To TAB or Not to TAB – That is the Question

Lesley Schultz • June 2021String Section • June 12, 2021

The last couple of articles I have discussed the things to consider when starting or inheriting a guitar class at the secondary level, along with the question, what do you ultimately want the students to learn. This month I compare and contrast two widely available method books and their applications for class use. With these two methods, the better question is “To TAB or Not to TAB”?

The first method I want to talk about today is the Everybody’s Guitar Tablature Method by Goreber, Hoge and Sanchez published by The FJH Music Company. There is a lot to like with this method, including the similarities and differences between the three usual types of guitars (acoustic, folk/classical and electric) and playing positions. The meat of this book, and where it really shines is that nearly every exercise has both play along tracks and has both standard notation and tablature notation. There are plenty of similar exercises for students to choose from for assessments, and few problematic folk songs, though there are a couple such as the “American Folk Song Medley, “and “The Snake Charmer.” Write in exercises to check student learning in a formative assessment type fashion are also included. These could be expanded into worksheets or included on assessments. There is no accompanying theory or exercise book, so that is a small oversight, but I do prefer making my own worksheets and assessments where possible. The order skills are presented and learned in makes sense, with students learning all the notes in first fret position on all six strings first, followed by sharps and then 8 basic chords of Em, A7, E, Am, G, D7, C and G7. With those 8 basic chords and a capo students can learn to play in many keys. As you move along in the method, it gets into some techniques that are easier on electric guitar with hammer downs and pull offs, but those can be discussed if you wish. If getting kids to read something with music is your goal, then Everybody’s Guitar Tablature Method is a solid choice.

The second method I want to talk about today is a method that has been around for generations in various versions is Alfred’s Basic Guitar Method by Ron and Morty Manus and published by Alfred Music publishing. The beginning is similar talking about the various types of guitars and playing positions but there is a notable lack of classical style discussion. It does not offer any tablature notation with the exercises, which admittedly means there are more and longer exercises for the students to work on. Again, almost every track has a play-along backing track, and this method features several duets for students to work on. There are again a few problematic songs with Oh Susanna and Chiapanecas which would have to be handled with care depending on your class dynamics. One of the strongest pros of this method is that there is an accompanying theory and exercise book, making reinforcement on a more formal scale easier on the teacher. There aren’t any exercises within the lesson material, though. This method features a lot more chords integrated with the melodies but does not include a lesson on reading chord charts or officially accompanying melodies with chord progressions. It does not get into any of the various techniques as fingerstyle or hammer downs and pull offs. This method is a solid choice if you don’t want to spend time devising your own worksheets and small assessments, and you want more reinforcement on fewer topics for students in your class.

So, which would I choose? Admittedly, when I am teaching a guitar class, I use the FJH as the basis of my curriculum. I take their flats sessions and teach it out of order with their sharps and I omit things like the hammer downs and pull offs, but in a semester I get about 75% through this method on average. I do however like to supplement the FJH method with some of the longer songs from Alfred’s which I make a tabbed version for to help support my learners who rely on TAB. I find that I personally like bits of a lot of different methods, if not only for the diversity of songs that picking and choosing can bring. This is the takeaway, you are the one that ultimately controls what you students learn in what order in guitar class, use the methods to fit what you want to do, and not fitting your class into the method.


Lesley Schultz currently teaches secondary general music and orchestra at Princeton City Schools (Cincinnati, OH).   She earned her Bachelor of Music Education from West Virginia University and her Master of Music Education from Ohio University. Lesley is a Level 2 Google Certified Educator. Lesley keeps an active performing schedule around the state of Ohio, performing with several regional symphonies on viola.   She is a member of TI:ME (Technology in Music Education) and serves as the Ohio Chapter President and on the National Conference Committee. Lesley is a columnist for SBO Magazine. In her copious amounts of spare time, she enjoys knitting, watching West Virginia Mountaineer sports and spending time with her family and making TikToks about her cats.


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