Banjo Tablature Arrangements

Cumberland Gap tablature

Tablature (commonly abbreviated “tab”) is sheet music for stringed instruments for those who do not read (or want to learn how to read) standard musical notation. It is a graphic way of indicating location, duration, and in Jack’s beginner arrangements even indicates which right-hand finger to use. Jack also indicates left-hand fingerings in difficult passages or common trouble spots. Few (if any) other tab writers do this. Jack also indicates fingering in trouble spots in his intermediate and advanced arrangements.

Unlike musical notation, tablature can be learned in minutes – it is not necessary to memorize the names of the lines and spaces on the musical staff and memorize where those notes appear on the instrument. There are no “sharp and flat” adjustments for playing in different keys… key signatures and time signatures are not required. There is no guessing at which location on the instrument a note is to be played (unlike a keyboard instrument, a given note may be found in as many as five or six locations on a stringed instrument).

For Scruggs style banjo technique, tablature is especially useful because each roll (basic right-hand finger sequence) forms a unique graphic shape on the page. Once students realize this, they do not have to look at the right-hand fingering indication provided for each individual note. They associate the shape with a finger sequence and with one glance they know the right-hand fingering sequence for an entire group of notes.

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