back to classical guitar tablature page

The Guide To Tab Notation below, written in 1995 by Howard Wright, has been slightly amended for this html version. A more recent version may be available on the newsgroup rec.music.makers.guitar.tablature

Appended are samples of many different tablature explanations taken from tab files

Viewing and Editing Tabs - Tabs are best viewed using your browser. The line endings of tabs on classtab.org are currently in Windows format (so that they are readable in Notebook). If you are using a text editor and the tabs look strange, try using a word processor with the font set to Courier (or another non-proportional font). MAC users can Select and Copy the tab on the page, then paste it into a blank Word document with the font set to Courier using Paste Special - Unformatted Text. (Thanks to John Sherwood for this suggestion)

Online guides to standard musical terms can be found at -

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_musical_symbols
      http://www.dolmetsch.com/musictheorydefs.htm
      Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary

Tabs with left-hand fingering (LHF) are usually ok
Tabs should be checked against the sheet music
It is difficult to check your own tabs!


The earliest tabs here came from OLGA, the Online Guitar Archive, which closed following threats from the Harry Fox Agency. They were initially hosted on alt.venus.co.uk before moving to wussu.com and then to classtab.org. (More info on the history of classtab.org below.)

Weed - weed@wussu.com - 26 August 2012



THE GUIDE TO TAB NOTATION - HOW TO READ AND WRITE TAB

Written by Howard Wright
H.Wright@astro.cf.ac.uk
Last update : 18th April 1995

CONTENTS

1.0 What is TAB
1.1 What TAB will tell you
1.2 What TAB won't tell you

Reading Tab

2.0 TAB notation - The Basics
2.1 Other symbols used in TAB
2.2 Hammer ons and pull offs
2.3 Bends
2.4 Slides
2.5 Note length information

Writing Tab

3.0 Getting Started
3.1 To Tab or not to tab
3.2 Things to do when writing TAB
3.3 Things to avoid

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1.0 WHAT IS TAB

TAB or tablature is a method of writing down music played on guitar or bass. Instead of using symbols like in standard musical notation, it uses ordinary ASCII characters and numbers, making it ideal for places like the internet where anybody with any computer can link up, copy a TAB file, and read it.

1.1 WHAT TAB WILL TELL YOU

TAB will tell you what notes to play - it will tell you which string to hit and which fret to fret it at.

TAB will tell you where hammer-ons, pull-offs, bends, slides, harmonics and vibrato are used.

TAB will tell you what tuning the piece is in. If this isn't given explicitly, assume normal tuning. TAB should also give you information on use of capos etc.

TAB will give you an indication of the ryhthm of the piece - i.e it will tell you which are the long notes and which are the short notes.

However it will not tell you exactly how long or how short they are.

This leads me on to ...

1.2 WHAT TAB WILL NOT TELL YOU

TAB will (usually) not tell you the note lengths of the notes - so in most cases you will *have* to listen to the song yourself, with the TAB in front of you to work out the ryhthm of the notes.

TAB will not tell you which fingers you use to fret which note.

TAB will (usually) not tell you anything about picking and strumming - you will have to decide for yourself where to use upstrokes/downstrokes and so on.

2.0 TAB NOTATION - THE BASICS

TAB is simple to read, and should be simple to write if you want to submit a song you have worked out yourself. The idea is this -
You start out with 6 lines (or four for bass). These correspond to the strings of the instrument. The top line is the highest pitch string, and the bottom line is the lowest pitch string. Below is a blank bit of TAB with the string names at the left -
E---------------------------------------------------------
B---------------------------------------------------------
G---------------------------------------------------------
D---------------------------------------------------------
A---------------------------------------------------------
E---------------------------------------------------------
Numbers are written on the lines to show you where to fret the string with the left hand. If a zero appears , this means play the open string. Like standard musical notation, you read from left to right to find out what order to play the notes. The following piece of TAB would mean play the sequence of notes (E F F# G G# A) on the bottom E string by moving up a fret at a time, starting with the open string.
E---------------------------------------------------------
B---------------------------------------------------------
G---------------------------------------------------------
D---------------------------------------------------------
A---------------------------------------------------------
E---0--1--2--3--4--5--------------------------------------
OK so far?

Here we have notes being played one at a time. If two or more notes are to be played together, they are written on top of one another, again just like standard notation.

In the next example we have a G bar chord -
E----3----------------------------------------------------
B----3----------------------------------------------------
G----4----------------------------------------------------
D----5----------------------------------------------------
A----5----------------------------------------------------
E----3----------------------------------------------------
So this means play all these notes together as a chord.

You might see the same chord written like this -
E--------3-------------------------------------------------
B-------3--------------------------------------------------
G------4---------------------------------------------------
D-----5----------------------------------------------------
A----5-----------------------------------------------------
E---3------------------------------------------------------
Which would mean strum the same shape starting at the bottom string, so that each string is hit slightly later than the last string, but all notes will ring together. Below is an example of the same shape again, but now the gaps between the notes are bigger, so you would probably pick the strings separately instead of slowly strumming the shape.
E------------------3---------------------------------------
B---------------3-----3------------------------------------
G------------4-----------4---------------------------------
D---------5-----------------5------------------------------
A------5-----------------------5---------------------------
E---3-----------------------------3------------------------
You might ask - How do I know how fast or slow to play this? Are all the notes supposed to be the same length?

This is where TAB differs from standard notation. Most often TAB will *not* give you any information on the note lengths. It is usually left up to you to listen to the song to pick up the rhythm.

