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Also see:
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Wikipedia

What IS a Tab???

"Tab" or "tablature" is a method of writing down (or transcribing) notes and chords in music.  Tabs, unlike standard musical notation, do not use symbols (ie: ) to represent notes. 

Most tabs are easier to read - but not nearly as detailed - as traditional sheet music.  Tabs enable both beginners and experienced musicians alike to learn, share, and expand their music making talents.

Most of today's tabs are written for guitar. Don't play guitar? Don't do tabs? No problem. Say hello to our little converter friends:
-> Turn Guitar Tabs into Piano Tabs
-> Turn Guitar Tabs into Sheet Music
-> Turn Piano Tabs into Sheet Music
Turn Tabs into Midis (play and listen to your tabs!)
 
Play guitar or prefer sheet music? Then get outta here:
How to read guitar tabs
How to read sheet music
 

How to Read Tabs

 Last Update: 19 of Sept, 2012


A 49 key keyboard.  "c4" means note "c" on octave "4" which is the "c" key in the middle of this keyboard.  Notice how nicely I have labeled the notes / octaves. View more keyboard layouts.

 

Reading tabs (simple):

Here's a simple example of an individual note piano tab... the scale of "f".

  4|---------c-d-e-f-|
  3|-f-g-a-A---------|
      Play! <- Click the play button to hear it!

 

Here's another example... the scale of "f" played on two octaves:

piano tab

Tabs are read from left to right (notes above and below each other are played simultaneously).

  - The Numbers (3, 2, 2 and 1 in the above example) indicate the octave.  All octaves start on the "c" key.  Octave 4 is in the middle of the keyboard.  
  - Lowercase Letters (a,b,c,d,e,f,g) indicate the note names as natural (the white keys)
  - Uppercase Letters (A,C,D,F,G) indicate the note names as sharp, ie: A#,C#,D#,F#,G# (the black keys).  Adding the sharp symbol after the note is also acceptable, but using the upper/lower case method is recommended because it saves space.  Note: For simplicity (and to not confuse "b" notes with "flats", "sharps" are used exclusively instead of "flats". eg: The note, "B flat", is represented by its equivalent, "A#" or just "A".
  - The "|" symbols  separate measures/sections of notes
  - The "-" symbols are used for spacing between notes.  These dashes indicate timing - the more dashes there are, the longer the time between the notes.
 

Reading Piano Tabs (advanced options):

Piano tabs can describe individual notes (as seen above) or chord names or both.  Here's a more advanced example of a piano tab that describes both:

       [D]      [Gm]
  R 3|--a-d-F-|--g-d-g-|--------|
  L 2|F>d>>>>>|g>d>>>>>|F.------|x2
  L 1|F>F>>>>>|g>A>>>>>|F.------|
      Play!
  - Letters on the top line (the [D] and the [Gm]) indicate chord names
  - "R" indicates the notes on the line are played on the Right hand
  - "L" indicates the notes on the line are played on the Left hand
  - The ">" symbols  indicate the note should be held/sustained
  - The "." symbols  indicate the note should be cut (for a staccato effect)
  - The "x2" indicates the preceding staff lines (everything to the left) should be repeated the number of times indicated (2 in this example)

Multiple Instrument / Track Tabs:

Multi-track tabs allow you to compose an entire symphony with multiple instruments / tracks in your songs. Here's an example of a simple multi-track tab:

  The first number or letter shown is the track/instrument.   
  ^ The second number shown is the octave.     
  ^ ^
  1:4|c-e-c-e---
      Play!
In the example above, the 1:4 means track/instrument 1, octave 4. This can also be written as:
  P:4|c-e-c-e---
      Play!
The 'P' signifies a 'Piano' track. Here are some other instrument options:
  F:5|c--------
  G:4|--e-e-e--
  D:3|d-d-D-d--
      Play!
'F' is Flute, 'G' is Guitar, and 'D' is Drum (different notes/pitches of the drum track play different percussion sounds). But if you specify the instrument using the instrument numbers, there are 128 different instruments you can specify (1-128). For example:
 7:4|-----------c-e-------------------c-e-------
18:4|-------------------g>>>>>>>>>--------------
63:4|-----------------------------c-e-----------
 D:4|--dded--dded--dded--dded--dded--dded--dded-
     Play!

