How I use Guitar Pro

I’ve had a few people ask me how I create the tabs that you see in my lessons, like my monthly instructional column Unleash Your Inner Rock God in Mixdown, or the occasional lessons I do for Gibson.com or stuff like this for Guitar World. The answer is simply: Guitar Pro 6 by Arobas. But I use it for more than that, and since it’s such a useful program I thought I’d tell you a bit about it. Plus I’m a huge gear nerd and I just like talking about stuff like this. A lot of people use Guitar Pro to display tablature to learn, and there are plenty of unofficial, fan-created tabs out there that can be very handy when they’re made by someone who really knows what they’re doing, but believe it or not, that’s not how I use it.

First of all, I use Guitar Pro to create the tabs for my lesson columns, and it’s really handy to be able to play the scales/chords/riffs/melodies back to make sure I’ve transcribed them correctly. Occasionally like in this Gibson.com article about 7-string guitars, I also use Guitar Pro to make chord boxes. This is super-handy because sometimes it’s just easier to conceptualise a chord if you see it this way rather than as a bunch of numbers.

It’s really handy because you can select different guitar types (6 string, 7 string, 6 string bass, etc) and different tunings – even full-on custom tunings.

Another way I use Guitar Pro is as a way of teaching songs to band members. Here’s an example from my song “Just One Thing.” This little snippet includes the drum part on top, the 7-string guitar part in the middle and the 5-string bass part at the bottom. This is super-handy because I can give each player the full score and I can also print off just their part as well, so they can see how everything fits together but they can also learn their part with the minimum amount of page-turning. I can also load the files onto the iPad version of Guitar Pro and take it with me to rehearsal to refer to during a tricky moment.

Yet another way I use Guitar Pro is as a compositional tool. If I have a song idea in my head but I’m nowhere near the guitar, I’ll often do this using Guitar Pro’s RSE (Realistic Sound Engine) sounds. Below is a snippet of a song I’ve been working on recently (plus a chunk of tab for one little section of it).

Guitar pro shred song idea by I Heart Guitar

This often happens: I’ll hear a song pretty much completed in my head and I’ll have to figure out how to get it out into the world. In this case I’m not entirely sure if I’ll be able to physically play it yet or not, but it sounds pretty interesting so even if I can’t play it when I start trying to learn it in the real world, I’ll stick with it until I can. Now, what I do with this file is export it as MIDI into ProTools and use it as the basis of a full recording. I assign the drums part to a drum samplebank like Toontrack’s Drumkit From Hell Superior, and I’ll use other samplebanks for the other instruments (such as some of the great stuff by IK Multimedia). Then, although I keep the drums, I gradually replace the sampled ones with real instruments. Although even then I often keep the Guitar Pro MIDI tracks as well and mix them in as needed for a specific effect or something.

And that’s how I use Guitar Pro! How do you use it? Got any cool ideas for me to steal borrow?