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Aug 30, 2009, 2:17:05 AM8/30/09
to jtab
Welcome to the jTab group/mailing list! this is intended to be the
place to discuss the internal development of jTab, usage and
integration issues, and suggestions for improvements.

This is an echo chamber right now, but I thought appropriate to post
an initial message to explain "why jTab" and what I hope can be

Yes, I'm a guitar player. I learned (kinda) when I was a teenager.
20-30 years later, I'm no Steve Vai or John Williams, but I enjoy
having a guitar always nearby. Along the way, I've picked up songs
from mags (like Guitar Player) and done a lot of my own transcription
in various notebooks.

Professionally, I work in IT and specifically a great focus on
internet technologies. Of course, I've always hoped for some
convergence of my interests. The web is a great sharing and
collaboration mechanism, but when it comes to music it has never
really clicked for me.

First off, there is the copyright issue - we all know tab sites, but
from the get-go it turned into a mess gorilla legal actions. Current
state of play? The big tab sites seem to be in retreat.

Secondly, even if you did find tab, it tended to be of really low
quality. Transcriptions were dubious, and it is all rendered as crufty
plain text, like its 1999.

The alternative? Buy into big-$, proprietary software.

jTab is an attempt to provide an alternative for this internet-enabled
age we are in. It really came out of some geeky diversions into
raphael and syntaxhighlighter - suddenly I was realising that today's
browsers are actually quite capable, and can render rich content
without a whole lot of reliance on specialist plugins.

That was the birth of jTab - a "proof of concept" that could render
chord diagrams and basic tab notation inline in browsers. Next was a
simple integration of jTab with TiddlyWiki, making a personal, free,
open source "guitarists notebook" a reality. Just grab the jTab
TiddlyWiki template, and you are off and running. I've now been using
it for a while to make my personal transcriptions.

Without getting lost in a pinky-and-the-brain, take-over-the-world
delusions, what are the key principles driving jTab?
* This is not a brawl over copyright. The music publishing industry
obviously has its challenges, but jTab is not meant to be a factor for
or against helping them find relevance in the future. We respect
asserted copyright, and nothing in jTab is about subverting these
rights. However - where rights are not an issue - jTab hopes to raise
the bar in terms of the quality of the music transcriptions we can
share on the web.
* Music is a creative art, and art always draws on life experience.
For musicians, a large part of this is really digging and exploring
what others are doing in the field. We listen to all kinds of music,
learn songs, work out transcriptions, even if these are never
performed anywhere other than our own bedrooms. In a small way, jTab
hopes to put a great, free tool in the hands of guitarists to help
them record their ideas and transcriptions.

So, in real terms, what do I hope for jTab?
* it finds an audience amongst guitarists as a personal transcription
technology. I think the TiddlyWiki approach is great, but others may
have better ideas.
* guitar tutors find that jtab is a great way of planning lessons and
giving students take-away ideas.
* it finds some adoption on the open web as a common approach for
rendering high quality transcriptions.
* Bands or artists wanting to publish there work in an open way, have
a really accessible way of putting their material out in the wild.

What does jTab need at this point?
* Notation experts. The notation used in jTab at the moment is very
much just the best I can come up with at this point. More eyeballs and
specialist opinion will help ensure the notation has legs for the long
* An audience. People who are keen to put jTab through its paces -
maybe just by grabbing a copy of the jTab TiddlyWiki, or maybe hacking
around with it as part of their web sites.
* Extenders/developers. I'm keen to see any ideas people may have for
building on top of jTab or extending its functionality.

With that, I welcome everyone to jTab! I look forward to finding
others who are keen to join in to make jTab as success in practice.

Best Regards,
Paul Gallagher
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