However, don't despair. TAB should give you some indications of timing. In the example above all the notes are evenly spaced so you can reasonably assume that the notes are the same length (maybe all eighth notes or quavers) but this may not always be true - it depends on who wrote the TAB.

As a general rule, the spacing of the notes on the TAB should tell you which notes are the long ones, and which are the short and fast ones, but obviously it won't tell you if a note is a triplet or anything like that. Again, this will depend strongly on the person who wrote the TAB.

As an example, here are the first few notes of the American National Anthem in TAB. You should see fairly clearly that the different spacing corresponds to the different note lengths -
E-----------------------0--------4--2-0--------------------
B---0--------------0---------------------------------0-----
G------1------1----------------------------1----3----------
D--------2-------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------
E----------------------------------------------------------
Obviously it will be a lot easier to play the TAB for a song you know well than for a song you've never heard of because you will already be familiar with the ryhthms of the familiar song.

2.1 OTHER SYMBOLS USED IN TAB

So far I've looked at what notes to play : which string to hit, and where to fret it. I've mentioned how to get an idea of note lengths by looking at the spaces between notes on the TAB, but this can only be a rough guide. You will always have to check with the original track to work out details of the rhythm.

A lot of other imprtant information can be included in a piece of TAB. This includes hammer-ons, pull offs, slides, bends, vibrato and so on.

The standard practice is to write extra letters or symbols between notes to indicate how to play them. Here are the letters/symbols most often used -

h - hammer on
p - pull off
b - bend string up
r - release bend
/ - slide up
\ - slide down
v - vibrato (sometimes written as ~)
t - right hand tap
x - play 'note' with heavy damping

That last one, the x, is used to get a choppy, percussive sound. You usually use your fretting hand to lightly damp the strings so that when you pick the note it sounds dead.

Note that the use of 'x' is *totally* different from the use of an 'x' when giving chord shapes.

For example if you wrote the chord of D, you would see -

EADGBE
xx0232

where the 'x's mean do not play this string.

In tab it is implicitly assumed that a string is not played if it is not marked. So the same chord in TAB would be -
E-----2----------------------------------------------------
B-----3----------------------------------------------------
G-----2----------------------------------------------------
D-----0----------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------
E----------------------------------------------------------
with no 'x'. The x is is only used in TAB to represent a heavily muted string which is picked/strummed to give a percussive sound.

There are a number of other symbols for things like whammy bar bends, pick scrapes and so on. There seems to be no particular standard way of writing these - details should be given in the TAB to explain what the symbols mean.

Bass TAB will probably need a few extra symbols to cope with the different techniques used in bass playing - for example slapping and 'popping' the string with thumb or middle finger. You could use 's' for slap and 'p' for pop as long as you wrote them *underneath* the lines of tab to distinguish them from slide and pull off which would be written *on* the lines of tab.

2.2 HAMMER ONS AND PULL OFFS

With hammer-ons and pull-offs you might find things like these -
E----------------------------------------------------------
B----------------------------------------------------------
G----------------------------------------------------------
D----------------------------------------------------------
A---------5h7-----------5h7--------------------------------
E---0--0----------0--0-------------------------------------
which would mean play the open E twice, then hit the A string at the 5th fret and hammer on to the 7th fret.

Pull offs look very similar -
E----3p0---------------------------------------------------
B---------3p0----------------------------------------------
G--------------2p0-----------------------------------------
D-------------------2--------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------
E----------------------------------------------------------
Here we have a descending blues scale using pull-offs to the open strings. For each pull off you only pick the first note of the pair with the right hand - so in this example you would pick all the notes on the 3rd and 2nd frets, and the open strings would be sounded by pulling off.

Because you give the string an extra bit of energy when you hammer on and pull off, you only need to hit the first note with the picking hand. You could even have a long string of hammer-ons and pull-offs like this -
E----------------------------------------------------------
B----------------------------------------------------------
G---2h4p2h4p2h4p2h4p2h4p2----------------------------------
D----------------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------
E----------------------------------------------------------
In this case you only pick the first note.

2.3 BENDS

When bends are involved you need to know how much to bend the note up. This is indicated by writing a number after the 'b'. For example, if you see this -
E----------------------------------------------------------
B------7b9-------------------------------------------------
G----------------------------------------------------------
D----------------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------
E----------------------------------------------------------
it means strike the B string at the 7th fret, then bend the note up two semitones (one whole step) so that it sounds the same pitch as a note fretted at the 9th fret would do. Sometimes the bend is written with the second part in brackets, like this ---7b(9)---

Something like this -
E----------------------------------------------------------
B------7b9--9r7--------------------------------------------
G----------------------------------------------------------
D----------------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------
E----------------------------------------------------------
means play the note at the 7th fret, bend up two semitones, strike the note again whilst it is still bent, then release the bend so that the note has it's normal pitch.

You sometimes get a note which is bent up only a quarter of a tone or so. In this case it would look a bit strange to write -
B--------7b7.5----------
if you have to bend it up half a fret's worth. Instead it's written as -
  bend up 1/4 tone
E----------------------------------------------------------
B------7b--------------------------------------------------
G----------------------------------------------------------
D----------------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------
E----------------------------------------------------------
with instructions on how much to bend written above the note.

2.4 SLIDES

The most common symbols used for slides are / for a slide up and \ for a slide down.

You might also see 's' used to mean slide.

