Guitar Tab Hell

tab tab tabAs you’re aware, I’ve started learning guitar, and it’s getting harder. Why? not because I’m not keeping up with my lessons, but because it’s getting increasingly hard to find guitar tabs on the net to play along with.

A Tab, or tablature to give it its full name, is form of notation for guitars. It seems that not content with fighting the losing battle against MP3s the music companies are now starting on guitar tab sites.

The National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), as well as the Music Publishers Association (MPA), are going around threatening legal action against sites that publish tablature. So, if you write down that stairway to heaven riff, you can get sued (as well as jeered at by other guitarists).
The thing is that 99% of these sites are based on the fans’ interpretations of the song, which are sometimes far from accurate (no offence guys, but). These aren’t copied from books or ‘official transcriptions’, they’re based on some guy in a bedroom with a CD player and guitar.

The perverse side of this whole debacle is that nine times out of ten, you just can’t buy the music for the tunes you want!

Now consider this Mr NMPA and Mrs MPA, if we can’t practise and play along to our favourite songs, what do you think is going to happen?

  • Firstly, if beginners can’t learn their favourite tunes, then there’s little hope for them to progress to being full song writers and the NMPA and MPA will lose revenue.
  • Secondly, if people can’t play cover versions then they won’t get gigs in pubs. Without gigs in pubs, a lot of pubs will stop paying the ‘live music’ licence fees and, and yet again the NMPA and MPA will lose revenue.

How am I ever going to teach my grandson to play Slayer or Marilyn Manson riffs on his guitar? (OK, it’s a way off yet, but you wait!)

What really galls me is that MIDI files have been available on the net for nearly 20 years, yet I don’t see the NMPA/MPA chasing them. Not that I’m trying to get them too, but it does show a decided lack of conviction on their part. Or, for the more cynical amongst us, the fact that they’re realising they’re never going to stop MP3s, so they’ll attack somewhere else.

For me, I’ve decided that I’ll be publishing Guitar and Bass tabs for my own tunes once they’re completed. If someone wants to play my song, I’ll be extremely flattered, not like some whingeing spoilt rock/pop star who’s claiming they need the money to top their bank account back up to nine digits, because he’s just gone and bought a black diamond encrusted helicopter and their balance has slipped a little (you know who are!).

Rob Balch, guitar teacher and owner of guitar tab universe sums up the whole ridiculous farce with the message on his website.

I would post links to the remaining (and the new) tab sites, but I don’t want to help the NMPA and MPA on anyway. But they’re out there if you know where to look, and what you want.

If you play guitar and want to try and do something to help, sign this petition

3 Responses to “Guitar Tab Hell”

  1. giddy Says:

    Maybe have a look at tabforge – it’s a free online guitar bass & drum tab archive could be really useful to find the tablature you need ;)


    What sort of pressure did they put on you to shut your website down?

  3. Paul Says:

    FWIW, I’ve never run a tab site (though I’ve tempted to contribute). From what I’ve read it seems that the lawyers threaten the service provider with legal action who then decide it’s worth the hassle/fight and shut the site down.
    It’s not long before they’ve moved to a new server though :-)