Music notation for finger-style guitar is a curious enterprise.
It draws on a long history of trying to figure out a way to describe music on paper — to transmit information that will allow others to recreate that music. This long history has seen many innovations as notation has chased after evolving musical styles.
Early attempts to establish a convention for the notation of music for six-string guitar settled on standard notation written in two voices on a single, octave-displaced treble clef.
At the time, this was an expedient choice, but it was never a great choice: the guitar itself had more potential, and players had more in mind.
Today, with the common use of alternate tunings, reentrant tunings, and guitars with more than six strings, the efficacy of tablature is clear. And with the recent development of left- and right-hand editing practices, tablature has increased its utility.
It is time to consider the rationale for current conventions in guitar notation, work for the codification of best practices, and hope for their adoption by composers, music publishers, guitar magazines, students, teachers, and by those who design software for music notation.
I’ll begin with a post focused on the rationale for and implementation of notation of right-hand string-stopping.
We invite your participation and look forward to bringing together a community of shared interest. Music notation carries with it the best thinking of many people who have, over the course of its history, tried to imagine the most effective way to represent music on a two-dimensional sheet of paper; this challenge now comes to us.
When I first engaged with John’s transcriptions of Michael Hedges’ music, I was overwhelmed by information. No, overwhelmed isn’t the right word – it was something more like being overfull; my cup was full past the brim of what I could process.
In 1985 I began working with Michael Hedges to notate his music, and in 1990 I offered the first class to an eager group of students at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. These students were, in fact, a focus group, testing the notation to see if it was up to the task.