This really starting to get silly, even though I think the logic behind the recent actions of the music industry is flawed, I do understand where that flawed logic comes from - trying to protect their bottom line from piracy.

However the latest round of actions is starting to take the biscuit.

Firstly pear lyrics, a site which provides software to simply search existing websites for song lyrics while playing an MP3, is made to shut down (later the lawsuit is dropped and an apology issued).

Now as I understand this iTunes provides legal downloads without the packaging (although I’ve never used it), so if you buy a track, or even an entire album and you’re having some trouble figuring out the lyrics what do you do? Is the point that the industry doesn’t really care that you understand the content of their output?

Along with this over the past couple of days I’ve noticed that a couple of guitar tab sites (Wikipedia : Guitar Tab tablature is a form of musical notation which tells the player where to place their fingers on a particular instrument rather than which pitches to play) have gone offline.

I’m a guitar player and this point really doesn’t sit well with me from my personal expierence. Firstly let me say, I do understand there are alternatives to using guitar tab websites, either buy the sheet music or figure out the song by ear.

Purchasing the sheet music is flawed for most people for a number of reasons:

  1. It is almost always more expensive than the CD itself (a search on the internet will confirm this).
  2. It assumes you want to learn all songs from an album.
  3. You have to plan the purchase, which removes the impulse action of learning a song when you’re listening to your music.
  4. It is usually highly accurate, which depending on your genre of music and skill level may make it harder to try to learn. Quite a lot of online tab takes a more down to earth approach that doesn’t include every ghost note etc. and some even combine mulitple parts, so that, for example, a single guitarist can play songs from bands with mulitple guitarists

I’d consider myself a fairly accomplished guitar player, I can figure out the basics of most songs within my musical genres by ear and a little practice, however it took me years to get to the stage where I could figure out an entire song on my own. I still visit tab websites regularly (as recently as today) for either the ease and speed of learning a song that they provide or to learn more complex parts of a song.

The problem I see with shutting down these types of resources is that, for the majority of musicians, the reasons behind starting to learn an instrument is down to the music they enjoy. When learning an instrument like the guitar, once you have learned the basic concepts, notes, tuning, picking, chords etc. the next logic step is trying to learn the music that drove you to that instrument in the first place.

From experience, I bought the Foo Fighters debut album as sheet music - this was in the pre-internet days - and never really grasped it until years later - at that point in time the complexity of the presentation of these quite simple songs (ghost notes etc.) confused the hell out of me. The frustration that an experience like that can cause may lead to a dissolution of interest with your instrument, as you can’t do anything beyond the basics, you can’t do what drove you to it in the first place.

Eventually your skill on the instrument progresses so does the complexity of the songs you want to learn, playing an instrument is really an on-going learning experiene.

For me and all of my musician friends (which is a very large percentage of my inner circle of friends) this push to learn more complex songs, along with the simplicity and immediacy of tablature, has been the driving force behind our progression with our instruments.

If there is no quick, easy and cheap way for beginners to access this kind of catalyst for their passion you risk loosing that passion forever, and ultimately the world risks loosing the next generation of creative musicians that this process leads to.