Tablatures Definitions

Here some definitions that are usually use in guitar and bass tablatures.

Ultimate Guitar
I feel this is pretty important, especially for beginners at guitar. There's probably a lesson on it somewhere, but I thought I'd type out a full tab key. If I've missed out any, or explained them badly then say, but I just thought it might be helpful to people as I've seen a lot of questions asked about simple tab notations. ____________ Tab key: Strings - Unless stated on a tab that the song is in a different tuning, this is what the strings represent (standard tuning)
'E' being the fattest/deepest string, 'e' being the thinnest/highest. The strings are also called 'staff's when written out in tab form. Notation symbols: 3h5 - 'h' is the symbol for a hammer-on. In the examples case, you would strike fret 3, then with another finger play fret 5 having only picked the string once. 5p3 - 'p' stands for a pull-off. Basically the opposite of a hammer-on, where you would play fret 5, then pull off your finger to create the tone of fret 3 having only picked the string once. 3/5 or 5\3 - The slash symbols mean (slide) that you play the first note, then with the same finger, move across the fret board to the next fret position having only picked the string once. x - an 'x' on any of the strings means mute. This is created by lightly resting your finger(s) on the string, it shouldn't produce the sound of any note. ~ - Let ring. Basically hold the note/chord to let the sound continue on. 4^ - bend. Usually 1/4, 1/2 or full tone bends, meaning you bend the string (example) at fret 4, up or down, whichever you find easier. A 1/4 tone at fret 4 should produce a sound of between frets 4 & 5. A 1/2 tone at fret 4 should produce a sound of fret 5. A full tone at fret 4 should produce a sound of fret 6. ^4 - pre-bend. Basically have the string already bent up and then resolve it so that the string is not now bent. b - also meaning bend r - meaning resolve bend, you will most likely only ever see this symbol alongside the 'b' symbol. Harmonics - most common ways of playing them are either... (Natural) Lightly rest your fingers above the frets (works best at frets 5, 7, 12), pluck, and it should produce a sound that will stay even without your finger on the string. The other way a harmonic (pinch) is played (more often like this in solos), put your finger on the fret board at any position, then pick at the string around the pick-up closest to the neck (works better) and lightly let your thumb catch the string as well. You will know when you've got it right, takes a bit of practice though. (t)12p7p4 - The 't' symbol is usually shown underneath the tab staff lines, but it means tap. This is used in long pull-off stretches using your picking hand, literally tapping your finger onto the highest fret position. There is also two finger tapping which is more complicated and you should know normal tapping before attempting. v - Vibrato. It's a fast amount of small bends on a string (note) to make the note resound for longer periods on time. On electric guitars bend rapidly up & down, on acoustic, left to right (you don't have to, but they're the better options for the types of guitar) PM... - Palm muting, meaning you mute the strings around the pick-up area of your guitar with your picking hand. Quite common on punk-rock songs in chord verses. Gliss - This is a sharp slide up, or down, the fret board. Pick slide - basically scratching your pick along the strings, comes off best with a bit of distortion through your amp. Coda - This is more often written in tab books to save space, however some tabs have it, and it means that you have to go back to a certain part of a song, basically an easy way to explain the order. Trill - rapidly alternating between the notes indicated using hammer-ons and pull-offs. Bar Dive - Use whammy bar on guitar to drop the note to a certain pitch. Tremolo - Pick as fast as you can (up and down) on the notes indicated. Rake - Dragging the pick across the strings noted, not quite as fast as playing a chord. Arpeggio - Basically picking out notes from specific chords.

