Guitar Tablature
 

Guitar Tablature Symbols

GUITAR TABLATURE SYMBOLS

A lot of other important information can be included in a guitar tablature. The standard practice is to write letters or symbols
between notes
to indicate how to play them. The following are the most common symbols used in guitar tablature.

bBend
rRelease Bend
/Slide
SShift Slide
LLegato Slide
hHammer On
pPull Off
trTrill
tTap
~~~Vibrato
< >Harmonic
P.M.Palm Mute
xMuted String
( )Ghost Note
* Explained in guitar tablature

BEND

Bending a note allows you to change the pitch of that note. A bend is achieved by pushing the string across the neck after you have picked it. As you bend the note, the pitch of it rises

The most common symbol used in guitar tablature for a bend is the "b". The "b", is placed between two different numbers. The first number indicates the fret you are playing and the second number indicates the pitch that a bent note should sound like. You will not play the note represented by the second number, it is only a reference to tell you how much to bend it up

Strike the G string at the 5th fret, then bend the note two semitones so that it sounds the same pitch as a note fretted at 7th fret


e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |-------5b7---------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

Sometimes in guitar tablature the second note is written in parentheses,
just to clarify that it is not picked - 5b(7) instead of 5b7.

It's possible to increase the pitch by up to 3 or 4 semitones. The type of
strings and guitar will affect how easily you are able to play larger bends but
on most guitars you should be able to manage a two semitone bend.

Guitar Tablature Symbols
Bend & Release
The "r" is used to indicate a return of a bent note to its unbent state.
For example, this guitar tablature shows 5b7r5 indicating a picked note on the fifth fret being bent
up to the seventh fret, and then returned to the fifth fret again.

e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |-------5b7r5-------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

Guitar tablature where all three notes are tied, only the first one is struck.

Guitar Tablature Symbols
Pre-Bend & Release
Another technique related to bending is when you bend a note up without
picking it
(pre-bend). When the note is bent by the right amount, pick it and then release the bend. This way, you hear the pitch of the note
fall after it has started.

e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |------(5)b7r5------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

Instead of picking a note at the 5th fret and bending it up, bend the note
without picking it, pick it and then release the bend. (If you pick
the pre-bent note, it should have the same pitch as the note fretted at 7th fret).

In guitar tablature, notes in parentheses are often called ghost notes. DO NOT strike them.

Guitar Tablature Symbols
Unison Bend
Unison bends are played on two strings. Unison means one, so what you
are doing here is striking two notes simultaneously and bending the lower
note up until it matches the pitch of the higher. Example: pick third
and second strings at the same time, and then bend up only your third.

e |-------------------------|
B |-------5>>---------------|
G |-------7b9---------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

In this guitar tablature the symbol ">>" means: let the note ring on
until it reaches the pitch of the other.

When performing this bend, be sure to listen for the two notes to come
together in unison. A common mistake is under bending or over bending
the string. This will make it sound like it's out of tune. Unison bend may
take a little practice at first to get them to sound right. Top Guitar Tablatures

Guitar Tablature Symbols
Smear
It is when you bend a string just slightly, not enough to bend the string
up to the next half step higher (one fret). A smear is often indicated by
just a "b" after a note, with instructions on how much to bend - written
on top of the guitar tablature lines.

Bend up 1/4 tone
e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |-------5b----------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|


Guitar Tablature Symbols
SLIDE

Sliding is a technique that adds more life to notes. The idea here is to fret
a note (or notes) and then move (slide) to another fret without taking off
the pressure of your finger (fingers) as you move.

Generally, a "/" symbol is often used in guitar tablature to notate slide. In most guitar tablatures
in Internet, a slide from the fifth fret to the seventh might be written: 5/7.
Here's a basic slide up from 5th to 7th fret.

e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |-------5/7---------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

Guitar Tablature Symbols
Double Slide
You may slide to and from more than one note at the same time.

e |-------5/7---------------|
B |-------5/7---------------|
G |-------------------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

This guitar tablature section means: pick the first two notes at 5th fret and then slide your
finger up to the 7th fret. Just use your first finger to fret both notes.

Although internet guitar tablatures rarely distinguishes between legato and shift
slide, some authors use the L for legato slide and the S for shift slide.

Guitar Tablature Symbols
Legato Slide
Strike a note and then slide your finger to another note without
striking the second one.

e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |-------5L7---------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

This guitar tablature indicates that just the first note is picked.

Guitar Tablature
Shift Slide
Pick the first note and with the same left hand finger, slide up
the string to the second note and pick that second note.

e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |-------5S7---------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

Guitar tablature where both notes will be picked.

If no number follows the slide symbol in the guitar tablature, it indicates sliding to
an indiscriminate fret. In other words, the note slides to nowhere.

e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |-------5/----------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

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Guitar Tablature Symbols
HAMMER ON AND PULL OFF

Hammer-On
Hammer-on is a simple technique of hammering on the fretboard - with
one of your fret hand fingers and without picking this note. Hammer-on
allows you to play two or more notes for each note that you strike with
the picking hand. It's common to see the "h" representing a hammer-on
(e.g. 5h7).

e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |-------5h7---------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

The guitar tablature means that you fret a note at the 5th fret on the G string using your 1st finger,
