New Notation App (If you like Tabs) – Tabular Mobile

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 9.28.25 PM

Not sure if I missed this because I am not really a guitar and tabs person or if it just needs more publicity but the end of April a new app was released that is pretty awesome!

Chromatic Labs has developed Tabular Mobile: A modern tablature editor for Tabular OSX Small IconMac OSX and Tabular iOS Small IconiPad and I’m here to tell that it works very well, is easy to use and is a great starting point!

I have had to work with guitar players that just do not read music in the past and sometimes it is just easier to give them tabs or sometimes I have a student who is just learning how to play bass guitar that actually reads music who would actually learn faster if they read tabs. I don’t like working with tabs because there is usually no indication of rhythms and that just messes with my brain. I do see the advantage though for some people, some of the time. With THAT being said….

Some how I ran across Tabular tonight. It is a few months old now but I have not seen ANYONE talking about it! Which is disappointing because the iPad version is FREE and the app works very well. There are restrictions, with the most serious issue being that the number of measures you can add is restricted to 100 in the free version. You are also restricted on how many documents, tracks and custom tunings you can add. If those things are going to hold you back then the upgrade is $9.99 which is a fair price for what you can do with this app.

Tabular Bass PartI dug in and started creating a piece, an original composition so be warned! I found it extremely easy to find my way around the app and to start adding music. You really must have a good understanding of the notes on a stringed instrument to use the app though.  Of course if your goal os to transcribe something you can already play then it will not be an issue. The way you add notes is to simply select the length of note value you would like, whole/half/quarter etc… and then to tap on the fretboard. Then you tap the plus button to add another note and repeat the process. The biggest issue I had with the app is that you are allowed to add too many beats in a measure. To be fair though there is an colored indicator  under the measures that do not add up.

Once a measure is complete you tap the right arrow and another measure is created. Pretty simple. There are all sorts of sweet guitar and normal musical symbols/articulations/slides and other things in the menu along the bottom of the screen. I added a bunch and then printed the part out. I was given several options in the share menu…. one was to email, another was to Message and then I could Print. If sharing by email you can send a Tabular file (for working on in the desktop version), a PDF (which I choose), ASCII, or MIDI files. You can see the printed PDF looks pretty darned good! Scroll down, cause there’s more!

Tabular Bass Part Printed

After plunking out a bass part I started digging around in the menu up in the upper right of the screen (The one that says Bass and has a bass icon) – This is where I started to wonder what the future plans are for this app…. when adding more tracks you are given some icons like a flute, piano, trumpet, saxophone as choices that don’t make much sense in a tabs app. This is also where you select which sound you would like and again there were some interesting choices like pan flute. I didn’t find a piano sound though, strange given that there is a piano icon.

I also found another limitation of the free version – 3 tracks.

Tabular - Drum PartsI was very excited to find out that the app supports drum tab! Honestly, after laying out a drum part in this app I am in love with the drum notation! It is easier than Sibelius! I have never enjoyed doing drum parts in Sibelius or Finale just because it takes me WAY longer than all the other parts, like flute, clarinet or whatever. In this app it was WAY quick!!!!!!! You are given a menu to chose which instruments you are going to need notation for – I selected a BD, SD, HH, High Tom and Low Tom. Then the entering of notes is just like for guitar except that you have this nifty instrument picker for each note value…. so for instance while entering the first 8th note I simply selected that I wanted an Open HiHat and a Bass Drum to sound. Notice the pink arrows below? For the HH and SD there are several versions of those sounds as indicated in this screen shot by the o’s next to the words. If you tap on the o next to the HH it becomes an x – that would mean the HH would sound closed. If you tap the o next to the SD it becomes an @ and then it would sound muffled. You can see the changes very quickly in the tabs.

If you tap the little hamburger icon in the bottom right you are given options to Undo, Redo, Copy, Paste and many other choices as well…. they all were very easy to figure out once I found them.

Of course the Play button allowed you to play the song…. which you can listen to at the bottom of this post. I hope that eventually they add AudioBus and InterApp compatibility. As it stands, in order for me to share the audio with you I had to record it into GarageBand on my MacBook then upload it to SoundCloud. I think the audio quality is pretty good – Of course I remember back in the day when QuickTime first gave us a MIDI synth built in on our desktops! Boy, was THAT exciting too! (Didn’t sound as good then though!)

I like the way each part looks individually but I could not find a way to look at or print all three parts at once though.  I love the fact that I can see the tabs right along with the standard notation! It is possible to hide the staff and it is possible to replace it with just the rhythms! Which of course means that I could play form it without gripping too much!

For the price, you can not beat this app for being able to whip out some tabs for some reason or another. I love where they have started, a very solid and smoothly working app that gives us a chance to create tabbed notation for free on the iPad!

I am going to keep this app in my sights to watch for these improvements….

  1. Being able to see more than one part at a time
  2. The addition of AudioBus and/or InterApp Audio
  3. I really think that I should not be allowed to add too many beats in a measure. It might even be nice if the rest of the measure automatically filled up with whatever rests I needed to finish it – so if I had already entered a quarter note and two 8th notes then it would show a half rest. As soon as I entered an 8th note I would see an 8th rest and a quarter rest. (MINOR)

Here are the two PDF parts for you to see the quality of the printed parts (feel free to steal the music and perform it at your next concert, just mention my name in the program and send me a video of the performance!) –

Tabular Bass Part | Tabular Drum Part


Here is the audio of the file from my SoundCloud –


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