Understanding Tabulature

Tablature or Tabulature (popularly known as Tabs) is a system of notation for the guitar and other fretted stringed instruments. Learning to read tab provides simple visual way to play guitar. It graphically represents the strings and frets of the fingerboard and indicates where to play the notes. It is based on six horizontal lines which represents the strings of the guitar. The top line is the 1st string (high E) and the bottom line is the 6th line string (low E).

E------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
B------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
G------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
D------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
E------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On these lines, number means the frets where you should place your fingers. Here is a G major scale in 2 octaves (3 notes per string).

E------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
B-----------------------------------------------------5--7--8---------------------------
G------------------------------------------4--5--7--------------------------------------
D-------------------------------4--5--7-------------------------------------------------
A--------------------3--5--7------------------------------------------------------------
E---------3--5--7-----------------------------------------------------------------------

'0' is used for open strings. Chords are notated in vertical straight line with chord symbols above the tab which indicates that the notes should be played at the same time
               C                       F                     G
E----------0-------------------1-----------------3--------------------------------------------
B----------1-------------------1-----------------3-------------------------------------------
G----------0-------------------2-----------------0--------------------------------------------
D----------2-------------------3-----------------0-------------------------------------------
A----------3-------------------3-----------------2--------------------------------------------
E-------------------------------1-----------------3-------------------------------------------

Some frequently used technique symbols :
h - hammer on
p - pull off
b - bend
pb - pre bend
r - release bend
/ - slide up
\ - slide down
~ - vibrato
x - mute note
t - tapping

Tablature existed in various forms through the centuries and was common during the Renaissance and Baroque era. It was invented by lute players of the 15th century. One of the drawbacks of guitar tablature is that there is no rhythmic notation. It cannot convey precise information about timing and duration of the notes. Dynamics are left to the player's artistic sense.

But tablature has evolved with times, note values are indicated with W - whole note, H - half note, Q - quarter note, E - 8th, S - 16th, T - 32nd and X - 64th. Sometimes rhythm are provided with stems on the tab but this often makes the tab difficult to read. 

You can find lots of discussion and debates on tablature and staff notation. But I would like to conclude that whatever are the drawbacks of tablature, it helps us to study and play in easier way and enjoy our favorite songs with ease. Rock on.....  

Eastern Fare
Eastern Fare

Eastern Fare is a music institute and a production house presently based in Guwahati with branches in Bangalore, Umiam, Umroi and other cities in India.

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