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March 09, 2010

How To Read Tabs (Part 2)

Now for the special symbols used in tabs:

p = pull off
      h = hammer on
      \ = slide (downward)
      b = string bend
      / = slide (upward)
      ~ = string vibrato
let's explain these symbols with a tab:

e     |------------------------------------------------|
B     |------------------------------------------------|
G     |-----------------------9-11-11h12 12p11--9h11---|
D     |-9-9h11--11p9--9-11/12--------------------------|
A     |------------------------------------------------|
E     |------------------------------------------------|

first, D string at 9th fret is played. Then we notice 9h11. This means you put your finger at 9th fret, pick the string than hammer the 11th fret. Hammering means you pick a string with your finger at one fret, then without picking that string again you use your fretting hand to hit another fret (in this case 11th fret) hard enough to creat sound. Remember, you pick once but get 2 notes when hammering. Next we see 11p9. This means pick the string at 11th fret then 'pull-off' that finger while another finger is already placed at 9th fret. It's like pincing the string at 11th fret with the fretting hand while you have a finger placed at 9th fret. The effect is like reverse hammering. 2 notes are played with one picking of the strumming hand. Hammering and pull-offs are often done in a row like 9h11p9. It's playing the 9th fret, then hammering the 11th fret and then pulling-off to 9th fret again. All with just one pick of the strumming hand. Sound difficult? You will learn it if you practice. It's not that hard.
As we move along the tab, we notice 11/12. This means you hold down 11th fret and pick the string, then without releasing the pressure, you 'slide' the finger to 12th fret. Again, you pick once but get two notes when sliding.
\ is just sliding in the other direction. So 5\3 means slide from 5th fret to 3rd fret, picking onle once (at 5th fret).
~ means just vibrating the finger when you hold down a string at a fret. It gives a nice effect.
b means bending the string at a fret to give the sound of another fret. For a beginner I would suggest, avoid string bending for now, and don't try to play the tabs that has a lot of string bending.
My final advice for the beginner who is now ready to read his first tab: start with a simple tab like 'Come as you Are' - Nirvana or 'Hurt' - Johnny Cash.


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