Help Me Understand Tablature

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by Kellz, Aug 2, 2021.

  1. Kellz

    Kellz Regular

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    Apr 29, 2021
    Hello, I'm pretty new to playing the guitar, I picked it up again after almost 20 years and went directly for a 7 string!

    The new self titled Erra record inspired the sh** out of me and made me pick up the guitar again.

    Trying to understand their tablature is not easy, especially all the symbols. I'm looking for good resources on how to read it all. I found some but they seem rather old and outdated.

    Here are some examples of songs I like to learn myself but I don't understand all of the tablature.
    (I know they are really hard to play and probably not the best for a beginner).

    I found myself having a better time learning a song with not so complicated tabs simply because I don't fully understand what I have to do. The best source I found so far with a tablature table is this one but it still does not cover everything:

    Thanks in advance for any help!
  2. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Dec 7, 2005
    St. Johnsbury, VT USA

    If you have specific questions, I bet people will answer them more quickly.

    The way the tabs are written, those numbers in circles with the equals sign and letters tell you the tuning of the song. For example 1 = C# tune the first string (the smallest one) to C#.
    The note that is the black circle with a single stem coming out of it is a quarter note. The part that shows that symbol "= 200" means that there are 200 quarter note beats per minute. If you have a metronome, you set it to 200.
    dist. guit. means Distorted guitar.
    TAB means this is the tablature (as opposed to the score). The six lines (or however many lines) represent the strings with the thinnest strings on top and the thickest on bottom. The numbers represent the frets you use to stop the string to produce the correct pitch, starting with the open string at 0 and then the first fret with 1 and so on. The first fret it the one farthest from the body of the guitar.
    The two fours shown vertically is the "time signature," which tells you that the notes are broken up four quarter notes per division ("measure"). The divisions are denoted by the vertical lines across all of the strings in the tablature.
    ||: means that it's the start of a repeated section; :|| means it's the end of a repeated section, so you go back to either the most recent ||: or to the beginning.
    The little stems on the numbers denote the length of time that the note is held. A plain stem is a quarter note, which gets one beat. A stem with a single flag is an eighth note, which gets half of a beat, so two eighth notes would total one beat. A stem with a double flag is a sixteenth note, which gets one quarter of one beat. Usually, quarter notes are counted 1 2 3 4, eighth notes 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &, and sixteenth notes 1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a. Groups of notes with flags have the little flags replaced with a line connecting the stems, so eighth notes get one connecting line and sixteenth notes get two connecting lines (usually the outermost one is thicker).
    The funny little squiggly symbols are rests. That means don't play anything. Reference this for the timing: [​IMG]

    The little curved lines that look like parenthesis rotated 90° are ties or slurs. Ties are where you hold a note for extra time and slurs are where you change which note you are playing without plucking either by "hammering on" another finger (tapping down with the fretting hand so that the second note rings out) denoted by "h", by "pulling off" from the fretted finger to another pre-placed finger denoted by "p", or by sliding the fretting hand from one position to the next without lifting pressure denoted by "sl".

    The bracket over a divided measure or measures with a 1. means it's the first ending (play it only after the first time through, skip it upon subsequent repeats. If there is a 2. or 3. or another number, play it on the corresponding time through repeats.

    The curved arrows coming out of notes with "1/2" or "1" or whatever over them denote bends up one semitone or one whole tone in pitch, respectively. If an arrow goes up and then down, it denotes a pitch bend up and then release back down by unbending to the original pitch. There may also be pre-bends, in which you bend the string before plucking, then release the bend so that only an audible downward pitch bend is heard.

    The P.M. denotes palm muting, where you rest the edge of your hand gently on the bridge to lightly muffle the strings.

    There are probably a dozen more symbols. If you aren't familiar with one or another, just ask. If it all still "looks like greek" to you, you'd be better off taking a couple guitar lessons.
    Kellz likes this.

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