Tab 101: How To Read And Create Tabs

Tab 101 is for the absolute beginner, reading tab for the first time. Walk you through the basics to more advanced level of tabbing. By the end of this article, you will be able to not only read tab but create your own.

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How to read Tab: Tab 101
=============================================== Contents Intro What is Tab? The left Hand The Right Hand The Empty Bar Reading a single Note Reading a group of Notes Reading Rhythm Reading Rhythm with Triplets Note Suspension Chord Suspension Othe Tab Symbols ----- Intro ----- I started tabbing around 2 years ago. I play the classical guitar and have a journal blog. I have made around 130 + tabs on my blog (all classical) free for anyone who wants to download. Available also on ultimate-guitar. username is wooki97. Tab 101 is for the absolute beginner, reading tab for the first time. I will walk you through the basics to more advanced level of tabbing. By the end of this article, you will be able to not only read tab but create your own. All you need is notepad to start tabbing. First of all, learn to read notes! Die Hard Tabbers, read on... ------------ What is Tab? ------------ Tablature or tab is an alternative to reading note music or score. It is derived from an earlier string instrument called the Lute (baroque era during JS Bach' Time) Advantage of Tab over Reading Notes ----------------------------------- - Exact positioning on the fingerborad. - No note sight reading knowledge required Disadvantage of Tab over Reading Notes --------------------------------------- - Tablature is confined to guitar. Without notes you cannot play the same piece on other instruments - Tab is a poor source for theory. You would not know what note you are playing. Myth ---- Tab cannot notate rhythmn. I will show you how below... ------------- The Left Hand ------------- 1 index 2 middle 3 index 4 ring Note: you can use left thumb but in classical music which is what i play. The left thumb is generally not used. If i have to notate it, I would use "T". If you play piano this bit can be confusing. Piano uses... 1 as thumb, 2:index, 3:middle, 4:ring, 5:pinky. For the guitar, it's a little differnt, so good idea to get familiar. -------------- The Right hand -------------- Right p = pulgar = thumb i = indice = index m = medio = middle a = anular = ring These are spanish. Did you know The guitar was invented in Spain! ------------------------------------ The Empty Bar - its read upside down ------------------------------------
[1]
e--------------------------------|
B--------------------------------| 
G--------------------------------| 
D--------------------------------| 
A--------------------------------|  
E--------------------------------| 
  |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 
Lets start with blank and then build up. Represented here is a single bar or measure. Firstly, tab is read upside down. Notice the high e string (string closest to the floor) is written as "e". And the Low E (string closest to the ceiling) is written as "E". This is a visual reminder that tab is read upside down, although not all tabs uses upper and lower case Es. Even though there are no notes, you can tell can determine... 1-The Tuning. In this case. (EGBDAE) Standard Tuning. 2-The Time Signature. "|" represents the rhythm. 4/4. More later... 3-[1] tells you the bar number. Please don't confuse reading tab with reading notes off a music staff. A music staff has 5 lines. Since the guitar has 6 strings, tab reflects that and has 6. They are different! From the letters (EBGDAE) you can determine the Tuning. This is standard tuning. There are tabs with alternate tuning such as Drop D. The tab will then be read as (EBGDAD) Ok, now let's put some notes in the tab! --------------------- Reading a single Note ---------------------
e--------------------------------|
B--------------------------------|
G--------------------------------|
D--------------------------------|
A--------------------------------|
E-----3--------------------------|
  |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |  
L     3
R     P
Play the G note. (3rd fret Top String) Better tabs come with R and L hand fingering. (either above and below the tab) This tab says for the left hand (L) you use your 3rd finger to play the G note. For the right hand, you use your (p) thumb to pluck. -------------------------------------------- Reading a group of Notes (play all at once) --------------------------------------------
        ^
e-----3-|----------------------|
B-----3-|----------------------|
G-----0-|----------------------|
D-----0-|----------------------|
A-----2-|----------------------|
E-----3-|----------------------|
  |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |  
 
L     4
      3
      1
      2
Whenever you see a column of numbers-stacked up on top of each other in a single line-you play all the notes together. This is a "G" chord. I added the arrow to show you more clearly the direction of strum which is from ceiling to floor. Tabs don't normally come with the arrow. Left hand fingering is also read upside down. This tells you which finger to play each note. Notes 0 are open strings (G and D). Tab shows 6 notes but 4 fingers? Open string does not require any left finger. ------------------------------------------ Reading a group of Notes (play one by one) ------------------------------------------
e--------------------------------|
B--------------------------------|
G-----------0--------------------|
D---------0---0------------------|
A-------2-------2----------------|
E-----3-----------3--------------|
  |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 
L     1 2       1 2
R     p i m a m i p
This is a G Arpeggio. Broken Chord. Notes are play successively one after the next. Fingering for left hand for open string (D,G) are left out. Since open strings does not require any left hand fingering. You can see I have included the right hand finger pattern underneath each note. pimamip... pulgar-index-middle-anular-middle-index-pulgar. or in english.... thumb-index-middle-ring-middle-index-thumb. ------------------------------------ Reading Rhythm- Yes its possible ------------------------------------ Example 4/4
--------------Time--------------->
                                   