You don't always need separate symbols for 'up' and 'down' slides since a line of TAB reading -
E----------------------------------------------------------
B------7/9-------------------------------------------------
G----------------------------------------------------------
D----------------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------
E----------------------------------------------------------
is clearly a slide *up* from 7th to 9th fret. However you might also see things like these -
E----------------------------------------------------------
B------/7-9-7\---------------------------------------------
G----------------------------------------------------------
D----------------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------
E----------------------------------------------------------
where the exact start or finish of a slide is not given. Here you have to know whether you're sliding up or down. In these cases use your judgement to choose the starting or finishing fret. The effect usually desired is to have a note 'swooping in' from a lower pitch or dropping suddenly in pitch as the note fades.

You could have a whole series of slides running together, like this -
E----------------------------------------------------------
B------7/9/11\9\7\6\7--------------------------------------
G----------------------------------------------------------
D----------------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------
E----------------------------------------------------------
which would mean you only strike the first note with the pick using the sustain to produce the other notes.

2.5 NOTE LENGTH INFORMATION

Occasionally you will find TAB which includes information on all of the note lengths. There seems to be no particular 'standard' way of doing this, but it usually involves a line of letters or symbols above the TAB.

See below (Section 3.2 part 6) for more details.

If the explanation of the timing symbols is not given in the TAB then you've got a problem! In this case a quick email to the author to ask for enlightenment is the only way forward.

3.0 WRITING TAB - GETTING STARTED

Perhaps one of the most important things to do before you start typing up a piece of TAB is to decide exactly how much information to include in it. The trick is to convey the right amount of information in a clear, easily readable form.

Questions you can ask yourself are -

- Is the song played using mostly chords?

- Are there a number of riffs which appear throughout the song?

- Is there a clear verse/chorus/middle bit structure?

By planning ahead a little you should be able to produce a clearly structured TAB which will not only be easier for others to read, but also easier for you to type in.

There are also choices to be made when deciding what package to use when typing the TAB in. All you really need is a simple text editor, however a mouse-driven editor will probably make things easier.

When you start typing in it saves time if you draw out one blank stave and then make 8 or 10 copies of these before you start typing in the fret numbers etc.

If you use a more complicated package like Microsoft Word then make sure that the characters you use are all the same length. If an 'm' character is wider than an 'i' character then your TAB is going to look very strange on another text editor. Choose a font where all charcters get the same width - Courier usually does the job.

There are also a number of programs available by ftp which were written specifically to make TAB writing easier. Details of these programs including ftp addresses are in the 'TABBING MADE EASY' FAQ by John Kean, along with other useful hints for writing TAB.

['To restore a file to correct layout, open it in WordPad (simple word processor included free with Windows), Select all and change the font to COURIER NEW, and if necessary narrow the side margins or in extreme cases switch layout mode to Landscape to eliminate line wrap-around. WordPad works a lot better than Notepad. Save the file as an RTF, which can then be read by virtually every editor and word processor.' - thanks to Erik the Engineer for this - Weed - 15 April 2010]

3.1 TO TAB OR NOT TO TAB

If a song can be described well with just chords, then it will be a lot easier to read and write if you just use the chord shapes, rather than tab out the chords.

BUT, if you do just send in the chords it makes things *much* clearer if you give the chord shapes as well. For example, if you wanted to send in Led Zep's 'Gallows Pole' you could write -
Intro :  A7 G/A A7  Am7  Dadd4/A  A7 G/A A7  Am7  Dadd4/A

Verse :  A7 G/A A7  Am7  Dadd4/A  A7 G/A A7  Am7  Dadd4/A 
         A7 G/A A7  Am7  Dadd4/A  G   D
         A7 G/A A7  Am7  Dadd4/A  A7 G/A A7  Am7  Dadd4/A
(You should really have the words underneath as well, but I can't remember them at the moment!)

Now this is OK, but how many people actually know how to play Dadd4/A off the top of their heads?

What you need to do is include some chord shapes like this -
EADGBE   EADGBE   EADGBE   EADGBE   EADGBE   EADGBE
x02020   x02010   x04035   320033   xx0232   x00000

  A7      Am7     Dadd4/A    G        D       G/A
To TAB out these chords will take a lot longer to type in, and will probably take people a lot longer to read and understand. Where a chord is based around chords like this, it makes things much easier if you just give chord shapes and names, then show where the chords go in relation to the words.

3.2 THINGS TO DO WHEN WRITING TABS

One of the most important considerations when typing in TAB is to make it clear and easily readable.

There are a few simple things you can do to make things work.

3.2.1 Use spaces !

It's amazing the difference it can make if you insert a few blank lines in the right place. If you are used to writing the words above or below the lines of TAB make sure you leave a few lines free so that it's clear whether the words belong to the line of TAB above or below. Space out the individual lines of TAB and the whole thing will be a lot easier for others to understand.

3.2.2 Define the symbols you use.

It would make everybody's life a lot easier if everyone used the same symbols for hammer ons, bends etc. BUT - if you are convinced that your particular way of writing bends and slides makes much more sense than anyone else's, that's OK as long as you tell everybody what system you use. It makes very good sense to start your TAB file with a list of symbols used.

