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Guitar Tablature - Beginning Finger Picking

In Guitar Tablature For Beginners, I explained some tablature basics. If tablature is new to you, you will want to read that first.

Here are some more details to round out your knowledge, and get you started playing songs using tabs. With this information and some practice, you'll be strumming and finger picking with ease!

Tablature uses numbers, letters and other symbols to tell you how to play a note or sequence of notes. Some of them have been used since long before computers existed. But since tablature is now often written using computers, and is widely available on the web, it has acquired some symbols that are easy to type from the computer keyboard.

There are some variations in how different people use some of the symbols. Fortunately, they are pretty easy to figure out, and many tablature (aka tab) writers will provide a list of the ones they are using above the song.

Commonly Used Guitar Tab Symbols:
h
= hammer-on
p = pull-off
^ = another one that can mean hammer on or pull off
/ = slide up
\ = slide down
b = bend string
r = return bent string to position while still sounding
x = mute note
<> = harmonic (fret number will be within the brackets)

These are usually written within the lines, between the affected notes.

Here is an example to try them out on (includes a slide, a pull off, a hammer on, and a bend)

Example 1:
E|----------------|--2p0----------|-------------0--|
B|--2-----2/3-----|-------3--0----|---------3b-----|
G|--2-----2----2--|-------2--1----|------0h1-------|
D|--2--2--2-------|----------2----|----------------|
A|----------------|---------------|----------------|
E|--0-------------|----------0----|--0----------0--|
If the song is in a finger picking or classical style, you might also see letters to indicate the fingers to use for sounding the notes. Again there are variations. Traditionally, the letters PIMA (and sometimes E) are used in Flamenco and Classical playing, and are gaining favor in some education systems. These are the first letters of the Spanish words for the fingers.

Spanish       English
P
= pulgar T = thumb
I = indice I = index finger
M = medio M = middle finger
A = anular R = ring finger
E = mignolo (4th finger, not often used, but essential for some songs)

They may be found above the lines, or right next to their corresponding guitar fret numbers.

I first learned tablature studying folk music on guitar, banjo and dulcimer with the English (TIMR) symbols, and also -
B = brush
S = Strum
P = Pinch

The next example is using English. It is a nice lively fingerpicking pattern. With practice, you'll have the rhythm, and it really sounds good. Give it a try!

Example 2:
    T  T  P  I  T  M     T  T  P  I  T  M     T  T  P  I  T  M     T  T  P  I  T  M
E|-----------------3--|-----------------0--|--------------------|--------------------|
B|-----------0--------|-----------0--------|-----------0-----3--|-----------0--------|
G|--------3-----------|--------3-----------|--------3-----------|--------3--------0--|
D|-----0--------0-----|-----0--------0-----|-----0--------0-----|-----0--------0-----|
A|--------------------|--------------------|--------------------|--------------------|
E|--3-----3-----------|--3-----3-----------|--3-----3-----------|--3-----3-----------|
There are more tab symbols, some of which add useful information for electric guitar playing and effects use, but this is enough to get you started.

So now you have the basics. Happy picking!
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Here is a songbook and a CD I recommend for guitarists, especially those who sing, or accompany vocalists.
One of my band-members gave me Eva Cassidy's Songbird CD, and I purchased my own copy of The Eva Cassidy Songbook for Guitar.
Eva Cassidy passed away in 1996, just as she was becoming internationally recognized for her exquisitely beautiful singing and playing. This book includes many of her most loved songs (Ain't No Sunshine, Anniversary Song, At Last, Autumn Leaves, Fields of Gold, I Wandered By A Brookside, Nightbird, Over The Rainbow, Penny To My Name, Say Goodbye, Songbird, Time After Time, Wade In The Water, Way Beyond The Blue, Wayfaring Stranger, and What A Wonderful World), with tablature and standard notation, and gives you the opportunity to learn how she achieved her soulful sounds.
Some of these sellers are in the UK, and some in the US, so choose one who's shipping cost and import fees are not too high for your location.
The Eva Cassidy Songbook for Guitar (Gtab)
The CD "Songbird" has several of the same songs, as well as some other good ones. If you aren't familiar with Eva Cassidy, listen and enjoy!
Songbird


If you would like to listen to or purchase music by Sabira Woolley, here is her Music Shop.

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