Paul McCartney cannot read sheet music, and nor can I. The internet has done wonders for budding bedroom musicians all over the world. Since the rise in the popularity of free guitar tablature websites, it is now possible to conduct a quick search and learn how to play some of your favourite songs without actually reading music.
For those of you still in the dark, guitar tabs offer a visual representation of a guitar’s fretboard except instead of notes and musical symbols you get numbers and letters. Each line represents a string, each number represents a fret – anything extra, like bends and slides are added with good old ASCII characters.
Simple? Well yes and no.
The only problem with guitar tabs lies in their approachability and ease of use. As the concept isn’t that deep, some important bits – like timing – are overlooked. This means that if you haven’t got the song on in the background (or a perfect memory, of course) then getting it spot-on can be frustrating.
Enter Power-Tab, a free guitar tablature editor with MIDI accompaniment. The software is aimed at both composers and average Joes looking to learn a few songs. The interface looks complicated, but if your only request from the software is to learn a song or two you’ll soon get nicely acquainted with the Play button – which is all you need.
Those of you who fancy using the software to its fullest potential will find a cornucopia of features, but it certainly helps if you’ve had a bit of experience writing music before. As you construct your tab, Power Tab Editor will transcribe your numbers and letters into actual sheet music – a very nice touch.
Tabbing music is a simple case of choosing a string and assigning a numerical number. You can use the keyboard for this, and though it may seem an arduous process the features provided in the software make for a powerful tool.
Anyone Can Play Guitar
The software does a great job of providing you with a true-sounding MIDI representation that’s perfect for helping decide rhythm and tempo. This does of course depend on the skill and determination of the person who originally tabbed the song, but if you find a few good sources (more on that later) you’ll be rocking out in no time.
Head over to the official website to download Power-Tab, the .ZIP file you need is just a little under 6MB. Once you’ve downloaded, extract and run the set-up.
Once you’ve installed and had a quick play, you’ll probably want to find a few songs to learn. The internet holds the key to a great number of guitar-related tools and you can download Power Tab (.PTB) files from a couple of good sources, though the developers are reluctant to link or provide any on their site.
One of the best sources for .PTB files (and everything else guitar-related) is Ultimate-Guitar. The Russian-hosted site has grown exponentially since 1998 and now hosts an impressive collection of normal tabs, Guitar Pro tabs and precious .PTB files.
This is the first place I go to when I want a tab, and the whole portal provides news, reviews and a regular stream of new tabs. If all else fails then there’s always 911Tabs, a search engine which crawls other tablature websites and has a section dedicated to Power Tabs.
If you often find yourself stuck when it comes to rhythm and timing when trying to play your favourite songs then you’ll probably find Power Tab Editor to be a welcome addition to your Windows PC. Those of you who’ve “always wanted to tab something” will find this one easy to learn with plenty of features to map out some of the most complicated solos. It probably won’t make you a better guitarist overnight, but any software that can help teach you guitar for free deserves a look-in.