The list of most commonly used symbols is below :
      h - hammer on 
      p - pull off 
      b - bend string up
      r - release bend
      / - slide up
      \ - slide down
      v - vibrato (sometimes written as ~)
      t - tap (with strumming hand)
      x - muted, struck string
when you get on to harmonics, you might see a variety of symbols used. Even in standard music notation, an accepted way of writing natural and artificial harmonics has never been agreed ! However, using brackets is the standard way of writing harmonics, so a natural harmonic at the 12th fret would be :
E----------------------------------------------------------
B----------------------------------------------------------
G----------------------------------------------------------
D----------------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------
E------<12>------------------------------------------------
Normal brackets () are sometimes used for grace notes or optional notes so 'pointy' brackets <> is the usual choice for harmonics.

3.3.3 Label bits of the TAB

It makes things a lot easier if you can see where the 'verse' and 'chorus' parts of a song are, so put a few labels in certain places to guide people through it.

Many songs will have clear 'verse' and 'chorus' structures - so you can tab out the riffs/chords or whatever for these just once, and then indicate where these are repeated. Or there maybe a couple of important riffs which are used - so TAB these out and label them 'Riff One' and 'Riff Two' - then when they come up later in the song you can just say 'repeat Riff One four times' instead of tabbing the whole thing again.

As long as it's clear which bits of TAB go with which label, you will save yourself time this way as well as making it easier to read for others.

3.3.4 Include Artist/album

It's useful for others to know where to find the original song, so at the beginning of each TAB include some information on the artists who recorded the original, and the album on which the song can be found.

3.3.5 General comments

It's also useful to include a few lines at the beginning of the TAB to explain the style of the song, or to point out important features such as alternative tunings, use of capos etc.

A few words along the lines of 'use a staccato, funky kind of strumming style for the chords, then change to a sustained feel for the lead line' will help people to get an idea of how to approach the playing style.

Information on the type of guitar (electric/acoustic, 6 string/12 string) and effects used would be useful.

One point on the use of capos and alternative tunings :

It's a lot easier for people to understand chord names etc if they are written as though played *without* a capo. For example, if you have a D shape chord played with a capo at the 2nd fret you should write it as D major even though you will actually be fretting notes at the 4th and 5th frets.

Also, for TAB using a capo, it's standard practice to write the numbers of the frets *relative* to the position of the capo. So again, if you had a D major chord with a capo at the 2nd fret the TAB would be :
E----2-----------------------------------------------------
B----3-----------------------------------------------------
G----2-----------------------------------------------------
D----0-----------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------
E----------------------------------------------------------
even though you actually fret the notes at the 4th and 5th frets.

It's similar with TAB for guitars tuned a semitone or tone lower than usual. If a song should be played with the guitar tuned to Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb, and it has this chord :
Eb-----0---------------------------------------------------
Bb-----0---------------------------------------------------
Gb-----1---------------------------------------------------
Db-----2---------------------------------------------------
Ab-----2---------------------------------------------------
Eb-----0---------------------------------------------------
it makes things a lot easier to understand if the you call the chord 'E' rather than Eb.

That way, if you decide to play in standard tuning, you don't get confused.

3.3.6 Timing information

You may want to get really serious and include details giving the precise rhythm of the piece. This will involve a lot more typing, but it means all the information necessary to play the piece is given explicitly.

One way to approach this is to write a line of dashes interspersed with numbers which count the beats. So in 4-4 time, you would have :
1---2---3---4---1---2---3---4--- etc
Under this you can write a line of d's and u's to represent down and upstrokes.

Here is a simple example where the rhythm is 2 crotchets (quarter notes) followed by 4 quavers (8th notes) :
1---2---3---4---1---2---3---4--- etc
d---d---d-u-d-u-d---d---d-u-d-u-
You could expand on this to use upper and lower case letters to indicate accents and so on. If you use this method make sure that you clearly separate the 2 lines of rhythm information from the 6 lines of TAB !!!

One other way of including timing information is to use one letter/symbol for each note type.

For example use e for 8th note (quaver), s for 16th note (semi-quaver) and so on. The letters you use may well differ depending on whether you're used to the american system of quarter notes, 8th notes etc or the english system of crotchets and quavers, but the method is the same.

If you're not sure of the 'translations' here they are :
whole note    -  semibreve
half note     -  minim
quarter note  -  crotchet
8th note      -  quaver
16th note     -  semiquaver
32nd note     -  demisemiquaver
64th note     -  hemidemisemiquaver
Simply write the letters above the corresponding note in the TAB. (Make sure you define which letters/symbols you use.)

Here's an example of what this looks like :

This is the opening riff from the Beatles' Ticket To Ride :
    q    e  e  t  t  t    q   e  e  t  t  t     
  
E--------0-----------0--------0-----------0----------------
B-----------2-----0--------------2-----0-------------------
G---2----------2----------2---------2----------------------
D----------------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------
E----------------------------------------------------------
Here I've used q for quarter note, e for 8th note and t for triplet quarter note.

If you want to send in a TAB with rhythm information like this then it's *essential* to explain the system you use. I've seen a lot of different systems of letters and numbers of varying degrees of simplicity and readability. Whichever you choose to use, you'll have to explain all your symbols to make sure others can work out what the hell you're on about.

If you want to give a few clues as to the rhythm of the TAB, but don't want to get too involved, use of bar lines is an effective way of conveying timing information.

