Thoughts on bass tabs
I dont teach bass tabs for three reasons.
First, they are an easy short cut and as such a temptation. Its not that I’m against things being easy, in fact simplification of complexity is a key part of teaching, but that they can become a crutch. Ie, rather than learning notation, chords structure, or working on ear training, its easy to grow dependant upon tabs. Sure, if all one wants to do is play tabs, thats fine… but if one learns them first, it can make it much more difficult to learn notation and to play by ear later. Now, for the experienced bassist, who is up against a brick wall trying to learn something, by all means check out tabs. 🙂 They can help one work through a complex fingering issue, or maybe catch something you aren’t hearing correctly. They are not all bad by any means, the problem is short cuts in the early days often times end up costly later on.
Secondly, tabs dont provide any information on rythym, the cornerstone of bass guitar performance. Again, for the experienced player, its a none issue, but for the beginner, if rythym gets short changed early on, and its not a natural gift, it will more than likely make it harder later on.
Thirdly, they are limiting, ie if someone has not already made up a tab, one is out of luck without notation, ear training skills, or enough music theory/experience to improvise. This is especially key when playing new compositions, or with a group. Granted, there may be a few composers out there willing to write tablature, but they are in the minority. The vast majority either expect you to improvise, or will provide chord charts, likely mixed with a limited amount of notation.
Again, tabs are not all bad by any means, and for the experienced bass player can be a really nice lifesaver. But for the beginner, tabs imho bring more trouble to the table than they are worth.