Why Learn Tab?
(What's the Big Deal, Anyway?)
(What's the Big Deal, Anyway?)
Many people who play the Native American flute enjoy simply playing from the heart. So, why is it necessary to learn musical notation? What is the reason for Nakai tablature in the first place?
First, there is nothing wrong with playing by ear, or playing from the heart. These are great skills to have in your repertoire. I think of tablature as another skill or tool which allows me to enhance my enjoyment of playing and broaden my range of songs available to me. Here are some reasons I turn to tablature.
1. I enjoy playing familiar songs. Friends who are unfamiliar with the Native American flute can relate better to songs they already know. Playing something familiar to them makes the new instrument sound less strange and more appealing.
2. It saves me hours of learning time. Fans of Mary Youngblood, for example, can spend hours trying to recreate one of her tunes by ear. Knowing tablature enables me to purchase one of her books and begin learning correct notes and timing immediately.
3. It is a way of preserving a culture which may soon be lost. Anyone who listens to Kevin Locke speak of trying to interest the younger generation in the old songs will know what I mean by this. Who will be there to teach future generations? Already, some songs are only known because they have been recorded and preserved by others. Tablature is the best method we have for writing down these songs for future generations.
4. It helps me build my composition skills. Because of tablature, I have been able to better see the way others have structured their songs. As a visual learner, seeing how the same group of notes is repeated or modified throughout the song is a great learning tool for adding structure in my own compositions. Looking at the music as I listen combines visual and auditory learning, making the process faster and easier for me.
5. Tablature allows me to share my original songs. Writing down my songs in tablature is the best way I can communicate my songs to others.
So, what makes Nakai tablature the best system for me to use?
1. Fingering charts give notes only. They cannot convey the rhythm or timing of those notes. If the song is very familiar, timing may not be an issue. However, try telling what this song sounds like.
2. Tablature combines notes and rhythm. You can see which notes are shorter and which need to be held. Try this song. Is it easier to see how to play it?
Did you notice they are the same song?
3. Nakai Tablature has become the accepted standard. Learning many different forms of notation by various composers is confusing. Staying with one standard allows others to play your music without the necessity of learning a different system.
4. Tablature applies to all flutes, reducing confusion when changing to another key. This is slightly harder to describe. Suppose you have music in front of you for a favorite song. You want to play an "A." On an Am flute, you would play all holes closed. On an F#m flute, you would have to play 5 holes closed. On a Dm flute, you would play with only the top three holes closed. Attempting to play regular musical notation means learning a different fingering for each key flute. The total combinations for all 12 keys of flute would be staggering! Nakai tab simplifies the learning immensely.
5. Playing with other musicians is simpler. Other musicians- drummers, guitar players, etc. - need for you to speak about a song in musical terms they understand. Yes, improvisation is possible without tablature and is often quite good, but playing with a band is simpler if you all speak the same language. Tablature can be a good introduction to learning musical terms necessary for good communication.
So, there you have it. Ten reasons why I use Nakai tablature and why I believe you should consider using it too.