Simply insert a vertical line of |'s to indicate the end of a bar. So using the national anthem example I had before, with bar lines it looks like this :
E--------|---------------|0--------4--2-|0--------------|--
B---0----|----------0----|--------------|---------------|0-
G------1-|-----1---------|--------------|-----1----3----|--
D--------|2--------------|--------------|---------------|--
A--------|---------------|--------------|---------------|--
E--------|---------------|--------------|---------------|--
3.3.7 Lyrics

It's a lot easier to follow a piece of TAB when you've got at least some of the lyrics to follow, and you can match up the notes/riffs in the TAB to the lyrics.

Try to include lyrics for at least the first verse and chorus. If you're not sure of the words you can ftp cs.uwp.edu - there is a large collection of song lyrics held there.

Failing that a request to the newsgroups along the lines of :

"Please mail me the lyrics to such and such so that I can make a proper job of the TAB I'm working on."

will usually get a sympathetic response.

As a final note on writing TAB I should say that whenever you post to the newsgroups ALWAYS cross post to both guitar groups, and also mail a copy to guitar@olga.net so that it can be included in OLGA.

For more information on posting to the guitar newsgroups and OLGA see the other FAQs regularly posted to the guitar newsgroups.

3.3 THINGS TO AVOID

3.3.1 Tab Wraparound

[This section is now out of date. However it is still recommended that the lengths of individual lines be 80 characters or less so that tabs retain their formatting when printed out on printers where the number of characters per line is fixed (eg daisy wheels, band printers and golfballs). - Weed, 26 August 2012]

One of the most common problems in writing TAB is text wraparound. This makes the TAB almost impossible to read but is very easily avoided.

The problem occurs when you write a line of TAB which is maybe 80 or 90 characters long. For a lot of people this is too wide for their screen, so what should be a single line of tab ends up being split onto two lines.

Here is what it looks like :
E---------------------------------------------0---------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------0---
B---------------------------------------2--4-----4--2---------------------------
----------------------------------------------2--4------
G------------------------------1--2--4-----------------4--2--1------------------
--------------------------------------1--2--4-----------
D---------------------1--2--4-----------------------------------4--2--1---------
-----------------------------1--2--4--------------------
A------------0--2--4-----------------------------------------------------4------
--2--0--------------0--2--4-----------------------------
E---0--2--4---------------------------------------------------------------------
--4--2--0--0--2--4--------------------------------------
Now this will probably look pretty weird when you see it. When I wrote it, it looked fine because I could fit the whole thing on one screen. For most newsreaders though, it is too long and you run into problems.

All you have to do is be careful when you type in TAB so that you the maximum width of line is say 60 characters.

I've tried to do that in this FAQ so that the maximum width is about :

<<<------------------------------------------------------------>>>

this much. If you limit your TABs in the same way, you should be OK.

Of course, if TAB *does* get wrapped around the author might not realise because it looked fine on his/her screen when they wrote it. It might be worth letting them know of the problem, so they can be careful in the future.

(This includes me ! If parts of this FAQ are too wide for your screen, please let me know !)

3.3.2 Very squashed TAB

It's amazing how easy it is to ruin an otherwise good piece of TAB by not spacing it out so that the end result is a mass of cramped TAB, explanations, labels etc. When you finish typing up, go back through the TAB and see if you can insert a few blank lines here and there to separate verse from chorus or whatever. It really does make it a lot easier for others to read.

It might also be worth considering if you've included too much detail in the TAB. Usually this will not be the case, but I have seen a few TABs which go into great details, but are extremely off-putting to try to read because of the sheer quantity of information.

3.3.3 Unnecessary repetition

If a line of TAB or a particular riff is repeated a number of times then save yourself the effort, TAB it once, and indicate it the repeated passage.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That's all I *think* you need to know about reading and writing TAB. If there's anything important you think I've left out or if there are bits of the FAQ which you can't understand then let me know.

You can contact me at H.Wright@astro.cf.ac.uk or spxhaw@thor.cf.ac.uk



Addendum

Use ordinary spaces to space out information immediately above or below the lines of tab. This includes text, numbers and symbols used for musical expressions, fingering, timing etc. Do not use the "Tab" character (the key on the left side of your keyboard labelled "Tab") because the number of spaces it represents varies from programme to programme.



Samples of Tablature Explanations taken from Tab Files
Fingering

the numbers below the the tab tell you which finger of your left hand
is used for holding down the strings (left hand fingering - LHF) - and
if there's letters above the tab, these tell you which right hand finger
is used for plucking the strings (RHF) (tho the fingering shown may just
be a suggestion and may not be the way the composer intended)

left hand
1 - index 
2 - middle
3 - ring
4 - little

right hand
p - thumb
i - index
m - middle
a - ring 

***********************************************************

                                                  Tempo Beats
                                                 /---------\
                                                 |   |   |
        / E-|--------|-------|-------|----(0----|--------0===|
        | B-|--------|-------|-------|----)1----|------1=----|
  String| G-|--<12>--|--5h8--|--8p5--|----(2----|----2=------|
  Tuning| D-|--------|-------|-------|----)2----|------------|
        | A-|--------|-------|-------|----(0----|0==---------|
        \ D-|--------|-------|-------|----------|------------|

             Harmonic Hammer   Pull   Arpeggiate   Sustain
                        on      off

-There are certain harp harmonics throughout the piece, shown
 like this:
                      |-----------|
                      |--3<15>----|
                      |-----------|
                      |-----------|
                      |-----------|
                      |-----------|

 These harmonics are done by pressing the note at the fret number
 shown BEFORE the parenthesis, resting your right hand index
 finger over the fret shown in the parenthesis, and playing the
 string with the right hand's middle or ring finger (The ring
 finger works better for me) 

Remember that a "C" followed by a number indicates a bar (barre)
in that fret.

