What Free Sites Have Good Guitar Tabs?
It amazes me how quickly songs get transcribed these days. When students ask me to show them a song by a band I’ve never heard of, I can often find a guitar tab online no matter how new the song is. Whether or not that tab is accurate is another story . . .
I generally hold my nose and go to Ultimate-Guitar.com, hoping for the best, and being fully prepared to explain to or remind the student that what the transcriber has called C9 (x32033) is actually Cadd9. These kind of errors are pretty common on this site as there doesn’t seem to be any moderation of what tabs can get listed. I do like the fact that the chord/lyric charts can be transposed, so if they’re written in E flat tuning I can adjust the chords up a half step with the click of a button.
The one thing I would like to point out about this site is that there are actually some perfect transcriptions of famous songs, such as “All Along The Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix from the Electric Ladyland album. Specifically, what’s currently listed as version 4 tab is totally accurate, and that’s because it’s actually a transcription from a magazine that’s been converted to the internet tab format. How do I know this? Well let me fill you in a little internet history.
There used to be a website called “mikesguitarsite.co.uk” that had hundreds of guitar tabs by artists like Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, and other 80’s metal shredders that were 100% accurate with all guitars transcribed and all rhythms written above the tabs. They all looked like this:
The “Q” stands for quarter note, the “E” is an eighth note, and the “S” is a sixteenth note. “+” signs are ties, the “| – 3 – |” indicates a triplet, and the “h” and “p” in the tab stand for a hammer-on and pull-off.
It occurred to me after the site got shut down that these tabs were not done by someone with a lot of time on their hands, but were actually from some of the guitar magazines that are now out of business like “Guitar One” and “Guitar for the Practicing Musician.” I suspected this due to the overwhelming superiority of detail in the tabs compared to the ones that are submitted by the average player, and because I noticed that the notation software I use to create sheet music started coming with an option to export music in this format with the touch of a button. Sibelius, which I use, started doing this in version 4. I would assume Finale probably does as well, and may have started doing it sooner.
So my suspicion is that after some of those magazines made it known they were going out of business to their employees, some of the employees grabbed as many of the Finale files used to create the sheet music that was published in their issues, and then eventually did the export/conversion to upload them to some of the sites.
The crazy thing is, some of these tabs actually get lower ratings than user submitted tabs. There’s a magazine conversion tab for Heartbreaker by Led Zeppelin (it’s version 3) that has a 4 star rating, and version 6 which has no rhythms has a 5 star rating! So not only can you not trust the people writing the tabs, but you can’t even trust the ratings because the people rating the tabs have no idea what they’re talking about.
As for other sites, Songsterr is pretty good, but you don’t have the option to copy and paste into a Word document and condense the tab. I think you also have to get a subscription to the site to print out tabs. Countrytabs.com seems to be pretty reliable if you’re into that style of music. The other thing to try is doing a search for the band and their fan created websites – I found a lot of good tabs for the Who that I couldn’t find elsewhere on a site like this.
Or just pay for the sheet music . . .
You know, it’s not unreasonable to suggest this. You can buy the song you want now for $1 – 5$, whereas 20 years ago you had to buy the whole songbook for $20. Sheetmusicdirect.us and Musicnotes.com have huge selections, and you can print directly from your computer. I’ve used them a lot over the years and highly recommend it.