How to read ukulele tab ?

How to read a tablature of ukulele?

You want to play much more than chords? Thanks to the tab of ukulele, you will as well manage to play melodies, arpeggios or soloes! It is a notation easier than the score and very used by the guitarists and the players of ukulele. I will explain you everything!

What is a tab ?

A tab, it is four lines which represent four ropes of your ukulele. Concretely, the line of bottom(stocking) is going to represent your 4th rope (the one who is towards the ceiling) and the highest line will represent your very first rope (the one who is near your legs). And there, it is the drama! You say yourselves ” why everything is inverted? It is not absolutely logical that the tablature is inverted with regard to(compared with) ropes “. I reassure you, it is perfectly normal is logical. You will need however one young time(weather) of adaptation to manage to make this mental gymnastics.

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Then, you will find numbers on these ropes, as well as effects and rhythmic symbols! It is the notation which will allow you to play without knowing notes. It’s at present used by more than 87 % of the guitarists, players of ukulele or bass players.

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The numbers on the lines of the ukulele

The handle of the ukulele contains compartments which are bounded by freights ( the small metal bars). So, you find the compartment one, two, three there and so on. You can press on only one rope, for example in the second or third compartment. You can also press on several ropes in different compartments.

So, a number finds itself on a line of your tablature. It wants to means ” I have to play this rope, by pressing on the compartment which is represented by this number “. Simple is this step?

If there is a single number, I have to play only the corresponding rope only once by maintaining my pressure on the compartment.
If there are several numbers, I am in the presence of an agreement of ukulele. It will be necessary to me to place my fingers on the corresponding compartments and so to attack all the concerned ropes. If there is no number on a present line in an agreement, it will thus be necessary to avoid playing this rope.
To give you an example, here is an agreement of ukulele in tablature:

– 3–

– 0–

– 0–

You have to play only the ropes which contain the numbers 3, 0 and 0. You naturally have to play them at the same time.

But what 0 on a tablature?

It is an excellent question. In the previous example, you have to place a finger in 3rd compartment on your first rope. Then, you meet twice 0. 0 on a tablature of ukulele represent the open string. That is you do not need to press on a compartment, you have to play the rope such as it is!

Is there a mark to help me to count compartments?

Yes, you have certainly white points on the side of the handle of your ukulele or on the sideline the handle. You can easily identify the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 10th compartment for example. Use these marks to use and memorize easily the placement of your fingers.

The notations of the effects and techniques on a tablature

Naturally, you do not make that to move you of compartment in compartment on an ukulele. You can make some effects with your fingers as for example make vibrate the rope, slide of a compartment in the other or even knock on your ukulele to create an effect of percussion. So, here is a fast lexicon of the effects which you can meet. Naturally, we learn you quite from A to Z in our tutoriels of ukulele for beginning.


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  • The vibrato, noted V or represented by a small wave, consists in making vibrate your rope by making wave your finger on the rope from top to bottom.
  • The bend, noted B or represented by an arrow, indicates you that it is necessary to pull downwards the rope or downward. He(it) is very used in the soloes of guitar or ukulele.
  • The hammer-on, noted H or with a small connection between two notes, consists in playing the first note and in coming to create the following one by catapulting one of your fingers on the following compartment.
  • The pullover off, noted P or with a small connection, is the perfect opposite of the hammer-on.
  • The slide, noted S or “/”, indicate that it is necessary to play the first note(mark), to maintain the pressure and to slide up to the following note.
  • The effects of percussion or tchac noted “X”. It is also the famous “dead notes” which allow to give a percussif effect to your play of ukulele.

It is the fast glossary of the effects and techniques that you can apply on one ukulele. However, There are other effects or techniques as tapping, sweeping and so on.

The rhythm on the tablatures

You can find rhythmic symbols on tablatures of ukulele. I learn you to read them perfectly in our training for beginner in ukulele. Know that if you made some music previously, you are well intended(heard) to find the famous blacks, round and white. They will be placed above either below every note or agreement.

For that purpose, nothing changes, a measure in 4 times stays a measure in 4 times, with a round which costs 4 times, a white 2 times, a black 1 time and a tongs for the moité of time. It is imperative to be able to count the times. Or, you will not progress rather quickly and will lose a great deal of time in your learning. Worse than that, you cannot play in a group.

Do I all the same have to learn music sheet ?

You must absolutely know the name of notes to know how to tune your ukulele. However, you have no obligation to read a score, only the rhythm. I am a professional of the ukulele and it has never slowed down me in my compositions or in the practice of my instrument. It’s more practical to learn to play by using the tablature of ukulele that to put out to read notes. The learning is faster and the theory can come in complement afterward.

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