How To Read Guitar Tablature?
How to play guitar tabs?
Tablature (or tab) is a type of music notation that is designed for fretted string instruments.
It's origins go back to the renaissance. A lot of music for the lute was originally written in tablature.
Nowadays tablature is commonly used to notate modern guitar music
A guitar tablature staff
consists of 6 lines
that represent the 6 strings
. The low E
is at the bottom
, the high E
at the top
We can put numbers on the lines. Each number
represents a fret
on the guitar neck. A 0
, a 1 first fret, a 2 second fret, ...
Here is the tablature for the chord shape of C :
All numbers are on one line above each other
, meaning all notes should be played at the same time
as a chord
When the numbers are next to each other
on the staff they should be played after each other
. Advancing from the left
to the right on the staff = advancing in time.
In the following example you first play the 5th fret on the E string, then the 3rd fret, again the 5th, then the 3rd fret on the A string...
You can't read rhythm
on a guitar tab
and you can't read the exact length of a note
can give you a slight
though on how long a note is by leaving more or less space between the numbers
In example 4 the note played on the 5th fret on the E string lasts longer then the same note in example 5 :
When all notes are evenly spaced
, as in example 3, you can assume that all notes are of equal length
, usually quavers or eight notes.
It will be a lot easier to read a guitar tab if you know the song or have a recording of it so you know the rhythm.
The next examples show you the use of symbols for guitar techniques
used on this site :
Example 6 shows you a hammer on
Example 7 shows you a pull off
Example 8 shows you a slide
Example 9 shows you a ghost note
. A ghost note can be played by fretting a note, but not picking it. Ghost notes are barely audible, but they do a lot to the feel of the music. The note on the 7th fret is a ghost note.
Example 10 is a bend
Guitar tablature vs. standard notation :
- You can't read rhythm on a guitar tab
- You can't see the duration of a note on tablature
- Guitar tablature is instrument specific (only for fretted string instruments)
- You can't read in what position to play in standard notation
- Guitar tablature is easier to learn then standard notation
A lot of times a guitar tab is combined with standard notation to get the best out of two worlds (example 11). The standard
notation can be used to read the rhythm, while the tab can be used to get to know how and where to play the notes.
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