Wednesday, October 30, 2013

3 Reasons Why Tabs & YouTube Videos Don't Work

Tabs take you down the tougher road

For all but your five highest and lowest notes, every note on your guitar or bass can be played anywhere from two to six different places. What does this mean for you? It means there are different ways to play virtually any given riff, some of them better than others. 

For guitar, consider this popular tab for 'Black Dog':

black dog tab original

Instead of ending with an open power chord, maybe you would like to try ending it this way:

black dog tab original

Or for another guitar example, consider this riff from 'Icky Thump' by the White Stripes:

black dog tab original

A very different, and potentially much easier way to play it is this way:

black dog tab original

For bass guitar, consider these three different ways you can play 'Aqualung':

Aqualung bass tab variations

Or consider the verse from 'Soul to Squeeze' by the Red Hot Chili Peppers:

black dog tab original

A very different, and potentially much easier way for a beginner to play it is this way:

black dog tab original

The point is, tabs don't always show you the easiest or best way to play a given song. Unless you know how to tweak a tab, or have someone to help you with it, you'll often end up trying to play songs in a way that is harder than necessary.

Tabs also leave out an often vital piece of information: which fingers to use. Tabs show you where to go, but they don't teach you how to get there. Video lessons can help with this, but they have their problems too.

Video lessons make it look easy

Pick virtually any video lesson you want. Almost invariably, they'll open with a demonstration of what you're supposed to be able to do after watching the video. They'll then show you what they did to play the song. Plenty of 'put this finger here, and then this finger here, and then just play it like this', or 'play this chord while strumming up and down like this, then switch to this chord like that while strumming down and up like this'.

As if, just because you know what they're doing you should then be able to do it too.

That's nonsense, and it's deceptive.

There's a lot more than meets the eye - and the ear - when it comes to playing music. But you're not going to hear that in these videos, because they are either selling you something that doesn't exist - a fast track to being able to play something like a professional - or because they contain bad instruction. Unfortunately, the end result is you left feeling like you can't play, thinking they you should be able to do what was just explained to you simply because it was explained to you.

These video lessons look good. You might like the way they teach you. But you need to judge them on results. Instead of telling you truthfully that you will unlikely be able to play the song just like they do (assuming they're good enough teachers to know that), and instead give you a no-frills version that you can handle for now until such time as you can fit in all the small details that make it sound so cool, they make it seem like you can play just like they do. It's salesmanship, not teaching.

Lack of organization & oversight

Imagine a kid dropped off for his first ever day of school and left to determine for himself not just which class he's supposed to be in, but also which grade he should be in. That's a pretty good analogy of what you're doing if you are relying on YouTube videos for instruction. You would no more want to learn about scales before you first establish good technique, for example, than you would want to learn about geometry before first learning basic math. When it comes to guitar or bass, there's no less of a progression from the basics to the more advanced than you'll find anywhere else. It's just might not be as obvious.

For everything taught to you in the average YouTube lesson, there are a handful of other things you are assumed to know or be able to do. For example, if you're going to learn Dick Dale's 'Misirlou' (i.e. the Pulp Fiction song), or the intro to Iron Maiden's 'Wasted Years', or anything with fast picking, shouldn't you first get some experience and practice with fast picking by itself on one note before trying to do it across many different notes? If you can't pick fast on one note, how are you going to somehow do it in a more complicated fashion? Or for bass, if you're going to learn Queens's 'Another One Bites the Dust', Rick James' 'Super Freak', or any technically simple bassline, shouldn't you first be able to play the rhythm it involves on just one note before trying to execute across many different notes?

Even if you manage to find a rare video that avoids all the pitfalls so far mentioned, you cannot help but be left vulnerable to moving ahead too quick. Just because you watched (and even practiced) a more basic video does not mean you are necessarily ready to move on to the next step. If your first level is not solid and steady before you put on the second level, or the second level before the third, or the third before the fourth and so on, you run the risk of it all crashing down. Without someone to coach you through what you have learned, you will often end up overreaching.

There will never be an adequate substitute for live, genuine, human interaction and instruction. Resources like tabs and videos can help, but they aren't the answer. If you want a faster way to expedite your learning and safe way to avoid bad habits, live lessons are the way to go. However bad (or good!) you do on your own, you can do better with lessons.

Try it out and see for yourself. Visit anf get started.

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