Online tabs and chords for songs - intentional sabotage or innocent lameness?

I like to play guitar for praise songs at church and I have found myself involved in a grand project to carefully curate my personal collection of chord sheets, specifically prepared for my church’s hymnal, so I can whip out my binder at any time and play along with the hymns.

As any guitar player has probably noticed, pretty much any chord sheet you download … sucks.

Sometimes it is merely lame, sticking with I, IV, V7 all the way through, without even a minor vi chord or ii chord to spice things up.

But more often, the chords are outright wrong, or they are on the wrong beat. And the fancy sounding chords are often available from a little bit of study of the piano music in a hymnal, so they aren’t secret changes that the artist doesn’t reveal.

What gives? I would have assumed that anyone who prepared the song sheet had actually played the changes along with the song, and they would have heard the errors.

Do musicians intentionally taint the well by taking the good parts out of their chord sheets, kind of like a cook leaving out some key ingredients from a shared recipe?

I assume a couple of things: that the interest in posting charts only somewhat overlaps with musical knowledge and experience; and that the folks most interested in sharing chords may not be the best chord-figure-outers.

So am I the only one who notices this? Is it simply confirmation bias?

I admit that I am reluctant to put my own charts online simply because I have absolutely no idea about the copyright rules for such things, so I suppose I am contributing to the problem in my own way by not contributing. (assuming my charts are any good :))

I’d agree that the accuracy and quality of free guitar tabs/chords you find posted online by third parties varies wildly (for pop and rock songs, anyway - I don’t know anything about the sort of music you might find in a hymnal).

Some can be quite good (often at sites specifically devoted to a single artist - this site is a great resource for studying the music of The Beatles for example), but lots are really pretty bad…and I’ve also seen a few of the better tab sites over the years forced to shut down due to threats from copyright holders.

I intentionally left a couple typos in. That’s one theory. It’s just so demanding and they do it for free.

For hymnal music liked you I just analyze the chords.

It would be cool if the sloppy posters of tab would make true confessions right here. It’s it unintentional? Or is it flubbed to avoid copyright issues? Both or either?

There are probably well meaners but I wonder, “they can’t here that it’s bad?” I complain about it all the time, not I do have to admit it is helpful when all I get out of a tab is a start in the right direction.

Now that I have finale and an mp3 player that can be slowed down in playback my tab is precise. I’m not going to post that! But, I might consider inducing some errors and post. But getting it perfect is tedious. I mainly get it to where it is helpful to me. I have posted but just chords. I’m finding that the tanning process as I do my own is more helpful in the long run.

The funny thing is in the past there have been some tabs that I thought were wrong as I played through and added color chords or similar chords such as ids it an F#m7 or A or Dmaj7? And after awhile I ended up back at the original tab version.

But it is frustrating when I buy sheet music that is published with errors. I think it’s just hard to do. The complete score of the Beatles is meticulous though. Unfortunately I don’t like the Beatles but I do like George and ringo. Lowercase induced.

I’ve found a couple of different sets that I mentally Venn diagram tabs and transcriptions into:

  • Description of what was recorded
  • Prescription of how to play

In studio recordings there are so many extra fills, overdubs, loops, corrections, etc that sometimes the tabs, though technically accurate, are a ridiculous mess to actually try and play. For example, a note may be coming from a rhythm guitar track, though sound like it is part of the lead, and the transcriber mashes the two together. Or the instrument and tuning may simply be unwieldy, such as a mandolin generating a guitar-sounding portion (Jethro Tull being a great example of being frustratingly hard to find useful tabs for).

In many other cases the tabs, though not accurate, make the song more playable by tweaking changes and chords for better finger efficiency, simplicity, etc.

And most commonly, the transcriber isn’t trying to create a faithful archive for posterity, they are simply writing down what they hear and what they use to “make it work”.

I always ask myself, when I’m having trouble, “Do I really have to jump 10 frets to hit that chord? Or could I just move my pinky, mute a string, and no one would know the difference?”

Not at all. My reaction to many chords/lyrics sites is “What song were you listening to? It sure wasn’t this one.”

It also pisses me off that so many can’t be bothered to write the chords in the key they actually appear in on the record.

I’m no musical genius…I know just enough music theory to be dangerous, but my eyes glaze over after a certain point. Still, I wonder why anyone would bother to make the effort at all to put up stuff that was so inaccurate. I too wonder what the thinking process is behind it.
P.S. If you happen to be looking for chords for rock songs of the 60s and 70s, look for the name Andrew Rodgers. Now there was a guy who knew his stuff and really cared. Sadly, he died several years ago.

IME anything on chord/tab sites that ventures beyond simple major, minor, seventh chords is more likely than not to be inaccurate, and yes in some cases you wonder why they bothered submitting something so obviously wrong.

There seem to be way too many people who seem to just know the song and then figure out what chords they think sounds good with it.

I mean, I sorta do this, too, but at least I’m playing along with the music. So, yeah, I may have a IV chord where they are playing a ii, but these people have chords that are completely wrong.

That said, when it comes to hymns, I’m known to play them differently just because most hymns have really, really boring chords. But I know I’m doing it, and wouldn’t try to pass it off as the hymnal version.

Often, sheet music is in a different key than the recorded version. Back in my youth, I spent hours upon hours learning “I Should Have Known Better”. It was my first Beatles song and my favorite. Unfortunately, I learned it in C and they recorded it in G, so I can’t play along with them. I learned it too well to be able to relearn it in G and putting a capo on the 7th fret is just wrong.

Then there’s songs like Yesterday. The sheet music gives you the chords in F. Macca tuned his guitar down a whole step and played it in G.

I just ran into the same problem. Christmas day, we had some friends and family over, and after dinner we started singing carols. My wife was at the piano and I had my guitar.

We had a book of Christmas carols, many (most) of which I’d never played before. The book had piano music written out, and guitar chord symbols. My wife is a pretty good sight-reader, so she was fine, and I thought I would just follow along and strum the chords. I was familiar with the melodies, of course.

So many of the chords were just plain wrong. I could not figure out what whoever put this book together was thinking. My best guess is that whoever transcribed the piano music just copied the guitar chords from some other source, without realizing how they’d sound when played with the piano music.

Given a few hours’ advance notice, I could have worked out my own guitar charts, but this was all spur of the moment. After a few songs, I ended up just putting the guitar away.