Songsterr: A Flash Guitar Tab Player That Might Rock, Someday

One of the reasons why the guitar has become a staple in pop culture is its immediate accessibility. In lieu of standard notation, guitar players have developed tablature – a more intuitive representation of a song that uses numbers to indicate which fret on a guitar each note is played. Even the most inexperienced musicians can usually learn the system in a matter of minutes.

One of the problems with tablature is that it does a poor job representing rhythm and the duration that each note is played – both of which are essential. To remedy this, most people play a recording of the original song as they examine a tab so they can figure out when to play each note. But this process is frustrating and time consuming.

Songsterr, a new startup that launched earlier this month, is looking to help guitar players skirt this issue by accompanying each song with an audio file that plays alongside it. The site’s Flash player will also automatically scroll through each tab, indicating exactly which note is being played.

While the player will be a great help to many novices, it’s lacking support for a number of techniques found in more difficult songs, like slides, bends, and vibrato. There’s also no support for multiple instruments, which are found in most popular songs, and some of the tabs are incomplete (for example, the Johnny B. Goode tab omits the song’s signature intro riff). However, the company says that it will improve on these issues within the next month.

The site is mimicking functionality that has been offered by downloadable software clients like Guitar Pro and Power Tab for years, but is doing it from within the browser – a big plus given the portable nature of the guitar, when you might not always be near your own computer. At launch, the site includes 150 songs and says that it will have 50,000 songs by the end of the month, along with support for user uploads in the Guitar Pro format.

Unfortunately, while the site is off to a good start and has a massive number of potential users, it’s likely going to get derailed by lawsuits from the record industry. Many of the web’s most popular tab sites have been waging a losing war with copyright holders for years, as even user-created tabs for songs are considered infringements. The company is based in Russia so it may be able to avoid the lawsuits for a while, but don’t expect this one to last if it can’t secure some deals with record labels.