August 27, 2013

Bad Tabs

I'm sure many of you have noticed that the "tabs" (meaning chords, pretty much) that appear on the internet tend to be wildly inaccurate. So much is this the case that it strains credibility to imagine anyone with any familiarity with the actual song sincerely believing that these are the correct chords. I've noticed this when trying to remember how my own songs go from time to time (and finding the internet to be pretty much no use at all) and even more so when there's someone else's song I'm trying to learn. At least with my own songs I have a chance of remembering how they go in the end. You can learn a lot from trial and error, and that's how I wind up doing it, usually, but if I'm stumped on something, the internet tab-o-sphere is almost always no help whatsoever.

So the question arises, if the tab-o-sphere doesn't tell you the proper chords to a given song, what's it actually for?

Well, my theory, which is mine, that I have made, is that guitar instructors and the publishers of their how-to-play-the-guitar method books have deliberately flooded the internet with moronically inaccurate "tabs" in order to foster a sense of helplessness and despair among self-taught guitarists that will, they hope, spur these poor bastards to cave in and pay for the privilege of learning the True Secret Chords of the more difficult popular songs which are carefully guarded by the guild, for paying customers' eyes only. Now of course, the Guild can't prevent accurate chords from being published. But it can overwhelm them with the bad tabs, to the degree that wading through the muck and sifting the silt to try to find the rare accurate nuggets amid the vast mass of dummy slag is so painful and time consuming that very few will bother to try. If they're doing it to make money, say, by causing a revival of the sheet music industry, I fear they're in for a disappointment. But if their motive is simple malice, which I suspect it may be, a certain vengeful joy in the suffering of others for its own sake, then it seems as though they've done pretty well so far.

Now it occurs to me that this could be done with recorded music and books and any other "content" that people get for free when they can and are basically reluctant to pay for unless they have to. For instance, I could re-record "More than Toast" rewritten with terrible rhymes and an excruciatingly awful drum track and terrible vocals and flood it everywhere so that 99 times out of a hundred trying to download it would result in the bad version. (And I'm sure there are those who might listen to some of my recordings and wonder whether that's not what's been happening all along. I remain silent on that point.) Maybe it wouldn't actually spark sales, but it would annoy people, and really, that's what rock and roll is all about in the end, isn't it?

Or I could produce an edited version of King Dork where the jokes are all lame and make Tom Henderson this weepy, simpering guy whose dearest dream is to be popular and all he wants to do is win the dance competition and go to the prom, plus he likes the Doors. Or I could make the ending ambiguous and unresolved, answering none of the reader's questions about what actually happened in the story. Again, maybe it wouldn't boost sales necessarily. Nevertheless, the only way to know for sure that you had the real book would be to buy it, and even then you wouldn't really know. If nothing else it would cause confusion and suffering. We're writers. It's what we do.

Posted by Dr. Frank at August 27, 2013 06:06 PM