tabs in the Banj'r collection are in both Adobe
PDF and Tabledit format.
The Tabledit files are opened through TablEdit's TEFView tab
viewer. The viewer is available free from the Tabledit website.
The easiest way to download is to left click on the file link,
and use the File Download dialog box. However, with some system
configurations, this function results instead in a display of
the file in ASCII text or htm format. In that case,
to download one of the tabs listed at the right, just right
click on the link, and select "Save Link As" or "Save
Target As" from the drop down menu. Make sure you include
the ".tef" file extension when you save.
of the most useful features of TEFView is that it is virtually
a full function MIDI software package. TEFView contains most
of the playback control features available in the MIDI format,
some not found in basic players like Windows MediaPlayer or
WinAmp. Taking full advantage of this, each tablature arrangement
in this collection has been written with a guitar and bass accompaniment,
and sometimes fiddle, clawhammer banjo, or lead guitar. . Through
the MIDI Options window, you can speed up or slow down the tempo,
or change the relative volume of each instrument, or temporarily
turn off an instrument altogether, by unchecking the checkbox
next to the title of the instrument track. Thus, you can turn
the banjo voice off, and practice playing along with the MIDI
accompaniment. The MIDI Options window can be accessed through
the icon on the toolbar, or through the Play Menu selection
on the Menu bar.
you open TEFView, the tablature will be scaled to a particular
note, either a 1/16th or a 1/32nd note. I have found generally
that the tunes in 2/4 and 3/4 time are best viewed at the 1/32nd
scale, while the handful of 4/4 tunes are best viewed at the
1/16th scale. The scale can be reset from the Display Menu item
on the top Menu Bar. The time signature is located in the upper
left corner of the tablature.
is merely a technique, a relatively efficient one, for communicating
how one musician has decided to render a certain musical piece.
goal is not to learn to sight read. Instead, you should memorize
the arrangement as soon as possible, internalize it, changing
it as little or as much as you want to suit your own taste and
This is not classical music, where the composer's notes, written
down on paper, must be taken as gospel, not to be altered.
Once you have memorized the arrangement, you should continue
to practice by playing along with the MIDI, but don't follow
the tab itself unless you forget part of it. You don't want
to play forever with a music stand in front of you, whether
real or virtual.
you work through a tab, you essentially "get inside the
picker's head," and see how he or she chooses to solve
a particular musical problem. As bluegrass style five string
banjo is still primarily a type of pattern picking, as opposed
to the more linear approach of other instruments and other types
of music, there is ultimately an immense variety of solutions
to that "problem" presented by a particular phrase
of melody. So as you study the work of other pickers, through
tab, by slowing down a recording, or by any other method, you
should be selective, borrowing the sounds you like best, and
substituting a different approach for the others. In the end,
assuming you are putting in the effort, your arrangements will
reflect your own musical tastes better than any other picker,
and you will essentially be your own favorite banjo picker.
also functions as a memory aid. Trust me on this- that becomes
more important as you get older. More than once I have worked
out an intricate arrangement, only to find a few weeks later
that I have completely forgotten how I did it. After doing that
a number of times, I started transcribing my arrangements as
soon as they had pretty much settled down. There is nothing
more ridiculous than having to slow down your own recording
to half speed in order to figure out how you picked something,
to motivate you to make an accurate transcription at the start.
cannot overemphasize how useful it is to practice along with
the MIDI playback. I practice with the Tabledit files for most
of my practice time. While there is obviously still a very big
difference between using Tabledit and actually playing with
other musicians, it is still a great learning and practice tool,
and I think as time goes on and more material is published this
way, it is going to speed up the learning curve considerably
for new bluegrass pickers.
read arguments that Tabledit is not as effective in developing
smooth, even timing as a metronome. That may well be true in
the early stages of learning, when it is best to use the metronome
with one tick for each note, to guarantee an absolutely smooth
roll. But in the long run, I think Tabledit is the best learning
tool to come along since Earl himself. The whole MIDI playback
capability also shifts the "tab as a crutch" dynamic,
since as you gradually speed up the tempo, you are forced to
rely more on your memory and ear, and less on the tab itself.
If you write tab,
I strongly recommend acquiring the full software package. It
is easy to use, creates great printed output, and has a very
well organized and complete set of MIDI tools. All of the MIDI
files used as background music on these web pages were created
from the Tabledit program.
Customer support by Keith Saturn (the American rep) and Matthieu
Leschemelle (the program's author, on those rare occasions when
Keith doesn't know the answer) is timely and excellent. Their
website is www.tabledit.com. While the TEFView viewer can be
used free of charge, I highly recommend upgrading to the TablEdit
software package for anyone who intends to transcribe arrangements
for five string banjo.