A Tablature (tabs) or Guitar tab, or sometimes tabulature, is a form of musical notation for guitar and other fretted stringed instruments, which shows fingeringing, rather than notes (staff notation of ordinary sheet music) - i.e. guitar tabs tells players where to place their fingers on the fretboard rather than what pitches to play.

One difference between tabs and sheets is that tabs are easy to learn - because tabs basicly are written as intuitively readable diagrams on how a tune should be fingered on the fretboard, and not in the and common musical language with the abstract symbols of sheet music. Another difference is that while tabs shows fingering in an unambigous manner, timing and phrasing are clearer in sheet music.

Tabs are commonly used in notating rock and pop music, and is often seen in folk music. During the Renaissance and Baroque eras tabs was common.

(In the context of guitar tab, standard (5-line) musical notation is usually called 'staff notation' - even though tab is also written on a staff - or just 'notation').

Example: "Naima" by John Coltrane

A chord-melody arragement of the classic Coltrane ballad from his album “Giant Steps”, as harmonized by Bo Parker (bo_parker AT fbpmac.msfc.nasa.gov):

     Bbm9            Ebm9    B13b9  A13b9              Abmaj7 
  E--8----6----11----------------------------------------------| 
  B--6---------------6-------9------7------4-----7-----4-------| 
  G--6---------------6-------8------6------------------5-------| 
  D--6---------------4-------7------5------------------5-------| 
  A------------------6-----------------------------------------| 
  E--6--------------(6)------8------6------------------4-------| 
  repeat, then 
     Bmaj7/Bb        Bb13           Bmaj7/Bb       Bb13 
  E--6----6----6--------------------6----6----6----------------| 
  B--7---------------8----6---------7--------------8----6------| 
  G--8---------------7---------8----8--------------7---------8-| 
  D--8---------------6--------------8--------------6-----------| 
  A------------------------------------------------------------| 
  E--6---------------6--------------6--------------6-----------| 
    Bb pedal................................................... 
     E13 (#11)       Bmaj7          Fm9            Gb13 
  E--9----6----9-----6---------6-----------------------------| 
  B--7---------------7--------------8---------8----4---------| 
  G--7---------------8----8---------8----8---------3---------| 
  D--6---------------8--------------6--------------2---------| 
  A--------------------------------(8)-----------------------| 
  E--0--6------------6--------------6--------------2---------| 
        Bb pedal.............................. 
     Bbm9            Fm9     B13b9  A13b9          Abmaj7 
  E--8----6----11--------------------------------------------| 
  B--6---------------6-------9------7----4----7----4---------| 
  G--6---------------6-------8------6--------------5---------| 
  D--6---------------4-------7------5--------------5---------| 
  A------------------6---------------------------------------| 
  E--6--------------(6)------8------6--------------4---------| 

See also

Other instruments

Guitar Tab Software

  • Guitar-Pro 5 - Commercial guitar tablature software. A large portion of software tabs (i.e. not ascii text tabs) on the internet, seems to be in the Guitar-Pro file format (*.gp; *.gp3; *.gp4; *.gp5). But there is a lot of other resources too. Imports several other formats including MIDI-files.
  • Finale Notepad for Windows® and Macintosh® OS X, is free introductory version of the professional music notation program Finale. It supports guitar tabulature.
    • Finale ShowcaseTM Don't miss out on the collection of user added Finale notation files (*.MUS) at the Finale Showcase resource site. A place where composers, arrangers, educators, and students can post their files - that is, their music files, from Finale, Finale Guitar, Allegro, PrintMusic, Finale Songwriter, or Finale NotePad. The <tt>*.mus</tt> files are freely available for shared viewing, playing, transposing, and printing. File generated with all theese programs can be played and edited with Finale Notepad. Anyone can browse through the showcase, downloaded an view all files using the FREE Finale NotePad. For guitar there's lots of educational stuff too. Quite a resource!
  • Fronimo - Lute tablature editor - Yahoo! discussion group is reserved to people interested in Fronimo.

How to read Guitar Tabs

Guitarists tabs

Sites hosting guitar tabs