Do I have to know how to read tab or notation?

Both tab or standard notation are just fine as a way of learning solos that someone else has created. But in bluegrass jamming, people have to “think on their feet” and learn to come up with solos based on their ability to follow chord progressions with notes that fit in the chords, and put in melody notes or pre-learned “licks” where they can. So we actually don’t use written notation in our classes at all, but work on developing ear skills. 

We want students to cultivate (with help from a teacher) ear skills such as the ability to remember and anticipate chord changes, and eventually to correctly guess chord changes, and to find melodies by ear. Most students recognize if they lack ear skills and understandably wonder how they will ever learn them. A teacher saying, “It comes in time,” may not be enough to overcome a building pessimism. However – a student who jams regularly gets ample evidence of their developing ear skills at every session.

“But can I use it anyway?”

We encourage you to just leave the tab and notation at home…or in your instrument case! Use the time at camp to learn those ear skills. Unless you are the song leader and need the lyrics in front of you, books shouldn’t be used during class. Read more about what to bring to class/camp.

“It was great fun and I for sure got a lot out of it. I’m about to throw out a good portion of my tablature library and use my ears!”

“Speaking as someone who tries to learn without the benefit of a teacher, I want to compliment you on your insightful style of teaching us “how to fish’ rather than just giving us the fish. It’s easy to get hooked on all the tablature that’s out there today, but it can postpone indefinitely the real “woodshedding” we all need to go through in order to truly “make music”. Your appreciation of that fact, coupled with your genuine encouragement and realistic instruction, makes the journey much more credible and a lot less intimidating.”

“The camp was responsible for helping me break out of tablature dependence, and which gave me the encouragement to work out melodies on my own, as well as removing some of the fear of playing around others.”

Category: Qualifications
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