Setting Volume:

Volume of any given track can be specified like so:
2:Volume=5
The "2" in this example is the track number, and the "5" is the desired volume. Volume levels range from a low (quietest) of 1 to a high of 9. This also works if you specify your tracks using letters, including the common right hand/left hand notation:
R:Volume=9
L:Volume=8

R:5|-a-a-a-a-
L:2|a--------
This will play the right hand slightly louder than the left hand.

Let us know if you have an idea for
improvement to the tab notation!

 
Tabs for the sheet music fans:

Sheet music to
tab conversion
chart

This: (standard sheet music notation)  
    is equivalent to:    
This:
4|b>>>---------
4|g>>>---------
4|e>>>----D>>>-
3|----b>>>-----
(piano tab notation)  
    is equivalent to:    
This:
[Em]   3b   4D# 
(piano chord notation)  

 

How to play piano chords

 

File Types 

What is a file type? 

As there isn't a commonly accepted way of transcribing and reading music on the web, tabs, sheet music and scores come in many different file types.  Here are the most common file types:

.tab
.txt
.text
  A text tab.  See how to read tabs for more.
.crd
.chord
A text tab containing chords instead of individual notes.
.mid
.midi
  A midi file.  Technically midi files are not tabs or sheet music, but the notes inside midi files can be viewed in our Midi to Piano Tab Converter and by some music composition software (such as "Finale ").
.nwc NWC is used by "Noteworthy Composer", free music composer software. Scores written in "Noteworthy" have the file extension .nwc. You can download "Noteworthy Composer" for free! .
.mus   MUS files or "Coda Notation Files" are used by "Finale" music composer software.  Scores written in "Finale " have the file extension .mus. The "Finale" software is not free, but another software called "Notepad " is (made by the same company) which allows you to view MUS files.
.ove OVE files are used by the software "Overture" made by GenieSoft .  Scores writtin in "Overture" have the file extension .ove.  "Overture" is not free software, but there is a slimmed down version of the product called "Score Writer" which is slightly more affordable.
.pdf   PDF files are used by "Adobe Acrobat" or "Adobe Acrobat Reader" software made by Adobe Adobe .  These files are not easily editable because typically they have been scanned from a paper version of a music score.
.ptb PTB files are Power Tab files created with the freely available (at least for now) "Power Tab Editor" music composer software.  Get it here .
.jpg .gif
.png
.tif
.bmp
  JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIF, BMP are just a few of the many image file types that exist today.  The files are not easily editable (like Adobe Acrobat) because typically they have been scanned from a paper version of a music score.  
.zip   A file compressed using WinZip software , usually containing sheet music.
.rar   A file compressed using WinRAR software , usually containing sheet music.

 

 

Above Mentioned Topics:

 


Comments / Corrections (120):  

Ulshman


Tabber
[Tabber]
(8 months ago)
I have to say. I've always thought about a notation system similar to that of guitar tablature, but never thought it would catch on.

When I 1st started out all I had to go on was the relation between piano and guitar
That system looked something like this.
Strings = Down
Frets = across

0--1--|--2--|--3--|--4--|--5--|
E--F--|--F#-|--G--|--G#-|--A--|
B--C--|--C#-|--D--|--D#-|--E--|
G--G#-|--A--|--A#-|--B--|--C--|
D--D#-|--E--|--F--|--F#-|--G--|
A--A#-|--B--|--C--|--C#-|--D--|
E--F--|--F#-|--G--|--G#-|--A--|

Whenever I'd read guitar tabs
I'd do math to convert it

ex: 6 on the 12th fret is 5 on the 7th fret and also 4 on the 2nd fret
and so on (i think you get the picture)

Basically My version of tablature looked almost
the same as guitar tab
only nothing went over the 5th fret

