How To Read Bass Tablature

Learn bass tab to play the bass lines from your favorite songs. Knowledge of reading music is not required for using tabs. Knowledge of a song to be played from tabs is necessary since tablature does not give any countable timing indications. Bass tabs show a bassist how to find notes but not exactly how long to hold them.

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Step 1: First off, you tune the strings on the bass guitar to the proper notes. Use an electronic tuner to get each string in perfect pitch. The top string with the lowest not is tuned to E, the second string down is A, third string is D, and fourth G. Step 2: Now you need to learn the order of the bass strings as they are shown in a bass tab graph. The top string on the bass guitar is shown at the bottom of the tablature graph. This is the order of the strings from your viewpoint when a bass guitar is strapped around your shoulder or balanced on your lap.
G| ---------------------
D| ---------------------
A| ---------------------
E| ---------------------
Step 3: Next you have to learn the fret numbers. Frets are the spaces on the neck of the bass guitar separated by inlaid metal wire. The first fret is the space just below the head of the guitar. Hold the top string against the neck on the first fret with the tip of your index finger and pluck the string to play an F. This note is shown on the bass tab graph with a "1" on the E string line as illustrated. The note on the second fret of the same string would be indicated with a "2" on the E string line.
G| ---------------------
D| ---------------------
A| ---------------------
E| ----1----------------
Step 4: Identify an open note, or note played by plucking a bass string without holding it against the neck on any fret. Pluck the third string down without touching the neck for the D note. This note is shown in bass tab with a "0" on the D line.
G| ---------------------
D| ----0----------------
A| ---------------------
E| ---------------------
Step 5: Use the imprecise timing cues that tablature offers, for what they're worth. The only timing references made in tablature come in the form of spaces between numbered notes. Two fret numbers written close together followed by a bigger space before the third number indicates the first note last for a shorter time than the second. Exactly how long any of these notes should last is not notated.
G| ---------------------------------------------------------
D| ------------------2--------------------------------------
A| ---0--2---------------------------0--2-------------------
E| ---------------------------------------------------0-----
Step 6: try to use simple rhythms to get familiar with reading bass tabs. The bass guitar can be used to play complex rhythms, but it's best to practice basic rhythms while learning to read tabs. The blues bass line illustrated is a good exercise for following tabs on different strings.
G|--------------------------------------------------------------------------|
D|-----------------------------------------0--------------------------------|
A|------------0----0--0----0--0-----0---------3------0----0--0----0--0----0-|
E|0--3--4-------------------------------------------------------------------|
 
G|---------------------------|
D|---------------------------|
A|-------------0----00------|
E|--0--3--4------------------|

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12 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Rahkshinaw
    I don't recall ever seeing an "" on a tab. plobably means slap. what genre is it?
    Rahkshinaw
    I don't recall ever seeing an "" on a tab. probably means slap. what genre is it?
    abbyteves07
    yeaah what does "s" means like 3s6 ?? here is the link of genre: tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/c/callalily/magbalik_btab.htm