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Joined: 25 Aug 2008
Lessons: 1
Karma

HOW TO READ TABS (FOR THE VERY BEGINNERS)

by nicolettox

25 Aug 2008
Views: 23509

HOW TO READ TABS.


this it the author personal work, but feel free to do with it whatever you want, since there's no law that forbbids you. (ok, bad joke)


this one is for the very beginners.

TABS are an easy way guitar and bass players have to read music without knowing how to read staff (although you may find some sheet music for guitar or bass which includes TABS)

TABS consists of parallel lines that represent each string (that is to say, four lines for bass TABS and six lines for guitars).

IN YOUR GUITAR, STRINGS ARE NUMBERED BY THE NOTE VALUE THEY REPRESENT IN STANDARD TUNING:

1ST STRING - E
2ND STRING - B
3RD STRING - G
4TH STRING – D
5TH STRING - A
6TH STRING - e


In standard tuning, a tab for guitar would be pretty much like this:


E|------------------------------------|
B|------------------------------------|
G|------------------------------------|
D|------------------------------------|
A|------------------------------------|
e|------------------------------------|


WHERE the capital E stands for the high e (thinner string in guitar) and the small e stands for the low e (thickest string in guitar)


A tab for bass would be like this:


G|------------------------------------|
D|------------------------------------|
A|------------------------------------|
e|------------------------------------|


please note that the notes shown in both tabs are not written in the same octave.


Now, as you may know (and in case you don't here I explain), the natural ascending way of notes - also known as Chromatic Scale - is represented by 12 notes or sounds.

C - C# or Cb - D - D# or Eb - E - F - F# or Gb - A - A# or Bb - B - C... all over again

# are to be read as sharps
b are to be read as flats.

Notes like D# and Eb are called enharmonics, and represent the exact same value of note, so it is ok to name the same sound after any of these to values, because they are actually the same note.

Notice also that there are no flats or sharps between the notes E and F; and B and C.

You might also have heard of do, re, mi, fa, sol, la and si (or ti). these are the roman/latin way of saying them.
The distance between any note and its homophone of different pitch-height is called and octave. (For example from C to the next C there’s an octave)

OK. NOW, the distance between any note and its inmediant following (or previous) is called a semitone.

E.G.
C-C#
D#-F
B-C
Eb-E

AND the distance between two notes of two semitones apart from each other is a whole tone.

E.G
C-D
A-B
C#-D#
E-F#

NOW BACK TO GUITAR OR BASS:

If you take a look to your instrument, you can see that it has frets.
If you play any string without pressing it, the sound you'll get (if tuned in standard tuning) will be of those determined in the tab (eADGBE).

But as you might know, as you fret strings (press them onto the freatboard) higher pitches will sound as the string vibrates.
Play the high E unfretted and then the same string on FIFTH FRET and you'll get a different sound (higher pitch as you move downwards the neck or freatboard).
That very sound is an A.
E string on fifth fret is an A.
That in TAB would be represented the following way:



E|------5-----------------------------|
B|------------------------------------|
G|------------------------------------|
D|------------------------------------|
A|------------------------------------|
e|------------------------------------|


THAT'S AN ‘A’.
E STRING, FIFTH FRET.
SO EACH LINE STANDS FOR A STRING, AND THE NUMBER WRITTEN ON THE LINE SHOWS HOW MANY SPACES YOU COUNT FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE FRET.

LET'S SAY YOU HAVE TO PLAY THAT SAME ‘A’ NOTE AND THEN THE UNFRETTED STRING (‘E’ NOTE), THEN the TAB will show it like this:


E|------5---0-------------------------|
B|------------------------------------|
G|------------------------------------|
D|------------------------------------|
A|------------------------------------|
e|------------------------------------|


SO WHEN THE NOTE COMES FROM UNFRETTED STRINGS THEY ARE REPRESENTED BY O's (zeros) ON SUCH STRING.

