October 15, 2007

Tablature basics from Abacci Music

Courtesy of Abacci Music and adapted from: THE GUIDE TO TAB NOTATION by Howard Wright WHAT IS TAB TAB or tablature is a method of writing down music played on mandolin or tenor banjo. Instead of using symbols like in standard musical notation, it uses ordinary ASCII characters and numbers, making it ideal for places like the internet where anybody with any computer can link up, copy a TAB file, and read it. WHAT TAB WILL TELL YOU TAB will tell you what notes to play - it will tell you which string to hit and which fret to fret it at. TAB will tell you where hammer-ons, pull-offs, bends, slides, harmonics and vibrato are used. TAB will tell you what tuning the piece is in. If this isn't given explicitly, assume normal tuning. TAB should also give you information on use of capos etc. TAB will give you an indication of the ryhthm of the piece - i.e it will tell you which are the long notes and which are the short notes. However it will not tell you exactly how long or how short they are. This leads me on to ... WHAT TAB WILL NOT TELL YOU TAB will (usually) not tell you the note lengths of the notes - so in most cases you will *have* to listen to the song yourself, with the TAB in front of you to work out the ryhthm of the notes. TAB will not tell you which fingers you use to fret which note. TAB will (usually) not tell you anything about picking and strumming - you will have to decide for yourself where to use upstrokes/downstrokes and so on. TAB NOTATION - THE BASICS TAB is simple to read, and should be simple to write if you want to submit a song you have worked out yourself. The idea is this : You start out with 4 lines. These correspond to the strings of the instrument. The top line is the highest pitch string, and the bottom line is the lowest pitch string. Below is a blank bit of TAB with the string names at the left. E---------------------------------------------------------------- A---------------------------------------------------------------- D---------------------------------------------------------------- G---------------------------------------------------------------- Numbers are written on the lines to show you where to fret the string with the left hand. If a zero appears , this means play the open string. Like standard musical notation, you read from left to right to find out what order to play the notes. The following piece of TAB would mean play the sequence of notes (E F F# G G# A) on the top (E) string by moving up a fret at a time, starting with the open string. E---0--1--2--3--4--5--------------------------------------------- A---------------------------------------------------------------- D---------------------------------------------------------------- G---------------------------------------------------------------- OK so far ? Here we have notes being played one at a time. If two or more notes are to be played together, they are written on top of one another, again just like standard notation. In the next example we have a G chord. E----3------------------------------------------------------------ A----2------------------------------------------------------------ D----0------------------------------------------------------------ G----0------------------------------------------------------------ So this means play all these notes together as a chord. Below is am example of the same shape again, but now the gaps between the notes are bigger - so you would probably pick the strings separately instead of slowly strumming the shape. E------------3---------------------------------------------------- A---------2-----2------------------------------------------------- D------0-----------0---------------------------------------------- G----0----------------0------------------------------------------- You might ask - How do I know how fast or slow to play this ? Are all the notes supposed to be the same length ? This is where TAB differs from standard notation. Most often TAB will *not* give you any information on the note lengths. Obviously it will be a lot easier to play the TAB for a song you know well than for a song you've never heard of because you will already be familiar with the ryhthms of the familiar song. Luckily at Abacci we've included both the regular notation and the MIDI files for each tune, so it shouldn't be too hard to get up to speed. Best of luck.

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