Friday, May 29, 2009

Fuck The NMPA & MPA, Seriously!

The NMPA (National Music Publishers Association) and the MPA (Music Publishers' Association) have been a pain in my ass since I began playing guitar in March 1996. As a beginning guitarist I found the best way to learn how to play guitar and develop your own style is to learn how to play songs you enjoy and not play songs a guitar teacher thinks is the appropriate for beginners.

An old guitarist of mine used to say, "you need to learn to crawl before you can fly." What he meant by this is that I need to learn simpler music before I can move on to more complex music. This is not completely true. Any ambitious beginner should be able to grasp moderately simple riffs like some older Metallica songs within a short period of time. I did, and many old Metallica riffs are rather challenging for a beginner, but when you keep trying you get the riff and you become a better musician along the way.

Guitar tablature (tab) is incredibly easy to read. In late 1995 I was at a classmate's house and he had an electric bass he was borrowing. I was playing around with it not having a clue what I was doing. He then showed me a tab of a Korn song he was learning and taught me how to read it in about a minute. I was off and running. In March of 1996 I bought my first electric guitar at a pawn shop. That same classmate was printing out tablature from the On-Line Guitar Archive (OLGA) for me left and right. He listened to a lot of Alternative music which I was never into, but he printed out tabs for those songs as well and I played them anyway. Tab was instrumental (pun, oddly, not intended) in my instruction as a musician. Learning from professional musicians taught me song structure and riff structure. I also started noticing trends that led me to begin to understand music theory. I later bought The Guitar Grimoire (the black one, I think it was scales & modes) and everything I have learned from playing other artists' music clicked. Music Theory clicked. After High School I went on to college as a psychology major, but I did take a year of Music Theory which strengthened my knowledge even further.

By this time I was hardly playing other artists' music as I was writing my own. 1999 was a good year for me musically. I wrote many songs, two of which, I think, are my best songs to this day. Even though I was mostly writing, on occasion I would hear a riff I wanted to know or someone would want to jam to a certain song. This is where a quick internet search for tab was useful. Also by this time a new program has come out to make creating tablature easier called Power Tab. I do not think it was too widely used when it first came out, but I used it to tab out my own songs and it printed nicely.

I think 2000 was the year that changed everything and really set fire under the asses of the shareholders of above mentioned greedy fucks. Power Tab now had MIDI implementation and a full musical score above the tab itself. It now not only had the ability to play the transcribed song in MIDI, it could import MIDI files for automatic transcription, and it looks just as nice as professional transcriptions you will find in a score book. This was an instant hit and Brad Larsen (creator) told me that he was working on adding the ability to add drums for the next release (which sadly never happened). It did not take long and many popular tablature sites were now hosting Power Tab files (.ptb's) created by users in addition to ASCII tabs. Powertabs.net used to (or perhaps still does, can't see yet due to public ban) contain thousands of Power Tab files. I still have many files I downloaded from there and most of them were well done and accurate.

Now one thing I want to make very clear is that the majority of major tab sites contained tabs from every style of music. Mainstream, Independent, all the way some kid uploading his own music like myself. When the NMPA & MPA come to these major tab sites they are forced to take down everything. In case that is not clear, the NMPA and the MPA have come in and forced tablature sites to take down tabs for Independent artists. They have absolutely no right to the intellectual property of Independent artists. NONE!

But... "People can get [tab] for free on the internet, and it's hurting the songwriters," says Chief Asshole of the MPA, Lauren Keiser. And to this asshole, shutting down the website just isn't good enough. No, he also suggests we "throw in some jail time I think we'll be a little more effective."

I, personally, do not give a fuck about music that is on a major label. I listen to very little of it. I'll even grant them their right to take down tabs from major label artists for the sake of this argument... for now. If this is the case, it is no different from poisoning an entire pool to get rid of some flesh-eating piranhas with a complete lack of regard for the innocent kids that still have every right to be there.

Now with that out of the way I am going to take back my granting of their right. First off, anyone that has ever used tablature they got online knows that much of the tab out there is not quite correct. Most tabs that we used to find online were a series of notes that resembled the song we were searching for. These are generally interpretations of how another guitarist thought the song was played. Many times people get the right notes, but wrong string. For example, you can play an E on the 7th fret of the A string or you can play that same E on the 12th Fret of the low E string or the 2nd fret on the D string. There are two important distinctions between these three positions. First is due to the different densities of the strings, the tone will be different. Second, and most important, is the position your hand is in and the ease and need to get to the next note can be drastically changed by altering the position on the fretboard.

When you buy a song book, which I have and urge everyone to never buy anymore again, you notice that the transcription shows every detail of how the song was played in the recording. These include unintended flaws and techniques like slides and palm muting. Some techniques are too difficult and/or time consuming to transcribe. When this is not 100% accurate, do they still have a right to it? I'm leaning toward no.

So now I am going to go into slippery slope reasoning. Part slippery slope, part genuine concerns. What about the video tutorials on YouTube? What about cover bands? Please, go after these fucking lazy assholes! How about music teachers?

The reason some of these are not under attack by this group of assholes is that it is too time consuming because they are spread out all over the place. Tablature sites have everything in one spot. It's like blowing up buildings in Iraq trying to get Saddam and everyone else was acceptable collateral damage to these greedy pricks.

I would like to one day create a tab site with every intention of keeping it running and let it go to court so these arguments can be heard in court and hopefully well publicized. Nobody that I am aware of thus far has refused to shut their site down and be taken to court over this. I would not mind being the first.

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