Tab Tools

After the story of the battle of Wichita, here’s some info on the tools I use when I tab.

  1. Ear. Couldn’t do it without it.
  2. Plain text editor. Well, not quite, but in principle. No fancy tabbing software, just typing. Tabbing is an ASCII art form…
  3. Occasionally, pen and paper, but nowadays, I can hardly write music on paper anymore. Although that’s where I come from, it now feels odd to write down a guitar part in standard notation. Only when there is doubt about the tuning, as in the Wichita case, do I write down the actual notes.
  4. Technical equipment 1. Ah, back in the good old days, back in the late nineties, when tapes were still the standard trading commodity (remember them? Small plastic things, with stuff in them that could come out and make interesting sallad-like patterns on your floor or in the car — cats used to love them). For the first few years, I would make most of the tabs from a lousy walkman. Even stuff I had on CD I would record onto a tape, because the rewinding function on CD players is usually horrible, for this kind of work, anyway.
  5. Then came Winamp, which made my life a whole lot easier, for one major reason: the back arrow. One press of a button sends you five seconds back in time. Excellent. No more rewinding of tapes, which would always go too far back, so that when I finally came to the tricky point again, I had lost concentration, and had to go back again, etc. Five seconds, that’s something even my attention span can handle. Also, no stupid mouse-clicking (the mouse is great for BreakOut and Quake, but for serious work I need a keyboard), and no ctrl-alt-comma-tilde-up combinations, just the back arrow. And it works with CDs as well.
  6. There is a plugin for Winamp called Chronotron which slows down the song without too serious damage to the sound quality (there are several that do the same trick, but this one works best for me). Sometimes it is very helpful to hear a passage in half speed. It’s cheating, I know, but what the heck.
  7. The ultimate tabber’s tool is Transcribe! You can fine-tune both the pitch and the tempo, but best of all, you can analyse the wave spectrum to hear precisely which tones are sounding during a certain time interval. Once you learn how to disregard the harmonics, you can actually work out quite exactly which tones are played. It was a surprise, e.g., that the deep sounding bass tones I was certain I heard in Wichita, weren’t there… It has a decent set of keyboard shortcuts too. A wonderful tool!

3 thoughts on “Tab Tools

  1. uh…im sure my tabbing is WAAAAY behind yourself, but ive always had a dodgy version of cool edit hanging around and with tricky bits (i only tab tricky bits) id just highlight the said area (like the intro for in my time of dying seeing as how you weren’t so precise there…that was then mind you, and this is now) and first loop it, so it just played those first four bars over and over in to my subC…and then slow it down exactly half of its original so it was exactly an octave lower if it was still too hard…my own version of in my time, incidentally came out different to yours…i just play it in double drop D and it SOUNDS right to me, but hey, ears are funny right – youve been a great help along the years and i value your sight and you love of the best music money cant buy … thanks

  2. jason: My apologies: for some reason, your comment was caught in the spam filter — something with the IP address (it is over-sensitive).
    The advantage of the Chronotron plugin to Winamp, or of Transcribe!, is that you can slow down without a change in the pitch. BTW, I use CoolEdit, and at least in my version, you can get the same effect: slowing down but keeping the pitch level.

  3. Not exactly related to the above, but am I the first to comment that “Repossession Blues” was NOT written by Dylan, as suggested in dylanchords, but by Billy Lee Riley, a late 50s rock and roller?

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