After the story of the battle of Wichita, here’s some info on the tools I use when I tab.
- Ear. Couldn’t do it without it.
- Plain text editor. Well, not quite, but in principle. No fancy tabbing software, just typing. Tabbing is an ASCII art form…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!