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Piano Tablature on

How to Read Piano Tabs

    Last Update: 4 of March, 2023
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".


      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.------|
  - 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.     
  ^ ^

In the example above, the 1:4 means track/instrument 1, octave 4. This can also be written as:

The 'P' signifies a 'Piano' track. Here are some other instrument options:

'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:

Setting Volume:

Volume of any given track can be specified like so:

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:


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

This: (standard sheet music notation)  
    is equivalent to:    
(piano tab notation)  
    is equivalent to:    
[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 and ruin it for everyone. wait... what was I talking about again?

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

  A text based notation we call tab.
You know how to read tabs, right?
A tab containing chords (instead of individual notes).
How to play piano chords.
  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
  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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Comments / Corrections (136):  

russ jarman
(3 years ago)
I like it so far. Thank you
(5 years ago)
La mejor tablatura para piano y para cualquier instrumento es la notación que exponemos en donde se da un número del 1 al 12 a cada nota de la escala cromática, así como a cada tecla de cada octava del piano. Fué Medalla de Oro en el Salón de Inventos e Innovaciones de Pittsburgh (EE.UU.) en 2014
(5 years ago)
A hack, says all the people who are hopelessly addicted to sheet to the point that they can't play Mary Had a Little Lamb without it.

I can interpret for myself; I hear music, not just play it. Tab is fine. We can hear the opinions of the masters and draw our own conclusions from tab. Assuming we have ears, which many "musicians" do not, in the least, have. Obviously.

300 hundred years ago, without constant access to any song any time in my pocket, perhaps sheet would be necessary. Tab and a general idea is all that's needed these days.

(6 years ago)
Thanks for the feedback, @Anonymous!

I don't agree with your observations but I sincerely appreciate your honesty. Most people don't have the guts to say what they really think, and I actually want to hear negative feedback, as Elon Musk once stated - most people don't solicit it and it's incredibly helpful.

Having said that, here's some helpful feedback for you:

I think you think notation is easier than tabs because you already know how to read notation (an ability that's likely taken you years to learn). Heck it's taken us years to create a sheet music guide for dum dums, you should check it out:

Any sane person that's memorized EGBDF, FACE, GBDFA, and ACEG knows that sheet music notation is incredibly complicated, which is why the simplified form of it (tablature) exists. The ABC music notation you claim is "way better" is essentially the same thing as piano tab, amirite? From what I've seen I'd say ABC is MORE complicated.

But if you really are a jazz player, why do you even need any notation since jazz/improvisation is just random notes?

(6 years ago)
I had never heard of "piano tab" until today when I found this. I gave it a fair read and here is my verdict: Why not just learn to read actual music? This is more complicated, not as concise, and way more visually confusing. Personally I think ABC, (which you don't mention at all) is way better, because it's instrument neutral. Complex timing would be very cumbersome in this system; it fails to visually depict the spatial relationship between the keys, and having no flats is theoretically incorrect and would drive a jazz player nuts because we use harmonic and scalar relationships to improvise on and this totally muddies that water.   The "advantage" is that it's completely text-based, hence portable for both computer and human readability, but we have plenty of software nowadays that makes that a non starter. Standard music notation has evolved over centuries, and while it is far from perfect, it covers a lot more possibilities than this hack. Sorry mate, this is cockamamie, and I think any serious pianist would agree with me.

(6 years ago)
@Hlnwlz22 what do you meam, there isn't an L on your instrument or on the tab you're looking at? Not every tab will specify the L/R (for Left and Right hand), but in general you can figure it out pretty easily because the lower notes are almost always played with the left hand.
(6 years ago)
I don't know when to play my left hand because there is no L or .

(7 years ago)
@SexPistol happy to try to help, if you can give us some more what instrument do you play, how long have you been playing and what's your bank account #?
(7 years ago)
i can't understand this... (slow learner)
(7 years ago)
yeah buddy this was awesome

(7 years ago)
@calvin Jackson - By tap music do you mean tap dancing music? Never heard of it, whats it sound like?
calvin jackson
(8 years ago)
Is there a book or sheet for practicing tap music. beginners piano books have practice pages...

(8 years ago)
@jazz - playing several letters/notes at the same time is seen when the notes are lined up vertically, for instance:

This means play both the c and the e notes at the same time.

You mentioned the blue arrows don't play anything, can you check to see if this link plays anything?

That's a link to a standard midi file which is playable in most media/audio players such as windows media player, quicktime, winamp, etc.

Hope that helps, do let us know!
(8 years ago)
couldnt find how to play 2 3, or 4 letters together. I get the tab method and I love...just need this info. I didnt see it on how to read tab. blue arrow doesnt play any thing also. the coda dont seem to line up with the notes on so many utube videos. I been trying by best to get this song down from watching videos then write the note down, but cant get it. tab method would make this so

(8 years ago)
@calvinJackson can you provide more details? where are you searching from and what are you searching for?
(8 years ago)
I found CODA song (sammys song) on your site in tab form, came to the library so I can print it but cant find it again. you tell me to search but it doesnt link me back to your site.

(10 years 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


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------------------|
(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------------------|
(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.

(10 years ago)
learning piano is a good habit .

(11 years ago)
Sure, how can we help piano gurl?
Piano gurl
(11 years 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)
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