Ex: Enter Sandman went from looking like this

Rhythm Fill 2:
==============
   E5                        G5 E5 G5 E5 F#5 G5 F#5
          sl       V          PM------------------|
1|-------------------------------------------------------------------|
2|-------------------------------------------------------------------|
3|-------------------------------------------------------------------|
4|-------------------------------------------------------------------|
5|--2---2----/7--------------5-------5-------4---5---4---------------|
6|--0---0---------6---5------3---0---3---0---2---3---2---------------|
    |-------3x--------|
(Repeat Rhythm Fill 2 once)

To looking like this

Rhythm Fill 2:
==============
   E5                        G5 E5 G5 E5 F#5 G5 F#5
          sl       V          PM------------------|
1|-------------------------------------------------------------------|
2|-------------------------------------------------------------------|
3|-------------------------------------------------------------------|
4|------------2--------------0-------------------0-------------------|
5|--2---2---------1---0--------------4-------4-------4---------------|
6|--0---0--------------------3---0---2---0---2---3---2---------------|
    |-------3x--------|
(Repeat Rhythm Fill 2 once)

Ever since then, That was how I knew Music
Never read sheet music. (Okay I tried once with "November Rain")
I always get the weirdest looks from people when I tell them
"I don't read sheet music, I read Tablature"

But this takes me back to those days (many years ago) when I first started out.

ableton
[Guest]
(9 months ago)
learning piano is a good habit .

http://resoundsound.com
Belliza


Admin
[Admin]
(11 months ago)
Sure, how can we help piano gurl?
Piano gurl
[Guest]
(11 months ago)
I need help can the owner of his help me? Really...I need it for school plzz help... Thxs plz reply sap( soon as possible)
Belliza


Admin
[Admin]
(12 months ago)
@Learning: Thanks for the feedback! The goal of this site isn't to save you a buck from purchasing a licensed copy of sheet music, so that's good that we weren't able to help you there! If you would like to view the best songs we have to offer, we recommend what's featured:
http://tabnabber.com/featured

Or the highest rated:
http://tabnabber.com/highestRated

@10Shades: We can! Please see our "How to Read Sheet Music Page":
http://tabnabber.com/notes/how_to_read...
ami
[Guest]
(1 year ago)
Thank you! It's an very easy way to learn playing keyboard^^
10Shades
[Guest]
(1 year ago)
so can you show a demonstate of how to read the sheet notes on the piano
Learning
[Guest]
(1 year ago)
This theory is great and says something about "Tabs" but none of the websites that have tabs/chords say anything about how the music is played. It is completely ridiculous and seems to have no order to it. This article has been the most helpful in learning "Tabs/Chords" but when looking side by side at these sites that show Popular songs and "How to Play" them, it makes no sense. I went to I song that I currently know how to play -- It makes no sense at all.

Basically, as helpful and broken down as this article is, these Tab/Chord sites still do not teach these popular songs. I thought I could save a buck instead of buying sheet music -- I was dead wrong. Basically it gives you chord after chord which might be the right notes, but definately do not teach the song. If you went by these "Tabs" you would never learn a song.

I would suggest taking a look at as many tab sites as possible and you will see how ridiculous these things are. So dead wrong and horrible with timing. It might be free but you do not learn a song in minutes. Sheet music has never made me want to scream like these crap sites have.

((Then again, if they all went by your example -- it would all be perfect. Why does this make sense and the other ones make none at all?))
BA


Admin
[Admin]
(1 year ago)
@Josh - we'd need to know the type of keyboard to know exactly, but your theory sounds good. Playing the exact octave a tab specifies isn't all that important anyway, if it sounds too high just move down an octave. A lot of keyboards have an "octave adjust" option to expand the range also.
Josh
[Guest]
(1 year ago)
We bought a cheap keyboard w/ 44 keys. Should I assume that the layout is similar to the 49 key piano, but with the first 5 keys on the left removed? I'm trying to get my 9yr old to read tabs but we don't know where the octaves begin and end. Thanks!
...More Comments...
 
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