Tablature or Tab for short, is a system of notation for the electric
bass, and guitar. This reference will focus on the type of tablature
that is found on the Internet. While Internet tablature has many
things in common with tabs found in magazines and books, there
are many differences as well.
Some tablature will have 5 lines if a 5-string bass is being
used, or 6 or 7 lines for guitar. But all of the examples
in this reference will be for a standard 4 string bass.
The bottom line in tablature will represent the 4th string
of the bass. The 4th string is the thickest, lowest sounding,
and closest to the ceiling if you are holding the bass in
playing position. The top line in tablature will represent
the 1st string. This is the thinnest, highest sounding, and
closest to the floor.
string---- --> thinnest...highest
sounding...closest to the floor
thickest...lowest sounding....closest to the ceiling
is how the electric bass would look if you where holding it in
The numbers in tablature represents the frets where you will
place your left hand fingers.
For example: 3 means the third fret. So you would press down
the string just to the left of the 3rd fret bar. (See picture
above) A 0 (zero) would mean that you play that string open (not
pressing down the string with your left hand).
When you see 2 or more numbers stacked up on top of each other,
you will play the notes at the same time. So in the example below
you would play the 1st string...5th fret, and the 2nd string...5th
fret at the same time.
Tablature does not indicate what finger you should use to play
each note. You will have to make that decision on your own. But
as a general guide, think about this. You have 4 fingers, use
one finger per fret in a 4 fret area. So if you have something
like the example below, use your 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers.
Keep in mind that this is a very general guideline, and not everything
is as clear cut as the above example.
tablature details ahead
Knowing these basics about tablature will help you get started
playing a wealth of songs available on the Internet. But there
are some more specific symbols that you need to be aware of when
on your bass tablature journey. One thing to keep in mind, is
that this system of notation is far from being standardized. I
will try to show you the most common symbols used, but the person
who wrote a particular piece of tablature sometimes uses their
own non standard symbols. They might even use the wrong name for
a particular technique, which can be very confusing. Get a recording
of what ever song you are working on, and use your ear along with
the tab to help.