What Is Tablature?
Tablature (tab) is a system of writing music for the guitar. It makes reading music easier and more convenient for guitarists than standard notation. On the guitar there are many different frets that will produce the same pitch, so when reading standard notation there can be some ambiguity on how to play a written part. Tablature shows the player exactly where to play a given note on the guitar.
How to Read Tablature
There are six horizontal lines written. Each line represents a string on the guitar. The top line represents the 1st string and the bottom line represents the 6th string. When there is a number written on the line, it represents a fret. Play the fret corresponding to the number on the string corresponding to the line. For example, if a there is a 5 on the top line, it is referencing the 5th fret on the 1st string. If there is a 0 on the line, it means to play the open string. Chords can be written by stacking numbers on multiple lines in the same spot.
There are different ‘effects’ that can be given to notes you play on the guitar, and there are ways to indicate different effects for a note in tablature.
Vibrato is when you wobble your finger to make a vibrating effect on the note you are playing. The tablature symbol for vibrato is:
You may also see it written as a series of connected ‘v’s.
To bend a string, play a note and then push/pull the string to the side with the finger that is holding the note. This will smoothly increase the pitch a small amount. The tablature symbol for a bend is:
You may also see it written as “b”.,,
A pre-bend is when you bend the string and then play the note. A release is when you smoothly move the string back to the original position, like a reverse bend. This technique is notated as:
It is very important to practice and become skilled at reading and writing tablature. To start, play a random sequence of notes and then write them down in tablature. It doesn’t matter if the notes sound musical or not. The goal is just to develop a better understanding of how tablature works. After you have practiced writing notes you have played, do the opposite. Write a random sequence of notes in tablature and then play them on your instrument.