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Also see:
Piano Tablature on
Wikipedia

What is Tab / Tablature?

Tab / Tablature is:

The instructions, the step by step directions, on how to play a musical composition.
A transcription of a song, often consisting of notes and chords.
Similar to traditional sheet music but simpler and less detailed, tabs have flourished in the internet age due to how easy they are to create and share, enabling anyone anywhere to tab, collab, show and grow their music making talent. Fa sho.



How to Read Piano Tabs

    Last Update: 2 of Jan, 2022
Most tabs on the internet are currently written for guitar in the guitar tab format. Go on, grab a guitar tab now, or compose your own. If you have the guitar tab, we have a few tools for you:

Play a guitar tab as a midi

How to read guitar tabs

Even if you don't play guitar, there's no need to fret, even if you are high strung.
We've got more tools to convert tabs:
->

Convert guitar tabs into piano tabs

Most tabs on TabNabber are currently written for piano (or other instruments) in a standard tab format that allows any of and up to 128 instruments to be played at once. Perhaps you are a proper musician who prefers sheet music notation? That's cool, tabs aren't your forte. Stay sharp. Rest. And say cello to my little friends! (and convert tabs, sheet music and midis into the format of your choosing):
->

Turn guitar tabs into sheet music

->

Turn piano tabs into sheet music

How to read sheet music



Warning: Joining a band or orchestra increases your risk of being exposed to oboe-scenity, sax and violins. The following may be inappropriate for minors.







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 read sheet music   |   How to play piano chords

 

Other Notations 

We get it. Tabs aren't everyone's forte. A universally accepted method to reading and writing music just does not exist, and that's probably a good thing. TabNabber's all natural organic non GMO tab notation is obviously the superior choice, but there hasn't ever been (and likely never will be) one and only one type of notation. The intricacies of the audio world simply cannot be captured in written notation without sacrificing reading comprehension for accuracy. Even if there was a common notation that everyone loved and used some jackhole with a website would probably come along with SongDong.com and ruin it for everyone. wait... what was I talking about again?

Music notation comes in many different forms, here are the most common:

.tab
.txt
.text
  A text based notation we call tab.
You know how to read tabs, right?
.crd
.chord
A tab containing chords (instead of individual notes).
How to play piano chords.
.mid
.midi
  A midi file.  Technically midi files are not music notation, but the notes inside midi files can be viewed in our Midi to Tab Converter.
.nwc NWC is used by "Noteworthy Composer", free music composer software. Scores written in "Noteworthy" have the file extension .nwc. Get "Noteworthy Composer" .
.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 " (made by the same company) allows you to view MUS files.
.ove OVE files are used by the pricey software "Overture" made by Sonic Scores .  Scores written in "Overture" have the file extension .ove.  They also make 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 . PDFs can contain pictures of sheet music or scores. They are nearly impossible to edit and extremely difficult to read, unless you know how to read sheet music.
.ptb PTB files are Power Tab files created with the freely available (at least for now) "Power Tab Editor" music composer software.  Get it .
.jpg .gif
.png
.tif
.bmp
  JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIF, BMP are just a few of the many image file formats in use, typically pictures of sheet music or scores. They are nearly impossible to edit and extremely difficult to read, unless you know how to read sheet music.
.zip   A file compressed using WinZip software , possibly containing sheet music. Use caution when opening these types of files as they can also contain viruses.
.rar   A file compressed using WinRAR software , possibly containing sheet music. Use caution when opening these types of files as they can also contain viruses.

 

 

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