Here is today’s video: Bad Tablature Blues in C. It is based on a misreading of the tablature of Charley Patton’s ’34 Blues.
Check out the story & tablature below.
Very recently I have begun delving into a mass of instructional literature given to me many years ago. It’s an overwhelming quantity of resources, and only occasionally I deign to scratch the surface of it. The prevalence of YouTube instructional videos has kept me less interested than I should be.
So I’ve been back in the treasure trove, and this time I stumbled across Stefan Grossman’s Early Masters of American Blues Guitar. If you are unfamiliar with this book, it represents the genius of American blues as the result of hours spent with the original players. It was published in the late 1960’s and features standards from guitar players like Son House, Charley Patton; and Robert Johnson. The book features photos, back stories, sheet music, “tablature”, and photos of hand positions.
This book has something missing from many of the more wonderful books out there: useable tablature. This book has to have the worst tablature I’ve ever seen in a published book. The sheet music is on a separate page, and often the bar lines in the tablature don’t come anywhere near lining up with the bar lines in the sheet music. It seems to be from the time before standardized tab notation. And although we can get the rhythm off the sheet music, trying to sight read it overlooks the genius of the positions, and there are no hammer or bend markings. The sheet music is so useless, even the author recommends just listening to the album.
It’s a mess.
And it’s wonderful.
What we have is the genius of early blues players, bad tablature, and incomplete sheet music. Which, I have discovered, is pure gold.
Creating Something New
In attempting to learn from the scores, I have instead found myself fumbling through positions and positional sounds that have been absent from my own playing. So I’m doing what comes naturally to me: listening. From there, I can rely on my own experience: I exploit the positions and fingerings to create the melodic pathways that I hear in my head, in rhythms that feel natural to me.
Not only that, but by refusing to listen to the original recordings, and by ignoring the sheet music, I am freeing myself from the worries of copyright infringement.
In essence, I am truly creating something new.
So the moral of the story is this: by listening to ourselves play tablature badly, we can create something truly new: once again imperfect synthesis is creativity.
Here is my totally original blues standard in C. It is based on the bad tablature of Charley Patton‘s ’34 Blues.