Is it helpful to convert Tabs to the IFR numbering system

I am having a difficult time remembering all the notes in a Tab layout of the song linked below. It has a capo on the 3rd fret, so If you play a C “shaped” chord for example you are playing the pitch of Eb. I have 2 issues with this song. First: I have figured out that the best way to understand and work with a capo is to pretend the capo is the nut and pretend all the fret notes are the same as the beginning of the neck of the guitar. So for example the 5th string 3rd fret would be a C, so if I make that my root note or my one chord, and then just play the neck as we do in the IFR exercises. Second: would it be beneficial to change the numbering in the tab to make it the same as the IFR numbering (example: first chord is the one chord and instead of the tab for example directing to the 3rd fret of a paticular string it should just have the # of where it falls in the diatonic scale. If you look at the link, you will see that some of the notes seem to be out of the key, for example the first chord C shape or (Eb) some of the notes dont fall into the 1st 3rd or 5th of the chord. Any help would be appreciated. IF there is anyone I could talk to on the phone it would really be appreciated. Let me know Thanks

Song: please be patient with me by Wilco

I don’t use tab, but the first thing I do if I want to learn a tune from notation is to convert it to IFR numbers. I then learn the IFR number version. That way my mental tonal image of the tune is totally independent of key.

It works for me. Your mileage may vary…


Yes that makes sense what you’re saying treating the Capo as the nut. Second, it is definitely crucial to change the numbering of the tab to IFR numbers. I could be wrong but the phrasing of the question makes me think you might not be viewing the IFR numbers in the healthiest way. It’s not so much as a conversion that you should be doing (i.e. fret 3 from the capo means 1 in IFR), but rather is something that you should hear and feel. No worries if you can’t hear or feel the chords at this point in your journey though! Just wanted to point that out to help:)

So now the actual details of the song. I listened to the song and my ears tell me that the chords are 1 2 3D 4 3m OR Eb F GD Ab Gm. Now this is what I feel when I hear it. First chord is the 1 chord, feels like home, major, all good. Second chord is chord 2. Chord 2 sounds like, well chord 2 haha. Nothing out of the ordinary here all the notes are still diatonic/major scale. Now chord 3, something changes. Chord 3 is usually minor (3 5 7) but it’s changed to a dominant chord 3 5# 7 2. On the IFR website go to autumn leaves and study the 7 3D 6 to understand the 3D chord a little better. Usually the 3D “prepares” the 6 chord. Which means your brain hears/feels something is different "what the hell the 3 chord sounds weird, its usually minor but something changed, lets resolve/fix this, and your brain wants to resolves to the 6 chord. For my ear this sort of switches my brain to be in the 6th harmonic environment. BUT the 3D tricks you into think its going to 6, sort of switches your brain into 6th harmonic environment then goes to chord 4. Then to chord 3minor. Then back to chord 1. When it goes back to chord one my ear switches to the first harmonic environment.

So to convert the tab would I just put the start of tab and end of tab notation and then paste in the original tab and then do you go to each note and convert the fret number location to the Position in the diatonic scale? So if some of the notes are not on the diatonic scale for example in the second chord I think there’s one note that isn’t five or six but it’s five sharp so I should just label it as 5#? Are a lot of people doing this converting the tab to I guess what we learn in IFR which I guess is also called the Nashville numbering system?

@Randy I can’t say that I fully understand your description, so I’m not sure if it’s ‘correct’. How I’d describe the process is that you convert the tab positions into IFR style scale degree numbers in the key of the tune.

So if the first chord is a C and that’s the I chord, then that first note in the tab (3rd fret on A string) is a C, so it’s 1 in IFR. You then have G (on two strings), G is the 5th of C so IFR that would be 5. Then another G , so again 5, then e which is the 3rd of C so 3 in IFR, and so on.

If you get a note that’s not in the scale then yes you use a sharp or flat as you wrote.

So far as I’m aware the 'Nashville numbering system’ is a system for labelling chord progressions & is a variation on the classic Roman Numeral method of labelling chord progressions?
It does use numbers to represent scale degrees, but the numbers always(?) represent chords relative to the key of the song, so 5 would be a chord based on the 5th of the key, e.g. G Major if the key is C.

In the Nashville system a minor chord is denoted by a - after the number, e.g. 3- for a minor chord based on the 3rd scale degree & IFR does the same, but a lot of the other parts of the Nashville system notation are not present in IFR (e.g. the use of a ‘delta’). Maybe @ImproviseForReal would like to comment on that?

When it comes to IFR we use numbers for both the chords and for the melody too. What I’ve described above is using IFR numbers for the melody. I don’t think the ‘Nashville numbering system’ would be used for that, but as I don’t use it I could be wrong?