One of the most important considerations when typing in TAB is to make
it clear and easily readable.
There are a few simple things you can do to make things work.
-- 1 -- Use spaces !
It's amazing the difference it can make if you insert a few blank lines
in the right place. If you are used to writing the words above or below
the lines of TAB make sure you leave a few lines free so that it's clear
whether the words belong to the line of TAB above or below.
Space out the individual lines of TAB and the whole thing will be a lot
easier for others to understand.
-- 2 -- Define the symbols you use.
It would make everybody's life a lot easier if everyone used the same
symbols for hammer ons, bends etc.
BUT - if you are convinced that your particular way of writing bends
and slides makes much more sense than anyone else's, that's OK as long
as you tell everybody what system you use. It makes very good sense to
start your TAB file with a list of symbols used.
The list of most commonly used symbols is below :
h - hammer on
p - pull off
b - bend string up
r - release bend
/ - slide up
\ - slide down
v - vibrato (sometimes written as ~)
t - tap (with strumming hand)
x - muted, struck string
when you get on to harmonics , you might see a variety of symbols
used. Even in standard music notation, an accepted way of writing
natural and artificial harmonics has neverbeen agreed !
However, using brackets is the standard way of writing harmonics,
so a natural harmonic at the 12th fret would be :
Normal brackets () are sometimes used for grace notes or optional
notes so 'pointy' brackets <> is the usual choice for harmonics.
-- 3 -- Label bits of the TAB
It makes things a lot easier if you can see where the 'verse' and
'chorus' parts of a song are, so put a few labels in certain places
to guide people through it.
Many songs will have clear 'verse' and 'chorus' structures - so you
can tab out the riffs/chords or whatever for these just once, and then
indicate where these are repeated. Or there maybe a couple of
important riffs which are used - so TAB these out and label them
'Riff One' and 'Riff Two' - then when they come up later in the song
you can just say 'repeat Riff One four times' instead of tabbing
the whole thing again.
As long as it's clear which bits of TAB go with which label, you
will save yourself time this way as well as making it easier to
read for others.
-- 4 -- Include Artist/album
It's useful for others to know where to find the original song,
so at the beginning of each TAB include some information on
the artists who recorded the original, and the album on which
the song can be found.
-- 5 -- General comments
It's also useful to include a few lines at the beginning of the
TAB to explain the style of the song, or to point out important
features such as alternative tunings, use of capos etc.
A few words along the lines of "use a staccato, funky kind
of strumming style for the chords, then change to a sustained
feel for the lead line" will help people to get an idea of
how to approach the playing style.
Information on the type of guitar (electric/acoustic,
6 string/12 string) and effects used would be useful.
One point on the use of capos and alternative tunings :
It's a lot easier for people to understand chord names etc if
they are written as though played *without* a capo.
For example, if you have a D shape chord played with a capo at
the 2nd fret you should write it as D major even though you will
actually be fretting notes at the 4th and 5th frets.
Also - for TAB using a capo, it's standard practice to write the
numbers of the frets *relative* to the position of the capo.
So again, if you had a D major chord with a capo at the 2nd fret
the TAB would be :
even though you actually fret the notes at the 4th and 5th frets.
It's similar with TAB for guitars tuned a semitone or tone
lower than usual. If a song should be played with the guitar
tuned to Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb, and it has this chord :
it makes things a lot easier to understand if the you call the chord
'E' rather than Eb.
That way, if you decide to play in standard tuning, you don't get
-- 6 -- Timing information
You may want to get really serious and include details
giving the precise rhythm of the piece. This will involve
a lot more typing, but it means all the information
necessary to play the piece is given explicitly.
One way to approach this is to write a line of dashes
interspersed with numbers which count the beats.
So in 4-4 time, you would have :
1---2---3---4---1---2---3---4--- etc
Under this you can write a line of d's and u's to represent
down and upstrokes.
Here is a simple example where the rhythm is 2 crotchets
(quarter notes) followed by 4 quavers (8th notes)
1---2---3---4---1---2---3---4--- etc
You could expand on this to use upper and lower case letters
to indicate accents and so on.
If you use this method make sure that you clearly separate the
2 lines of rhythm information from the 6 lines of TAB !!!
One other way of including timing information is to use one
letter/symbol for each note type.
For example use e for 8th note (quaver), s for 16th note (semiquaver)
and so on. The letters you use may well differ depending
on whether you're used to the american system of quarter notes,
8th notes etc or the english system of crotchets and quavers ,
but the method is the same.
(If you're not sure of the 'translations' here they are :
whole note - semibreve
half note - minim
quarter note - crotchet
8th note - quaver
16th note - semiquaver
32nd note - demisemiquaver
64th note - hemidemisemiquaver )
Simply write the letters above the corresponding note in the
TAB. (Make sure you define which letters/symbols you use)
Here's an example of what this looks like :
This is the opening riff from the Beatles' Ticket To Ride
q e e t t t q e e t t t
Here I've used q for quarter note, e for 8th note
and t for triplet quarter note.
you want to send in a TAB with rhythm information like this
then it's *essential* to explain the system you use. I've seen
a lot of different systems of letters and numbers of varying
degrees of simplicity and readability. Whichever you choose to
use, you'll have to explain all your symbols to make sure others
can work out what the hell you're on about.
If you want to give a few clues as to the rhythm of the TAB, but
don't want to get too involved, use of bar lines is an effective
way of conveying timing information.
Simply insert a vertical line of |'s to indicate the end of a
bar. So using the national anthem example I had before, with bar
lines it looks like this :
-- 7 -- Lyrics
It's a lot easier to follow a piece of TAB when you've got at least
some of the lyrics to follow, and you can match up the notes/riffs
in the TAB to the lyrics.
Try to include lyrics for at least the first verse and chorus. If
you're not sure of the words you can ftp - there is a
large collection of song lyrics held there.
Failing that a request to the newsgroups along the lines of
" Please mail me the lyrics to such and such so that I can make
a proper job of the TAB I'm working on"
will usually get a sympathetic response.
As a final note on writing TAB I should say that whenever you post
to the newsgroups ALWAYS cross post to both guitar groups, and also
mail a copy to so that it can be included in OLGA.
For more information on posting to the guitar newsgroups and OLGA
see the other FAQs regularly posted to the guitar newsgroups.