The Guide To Writing Tab

Comprehensive guide to writing effective guitar tablature.

Ultimate Guitar
Ok, this here article is to help people write decent tabs, instead of the 20% or so tabs on this site which are either terrible, unreadable or poorly organised. Before you write a tab, you need to decide how good your ear for hearing is, and you also need some knowledge of the bands playing style to determine how thetab may look. I would suggest that after playing around two years you should have a decent enough ear to tab most songs. If you are just starting, then maybe stick to simpler songs with powerchords and simple riffs/solos until your ear improves. Of course, those with musical background will have a better ear, so it's up to you to judge. Anyway, here is a sure fire way to making a decent tab. Step 1 - Identify the style of the guitarist. Hopefully, you have a good insight into the band, but many guitarists differ. For instance, when attempting to tab a Blink 182 song, you can safely assume there will be many powerchords, some pulloffs in the riffs and usually as is Tom's style, somewhat awkward fingering on the riffs. Contrary, when tabbing an AFI song, mostly the chords would be barre chords, which can be very difficult to identify by ear and should be watched out for. Also, Jade Puget uses different keys and changes root notes of chords to create different sounds. These things will help you a lot when tabbing a song. For an Iron Maiden song, root notes are often used on the seventh fret E powerchord to emphasise the sound, and open chords often used by the backup guitars. Knowing the guitarist you are tabbing is essential to a na accurate tab. Of course, these are only examples, and many bands have different styles which need to be identified, by looking at other tabs or simply listening. Step 2 - Choose the right song. Don't only remember to choose a song that osunds not too complex for your ear, but also one that hasn't been tabbed correctly already on the site. Unless yours is radically different and better, there will be no point submitting. Step 3 - Make it neat. Neatness is key. There is a template for tabs here which will allow you to make a very neat, readable tab. Always arrange it so that each staff is clearly titled with 'verse' or whatever it may be, and in general be clear. Make sure not to extend the tab lines too far and put the song order at the end if you want to save time, i.e.: Verse Chorus Verse 2 Interlude Verse 3 Chorus x2 Never put 'figure out the order yourself' for reasons mentioned above, either write it in order or put it like this. When writing out chords make sure you line up the chord to where it is begun in the lyrics perfectly, simple but often overlooked. A quick wya of writing out chord keys is to write the tab horizontally like so... G 320033 D xx0232 A x02220 And so on, with the bottom E being first obviously. This can have keys drawn up in no time and is neat and easy to read also. Step 4 - Don't forget the details! Always put the tuning at the top of the tab, along with the artists name, the album name and year, the song title and your name and email if applicable. Also, make sure you put the symbol key in, so that people can read your palm mutes and vibratos etc.. If writing chords, always put a chord key in, it is incredibly frustrating for a guitarist to see a Gmadd9 chord to play with no key, as it requires further searching of chord charts. Step 5 - Listen out carefully. This is key to an accurate tab. Listen out very carefully for subtle changes in sound, which may indicate and octave shift or second guitar. Listen out for whether single notes or octaves are being played by listening for different notes. As your ear improves, this will become easier. For acousitc and clean guitars, chords can become more complex and will often need a good ear to pick out additional notes on normal major chords. Chords often have added notes identical to that of the root, so keep an ear out. Step 6 - Don't make silly mistakes. Sometimes a bass can sound like a guitar, and vice versa. Listen carefully to the sound of the guitar in other parts and identify what you think it may be. Alternatively, try playing it on your guitar to see if you can reach the same notes. Step 7 - Make it impersonal. A tab that is accurate will look more preofessional if there's no 'hey this is my first tab' or 'this song fookin rawks!' At the top. Also, don't be arrogant and say your tab is better than everyone elses, or '100% correct'. The only thing I might decide to put is a thank you or a 'enjoy' message, but be concise. Simply arrange it neatly and effectively, signing it with your screen name. This makes the tab much easier to read. Also, putting things like 'figure out the rhythm yourself cause I'm too lazy' and 'I couldn't be arsed with the rest but you get the idea' totally throws people off and they probably won't look at your tab any longer. Step 8 - Make sure it's finished. Don't get lazy and submit half assed work. I know you can write the best version of a verse tab or chorus tab but submitting unfinished work is lazy. If you're going to start something, do it well and finish it. You will feel good about it when the five star reviews start pouring in. Don't leave anything to the reader. Tabs are supposed to be quick reference and easy to read, so the reader doesn't want to be searching for chords which you've not described, searching for technique symbols you haven't explained in a key or figuring out how many times a chord is played. Step 9 - Know when you're in over your head. If you really are struggling, maybe the song is too hard for you. you could either kep trying, come back some other time or, as long as you don't plagerise, look at other tabs for the same song to try and solve some more puzzling parts. However, if their tab is right, yours probably isn't needed ;) Step 10 - Examples. Not really a step, but if you're struggling looking at these can give a good impression of what's good and whats... not. Here are examples of tabs from my rating of one to five stars, with comments. 1 Star - Bad Habit - The Offspring. Look how poorly arranged, messy and incomplete this is, it's useless. You wouldn't believe how many tabs are submitted like this. 3 Star - The Wickerman - Iron Maiden. Ok, but no sense of rhythm, poorly organized, techniques not labelled clearly and some parts missing. Some parts are wrong also. 4 Star - Nothing Else Matters - Metallica. Good, missing a key but asides from that it's spot on and very well arranged. Needs to be neater though, and more spaced. 1 Star Chords - Special Fred - Stephen Lynch. Average arrangement. no indication of strumming pattern and unclear construction, and no key to how to play each chord. 5 Star Chords - Wonderboy - Tenacious D. Great arrangement, fantastic chord dictionary and perfect tablature, with very good rhythm placement. This is what we need more of here when tabbing chords. Well that's everything! So good luck whether it's your first tab or 1000th, and let's hope to make the UG archive a better place.