***********************************************************

e|--2h3------------|---------4s5----<12>---|----(0--------|
b|--------2p1------|-tr--------------------|----)1--------|
g|-----------------|(0p1)------------------|----(2--------|
d|-----------------|-----------------------|----)2--------|
a|-----------------|-----------------------|----(0--------|
e|-----------------|-----------------------|--------------|
   hammer   pull-     trill  slide  natural     rake 
    on     offs                    harmonic    
             
                                       ---3---- 
e|---<5>17-------||--------------------5------------------|
b|---------------||--------4=========-----4---------------|
g|---------------||-*------------------------5------------|
d|---------------||--------------------------------5------|
a|---------------||-*----------------------------------5--|
e|---------------||---------------------------------------|
   artificial   repeat     sustain    triplet     |pizz.|
   harmonic                                      pizzicato
   
              %      ~      C5-------------|
e|--(5)p4-----5----------|-----------5-------------<0-----|
b|-------------------3---|--5-----------6---------->1-----|
g|-----------------------|------7------------------<2-----|
d|-----------------------|------------------------->2-----|
a|-----------------------|-------------------7.----<0-----|
e|-----------------------|--------------------------------|
    grace  mordent  turn   hold barre    dotted   rasqueado
    note                                 note                         

***********************************************************

   p - pulloff
   h - hammeron
   g - grace note (an extra note of very short length played either just before
       or at the same time as the main note, and then immediately released
   s - slide
==== - sustain

 t
-5- = -5-5-5- - tremolo
       a m i

***********************************************************

  |  = bar
 ||  = double bar
 ||* = repeat start
 ||o = repeat start
 *|| = repeat end
 o|| = repeat end
 *|  = double bar (end)
  !  = repeat beat (1/4,8th)
 !!  = repeat beat (16th)
  %  = repeat measure
  :  = bar (freetime)
  $  = Segno
  &  = Coda
 du  = tremolo bar dip
  d  = tremolo bar down
  u  = tremolo bar up
 ud  = tremolo bar inverted dip
  =  = hold (bend or tremolo bar)
SLAP = slap guitar body

***********************************************************

----------                            ----------
----5h8--- Hammer on                  ----(8)--- Ghost Note
----------                            ----------
----5p8--- Pull off                   ----------

----------                            ----------
----5/8--- Slide Up                   -----x---- Dead Note
----------                            ----------
----5\8--- Slide Down                 ----------

----------                            ||------|| Repeat Start & End
----5~~~-- Vibrato                    ||*----*||
----------                            ||*----*||
----------                            ||------||

***********************************************************

  h  = hammer-on
  p  = pull-off
  ^  = pull-off or hammer-on 
  b  = bend
 pb  = pre-bend
  r  = bend release (if no number after the r, then release immediately)
  ^  = harmonic
 <5> = natural harmonic
 [5] = artifical harmonic
 <#> = harmonic on the #th fret
[n]  = artificial harmonic
n(n) = tapped harmonic
  tr = trill
   x = damp string (mute by gently placing left hand on string(s)
       and striking with pick)
   x = on rhythm slash represents muted slash (muted/staccato)
   o = on rhythm slash represents single note slash
  pm = Palm mute
   ~ = Vibrato or slight string bend
   / = Slide up
   / = slide up/down
   \ = Slide Down
   s = legato slide
   S = shift slide
   s = Strum the notes beneath the "s"
   t = tremolo
   ) = arpeggio
  () = grace note
 (#) = optional note that sounds ok with or without.
  *  = Play the base note just before the treble note.
  !  = Forte
  +  = Pick the chord quickly (strum down pick)
  $  = slower (eg +$ means pick not so quickly...)
  tr = trill
  T  = tap
  TP = tremolo picking
 \n/ = tremolo bar dip; n = amount to dip
  \n = tremolo bar down
  n/ = tremolo bar up
 /n\ = tremolo bar inverted dip
  PM = palm muting
  S  = slap
  P  = pop
 /\  = slide into or out of (from/to "nowhere")
  =  = hold bend; also acts as connecting device for hammers/pulls
 <>  = volume swell (louder/softer)

***********************************************************

----------                ----------                ----t---
----5h8--- Hammeron       ----(8)--- Ghost          ----6--- Tap
----------                ---------- Note           --------
----5p8--- Pulloff        ----------                --------

----------                ----------                -----p--
----5/8--- Slide Up       -----x---- Dead           -----7-- Pop
----------                ---------- Note           --s-----
----5\8--- Slide Down     ----------                --5----- Slap 

----------                ||------|| Repeat         --------
----5~~~-- Vibrato        ||*----*||                ---5^--- Bend
----------                ||*----*||                --------
----------                ||------||                --------

----------                ----------                --------
-4:------- Time           ----------                --------
-4:------- Signature      ----------                --------
----------                ----------                --------

Rhythm:
  w = whole note            W = dotted whole
  h = half note             H = dotted half
  q = quarter note          Q = dotted quarter
  e = eighth note           E = dotted eighth
  s = sixteenth note        S = dotted sixteenth
  t = 32nd note             T = dotted 32nd
  x = 64th note             X = dotted 64th
  ^ = triplet