pick the string and then move this finger down sharply onto the neck at
the 7th fret in a hammering action. So, you strike the string once, but
listen to the notes at 5th and 7th frets - this sound is different to that
produced by picking both.

Guitar Tablature Symbols
Pull-Off
This is almost the opposite of a hammer-on.

Start with your first finger at 5th fret on the G string, and your third
finger at 7th fret on that same string. Pick the string to hear the note
at the 7th fret, and then pull your third finger away from the string to
listen to the note at 5th fret. The letter "p" is typically used to represent
a pull off (7p5).

e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |-------7p5---------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

As with hammer-ons, you get two or more notes
for every note that is picked.

Guitar Tablature Symbols
Hammer On and Pull Off
Once you have got used to the basic hammer-on and pull-off techniques,
you are ready to put together a whole sequence of hammer-ons and
pull-offs.
You only need to hit the string once with the picking hand - all
the other notes are sustained by the hammer-on and pull-off actions.

e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |----5h7p5h7p5h7p5h7p5----|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

It may be difficult to hammer-on and pull-of at first because your left
hand needs time to build up enough strength to produce audible notes.

Occasionally, you'll see the "^" symbol used in guitar tablatures
for either a hammer on or pull off (e.g. 9^7).

Guitar Tablature Symbols
Trills
Very rapidly alternate between the note indicated and the note shown
in parentheses by hammering on and pulling off. In guitar tablature is generally represented
by a "tr" and a squiggle line like for a vibrato.

          tr~~~~
e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |-------5(7)--------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|


Guitar Tablature Symbols
TAPPING

Tapping is the technique that Eddie Van Halen made famous. This involves
hammering on the fretboard with the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd finger of the picking
hand to produce a note and then pulling off to notes fingered by your
fret hand. This kind of hammer-on with the picking hand is called "tap"
and is usually represented by a "t" in guitar tablature.

Hammer (tap) the 12th fret with the a right hand finger and
pull off to the note fretted by the left hand at 7th fret.

e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |-------t12p7-------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

In the next example you can see a 3 note pattern repeated. The first is performed by tapping on the fretboard with your picking hand on the 9th
fret and pulling off onto the 2nd fret - fingered with your first finger of the
fret hand. The last note in the pattern is performed by hammering on the
5th fret with your fourth finger of the fret hand.

e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |-------t9p2h5t9p2h5------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

Practice it slow until it sounds smooth and then try pumping up the speed.
It's hard to get it to sound right at first because you need time to develop
a good coordination between left and right hand.
Try to get more exercises to practice, get the guitar tablatures of your favorite
songs


Guitar Tablature Symbols
VIBRATO

You can get extra expression using vibrato for notes that are sustained.
Vibrato is the effect where the pitch of a note is varied rapidly
so it rises and falls in a continuous cycle. A basic vibrato is achieved by
doing a series of small bends and releases - smoothly and quickly.

The depth of the vibrato (how far the pitch varies from its normal value)
and the rate of the vibrato (how quickly the pitch changes) determine the
kind of vibrato you obtain. As a rough guideline:
Vibrato Depth: bend the note by a small amount - less than a semitone.
Vibrato Rate: 3-5 cycles of bend-release every second.

The use of the vibrato on guitar tablatures can be notated in different ways.
Most often, the "~~~" symbol is used.

          ~~~~~
e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |-------7-----------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

Vibrato adds a lot of personality to your playing. Most great players
have a distinct vibrato, it is one key ingredient for playing good guitar.

Guitar Tablature Symbols
HARMONICS

Natural Harmonics
Natural harmonics are notes that produce a chime-like sound when you
touch a string over a particular fret bar. Guitar tablature uses the "<>" symbol
surrounding the fret where the natural harmonic is played at
(e.g. <12>).

e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |-------<12>--------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

With a left hand finger lightly touch the string over the 12th fret, pick that
string and quickly remove this finger from the string.The best places to
get strong harmonics are right above 5th, 7th and 12th frets.

Other Harmonics
There is not really a standardized notation for other types of harmonics.
These include artificial, touch, tap, and pinch harmonics. The individual
guitar tablature transcriber will usually write an explanation of a particular technique that is
not easily notated.

Guitar Tablature Symbols
PALM MUTE

With the right hand, partially mute the note by lightly touching the string just
before the bridge keeping it from ringing.The guitar tablature notation is commonly a "P.M."
sign under the first note, and a dashed line going from this sign until the
last note that is palm-muted, making it possible to have whole sections of
palm-mute.

         P.M.---------:
e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |-------------------------|
D |-------------------------|
A |------7---7---7---7------|
E |------5---5---5---5------|

Guitar Tablature Symbols
MUFFLED STRINGS

Mute the strings with your left hand without actually pressing them and
strike the strings with the right hand. The symbol used is the cross "x".

e |-------------------------|
B |-------------------------|
G |-------x-----------------|
D |-------x-----------------|
A |-------------------------|
E |-------------------------|

On guitar tablature the use of the "x" is totally different from the use of the "x" when
giving chord shapes (often used to indicate that one particular string is
not played). Here, the "x" is utilized to represent a heavily muted string
which is picked or strummed to obtain a percussive sound.

These are just some of the techniques and symbols used in guitar tablature.
A lot of guitar tablature writers use their own symbols or different meaning for the
usual symbols. Usually, there are notes and explanation posted in
each guitar tablature if the symbols are too hard to figure out



Go to Top Guitar Tablature Symbols