Let it be ukulele tabs. Reading ukulele tab has become so popular that many players rarely run across ukulele music written in standard notation. This popularity isn’t undeserved.
Ukulele tab is an amazing tool for musicians who are teaching themselves to play, musicians who prefer to play by ear, and musicians who’d rather enjoy the fun of playing an instrument than take time to study reading sheet music. Still, tab does have its drawbacks as well.
What Is Ukulele Tab?
Tabs are a popular way for players to read and write music. The six lines of a staff written for ukulele tab are a visual map of its strings.
Ukulele tab has four lines because it has four strings. Tab for another string instrument will have a different staff based on the number of strings that instrument has.
Numbers along the staff indicate the frets where ukulele players should place their fingers. These along with a few tab symbols and letters are all players need to know before tackling a song.
Pros of Learning to Read Ukulele Tab
Because this means of transcribing music is so pictorial, it’s quick to learn and easy to sight read. Many musicians are intimidated by sheet music but completely comfortable with tab.
Secondly, because tab is so popular, almost any song a player wants to play is just a few clicks away on the internet. Online tabs may differ slightly when it comes to a few symbols, and they’re not as clean or easy to read as tab in a music book, but they’re free and can certainly be a good starting point for learning a song.
Cons of Learning to Read Ukulele Tab
One of the biggest drawbacks when it comes to figuring out a song written in tab is the lack of a way to demonstrate rhythm. Tab shows ukulele players which chords and notes to play but gives no indication how long each should be aloud to resonate before playing the next.
Tab writers have experimented with ways around this fault. Some leave longer gaps where notes are held out and some use the stems of notes from sheet music on numbers to designate their length, but as of yet, there’s no standard solution. For this reason, most tab readers find it handy to be familiar with a recording of the song they want to learn before picking it out on their own.
Another drawback for beginning players is the fact that tab shows which fret should be pressed, but not by which finger. For this reason, it’s a good idea to learn a core group of popular chords and practice the hand positions first. This way, players will recognize the numbers forming a chord and automatically know where their fingers should go. Some tab is helpful in that chords are listed above the staff to aid in sight reading.
Another drawback stems from the fact that tab is so popular and written by just about everyone. Variations have crept into the notation and may be confusing to a beginner reading tab from several sources across the web. For this reason, some find it helpful to invest a few bucks in a songbook with common tab throughout to get them comfortable with the system.
Though ukulele music written in standard notation addresses these drawbacks, it comes with its own set of limitations. Ultimately, guitar tab is an incredibly useful tool for players. In a matter of minutes, it can open a world of songs from pop to folk or jazz to country.
If a musician’s goal is an education or career in the music field, he’ll need to branch out and learn to read sheet music at some point. If he’s content playing the guitar for his own personal pleasure though, tab may be all he’ll ever need. To get started, here are pointers for learning to read ukulele tab and notes on the tab symbols that musicians will encounter.
Let it be Ukulele Tabs – Reading Ukulele Tabs
Without being deprecatory, it could be said that tab is to ukulele what paint-by-numbers is to art. Traditional musical notation takes time and usually tuition to master, and remains a mystery to most people who pick up a guitar for fun.
Tab, or more properly tablature, is a wonderful invention or concept that allows the beginner with no understanding of traditional musical notation, to play even complicated melodies accurately, to write down and pass on their own versions and compositions to others, and hence to learn melody lines of songs that otherwise may have been denied them.
The Main Difference between Traditional Musical Notation and Tab
The traditional musical staff has 5 lines which represent particular notes (EGBDF) in the scale. The spaces in between the lines also represent other notes (FACE). There is a superficial and perhaps confusing similarity with tab, in that tab also uses lines across the page.
However, tab is designed specifically for the ukulele and there are always four lines, which actually represent the four strings of the ukulele. The bottom line of tab is the deepest string of the guitar, E, which is, in act, the string closest to the player’s face. The reverse is true. The top line of tab is the skinny high E string of the ukulele closest to the player’s knees.
The Notes on the Lines in Tab
In traditional musical notation, the black dots on the staff indicates both the pitch of the note (by where it is placed) and the length of the note by the particular notation used – minim, crochet quaver, etc. Thus, to interpret the music, the musician needs to know what time value is given to particular symbols as well as the note the line or space represents … and, of course, then needs to know where to find that note on the instrument.
Tab doesn’t use a musical symbol on the line. Instead, it uses a number. The number refers to the fret on the particular string (identified by the line the number sits on). The 0 on a line means “play the open string”.
Thus, the tab music relates specifically to where the note is found on the ukulele. What the tab number doesn’t do, however, is give any idea of the length of time the note is held for. It might indicate speed by cramming a lot of fast notes together and spacing out long notes.
Tab can use bar lines to divide up the music just as traditional notation does. From this, the musician has an idea of the number of beats (or notes) between the bar lines, by counting 1,2,3,4 or 1,2,3 if the music is in waltz time.
The ukulele player finds the first note on his or her instrument, then each note in sequence. Tab does not give any indication of which fingers to use. The player must choose the most ‘sensible’ fingering to suit the sequence of notes.
When two numbers are directly in line, one above the other, they are played together as one. This can be true for up to four notes piled one on top of the other. This represents a chord, and may well be one the player is quite familiar with.
Basically, any piece of music, no matter how difficult, can be rendered in tab and becomes accessible to any player who doesn’t “read music”. Will ordinary sheet music become obsolete and the traditional system fall into disuse?
Hardly! Let it be ukulele tabs. Tab has one great limitation. It is designed specifically for ukulele, because it represents the ukulele fingerboard. It would only be with the greatest difficulty that a pianist or trombonist could use it to play a piece. Traditional music works for every instrument.