Free Guitar Tab Sucks

It’s true. Anyone who has played guitar for some extended period of time, who cut their teeth on the tablature found in “Guitar for the Practicing Musician”, or the later “Guitar One” will note the amazingly huge gap between the quality of those (usually flawless) transcriptions and the ones you find online for free.

My guess is that this is because most people don’t have a very good ear, or don’t spend quality time with the songs, and are happy with “good enough”. It is definitely true that 99% of the people listening to you won’t know the difference… unless a real guitarist shows up and plays it right. Then everyone is all like “that dude is way better”.


So my cousin just graduated high school and has been accepted to a really good college. I come from a long line of guitarists and other musicians (but mostly guitarists), so of course his upcoming graduation party will involve a garage that’s converted to house a band made up of a drummer, and then the family, which can rotate on all of the other needed instruments. These events are generally lots of fun, and it gives some of us who don’t get much chance to play out the opportunity to exercise a bit in front of an audience.

So I thought it would be cute to learn Third Eye Blind’s “Graduate” for the performance. I have the mp3 on my Mac, but I figured it’d be quicker if there was a tab available, so I googled for it. I found about 1000 hits for it. Unfortunately, it seems they’re all just copies of the same tab. It’s disgustingly bad. I mean not even the main riff of the song is transcribed properly! I’m not talking about a note off here or there, I’m talking this is totally completely freakin’ wrong.

I wouldn’t be writing this if “Graduate” was the only victim of this kind of amateurism. I’ve looked up tabs plenty of times online. The best I’ve been able to do was use them to maybe help me think of another way to play something to get my brain out of a logjam or something. Generally, I realize that by the time I find a good tab I could’ve learned it by ear, which is what I’m off to do now. If anyone is interested in the tab leave a comment and I’ll post it here later.

  • Sing

    I agree. I’ve got boxes of quality tab for Guitar magazine and the like. It seems that online tab is published solely to generate ad income. They should be ashamed.

    I found your site out of frustration while searching for some quality tab on google; noticed you’re a web developer and will check out some of you posts.

  • john

    Amen brother, It is so disappointing! Another grief I have is when I pick up a guitar mag at the store and they have rehashed some transcription of a song that was in an old guitar mag (Satch Boogie is one that comes to mind). It would be nice if the mags like G.F.T.P.M. would publish their old transcriptions on the web. I mean they could could charge a buck or two a song like itunes does. I think customer service is dead, and in lieu of that I would be willing to share (for free) transcriptions from my old mags (I have many issues from the early eighties up to the present time.) I am going to make a list of every song I have tabs for. The biggest problem is transferring them to the computer. Would I scan it or what? another issue would be legal ramifications, I would probably be calling the down hounds of hell If the corporate publisher didn’t somehow profit. just a thought… Anyhow, I really just wanted to validate your feelings. I found a tab for Rainbow’s “Stone Cold” that was pretty darn close but most of the stuff I have come across is embarrassingly awful, and not even remotely close

  • http://nate4spring.tumblr.com/ Darell Vosburgh

    Seriously I have just posted one thing comparable close to Free Guitar Tab Sucks | Musings of an Anonymous Geek on my wordpress bog yesterday morning. How small is the net :)

  • Christopher Ryle

    I’m finding, more times than not, songs that aren’t even in the right fucking key. I mean, how in the hell do you screw THAT up? One’s ear training has got to be just below complete tone-deaf to be so far off of the right key. I pulled Ronnie Milsap songs for piano (just for shits and giggles) off the internet from one of these free websites and I shit you not that I went zero for three on songs even being in the right key. One was 2 whole steps off! How can these people be so grossly indifferent about being accurate and still have the urge to post their poor excuse for song teaching? Are they even attempting to play along with the album before they post it to see if they might even be close? I said screw it and learned them all by ear. I’m a better musician for it, and a little aggrevated that only tone-deaf, year one musicians, feel like giving lessons.