Tab Symbols, Notations and Abbreviations

On the page I published the ultimate table of guitar tab notation and symbols for both graphic tablatures that mostly used in guitar magazines, books, software editors, as well as the ASCII (plain text) tabs that often can be found on web pages.

It is one of the most complete references out there, so you might bookmark this page for future use, rarer notation symbols I've put closer to the bottom.

You'll see that in the ASCII column there's a lot of blank cells, it's because ASCII tabs do not have some equivalent notation and symbols, this presumes that you know the song and can figure out additional playing techniques on your own.

Graphic tablatures often include lines of staff notation along with tab lines, that's why I created diverse examples in order to get you used to different tab formats.

Symbols, Notations and Abbreviations Used in Guitar Tabs
Magazine/software guitar tab examples ASCII tab examples Abbreviations and extra info Whole name
Downstroke Symbol Downstroke Notation Symbols

Downstroke

(down picking)
Upstroke Symbols Upstroke Notation Symbol

Upstroke

(up picking)
Finger Numbering Notation

Finger Numbering

for the fretting hand
Palm Mute Notation character “x” before notes:
1|----------------
2|----------------
3|----------------
4|----------------
5|--x5-x5-x5-x5---
6|----------------
		
and sometimes as PM:
	
PM - - - - - -|
1|----------------
2|----------------
3|----------------
4|----------------
5|---5--5--5--5---
6|----------------
		
P.M.

Palm Mute

Rake Notation

Rake

Arpeggiated Chord Notation  Symbols for Arpeggiated Chord

Arpeggiated Chord

Strumming across the strings in the direction of the arrow.
P I M A fingering for fingerstyle guitar
	
   p i m i a i m i
1|---------0-------
2|-----1-------1---
3|---0---0---0---0-
4|-----------------
5|-3---------------
6|-----------------
		
p i m a

Fingerstyle Guitar

fingering system for the plucking hand:

p - thumb
i - index finger
m - middle finger
a - ring finger
Artificial Harmonic Notation
	
    A.H. or Harm.
1|---3------------
2|----------------
3|----------------
4|----------------
5|----------------
6|----------------
		
A.H.

Artificial Harmonics

Natural Harmonic Notation
	
1|----------------
2|----------------
3|-----<12>-------
4|----------------
5|----------------
6|----------------
		
N.H.

Natural Harmonics

in ASCII tabs it can also be marked as N.H. and sometimes as '+' symbol above the tab.

Tapped Harmonics Notation
	
        TH
1|----------------
2|----------------
3|------12--------
4|----------------
5|----------------
6|----------------
		
T.H.

Tapped Harmonics

Pinched Harmonics Notation
1|----------------
2|--<8>-----------
3|--------<7>-----
4|----------------
5|----------------
6|----------------
		
notes inside triangles for the graphical tabs

Pinched Harmonics

Touch Harmonics Notation TCH

Touch Harmonics

a ringing note is touched above the fret, indicated by the TCH abbreviation.
String Bend Notation
	
1|----------------
2|----------------
3|-----7b9--------
4|----------------
5|----------------
6|----------------
		
BU or b

Bend Up

String Bend Down Notation
	
1|------r2--------
2|----------------
3|----------------
4|----------------
5|----------------
6|----------------
		
BD or r

Bend Down

or

Release

Pre-Bend Notation
	
1|----------------
2|----------------
3|------pb7-------
4|----------------
5|----------------
6|----------------
		
PB

Pre-bend

Vibrato Symbol
	
           ~~~
1|--7v--or-7------
2|----------------
3|----------------
4|----------------
5|----------------
6|----------------
		
v or ~~~

Vibrato

Hammer On Symbol
	
1|----------------
2|----------------
3|-5h7--rarely-5^7
4|----------------
5|----------------
6|----------------
		
H.O.

Hammer On

(legato Legato Symbol)
Pull Off Symbol
	
1|----------------
2|----------------
3|-7p5--rarely-7^5
4|----------------
5|----------------
6|----------------
		
P.O.

Pull Off

(legato Legato Symbol)
glissando symbol
	
1|-10s12--or-10/12
2|----------------
3|----------------
4|----------------
5|----------------
6|----------------
		
s


Slide

(glissando)
  • "/" - slide up
  • "\" - slide down
Tapping Symbols
	
  T
1|----------------
2|----------------
3|-12---or--12t---
4|----------------
5|----------------
6|----------------
		
T, + or Tapping Tab Symbol

Tapping

Fret-hand Muting Symbols
	
1|----------------
2|----------------
3|-2-x-x-2-x-x-2-x
4|-2-x-x-2-x-x-2-x
5|-0-x-x-0-x-x-0-x
6|----------------
		
x

Fret-Hand Muting

Tremolo Notations
	
1|----------------
2|-TP10- or 10tr -
3|----------------
4|----------------
5|----------------
6|----------------
		
sometimes as tr
(confusing with the trill notation right below)
TP

Tremolo Picking

Grace Note tab symbol a smaller digit or a tiny note with a line across

Grace Note

(Acciaccatura)

A very brief note, as though brushed on the way to the master note.

A grace note takes its small amount of duration from the master note.

Trill Symbol
	
1|----------------
2|-----7tr8-------
3|----------------
4|----------------
5|----------------
6|----------------
		
tr

Trill

Whammy Bar Dip Notation
	
1|----------------
2|----------------
3|-----\1/--------
4|----------------
5|----------------
6|----------------
		

Dip

Slightly pushing and releasing a whammy bar.

The number near the symbol means amount of pitch to lower.

Whammy Bar Inverted Dip Notation

Inverted Dip

The number is an amount of pitch to raise.
Whammy Bar Dive Notation

Dive

Diving a whammy bar.
Dive and Return tab notation

Dive and Return

Scoop (vibrato bar trick) symbol

Scoop

Depressing the bar before stroking a note, and releasing it on stroking.
Whammy Bar Bends Notation

Whammy Bar Bends

Whammy Bar Gargle Symbol

Gargle

(with a whammy bar)
Capo Notation Capo

Capo

Fret numbering begins from the capo.
Pick Scrape Tab Symbols

Pick Scrape

Tupleto Notations




3






5





6

Tupleto:



triplet






fiveplet





sixplet
Accented Note Symbol
	
         >
1|----------------
2|-------12-------
3|----------------
4|----------------
5|----------------
6|----------------
		
>

Accented note

Fermata Symbol Fermata Symbol

Fermata

Freely increase note duration.
Dotted Note Notation

Dotted Note

Dot placed to the right of the corresponding note lengthens the note by one-half its value.

examples:

Dotted Note Explanation
Repeat Sign Tab Symbols

Repeat Signs

Beginning of Repetition - tab notation Ending of Repetition - tab notation Notes between these symbols are played repeatedly.
Staccato tab notation

Staccato

Dot over or under the note.

Staccato means playing notes sharply by means of shortening ringing duration of a marked note and leaving a silent gap before the next note,
Staccato Notation
so the rhythm remains unchanged.

Ottava alta tablature symbol 8va

Ottava Alta

Notes on the staff along the dashed line are played one octave higher.

The reason to use 8va is to avoid the staff to look too complex with a lot of highly located notes.

NOTE
This is related only to the staff, the numbers in the tablature remain unchanged and show genuine location on the fingerboard.

Original and containing 8va notation.
Ottava alta tablature symbol
Ottava bassa tablature symbol 8rb

Ottava Bassa

Notes on the staff along the dashed line are played one octave lower than notated.

The tab numbers remain unchanged as with 8va next above.

Original and containing 8rb notation.
Ottava alta tablature symbol

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