I take great pride in preparing my tabs; making sure they’re as right, playable and readable as possible.
The analysis and the deep dives are nerdy catnip for me; every tab I create I try to be as accurate to what was played on the record as possible.
Sadly, when tabbing out bass lines, due to the quality of a mix on some tracks, sometimes I have to guess, apply a “what I might do” approach, scour YouTube for live footage of it being played or simply mirror what I can hear in the rhythm guitar parts.
Where it’s possible to get hold of the original isolated studio track, believe me, I will be using that!
Fortunately, in recent times, a treasure trove of them have appeared online.
This is great for me in terms of transcribing but it’s much more than that; as musicians we can become obsessed with a player and their techniques and tricks and these isolated tracks really allow us to appreciate exactly what they did in the studio that day to get that incredible moment.
Putting the right notes in the right places is of vital importance.
Many of the classic tab books of old (and many a modern tab too) are transcribed by guitarists or keyboard players.
It makes sense that keyboard players transcribe a lot; they generally have a more thorough and deeper knowledge of music theory and that allows them to quickly deduce the notes, keys, chords, modes, rhythms etc in a piece and get it written down.
In terms of guitarists transcribing bass I assume they just think, “Well, it’s just a big guitar only lower…” and away they go!
But knowing the notes is half the battle.
If you’ve got all the right notes but you’re marked them down in frankly impossible or contextually implausible places on the tab then they’re kind of useless to the musicians who want to use them…
These are tricky things. I’ve written an entire page here discussing how they’re written out so do please check that out if you disagree with a tempo marking that I’ve used.
The other thing to remember is that these songs are played by humans and humans make mistakes; they’re behind or ahead of the beat and they get tired.
If a song starts in 204bpm (Fight Fire With Fire by Metallica for example) and then drops to 196bpm then 186bpm for link riffs and verses, that’s youthful exuberance giving way to lactic acid build up in the forearms!
A riff may be marked up as a specific bpm but across the duration of that riff the tempo may push and pull here and there so the tempo marking is an average and not a hard and fast absolute value set in stone. Learn to be more flexible, more forgiving!
With the advent of YouTube and other video platforms, video of bands and musicians actually playing the riffs is available more and more often these days.
Combining the master track (if it’s available) with footage of the artist playing it live, I use these tools to create the most “as it was played” tabs I can.
This is the hard part.
Music publishing is an Inception of rights holders inside other rights holders and so on and so on down into the dark and murky depths of ancient musical history.
I’ve acquired the details for the rights managers for a large number of artists and their catalogues and in the fullness of time I’ll be reaching out to them to try and secure a license to make my tabs available to you for sale in downloadable and bound forms.
Like you, I love music; I love the artists whose works have enriched my life and yours, been there for me in the good times and the bad, and beyond buying their work and seeing them live I want to celebrate them and give back to them in my way, one musician to another.
I will keep everyone updated with my progress on this. I expect it to be a bit of a struggle to get the rights, especially from some of the biggest acts whose work I want to sell.
I will persevere!
In the meantime I will be producing riff analyses on here and playthrough videos on my JTR YouTube Channel for you to enjoy.
Until later, may the riff be with you!
(Bonus points if you know what the tab in the hero image is!)