e------3-------3-------3-------3-|  
B------3-------3-------3-------3-| 
G------0-------0-------0-------0-| 
D--------------------------------| 
A----------2---------------2-----| 
E--3---------------3-------------|
   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 
   1   +   2   +   3   +   4   +
First, what is a BAR? In musical notation, a bar (or measure) is a segment of time defined by a given number of beats of a given duration. In tab "Time" is read sideways. Better tabs come with markers "|" for Rythm Marker. Above is a measure in 4/4. count 1+2+3+4+. Numbers like 1+,2+ are normally not included in tab. We got enough numbers already. A good tabber always state what time signature the piece in the beginning and provide "|" for reference. Example 3/4
e-------3---------3---------3----|  
B-------3---------3---------3----| 
G-------0---------0---------0----| 
D--------------------------------| 
A------------2-------------------| 
E--3-------------------3---------|
   |    |    |    |    |    |      
   1    +    2    +    3    +
This one is in 3/4. count 1 + 2 + 3 + ---------------------------- Reading Rhythm with Triplets ---------------------------- Now that time signature can be noted as illustrated. What about triplets? No problem I have seen tab with "/ 3 \" before. It works and I have been using this for triplets in some of my tab ever since. Example 2/4 with triplet. count 1 + 2 +
                   / 3 \
e--------------------------3-----|  
B------------------3-0-3---------| 
G--------------------------------| 
D--------------------------------| 
A----------2---------------------| 
E--3-----------------------------|
   |       |       |       |          
   1       +       2       +   
--------------- Note Suspension --------------- Holding a note (suspending) in 3/4 time signature
e-------3---------3---------3----|  
B-------3---------3---------3----| 
G-------0---------0---------0----| 
D----------------------0========-| 
A------------2=========----------| 
E--3=========--------------------|
   |    |    |    |    |    |      
   1    +    2    +    3    +
Holding a note is notated as (=====) In this example you play and hold the bass note for a specified time. 1 + for G, 2 + for B, and finally 3 + for D. ---------------- Chord suspension ----------------
e--3========-0========-3========-|
B--3========-2========-3========-|
G--0========-2========-0========-|
D--0========-2========-0========-|
A--2========-0========-2========-|
E--3========-----------3========-|
   |    |    |    |    |    |      
   1    +    2    +    3    +

L  4         3         4
   3         2         3
   1         1         1
   2                   2
G-A-G chord. All notes of chords are suspended. Play the chord and hold the notes. ----------------- Other TAB Symbols -----------------
e|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
B|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----| 
G|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----| 
D|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----| 
A|-0h2-|-2p0-|-2b--|-4r2-|-5/7-|  
E|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----| 
    A     B     C     D     E
 
                            PM
e|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
B|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----| 
G|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----| 
D|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----| 
A|--x--|-<7>-|-[7]-|-7~--|--5--|  
E|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----| 
    F     G     H     I     J
 
  pizz.  tr     <     >
e|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
B|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----| 
G|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----| 
D|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----| 
A|--5--|-0101|--5--|--5--|-(3)-|  
E|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----| 
    K     L     M     N     O 
 
    III         1/2 III
e|--3--------|--3--------|-----|
B|--3--------|--3--------|-----|
G|--4--------|--3--------|-5t--|
D|--5--------|-----------|-----|
A|--5--------|-----------|-----|
E|--3--------|-----------|-----|
    P           Q           R
A Hammer On: pick a note then with another finger hammer on another note on the same string. 1 pick 2 notes. B Pull Off: opposite of hammer on pick a note then pull off. C String Bend-fretting hand actually bends the string upwards. raising its pitch by half step or full step. D Bend Release-like a bend, but it tells you when to release the bend and go to the next note E Slide: play the first note on 5 then slide the finger that is holding that note up to 7. F Mute: Using heel of palm dampen string G Harmonic (Natural) very high pitch notes impossible to reach by fretting. H Harmonic (Artificial) very high pitch notes impossible to reach by fretting. 12 fret. I Vibrato: musical effect consisting of a regular pulsating change of pitch J Palm Mute: right heel of palm on string. use with pick strum downstairs K Pizzicato: right heel of thumb on bridge. pluck thumb downwards on string L Trill: quick hammer on and pull offs. M Accent-Louder: played louder N Softer: played softer O Ghost Note: played very faintly. Ghost notes are barely audible, but they do a lot to the feel of the music. P Barred Chord 3 fret (all 6 strings) Q Half Barred Chord (bottom 3 strings) R Tap the notes on the fret board with your right hand.

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    tankandhenry
    Good Guide. This is very helpful to new people. I came here already knowing how to read tabs, but this game me a nice review.