***********************************************************

                                                 Tempo Beats
                                                 /---------\
                                                 |   |   |       ..3:2..
        / E-|--------|-------|-------|----(0----|--------0===|------------|
        | B-|--------|-------|-------|----)1----|------1=----|----3h4p3---|
  String| G-|--<12>--|--5h8--|--8p5--|----(2----|----2=------|------------|
  Tuning| D-|--------|-------|-------|----)2----|------------|------------|
        | A-|--------|-------|-------|----(0----|0==---------|------------|
        \ D-|--------|-------|-------|----------|------------|------------|

             Harmonic Hammer   Pull   Arpeggiate   Sustain     Play 3 notes
                        on     off                                like 2

***********************************************************

o = whole note, d,P = half note, | = quarter note, |_ = eighth note,
R = quarter rest, r = eighth rest, . = dotted note

***********************************************************

p  a  m  i
      |   |   |   |   |   |           "|  |  |  |"
E-|---t12----this means play--|    E-----12-12-12--------------|
B-|----------the open low E---|    B---------------------------|
G-|----------string and then--| =  G---------------------------|
D-|----------the high E at the|    D---------------------------|
A-|----------12th fret three -|    A---------------------------|
E-|---0------times in rapid---|    E---0-----------------------|
             succession as
             described above.
)
( = arpeggiate
)  

==== = sustain

***********************************************************

Legend: . quarter note    , eight note    ; sixteenth note
        ~ one time pause

***********************************************************

|    = quarter note   |.   = dotted quarter note
       __                           __
|_ and |   = eighth note    |_. and | .   = dotted eighth note
       ==                            ==
|= and |   = sixteenth note  |=. and | .  = dotted sixteenth

; = eighth rest
, = sixteenth rest

***********************************************************

ar = arpeggio roll  (0) = grace note   st = Strum slow          
p  =  Pull Off     /s = slide up     Sb = Slide bass note
h  =  Hammer on    \s = Slide down   W = Whole note (sustain)    

***********************************************************

  2h3       hammer on from 2nd to 3rd fret
  3p2       pull off from 3rd to 2nd fret
  12.       natural harmonic on 12th fret
  3x        artificial harmonic on 3rd fret

***********************************************************

Key to symbols:  h = half note
                 q = quarter note
                 e = eighth note
                 s = sixteenth note
                 . = dotted note (when placed after h,q,e,s)
                 / = hammer on to note (when placed between two notes)

***********************************************************

0/                     0///
/0 : repeat last bar   ///0 : repeat last three bars

----___---
----5-7--- shorter notes
----------

|-----7-------10--------13-------7---|-----|
|-----6--------9--------12-------6---|-----|
|-----7-------10--------13-------7---|-0//-|
|------------------------------------|-//0-|
|------------------------------------|-----|
|-4-------7--------10--------4-------|-----|

***********************************************************

"." after a note means hold. "/" means hammer-on. "\" means pull-off.

***********************************************************

   p       i       m       a
 = pulgar, indice, medio,  annular
 = thumb,  index,  middle, ring

   !5      natural harmonic

***********************************************************

    ~   A.H.
E-|-12--1<13>-----
B-|---------------
G-|------------x--
D-|------------x--
A-|------------x--
E-|---------------

~ = vibrato
x = hit the guitar with the 4th finger on the bridge
gliss = glissando - slide
rasgueado = strum
pizz = pizzicatto - palm mute at the bridge
A.H. = artificial harmonic - fret 1st note with left hand & point 2nd note
       with index finger & pluck string with ring or middle or little finger

***********************************************************

-0-------0-3-1-0-1---0---0------------------
-----------------------3-2---3-2-3---3-2-3-3
-1-0-1-3-1-------3-------3---------3-------3
-----------------0---------------0---------0
-3-------3---------------0------------------
--------------------------------------------
 . e + a . e + a +   + a .   + a . e + a . +  

The e + a is simply a method of counting, e.g.= 'one e and uh' is . e + a  on my file.
This is just a simple method I use;
another example is . + a for one
and uh two and uh , etc. to keep time.

***********************************************************

[flamenco]

Rasgueado: au, a, m, i to the bottom = 4 movements

Remolino : P to the top, au et i to the bottom = 3 movements,
           the same + P to the top = 4 movements.

F : struck. The thumb rests on the 6th string after the movement

Alzapua : two movements of the thumb, the first to the bottom,
          the second to the top

Bute : alternation of the index and major, each finger resting
       on the string lower

P.S. : the direction of the arrows is compared to the ground.

au : auricular (little finger). a : annular. m : major. i : index. P : thumb

***********************************************************

   .  '  &  '  
E|-------------|--------------------------------------------------------------|-
B|-------------|--------------------------------------------------------------|-
G|-------------|--RR-------R----------r----------F------------5-----'---------|-
D|-------------|--RR-------R----------r----------F------------5--'------------|-
A|-------------|--------------------------------------------------------------|-
E|-------------|--------------------------------------------------------------|-
  One e and a    half     quarter    eighth    sixteenth      generic
                 rest      rest       rest       rest          rests

E|--------------3-p-1---------------------------------------------(1----------|-
B|---0-h-1----------------3-s-5------1---------(3)----------------)1----------|-
G|---0----------2-p-0----------------0=========-------------------(2----------|-
D|---0-h-2--------------------------------------------------------)3----------|-
A|-----------------------------------3==================----------(-----------|-
E|----------------------------------------------------------------)1----------|-
     hammer     pull      slide    sustain    grace              rake                                 
      on        off                           note 

