Tablature and Standard Notation are two ways that musical information is shared. Some guitarists prefer to be shown riffs and chords and never learn to read music. Jimi Hendrix, Allan Holdsworth and Tal Farlow are all guitarists who never learned to sight-read and yet all have created music that is respected for its advanced technical and harmonic approach. These three guitarists absorbed material by playing along to records and jamming with others. Sight-reading is a requisite skill for session work, the theater orchestra and teaching careers. Reading music increases your knowledge and understanding of music and also allows you to record, communicate and convey any musical ideas you may have. Each notation system has its advantages and disadvantages. Tablature shows very little timing information and Standard Notation is not ideal for showing bends and slides. For this reason many guitar songbooks use both Standard Notation and Tablature.
Tab books which consist of authentic and accurate transcriptions of a recording cost more than their simplified alternatives. You don't need to know how to read music to use tablature. Each string is represented by a line and the numbers on those lines tell you which fret to press down. Tablature has been used for centuries and the tablature books for the lute from the 16th century are still used today by Classical guitarists engaged in transcription or authentic performance. Tab books are easy to use, inexpensive and widely available.
Below is a simple melody in tablature.
In the lower section of the example above, the top line represents the thinnest string of the guitar (high e) and the lowest line represents the thickest string of the guitar (low E). Each number on a line represents a fretted note on that string. The number zero is an open string, the number one is the first fret, and so on.
The tab is divided into measures using bar-lines but the duration of the notes is not indicated. You can figure out the duration of the notes using the Standard Notation in the upper section. You can also work out the note values using the time signature; which in this example is four-four time. This means that there are four quarter-notes in each measure. The tempo or style, which is given at the top of a piece of sheet music, is also an indicator of how a song should be played.
The key signature is not shown in the example. Key signatures show which sharps , naturals, and flats are to be used; represented by #'s and b's. Each sharp or flat is shown on their respective line and space after the time signature.
The upper section of the example above is in Standard Notation and shows that the first bar has 8 notes. Each note is represented by an oval note-head which indicates which note is to be played and the note stem indicates the notes duration (how long the note is to be held). Because the notes in the first bar are all eighth notes they are connected with a beam as shown in the example. The beaming of the same notes in a bar allows for easier reading. Eighth notes would normally be shown with a single tail which here is replaced by a single beam. Sixteenth notes have two tails so a double beam is used when grouping.
At the end of the last eighth note there is a vertical bar-line. The bar-lines are used to show the pulse and rhythm of a piece of music. If a note is tied over the bar-line with a curved tie-line, then the note duration is held over to the next bar. Bars must never have more notes in them than is indicated by the time signature. In the next bar there is a whole note, which is an oval that is not shaded in the middle and has no stem.
The two vertical black lines at the end are called a double bar-line and this shows that the piece of music has ended.
There is a very informal and loose standard of "Internet Tablature" using only ASCII characters. The above example would be written like this:
e---0-1-3-5-3-1-0----|-----------------|| B------------------3-|-1---------------|| G--------------------|-----------------|| D--------------------|-----------------|| A--------------------|-----------------|| E--------------------|-----------------||
It has the same disadvantages of tab and contains much less information than the Standard Notation of the upper section. Rhythm can only be suggested by spacing or by adding symbols above each note (such as Q for quarter note). Much Internet tablature does not even contain bar lines. The timing must be discerned by listening to the original piece. This is the major flaw of online tabs and this style of tab in general.
However, online tabs are often much more convenient than standard notation for precisely conveying a specific finger positioning. Especially with alternate tunings this is a clear advantage. The Internet and Online Tabs are ideal for spur of the moment learning.
Common Tab symbols:
|h or ^||hammer on|
|p or ^||pull off|
|b||bend string up|
|v or ~||vibrato|
|t||right hand tap|
|x||play 'note' with heavy damping|
Chords are often written in the form:
EADGBE EADGBE EADGBE xx0232 x32010 320003
Notes On The Stave
Here are the notes as they appear in Standard Notation. The set of lines and spaces that run horizontally across the page is called the staff or stave. Notes can be written on the lines and in the spaces. A common method of remembering the notes on the Treble Clef is:
"Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge" and the word "FACE"
The musical alphabet starts at the letter A and ends on the letter G. Also, only have twelve sounds in western music and these seven letters represent them. The other five sounds are the sharps or flats of these seven notes. Each step up the staff is the next letter, so it goes A, B, C, etc. The first symbol on the staff is always the clef; which in this case is the treble clef. The word clef is French for key and gives you the position of the first note. The treble clef shown here is also called the G clef. It is drawn so that the note G is indicated as being on the second line.
TabWiki also has hundreds of free tabs.