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Tablature Notation

A short introduction

Most people think tab notation is something very new. Not at all! Tablature is much older than the staff notations used today. The lute players in the middleages invented tab to write down their music. Later it was adapted for guitar and other stringed fretted instruments.

Tab is very easy to write and easy to read. All you have to do is writing as many lines as strings are available (poor stick players ...) , every line representing one string:

----------
----------
----------
----------
... and we can add the tuning ... G -------------
D -------------
A -------------
E -------------

Numbers show the notes, they are fret positions relative to '0', the nut = the open string. So the sequence E - G - A - C played on the E and A string in tab looks like this:

G -------------
D -------------
A -----0-3-----
E -0-3---------
... or one octave above,
on D and G string:
G ---0-2-5-----
D -2-----------
A -------------
E -------------

Tab also shows if the notes are played sequentially or together as a chord:

G -----9-------
D ---7---------
A -0-----------
E -------------
G -9-----------
D -7-----------
A -0-----------
E -------------
A5 power chord as arpeggio ... ... and as full chord

Some additional characters are used to show playing techniques, let us looak at the most common:

G ----------
D -----(7)--
A -(5)------
E ----------
G -12b13r12-
D ----------
A ----------
E ----------
G -----9\7-
D -5/7-----
A ---------
E ---------
G ---5h7p5-
D -5-------
A ---------
E ---------
Harmonics ... Bend string, release ...

Sliding up, down ...

Hammer-on, pull-off

G ----------
D ----------
A -x-x-x-x--
E ----------
G ---5-7~---
D -5--------
A ----------
E ----------
G ----------
D -----t14--
A -----t14--
E --12------
G ----------
D ----------
A -#?!X*?%(-
E ----------
'Dead' notes Vibrato ... Right hand tap ... String breakage

So tab shows a lot. What is missing now is the timing. Even tab is generally not designed for showing the correct timing it is possible with certain limits. For this purpose we use extensions. Here is a short sequence of notes in 120bpm, 4/4 and quarter notes (walk, walk, walk):

bpm=120   q q q q   q q q q   q q q q
G ------------0-2-|---0-----|---------|--
D -4:-------3-----|-2---3---|---------|--
A -4:-----0-------|-------0-|-3---0-3-|--
E ----------------|---------|---3-----|--
possible timing characters:

   w  whole note
   h  half note
   q  quarter note
   e  eight note
   s  sixteenth note
   3  third (triple) note
   p  pause

Even the other symbols from standard staff notation (like '.' and '..' or) can be used.

That's all?

Yes, I think this is the most you have know about tablature.

No summary?

No.

Exercises?

Look for a site with bass tabs and play your favourite songs ...