Take the time to study and learn. Your hard work and dedication to the guitar will pay off.
There are so many very good music institutes, colleges, and guitar methods that can help in the quest for education. However, make sure that any program will deliver an authentic education and not just bits and pieces of music theory. Most importantly, do not procrastinate. If musical opportunity knocks, be prepared to open the door. The key here is preparation through education.
Guitar tabs are great tools. Use them for what they are. Education is your best bet for maintaining longevity in your chosen field, playing the guitar. Until next time, practice, practice, practice.