Tab Books

Tab Books

Ask any guitarist what's the one thing that made her or him want to pick up guitar and you'll most likely get a song as a reply. Some may actually say they want to look cool, but ultimately, they'll still need to know how to play that one song that triggered the initial spark. And if you grew up in the 80s and 90s like me, you would need to get a tab book.

Tab books compile tablature for guitar much like score books do so for piano. Sure, you're probably going to need that basic chord book first to learn how to finger an A minor, D, or F major, but let's be honest, you'll want to learn the notes to that song right away instead of wasting time memorizing how suspended chords work.

My first experience with guitar tabs came from Guitar World magazine and the only reason why I bought that publication was to get the included tabs. There will always be around five to six tabs of popular songs in every issue, and if one of them is good, I'll buy it. Reading gear reviews and musician interviews was secondary. As you can probably figure out by now, this was a rather expensive and inefficient way to learn new songs.

Tab books like the Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion II copy you see in Part 5 are much better because you pretty much get the whole album! Plus, these were "official" tabs and they look great on a shelf too with the album art. So why didn't I get them in the first place? Because back in those pre-Internet times, these books (like many other imported items) were hard to come by in Singapore. I still remember how I got my tab book of Illusion II. I was fortunate enough to join one of those Ken-Air US holidays tours (Ken-Air was a local US tour operator) and when my mom and I were en route to Disney World, I bought a copy of Guitar World and combed through the ad listings to find a guitar store in Orlando that was relatively close by. We ended up having to take a cab from our hotel. When we reached the store, I almost dropped to my knees when I saw the sheer amount of gear on sale. There were Gibson Les Pauls and US-made Fender Stratocasters hanging on the walls out in the open and not behind some glass barrier like in Singapore. There were more pedals than I had ever seen in a section the size of my living room. And lining the walls near the exit were shelves upon shelves of tab books, even sheets for individual songs much like how there are CD singles! Naturally, there was no way I was going to be getting any equipment. But I loaded up on as many of those books as my mom allowed.

With the Internet, guitar tabs are now as easily available as listening to the songs themselves, even though the legality of many tab sites remain somewhat questionable. I guess they're as legal as a certain comic book maker using song lyrics for dialogue or prose in his books without proper licensing.