In the last post, we had learnt about the six lines representing guitar strings and numbers and their purpose. If you haven’t read the last post – ‘How to read guitar tabs. Part I‘, you can go to the post by clicking the link. In this post, we will learn about the symbols used in guitar tabs and what they mean. You will soon be able to read guitar tabs like a pro.
There are a few symbols used in guitar tabs in order to assist in writing down actions to be made when playing from tabs. The symbols are listed below with a video demonstration in the end.
e | ——5~—————-
b | ————5~~~——-
g | ————————-
‘v’ or ‘~’ mean vibrato. Vibratos mean consistent to and fro bending of the string to produce a vibrating sound. The number of vibrations depend on the number of times the symbol is written.
If you read the guitar tabs in the above example, you can see the different symbols used to represent a vibrato. You will see either a ‘~’ or a ‘v’. The numbers are the notes to be played on that respective strings.
When you see either of the symbols, you just press that particular string on the shown note(denoted by the number before the symbol) with your left hand and pick it. And then, without leaving the note with your left hand finger and while the sound still rings, you vibrate that string with your left hand finger. Remember that you should vibrate as many times as the number of times the symbol is shown.
e | ——————8-h-9———————————-
h means hammer-on. Hammer-on means pressing down on a note without picking it. In the above example, you pick the 8th fret on the string. Then without leaving your finger from the 8th fret, and while the sound still rings, you press the 9th fret on the same string with your other finger without picking it with your right hand. (Picking means playing the notes on strings with your right hand to produce sound.).
e | ——————-9-p-7——————————-
p means pull-off. Pull offs are opposites of hammer-ons. In the above example, you hold both 9th and 7th frets of the string together. Then you pick on the 9th fret of the string and while the sound still rings, you release your finger on the 9th fret while still holding the finger on the 7th fret to produce the pull off sound.
Hammer-ons / Pull-offs.
e | ———————7-h-9-p-7————————————————–
When you read guitar tabs, you will often encounter a combination of hammer-ons and pull-offs. In the above example, you simply hold the note on the 7th fret of the string and pick it and while the sound still rings, press on the 9th fret of the same string with your other finger without leaving the finger on the 7th fret. And then while the sound still rings, you release the finger from the 9th fret while still holding the finger on the 7th fret.
(i) e | —————-7/9——————————————————-
(ii) e | —————-9\7——————————————————-
(iii) e | —————-7-s-9————9-s-7———————————–
‘/’ , ‘\’ or ‘s’ mean to slide up or down the string. ‘/’ means to slide up, ‘\’ means to slide down and ‘s’ means to slide either up or down the frets. In the above :
- example number (i), you hold the 7th fret of the string and pick it. Then you slide your finger up to the 9th fret of the same string.
- In example (ii), you hold the 9th fret of the string and pick it. Then you slide your finger down to the 7th fret of the same string.
- In example (iii), you pick the 7th fret and slide up to 9th fret and then you pick on the 9th fret and slide down to the 7th fret of the same string. It is the same as (i) and (ii). The only difference is that instead of symbols ‘/’ and ‘\’, the same symbol ‘s’ is used for both sliding up and sliding down.
Bends and release.
(i) e | ——-7-b-9——————————
(ii) e | ——–7-^-9—————————–
(iii) e | ——–7-(9)—————————–
(iv) e | ——–7-b-9-r-7————————-
b or ^ or () mean bend.
Bends mean to bend a string on a fret until it sounds like a different note of a different fret. In the above :
- examples (i), (ii) and (iii), you pick the string on the 7th fret and then bend the string until it sounds like the note on the 9th fret of the same string. Different symbols are used for the same purpose.
- Symbol ‘r’ means release. In example (iv), you first pick the string on 7th fret and then bend it till it sounds like the note on the 9th fret of the same string. Then you release the bend and bring it back to it s original note or sound. Sometimes people just use symbol ‘b’ for release also.
Thats it. How simple to read guitar tabs. Isn’t it? Enjoy reading tabs and playing along to your favourite songs. You can find a huge collection of tabs at www.ultimate-guitar.com
Hope you enjoyed the lesson. You may also want to see our “How to tune your guitar by ear” post.