How To Read Tabs

Contrary to what we usually think, tablature is not a transcription we have recently started to use. It's origin goes all the way back to the sixteenth century. It is useful because it allows you to play the guitar without knowing how to read music and shows us immediately what frets and strings to use. 

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If you have never read tablature, you need to take a few minutes to understand how it works and know how to recognize the symbols that appear on the lines, which are the strings of the guitar. ?

Each line of the tablature is a guitar string, as shown in the figures below. The first string in tablature is the high E string and the sixth string is the low E String. So the tablature basically shows the neck of the guitar and the strings.

The number placed on a line of tablature indicates you have to press that fret on that string.Zero indicates to play a string open.

Intro (Clean Guitar 1)
E|--------------------------
B|--------------------------
G|--------0-----------------
D|-----4-----4-----4-----4--
A|--2-----------2-----5-----
E|--------------------------
Play at https://www.acousterr.com/tab/fade-to-black-intro-metallica-tabs

For example in the above tabulature, the tuning is standard (EBGDAE) and you need to do the following in order to play:

- Press second fret of A(5th string from bottom)

- Press fourth fret of D(4th String from bottom)

- Press open string G (3rd string)

 and so on


Apart from that some additional techniques used in guitaring can be represented in tabulature as well. For example


Bending 

The technique of ‘bending’ is when a player pushes a string upwards to change the pitch of the note he is playing. You can bend your note up a semi-tone (1 fret), a full tone (2 frets) or as much as you fingers can handle!!! When bending a string with the third or fourth fingers, you can use the lower fingers on the string to add to the strength of your bend. Try not to bend using just the force from your fingers; try to use the strength of your whole arm, pivoting from the elbow.

The most important thing to consider when learning to bend notes is getting the pitch right. Every note on the guitar will require a different amount of pressure to bend it up to the desired note. This means that when bending notes, you need to develop and rely on being able to hear when a bent note is in tune, or if it’s out, how far out and in what direction so you know how to fix the problem.

In tabs it can be represented as a b symbol

E|-----------------
B|-----------------
G|--4--5--6---6b7--
D|-----------------
A|-----------------
E|-----------------

In the above tab, the note is played on G(3rd string) on 6th fret and bended to reach to the pitch of 7th fret. So its a semi-tone (1 fret) bend


Vibrato 

Vibrato is a slight but constant change in pitch of a note. Unlike bending when you change the pitch by half a tone or a full tone, here the change in pitch is much smaller. You can play vibrato fast or slow, it depends on what suits the song/solo/melody. It can be used anywhere and can really spice up a note that’s left ringing.

E|-----------------
B|-----------------
G|--4--5--6---6v---
D|--------------7--
A|-----------------
E|-----------------

It can be represented by a v as shown in above tab


Hammering on and Pulling off

A Hammer-on is when you play a note, then use another finger to sound a higher note without picking it. To do this you pick the first note, and then push another finger down onto a higher note. The force of the finger being brought down onto the string will create the sound. To make sure the hammered note is clear, it is important that you use a good amount of force with the hammer-on, and also that you use the tip of your finger as that should be the hardest surface of the finger.

E|--------------
B|--------------
G|--4--5---6h7--
D|--------------
A|--------------
E|--------------

In the above tab 6the fret of G string is played and then 7th fret is hammered

E|--------------
B|--------------
G|--4--5---6h-7p
D|--------------
A|--------------
E|--------------

In the above tab, 6th fret of G string is played, then 7th fret is hammered and then pulled off


Sliding

Sliding is a legato technique that allows a guitarist to manipulate the sound of a note after it is played. Slides enable you to connect two or more notes smoothly and quickly, and make for more seamless position changes on the fretboard. They add life to notes and lend a vocal quality to your licks. Sliding is an essential technique for both rhythm and lead playing. As the name suggests, a slide is produced by picking a fretted note and then sliding your fretting finger up or down the string, maintaining contact with it, to arrive at a new note on another fret. When the destination fret is reached, this new note will sound.


E|--------------------
B|--------------------
G|---5/7--------------
D|------------7\5-----
A|--------------------
E|--------------------

The above tabulature shows both sliding up and down. Forward slash & backward slash can be used to represent slides. However at some websites 's' is also used to represent a slide in a tab. The above tab shows that 5th fret of G string is played and then slided to 7th fret. And then 7th fret of D string is played and slided up to 5th fret. Note that sliding can happen only on the same string.

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