I used to play the saxophone, and I was taught that in order to get REAL GOOD, you learn to play by ear so you can play from the soul, just like the legends.

Then there's knowing your scales, jazz/blues progressions, and complex minor/major chord combinations that give certain tones and blend well in specific patterns.

I learned that as well, and I must say it worked well when learning to solo without knowing how certain notes sounded (just play in this scale at this particular time, and you're good). You didn't have to know notes by ear because everything was laid out in note form that you could memorize.

Finally, when learning to play guitar I found this really easy way of playing something quickly: tabs. Tabs were a godsend for learning how to mimic songs of the bands I like, but are impossible to compose music with, because they have no form... no shape.

I guess when learning tabs guitarists use their ear as well. They must, because if they didn't they wouldn't be able to make up their own sounds. My guess is that over a period of time tablature eases its way into learning to play by ear, in which case the player can make sounds which he has already known to exist at that particular tabbed note.

So here's my question (finally): If I'm picking up the guitar for the first time in a few years, and ready to spend an exuberant amount of time (all day every day) to learn the best way to play the guitar, should I go with playing by ear, tabs, or notes?

The saxophone is a much different instrument, because it is much easier to play by ear when there are only so many fingerings, vs. the guitar where accuracy with the pick come into play and you have to always be conscious of how you are playing, not just what you are playing.

What do you think, and/or how do you play the guitar?
I'm gonna go ahead and give you a vague answer. Sorry about that.

Depends on where you want your musical career to go. If you'll be playing in an orchestra or jazz ensemble or something of that nature, reading music will certainly be a must.

Not to dump on tabs or anything, but if you learn the notes on the fretboard fluently, you won't have much use for them, because you'll be able to figure out a fingering that works for you.

Ear training is very important. Even if you know how to improvise well, a good ear will always come in handy, it is music after all: predicting the notes before you play them, etc.

So, in conclusion, I suggest using a combination of notes and your ear. As well as a bit of tabs, but really, don't rely on them too much. But that's just me, I plan to be a guitar/music instructor in the future, so I pretty much have to take this path. To each his own.
just practice a lot. take osme lessons to refresh you.

if you have a trained ear, try learning by ear, and try searching some info on scales on the fretboard and etc (i think there's a cheap and good book on it). if you dont know enough patterns on the guitar or your ear isnt that developed, try the tabs. leave the notes for classical music and that. its really annoying to try to learn a rock song on sheet music.

I don't know why this question is so exclusive. Obviously, the correct answer is use all available resources, period. Tabs have an excellent place, given that you can find tabs for just about everything out there, ear is incredibly important for everything, and learning to read sheet music for guitar isn't as challenging as most claim(I know it for jazz and classical), and it helps a ton to keep you refreshed, since you can immediately play music from other instruments whenever you want.

So there. All three in the right places.
Member #3 of the "I play my guitar as high as Tom Morello does" club.
it entirely depends on what your looking to do. Tabs require some previous knowledge of the song, or being able to play by ear because they give you no sense of time. Great for learning new songs and simply putting down the notes you play. You need memory, learning by ear, and a sense of rhythm to use tabs, but they are definitely an essential tool for guitar. It doesn't translate to any other instrument, though.

notes, and im assuming this is standard notation, can be useful for composing written music, but i never used this for guitar. I used to play piano, and remember a little of what i learned. But with guitar, i only use it in guitar pro honestly. As for learning in lessons, i barely used notes, which are more a combination of tab and notation. usually i'd get notes for fast triplets or arpeggios, which would just been drawn as the tab with 8th/16th note stems on them, and then triplets and what not. Just making notation easy for guitarist

learning by ear definitely could give you so more "soul" but it wont necessarily. It also would probably confine you to a few scales, chord progressions, etc. i think learning theory opens up your ability to do even more... There are definitely shredders who play only theory but it should be used to know what your doing and what is basically "safe" to use. Experimenting and going beyond theory, once you know theory, will give you the best results IMO.

Saying the Red Hot Chili Peppers have no talent is like saying Guy Fawkes didn't have an epic mustache.
i think if you're willing to spend the time then sight reading would be your best bet as most tab books come with standard notation. i do recommend learning to read tabs as a fallback in case you have to get your music from a website that doesn't have note values listed (like a lot of tabs on UG) but in the end sight reading will serve you best as you'll be able to play any piece of music quickly and efficiently (once you get good at it) however the major drawback to sight reading is that i've noticed it takes a lot longer to get really good at it, whereas tabs don't take that long.
I play sax and guitar professionally. The guitar is more difficult in that you play chords and the sax is a single note instrument. Also there are many different fingerings that you can learn to play a scale. For example, you can play a c major scale in different positions on the fretboard and start the scale with a different finger on a different string. But generally the scales that you play regularly can be moved to different keys by switching different postions. But the pattern doesn't change. With the sax, there is a different fingering for every different scale. So in that regard the sax is much harder. Also, the sax is very different with regards to intonation. When I play guitar, assuming I have a descent one that stays in tune, I never need to worry about intonation unless I'm bending and even then its not that hard to get the bent note in tune. But on the sax, you have to literally create the note from nothing with your embouchure, your air, and your ear. Some people say to me "But I thought if you press the keys that make and A note, and you blow, an A will come out". That's not the case really. You still have to use your lips, lungs and ear, together, and create the note with no help from frets like on the guitar. It took my a while, but my intonation now is very good and my "ear" is a lot better now because of learning to play the sax.

But to comment on your inquiry in this thread, I would have to say the tab, notes and ear are all important in conjunction in becoming a good well rounded musician. I always tell my students that playing by ear, transcribing tunes and solos AND learning to read AND knowing theory and how to apply it will be a better game plan in becoming a really good well rounded musician, if that's what your looking to do. If you dont want to be that kind of well rounded musician then that's OK too. To each his own. There are famous musicians that know theory and some who don't. In the end, whatever makes you happy, have fun and enjoy playing music is most important.
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