Ah yes, Airplane tab. It's frustrating at the lack of it, or at least the chord charts for the songs. I'm not that great at picking out chords, but I can usually come up with something close to what the lead guitar is playing. I'd like to tab out what little I know, but with the demands of work I can't even find the time to browse this forum on anything resembling a regular basis. There's also the issue of exactly which version of the song is being tabbed. Live version A is probably different than live version B and both differ from the studio version. I tend to use tab (when available) to find out what particular scales are being used and take it from there playing what I feel rather than trying to replicate exactly what I hear on a recording. If you sit down and spend some time listening and playing along you generally will get a feel for the song and how it's played.
The bass is a great instrument for learning a song, as you can work out a basic line that complements the song by ear, essentially learning the songs root chords. From there you can further develop the bass line and/or move over to the guitar and start to flesh out the chords (major or minor, diminished or 7th's, 9th's, etc.). It's work, but you learn a lot doing it and 90% of the tab out there is 'wrong' anyway, in that it differs from what is played in the original recordings.
I've met a lot of people who, to me, are incredibly gifted in that they can play exactly what Jorma plays, note-for-note. That's something I can't do and it bothered me when I was starting out. Then, a couple of things happened. First, I read an interview with T-Bone Burnett and the interviewer was asking him how he developed his style. His answer was, "I was trying to copy Ry Cooder and failed, and this is what it ended up sounding like". Then, I put together a version of "I See The Light". I listened to the studio version and about half a dozen live versions. I sort of cut and pasted what I thought could figure out of all the "twiddly stuff" in-between the verses into a new version and played it in front of Jorma and Jack at Jorma's ranch. Afterwards, Jack (whom I'd never spoken to before) came up to me and said "I really liked that version of I See The Light. We never played it that way." The next day one of the other students told me that Jorma mentioned my performance in class that morning and said that he really enjoyed hearing someone add to what he originally wrote, adapting it to their style and ability. Jorma talked to me before I left that week and said pretty much the same thing.
Taking Jack's bass class was also interesting. He doesn't use tab, and doesn't even tell exactly what to play. He tells us to listen to the song, get a feel for what it's about (and, of course, the key), then play to complement the song.
Ok, enough rambling. I too would like to see more of the JA songs tabbed or chorded out because it does speed up the process. But If I could find the time to tab out what I know, it wouldn't be what's on the record, only my version of it. And when it comes to lead guitar lines, I play what I feel at the moment, so it's unlikely that I'd be able to reproduce exactly what I just played. Fur instance...
There's a song on the PERRO tapes listed as "Leather Winged Bat, aka Wild Turkey". It's an instrumental jam with Jorma, Jack, and (I'm guessing) Paul and Micky Hart. The two guitars on it are basically playing rhythm. I was listening to it all day at work and came home, fired up the amp and recorder, and added my lead guitar to it, trying my best to sound like Jorma. Results are here:http://www.davehoffsommer.net/files/Lea ... gedBat.mp3
The two existing guitars are to the left and right channels, mine comes down through the middle. For the life of me, I doubt that I could play it exactly that way again, or tab what I played. It just came out.
Not quite sure what my whole point is, exhaustion and Captn. Morgan are taking their toll... but I think that in the spirit of the Airplane, if you can't figure it out, make it up!