38 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    "...instead of the 20% or so tabs on this site which are either terrible, unreadable or poorly organised." Change that to 90% and you'll have an accurate number.
    Good point. This sites tabs are often missing parts or some parts are wrong, but if I can't find a decent tab of some song, I'll figure it out myself, but good article anyway...
    if only more people who submitted tabs took this advice great article - should be read before anyone makes a tab and puts it on UG
    Tom Martin: Rankles, your typing is terrible hehe.
    Go read the original in the columns forum, it's edited before posting which annoysme.
    it all seems obvious to me, but clearly not to some tabbers. ALWAYS EXPLAIN THINGS, WE DONT ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU ARE THINKING. jeez the amount of time i waste reading lousy tabs, or attempting to learn them before realising they are poor, and require me to figure loads of stuff out, which i am generally not good enough to do. the examples were a nice touch as well, man that offspring one was pathetic and annoying, its author should be shot on principal.
    the main reason why i hate ultimate-guitar, is that the people running the damn site don't really look at the tabs. if there is already a tab of a song up, usually further attempts at a tab are denied... even though the one that is up might be COMPLETELY wrong. no one really reviews the tab to make sure they are quality. that's why i like going to for my powertabs.
    hmmm... i think you should have sampled only non-registered people, so as to not piss people off or give them a bad name or something. not to mention people are changing the rating in vainful attempts to be funny.
    Very good article, but the tab for Wonderboy that you gave 5stars to broke a lot of the rules you mentioned, so I'm kinda confused how you gave it 5stars.
    its not all the tabbers fault, well it is, but the UG staff should look over tabs better b4 posting them. I think htye should have a crew of experienced tabbers and players that approve tabs so we don't get so much crap. btw good article dude, i think everyone should read this before tabbing
    Man Made Errer
    @ Fx7Dude The tab for Wonderboy was a good chord tablature, even if it did break some other rules. Just...clearing that up. Otherwise, nice article, I liked it, even though it was blatant. Hopefully people will start to follow this guide-- I'm tired of sifting through 2342349 versions of the same song just to find one that is decent.
    Nice article, pretty obvious information but some people just don't know what theyre doing. Good job also on using tabs by unregistered users, if you gave any of my tabs a 1-Star i'd kick your ass.
    Yeah, the 5 star chord one had a lot of the "useless" stuff written that you said was very annoying, which i completely agree with. Good article, it gave a lot of good information. Everyone should use this when posting a tab.
    yeah, step 6 applies to almost every freaking otherside verse tab. there is a guitar playing the bass notes!!!
    bobjewell, blatant does not mean implied; it means "not meant to be hidden or not attempted to be hidden" youre like the fifth person to use that out of context.
    good stuff that template is really useful and so is everyting else in the atrilce
    Geldof the Grey
    1: SPAM DELETED! Stop saying you're first unless you have an interesting comment to go with it. 2: Leave my frickin' Wonderboy tab alone. It's awesome, apart from using the word 'stew' half-way through the first verse...
    I totally agree with this article. I'm ***ing tired of tiese half-ass ridiculous tabs. We need more professional and clearer tabulature on this site, since over 50% are either a) repeated versions of the same song,done the same way by different users, or b) totally and obviously wrong/messy and imposible to figure out. Good article.
    Why do you always say bad things about blink 182? Are you angry with them?
    Geldof the Grey: 1: SPAM DELETED!
    no way.... someone else is actually deleting posts besides me! YES! lol... must i reiterate for geldof.... NO MORE "FIRST" POSTS. you all know my policy: i dont care if the post actually has something to say... it's getting deleted. more spam deleted.
    ^ No one's angry with Blink, they're just not a good band and not liked here. But, anyways, great article.
    Great one. I really hate tabs which are "100%" correct and then you realize that it's 100% crap.
    good article. But I think people can figure out all that stuff for themselves