Tab Reading Tips

Understanding Strings and Frets:

  • String Orientation: Tabs represent strings vertically, with the thinnest string (usually the high E string on a guitar) at the top and the thickest string (usually the low E string) at the bottom.
  • Fret Numbers: Fret numbers indicate where to place fingers on the fretboard. A '0' signifies an open string, while higher numbers correspond to higher frets.

Reading Rhythms and Timing:

  • Duration of Notes: Tabs don’t explicitly show note duration. However, the spacing between numbers or additional symbols (like dashes or dots) can give a sense of timing.
  • Listen for Timing: While tabs provide notes and positions, listening to the song helps understand the rhythm and timing of each note.

Grasping Special Symbols and Techniques:

  • Slides: An 's' between fret numbers indicates a slide. It signifies that a note should glide smoothly from one fret to another. For instance, in a tab like 'e|---5/7---|,' the '5/7' denotes sliding from the 5th fret to the 7th fret on a string.
  • Hammer-ons and Pull-offs: 'h' and 'p' respectively indicate hammer-ons and pull-offs. For example, 'e|---5h7---|' means to hammer-on from the 5th to the 7th fret without picking the string again, while 'e|---7p5---|' implies a pull-off from the 7th to the 5th fret.
  • Bends and Vibrato: Symbols like 'b' denote bends, where a string is fretted and the pitch is altered by bending the string. For instance, 'e|---7b9---|' indicates bending the note at the 7th fret to sound like the 9th fret. '~' indicates vibrato, as in 'e|---7~---|,' where the note at the 7th fret is played with a slight oscillation in pitch.
  • Palm Muting: Tabs might include 'PM' or specific markings to indicate palm muting. For example, 'e|---5---|' played regularly, while 'e|---5---|' with 'PM' above it implies palm muting that note to create a muted, percussive sound.
  • Tapping: Advanced tabs may involve tapping, denoted as 'T' or 't.' For instance, 'e|---t12p5---|' indicates tapping the note at the 12th fret, then pulling off to the 5th fret without picking the string.
  • Harmonics: 'harm' or diamond-shaped symbols '<>' indicate harmonics. For example, '<12>' indicates a natural harmonic at the 12th fret, creating a bell-like chime when played.