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How To Read Tab

Tabs are not always posted on the Internet by a professional musician Sometimes are written by amateurs or talented young kids who fail to apply the concept of putting yourself in other’s shoes. A very talented young musician may not take the trouble (courtesy) to take into account the difficulties a beginner has to face and could write complicated Tabs that seem pretty simple at first sight but are really a big obstacle for someone just starting out.
So you’ll see that there are many different versions of tablatures for the same song. And when you print a tablature of your favorite song that you found on the Internet, whoever wrote it, may have made it very complicated to read because it is a professional musician or made mistakes because it was written by an amateur.
How to Read Tabs
Tabs or Tablature is the easiest way to read music for guitar. You can learn the system in 2 minutes.
It’s basically a combination of 2 numbers:
• The string
• The fret ( metal bars you see across the neck)
Sometimes it also includes the names of the chords. Examples: C, Gm, Bb, D7.
1 —————-
2 —————-
3 —————-
4 —————-
5 —————-
The numbers that you see on the left correspond to the strings, number 1
being the thinnest string on the guitar. Many tabs do not even show these
numbers written on the left because it is a standard in the world of music, so
it is not necessary to write down string numbers, everyone is supposed to
know that the top line corresponds to the first string.
The OTHER numbers that will show up between the lines throughout the song,
are the fret numbers of the notes you should play. If multiple notes appear in
a vertical line, those notes should be played at the SAME TIME. For example,
the D major chord consists of 3 notes:
1 ——- 2 ———-
2 ——- 3 ———-
3 ——- 2 ———-
4 —————-
5 —————-
6 ——- x ———-
The sixth string has an X because that note should not be played. it does not belong to the D chord. I usually try to help my students by explaining symbols they might find in tabs they download from the Internet because these symbols might seem strange: ¨p¨ between 2 numbers. This means pull off.
• WHILE placing your fingers on the frets specified.
• Play the first note and release the finger corresponding to the highest
number WITHOUT playing again with your right hand. In other words, the sound of the second note occurs when you release the first note without the help of the right hand.
• Example: – 3-p-2 —
¨/¨ between two numbers refers to a SLIDE.
• Place one finger on the first note
• And using the SAME finger, slide up to the next specified note while
holding pressure, you must never stop holding pressure or you will lose
the sound.
• Example: -2 / 5 –
So, you play the first note only once. The sound of the second note is produced by sliding the SAME finger. ¨h¨ between 2 numbers, the opposite of pull off, it means HAMMER.
• You play the first note ONLY ONCE. The sound of the second note is obtained by tapping (hammering) strongly the second note with ANOTHER finger.
• Example:-2-h-4-
You use one finger for the first note, hit hard the second note with another finger. We’re talking about the fingers of your left hand. ¨b¨ means BEND.
• You play the specified note and, without changing fret …
• BEND the string up or down, to cause the effect.
• Example: —– 14 – b
There are 2 major problems with tablatures:
• Tabs do not specify the duration of the notes.
• Tabs were invented BEFORE computers.
The first problem is not a problem because you probably knew the song’s rhythm before you printed the tablature, but the second problem itself is problematic. (How many times I said the word ‘problem’?) There are specific symbols to determine how notes should be played, but
these symbols can not be found in computers’ keyboards. They are small curves, curved arrows, strange long lines you can see in tablatures printed in guitar or bass magazines.
When people began using the Internet to share thousands of tablatures, they had to use characters that were present on the computer keyboard to replace the actual Tab symbols that could not be typed.
So instead of using the symbol for BEND (upward curve) they used the letter ‘b’ next to the number of the note. And instead of using the symbol for SLIDE (straight long line) they used just the letter ‘s’ or the diagonal line (/) from the keyboard. After many years of practicing this method, the characters most used on keyboards became ‘Standard’ for all guitar lovers and Internet users. Today, when you print a tab, you might see the actual Tab symbols or these computer keyboard alternatives.
But do not think that the symbols of the tabs are in danger of extinction.


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