NOW, WHAT WE CALLED SEMITONES ARE BY SOME CALLED HALF-STEPS. THIS IS BECAUSE EVERY TIME YOU MOVE TO THE FOLLOWING FRET (OR SPACE) THE PITCH OR NOTE IS INCREASED BY ONE SEMITONE.

IF YOU COUNT FROM THE ‘E’ NOTE TO THE ‘A’ NOTE YOU WILL NOTICE THAT THE DISTANCE BETWEEN THEM IS OF FIVE SEMITONES, WHICH IN THE FREATBOARD IS OF FIVE SPACES OF HALF-STEPS. (THAT IS WHY THE TAB SHOWS THE NUMBER FIVE IN THE 'E NOTE' STRING TO INDICATE THAT WE SHOULD PLAY AN 'A' NOTHE)
AND TWO HALF STEPS MAKE A WHOLE STEP (OR WHOLE TONE)

LET'S TAKE A LOOK AT THIS ONE HERE:


E|-0--1--2---3------5---------------|
B|----------------------------------|
G|----------------------------------|
D|----------------------------------|
A|----------------------------------|
e|----------------------------------|


THIS TAB (above) INDICATES THAT YOU SHOULD PLAY THE FOLLOWING NOTES:

E - F - F# - G - A

YOU MAY HAVE ALSO NOTICED THAT YOUR GUITAR (SOME DON'T THOUGH) HAVE DOTS OR SQUARES OR ANY OTHER KIND OF FIGURE IN SOME FRETS. THAT'S FOR THE PLAYER TO HAVE POINTS OF REFERENCE ALONG THE FREATBOARD.

FRETS MORE LIKELY TO BE DOTTED ARE:

3
5
7
9
12
14
16


NOW, ACCORDING TO THE CRHOMATIC SCALE, YOU WILL NOTICE AS WELL THAT SOME SOUNDS ARE REPEATED ALONG THE FREATBORD.

FOR EXAMPLE, low e string on sixth fret is (or should be if well tuned in standard tuning) THE SAME NOTE THAN FIFTH STRING OPEN A NOTE.


E|------------------------------------|
B|------------------------------------|
G|------------------------------------|
D|------------------------------------|
A|----------0-------------------------|
e|---5--------------------------------|
(they are the same)


SAME HAPPENS WITH:



E|------------------------------------|
B|------------------------------------|
G|------------------------------------|
D|------------0-----------------------|
A|------5-----------------------------|
e|------------------------------------|


E|-------------------------------------|
B|------------------------------------|
G|----------------0-------------------|
D|----------5-------------------------|
A|------------------------------------|
e|------------------------------------|

E|-------------------------------------|
B|--------------------0---------------|
G|-------------4----------------------|
D|------------------------------------|
A|------------------------------------|
e|------------------------------------|


E|-----------------0-------------------|
B|-----------5------------------------|
G|------------------------------------|
D|------------------------------------|
A|------------------------------------|
e|------------------------------------|


THIS CAN BE VERY USEFUL WHEN TUNING YOUR GUITAR.


*MIDDLE C

SITUATED ON FIFTH STRING, THIRD FRET
(since fifth string open is an A, and A + 3 semitones is a C)


E|------------------------------------|
B|------------------------------------|
G|------------------------------------|
D|------------------------------------|
A|----3-------------------------------|
e|------------------------------------|


this is the C MAJOR SCALE.It's made by the following notes.
C D E F G A B C
IT CAN GET HANDY. I RECOMMEND YOU TO LEARN IT.


E|------------------------------------|
B|---------------------------0--1----|
G|-------------------0---2-----------|
D|-------0---2---3-------------------|
A|----3------------------------------|
e|-----------------------------------|

OR IT CAN ALSO BE PLAYED LIKE THIS:


E|------------------------------------|
B|-----------------------------------|
G|------------------------4---5------|
D|-------------3--5---7--------------|
A|---3--5--7-------------------------|
e|-----------------------------------|


As an exercise, I would highly recommend on playing each string in every fret, starting from the lowest to the highest ‘E’ note.
Say you start like this: ‘Open E, F, F#, G…’ and so on until you reach the twelfth fret, which is always an octave higher than the string unfretted. After the twelfth fret it stats all over again.




