Creating Accurate Tabs - Why Bother, And How To Do It

Learning to create accurate tablature is a skill. If you have a desire to transcribe audio music into written notation, and you have the patience to listen to a piece 100 times so you can get it right, then you probably have what it takes to transcribe music.

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The Benefits of Creating Accurate Tabs (As Opposed To Tabs That Are Just "Good Enough")

Simply choosing to write tabs at all will benefit you immensely. You will learn more about composing and arranging music, creating chord progressions that grab people, and you will become much more comfortable with rhythms than ever before.

As well, you will find yourself able to communicate with written music much more naturally. When you're writing your own music, the "writing down" aspect of it will be much less of a barrier, allowing you to be more creative.

But there are some benefits that only come from writing super-acurrate tabs, that aren't present when you are just writing to "get the gist of it".

Benefits of choosing the accuracy route is that it will:

  • Help you when writing your own music to add in intricate details and layers beyond just what the conscious mind hears.
  • Strengthen your ear to hear things that you couldn't hear before.
  • This would be useful of course when you are writing tabs, but also if you are in a mixing situation, or any time you need to use your ear basically.

  • Learn even more about rhythms.

The Cons

If it's so beneficial though, then why wouldn't EVERYONE make every tab accurate?

Well for one thing, it can be painstakingly difficult, especially if the recording you are going off of is convoluted.

On top of that, it takes a buttload of extra time to do. So time + effort are the main negatives.

The hardest thing is putting down not "what you think it is", but to actually listen to it over and over again until it is perfect.

Getting An Audience Can Help You Take Pride In Your Work

The best way to get in the mindset of doing something well instead of average is to have an audience.

Because if you have an audience, then you have people who you have to live up to. You have people expecting to see the best quality tablature come from you, and you don't want to disappoint them.

I have that easy, because I have to fulfill the needs of everyone who visits this site.

Some ideas for your audience would be:

  • Show your friends
  • Submit them to a site like Ultimate Guitar. You can gain a following on that as people see your Username consistently providing great results.

Programs To Transcribe With

You will be needing a program to write all your transcriptions down on. This is basically what you will use as your pen and paper, but on the computer.

These types of programs can be used for your own compositions, and for transcribing others compositions as well.

Power Tabs

The first option is a free program called power tabs. I have used this program in the past, but no longer do because I prefer Guitar Pro.

Power tabs is a very decent program, but it has no support for drums, and once you start to add more than 2 or 3 guitar tracks it becomes very complicated. I would recommend it only if you don't have the $60 for Guitar Pro.

Guitar Pro

Guitar pro is a multi-instrument and multi-track composition program. With it you can write music for almost every instrument imaginable, and hear it played back to you.

I personally use Guitar Pro when writing all of my own music, and when transcribing tabs on this site.

Although I have a banner for Guitar Pro 6 above, Guitar Pro 5 is definitely the best version of the software available. It's much easier to use, and it doesn't have massive memory demands on your computer.

Guitar Pro 6 was a nightmare for me. It would often use over 1gb of RAM at a time from my computer. It freezes often, and slows down all the time rendering it virtually useless. Keep in mind that I have a quite decent computer with an i7 processor, 8gb of RAM and dual video cards, so it really should have no issue's with a transcription program.

The one advantage that Guitar Pro 6 has though is that it can actually export MIDI with some coherency (Guitar Pro 5's export function is atrocious.)

Often I would write a song in Guitar Pro 5, but export it from Guitar Pro 6 so that I could use the MIDI in a program like Reason or Logic Pro.

Finale/Finale Notepad

Finale is the weapon of choice when working with large orchestral compositions.

Most of the people who use it are band conductors and such, and although it does have a place among us quote "Rockers", I hate using it.

Finale Notepad is a Free, Downgraded version of the Full Finale, while Finale runs into the hundreds of dollars in price.

I don't recommend it for rock-styled music, but it's great for orchestral arrangements.

Logic Pro

Logic is a bit of an extra choice here, because technically it is a recording program, and not meant for transcription.

The great thing is that Logic has a function where it can convert your MIDI music into classical notation, so you can technically use it to compose music in a written way.

It's not my first option, but it certainly is worth mentioning.

Programs To Assist Transcription

Sometimes when you just can't quite hear what is happening in a song, or something is too fast, you may want to use an external program to help you narrow down that drum beat or guitar riff.

The following are some programs that I have used to help assist you in your transcribing efforts.


Transcribe! is the best program I have used for finding beats and such so far.

It has capabilities to slow down songs, without changing the pitch. It also has an equalizer and FX to cut out certain frequencies in a song, and to pan to left or right speakers, once again helping to hone in on a specific part of the mix.

You can also highlight an area and have it play over and over again.

I highly recommend it, although I would like it if the program could show the beat markers and lock onto them, so selecting certain areas of a song would be easier.

I will mention that it is not free, although it isn't expensive either.

Windows Media Player

I'll bet you didn't expect this one on the list! But Windows Media Player is useful if you don't have any other programs to use, as it can slow down songs (To 50%) and you can mess with the equalizer a bit.

Other than that, it can't do much, but it came with your PC (if you're on a PC that is) and it's better than nothing.

I have also tried some other programs such as RiffMaster Pro, but just didn't find they were very well suited for this practice.

The best thing that you can do for your Transcriptions is to take your time. Don't rush through it, and if you get frustrated, don't just write it badly, skip the part and do it later.

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