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tab vs sheet

IMHO the only substantial difference between tab and sheet is that tab is initially easier to read but is instrument specific, whereas sheet is initially harder to read but is written in a common musical language -- tab is diagramatic and can be quickly understood; sheet is abstract and needs to be learned

there is nothing in sheet which can not be displayed in tab, and vice versa -- timing and phrasing are clearer in sheet; fingering is clearer in tab -- sheet generally (but not always) contains less mistakes; tab, when text-based, is simpler to create, edit and distribute -- tab is often badly written and hard to understand; ditto many original manuscripts -- problems re authenticity and copyright are common to both

neither tab nor sheet excels in defining or indicating how the music should be heard -- ambiguity is hard to avoid when using symbols to represent sounds -- however interpretation is no longer so dependent on the experience of teachers and memories of live performances, but can be supplemented with recordings, radio/tv, MIDIs etc

tab or sheet? -- if a piece is familiar, tab will often suffice; if a piece is unfamiliar, sheet is likely to be more reliable -- to investigate the composer's intentions the original should be consulted, which may of course be either

- Weed  (January 2002)

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revised 9 November 2005