84 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This is a great article for those who are just starting, and are having trouble with tab lingo.
    THanks for making this dude, I was getting confused with the "x" thing. Now im sure what it means.
    why not make a video about it esp the hammer-on and pull-off and upload it on youtube..Reading the lessons like this without demo is pretty confusin'..
    This was really helpful. Until now, I had no clue what an "x" meant, which appeared in a tab I am currently working on. Thanks!
    i understand most of this whole tab thing...exept that.which fred i play some big tab? like 57 or 22....?
    i got most of that stuff but what do you do when theres two frets on eachother E\----- B\----- G\----- D\----- A\-----0----- E\-- ---2-----
    This help me out alot but i still dont know how to EXACTLY do a harmonic I just don't get it
    I'm not sure if it was in here and i missed it, but what is the parenthesis around a fret number for? example- |--7---5---(5)-----3--| Any help appreciated
    It's a ghost note. You choose to play it or not; it won't make the song sound worse or better. And yes, I do notice you commented 7 years ago
    good lesson. i learnt something woo! thats always a sign of a good lesson
    the lesson taugh me alot. mostly because im new to this stuff. i learned quite a bit but im gonna have a hard time remember. add pics to show what to do.
    thnx i knew most of the stuff i just dnt know how to do it!! five stars!
    this was great, but i think you should show examples on the tab, it would be much easier :]
    C :-----| G :-----| Eb :-----| Ab :----7-8-----8-10-----10-12--12----14-----| x6 F :--0-----0-----0-----12----15-----| Ab -----0-----0-----| * * * * * * What does the * mean?
    e|-----| B|-----| G|-----0-----0-----0-----0-----| D|---- 0---0----4---0----5---5----5---0-----| A|--3-----5-----7--- --7-----| E|-----| how do you read this thing?? the numbers represents the fret ayt? so which one do you strum/pluck?? and how do you plot that on a guitar? is it a chord? sorry..
    sorry for the double post, but the part i was asking about screwed up, it's in the intro solo for Fade to Black.
    full p )\ ~~~~~ |---14-19-14-----15^14-----/--\-----| |-15-----15--- --15---17-15-14-----/----\-----| |-----16-----14-----16-14- /----(14)-----| |-----| |-----| |-----| What do the slashes below the word "full" indicate? I can't figure it out.. thanks.
    i'm a beginner and i know this was a long time ago but some of the questions on here got ignored and i might be wrong but this is what i know's the answers from a fellow noob! lol Mdogboy, i'm also a beginner but from what i've read.. most of the times i've read tabs the * meant 10th fret if it's a song that's staying below the 10th fret.. like in this song: Great Big White World - Marilyn Manson * = 10th fret E----- B----- G----- D-33333/66666/*****\88888\66 666\55555-- A-33333/66666/*****\88888\66666\55555-- E-1111 1/44444/88888\66666\44444\33333-- it sort of stays below the 10th fret so the person who tabbed it used * as 10th fret (i got this tab from g_white_world/) smorelicious, i'll give you an example, 2h3, 2 hammer 3, or 2 hammer-on 3, a hammer (also known as h or hammer-on) you play the second fret and then take your third finger and press it firmly on the third fret...not a very good explaination but i'm still a beginner lol... only been playing like 3 months... and to answer other previous questions, when two numbers are above and below eachother you play them at the same time and only on the strings indicated, if there is not number you do not play the string, as shown: e----- B----- G--4--- D--5--- A--0--- E----- you only play the G, D, and A strings, not the e, B, and E strings because they don't have a note and the / means to slide, do not lift your finger off of the fret board, slide your finger to the indicated notes chingista, it's easier to hear with an electric guitar that's plugged into an amp i personally think, but.. take your finger and place it on the..sorry i don't know the term so i'll just call it "metal bar"; take your finger and press it on the "metal bar" on the 5th/7th/12th fret on the 6th/E/lowest string, make sure your finger is light so that the string doesn't play the open note but doesn't play the 5th/7th/12th fret notes, it shouldn't make the x (mute) sound either, it should make sort of a... bell sound, my guitar does anyway, the sound it sort of like a chime or bell x(mute) is when you place your fingers lightly on the strings to produce no notes at all (including no harmonics) for those who are wondering what i meant by "it shouldn't make the x(mute) sound either" Note: e----- B----- G----- D----- A----- E- -x--- Chord: e----- B----- G--3--- D--3--- A--4--- E- -x--- ~Pulang_Buan~, the blisters are a good thing lol and i'm not sure what an s is either, or the parenthases ( ) if i spelled it correctly, zZMcRZz; to play a mute cord, you do what your probably think, put your fingers in the correct position, then (using YOUR example givin) mute your A string note while keeping the others in play, play it a few times over untill you're comfertable playing it -GuY---, i'm pretty sure with the -2h3p2- you pick the 2 hammer to 3 then pick 3 and pull-off to 2... if not then pick the 2 hammer-on to 3 then pull-off to 2 okay! just thought i would answer the questions! and nice job on the lingo, it seriously helped me i was confused by the p and h, i knew how to do a hammer-on and pull-off but didn't know what they were
    i have a question about the mute thingy (x) how can you mute and play a chord?? example [--- [--- [--- [-4- [-x- [-2-
    what does a star like this mean? * ive seen it in tabs, what is it? * * *
    -2h3p2- how do you play that do you pick the string again on three or do it al on 1 pick?
    I have been playing guitar for a short while and inderstand the tab but I don't understand what the brackets mean like 12-13-(14)- or 22b(24) how do u play this ?
    This is a great explanation. A lot more helpful than others I've tried to read that tell you what the words are instead of explaining how it's done. Thanks a bunch!
    It's a pretty good lesson but there is still a bunch of shit that I don't understand about tab like how the **** do you play Cthulu Dawn by cradle of filth the tabs make no sense at all!
    Very informative article, i wish i'd found this when i was starting out. I shall recommend it to people. You have my kudos
    u shud post 1 of an image of tab from a book as well as ASCii tab nice article it was really useful 4 me m8 hu has jus started
    hey this is real real helpful, thx a lot, a totally orgasmic experience
    Nice for a start. There's alot more to it, but this will get anyone going thats for sure.