  C5 =======    1/2C7 =======      %  *             ---3---       arp.                                                              
--3--------5-------5----9----------7--7-------------8------------------------||
--3-----5----------6----7------------------------------8--5--------1---------||
--4--5-------------7-------9---------------------------------------0---------||
--5----------------0-----------------------------------------------2---------||
--5---------------------0------------------------------------------3---------||
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------||
Hold Barre     Hold half Barre      see             triplet     arpeggio    Fine 
  at 3rd           at 5th          legend                                                

Fermata            = to hold as long as desired.
Rf. (Rinforzando)  = to stress by strength, as opposed to
Sfz. (Sforzando)   = to stress by pushing, by pressure.
Dol. (Dolce)       = to play sweetly
Smorz poco a poco  = to grow softer(?) little by little.
% (NOT a mordent)  = Embellishment played: Primary - Embellishment - Primary

Written above or below the measure                Written below the measure
P    - Piano            = soft                    1    - LH index finger
PP   - Pianissimo       = softer                  2    - LH middle finger
PPP  - Pianississimo    = softest                 3    - LH ring finger
F    - Forte            = loud                    4    - LH little finger
FF   - Fortissimo       = louder                  A    - Accent  
FFF  - Fotississimo     = loudest                          

***********************************************************

----r(5---    pizzicato on fifth fret
(Pizzicato: mute the string with the tip of m finger right after i finger.
Pizzicato is applied by skipping 12 frets from the fret number written on
the tab; so for making a r(5, you should do this muting on the 17th fret)

***********************************************************

info on Donald Sauter's tablature can be found at -
http://donaldsauter.com/#tab

he specialises in tabbing older music, and places notes between the lines
(rather than on them) - ornaments are indicated before the note as follows -

   '' = trill (multiple twiddles from above) 
   ` = grace note from above
   , = mordent (main note to lower neighbor and back up) 
   # = vibrato

***********************************************************

Duration Legend
---------------

W - whole; H - half; Q - quarter; E - 8th; S - 16th; T - 32nd; X - 64th;
a - acciaccatura

+ - note tied to previous;   . - note dotted;   .. - note double dotted

Uncapitalized letters represent notes that are staccato (1/2 duration)

Irregular groupings are notated above the duration line

Duration letters will always appear directly above the note/fret number it
represents the duration for. Duration letters with no fret number below them
represent rests. Multi-bar rests are notated in the form Wxn, where n is the
number of bars to rest for. Low melody durations appear below the staff.

Tempo markers - <E/E./Q/Q./H/H.> = BPM(8/16=s8/s16),
where s8 = swing 8ths, s16 = swing 16ths

***********************************************************

ar = arpeggio roll  (0) = grace note   st = Strum slow          
p  =  Pull Off     /s = slide up     Sb = Slide bass note
h  =  Hammer on    \s = Slide down   W = Whole note (sustain)  

***********************************************************

golpe - tap on the guitar soundboard (Flamenco)

CIII - full barre on 3rd fret
cIII - partial barre on 3rd fret

***********************************************************

 X = Trill
 ) = Mordent
 ˘ = Appogiatura
 # = Vibrato
 < = Arpeggio
 
***********************************************************

8va (ottava)
------------

8va (above cleff) or 8va sopra - play music 1 octave higher than written
8va (below cleff) or 8va bassa - play music 1 octave lower than written

loco - return to playing music at the pitch it is written

use 15ma (quindicesima) to indicate a 2-octave transposition

Arm8 - (articial) harmonic one octave (12 frets) higher than (fretted) note

***********************************************************

-----------------
-----------------
-------3x--------   the note in front of the x is
-----------------   played with the left hand only
-----------------   (in sheet, the 'x' goes through the beam/tail of the note)
-----------------



history of classtab.org

In the late 90's OLGA (the On-Line Guitar Archive) came under increasing pressure from the US copyright companies, especially the Harry Fox Agency. OLGA had been the main tab source since pre-web days, using ftp archives to store tabs harvested from the Usenet groups rec.music.makers.guitar.tablature and alt.guitar.tab.

There was much discussion on the newsgroups about how to combat the pressure, especially when OLGA looked like folding. Its main archive and most of the mirrors were held on college servers and couldn't be kept going once the legal threats started arriving. I suggested that the archive could be de-centralised, split up into many smaller parts, each looked after by different people on web sites hosted in different countries and organised via unique keywords which would still allow OLGA tabs to be found using standard web searches.

Having suggested this, it seemed appropriate for me to set an example. So I downloaded all the classical files, about 100 in total, and re-uploaded them to some web space at Venus Internet where I worked. The classical section hadn't been well looked after and needed lots of tidying up (removing duplicate files, retitling, reformatting, correcting wrong notes etc) - some of the original tabs still need updating!

One of the advantages of choosing the classical section was that it was harder for the copyright agencies to prosecute, because there were no lyrics. (Where lyrics are involved, the legal case seems to be cut and dried.) There have been a few threats and attempts over the years to try and close classtab down, but it helped in the early days that any closure demands sent to the web host landed on my desk! Also, unlike most non-classical tabs, many of the pieces are no longer in copyright; and being based in the UK probably makes a difference, as the USA copyright authorities are more aggressive.

OLGA has resurfaced a couple of times, but after the latest series of 'take down letters' from music company lawyers in 2007, it finally seems to be gone for good.



top of page   |   back to classical guitar tablature page

comments to weed@wussu.com
revised & validated 12 September 2014
URL http://www.classtab.org/tabbing.htm