Sometimes you may find numbers put vertically in TABS, like this:



E|------------------------------------|
B|------------------------------------|
G|------------0-----------------------|
D|------------2-----------------------|
A|------------3-----------------------|
e|------------------------------------|


You only have to make those ones sound – by the way, that’s a C Major chord (C, E, G)
(If you play classical guitar and don’t use pick, I’d recommend to use your thumb as well as your index and middle finger, or if not your index, middle and ring finger instead. That’s up to you.)


THERE ARE SOME TECHNICS (SUCH US BENDING, SLIDES, HARMONICS, PALM MUTES, ETC) WHICH CAN BE ALSO INDICATED IN TABS BY SPECIAL SYMBOLS. BUT BECAUSE THIS LESSON IS FOR THE VERY BEGINNERS, I WON’T GET TO THAT. HOWEVER IF YOU FEEL INTERESTED, LET ME KNOW.


I TRULY HOPE THIS IS HELPFUL. IF NOT, LET ME KNOW AND I’LL TRY TO MAKE IT BETTER. FORGIVE MY BAD ENGLISH, I’M FROM ARGENTINA.

and would you please comment on this one. I need to know if I can get myself understood. thnx!



Request:

beginner

by calvin.peeler

how do you read tabs





Comments:

01
08.31.2008
  Zordiark

Hola

me podrias ayudar?
necesito que por favor me digas el nombre de las notas(todas las que puedas) mi fa re sol, ect en ingles gracias

02
09.13.2008
  christianox

Hey nicolettox,

Thank you so much this is very helpful !

Oh, and to answer Zordiark's question (I speak Spanish),

Las notas correspondientes en ingles son asi :

DO - C
RE - D
MI - E
FA - F
SOL - G
LA - A
SI- B

03
10.01.2008
  nicolettox

GRACIAS!

04
03.30.2009
  shawn7656

well if this is reading tabs for the beginner you should add a little "commonly used symbols" such as "h" for hammer-on "b" for bend "~" for vibrato and others like it

05
03.31.2009
  lgvp1019

hey
can you guys help me with music circuls if you know any.

06
04.09.2009
  blink_gms_ye

i still did not get da part wid all dat C# and Eb?

07
07.03.2009
  Ender

Excellent lesson for me, a beginner.

As for your english skills, I had no idea you were not a native english speaker until you mentioned it at the end.

08
10.09.2009
  intrepidsr

There's a lot more here than meets the eye at first. It moved me forward quite a bit. Thank you sooooo much for taking the time to spell this all out.

09
10.09.2009
  carlsnow

excellent 'beginners' post
....Kudos !

[b]RAWK!
C[i]s[/b][/i]

10
11.08.2009
  Domigan_Lefty

Just a few things The 14th and 16th frets arent usually inlaid (dotted) but the 15th and 17th are.
And the 12th and occasionally 24th show a new octave. Which is why they are special and have the Extra space between inlays.

11
12.15.2009
  Oupa

This lesson has really helped me allot could you go more in depth with the other symbols and signs

12
12.15.2009
  Guitarslinger124

Just noticed one little thing, you said the low E string is the first string. That is not correct. The high e is the first string. So, e=1, B=2, G=3, D=4, A=5, E=6.

13
11.24.2010
  2jpe2

Normally the low E is capital and high e is lowercase and the dotted frets are usually 3-5-7-9-12 then repeting as if 12 were open, 15-17-19-21-24, 12 and 24 are double dotted, ocasionally there are guitars above 24 and they repeat again as if 24 were 12 or open, 27-29-... You wrote 3-5-7-12-16-18, although this may not be that important

14
11.24.2010
  Mistaluke

i noticed that as well gtarslinger.
but I already know how to read tabs but this is good to, so you can teach anyone and everyone how to read tabs =].


P.S i like how you included bass tabs.

How bout drum tabs? :)

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