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Guitar Tablature For Beginners


Tablature is an ancient form of music notation, which comes in very handy today. It is particularly well suited for plucked stringed instruments, and was used extensively in Europe in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Tablature was developed in many countries with their own variations. There is existing tablature that was written in the 1500s, and some claims that the first currently known European example was written around 1300. And there may be even older Asian versions.

Now there is a great resurgence in the popularity of tablature for many kinds of instruments, and especially for the guitar.

In the case of tablature written for stringed instruments (guitar, banjo, etc.) each line represents a string. So, as examples, for guitar, there would be 6 lines, and for the 5-string banjo, there would be 5 lines.

Tablature can give you the precise notes played, and the order they should be played in, and a number of other aspects of the technique to achieve the sound. But unlike standard music notation, it does not give precise timing, duration and phrasing of the notes. So for accuracy, tablature works best when you can also hear an example of the song. Some tablature is conveniently provided with the standard notation. Then you get the best of both.

Another thing, just like music written in standard notation, tablature can sometimes contain errors. Unfortunately some inaccurate versions of songs are reproduced all over the internet. Use your ears. If it sounds wrong, there is a reason. But there are also different arrangements of songs, which are not necessarily wrong, but may be unfamiliar.

Tablature for Guitar (also known as TAB, for short)

Each horizontal line in the diagram below represents a string on the guitar. At the beginning, you see the notes the guitar is tuned in. In this example, the guitar is tuned in standard E tuning, the most commonly used guitar tuning (some tablature skips this, and standard tuning can be assumed). But if you were playing something in an open tuning (tuned in a chord) such as a Hawaiian slack key song; or say, a jazz piece in which the guitar has been tuned down or up (as Django Reinhardt liked to do), it would be indicated here, and you would tune your guitar accordingly.

Example 1
E |--------------------|
B |--------------------|
G |--------------------|
D |--------------------|
A |--------------------|
E |--------------------|

This would be the view if you had the guitar neck facing up with the head on your left. So the low E string is the bottom line, and the high E string is the line at the top of the diagram.

Sometimes, if there is a section in which some strings are not played at all, the corresponding lines may be left out of the diagram, to use less space.

The vertical lines represent the beginning and end of a measure, just like they do in standard musical notation and on chord charts.

When you see a number on one of the horizontal lines, it tells you to pick that note with the right hand, and what fret to hold the string down on with the left hand when you do it. Of course, if you see a 0, it means you play that string open. And where you see a string has no number on it at all, it means you dont touch that string.

Here is an example: In this one, just put your left hand fingers in position on the guitar neck, and strum all the strings together with your right hand. The 1st set is a G chord, and the 2nd set is a C chord.

Example 2
E |-----3--------0-----|
B |-----0--------1-----|
G |-----0--------0-----|
D |-----0--------2-----|
A |-----2--------3-----|
E |-----3--------3-----|

At the beginning of the song, they might list the time signature (or they might not). The chords may also be listed above the lines. In addition, above the lines, directly above the numbered string, you may see accents to help you count out the song.

Or (more often) above the numbers in the lines, you may see a symbol for the finger that is hitting the string, or for the method of playing the string.

Here is an example, with the notes being played sequentially. The letters stand for thumb, index finger, and middle finger.

Example 3
     T  M  T  I      T  M  T  I      T  M  T  I      T  M  T  I	       
E |---------------|---------------|---------------|---------------|
B |-----0---------|-----1---------|-----3---------|-----1---------|
G |-----------0---|-----------0---|-----------0---|-----------0---|
D |--------0------|--------0------|--------0------|--------0------|
A |---------------|--0------------|--2------------|--0------------|
E |--3------------|---------------|---------------|---------------|

This is a pretty fingerpicking pattern with a nice rolling feel, once you get comfortable with it. It is pretty easy, too. Try it out!

I don't have this book, yet, but I was thrilled to discover it exists. I have taken several of Carol McComb's renowned guitar workshops, and she is a truly wonderful teacher. Country & Blues Guitar for the Musically Hopeless

If you would like to listen to or purchase music by Sabira Woolley, here is her Music Shop.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Sabira Woolley. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Sabira Woolley. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Sabira Woolley for details.

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