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Tablatures

Tablature is an old notation system created to write the music composed for the vihuela. This system has been popular until eighteenth century, many pieces are available only in that notation system, it is still used today. In this system, each line of the staff represents a string of the instrument. In Spanish and Italian tablatures, the top string is represented by the bottom line, while in French and English tablatures, the reverse would be the case. Here are the six first measures of N. Coste's Etude no.11 written in French guitar tablature.
 
 

                              Etude no.11 op.38                                 


                                                                  Napoléon Coste



                                                                
E||---------------|--10----5p-4h-7--5\---|--3----7p-6h-8--7----|
B||---------------|--7-------------------|--0------------------|
G||---------------|--7-------------------|--0------------------|
D||--5------------|--0-------------------|--2------------------|
A||---------------|----------------------|---------------------|
E||---------------|----------------------|---------------------|


                                                                    
--7------------------|--------8p-7h-10--8----|-------7p-6h-8--7----|
--7----7p-6h-8--7----|-----------------------|--3------------------|
--8------------------|--9--------------------|--4------------------|
---------------------|--10-------------------|--5------------------|
---------------------|--10-------------------|--5------------------|
--7------------------|--8--------------------|---------------------|


                                                                    
This figure clearly shows numbers on the lines. These numbers indicate the fret to be stopped on that 
particular string. A zero means to play an open string, a X to mute that string.
How to read tablature
Legend:
0: open string
1...x: number of the fret to be played on a particular string
p: pull of
h: hammer on
\: slide down; /:slide up
Executing the tablature
Each vertical dotted line represents the end of a measure. Each horizontal line = a string on the guitar,
here, a French tablature. On the first measure, stop the 5th fret on the D string. On the second
measure, play a chord on the E B G D strings at the 10th, 7th ,7th and open D string respectively.  
Pluck the first string on the 5th fret and with left hand only, pull out to the 4th fret. Then hammer on,
with left hand,to the 7th fret. Then, slide down from the 5th fret to the 3rd one of the first 
string on the following chord of the third measure while playing that chord. Play the 7th fret of the 1st 
string, pull off to the 6th fret and hammer on to the 8th fret; play the 7th fret of the first string.
Second row is read similar.

Explanation of effects
HAMMER ONS 
 
E----------------------------------------------------------------
B----------------------------------------------------------------
G----------------------------------------------------------------
D----------------------------------------------------------------
A---------5h7----------------------------------------------------
E---0------------------------------------------------------------

which would means to play the open E, then hit the A string at the 
5th fret and hammer on to the 7th fret.
PULL OFFS 
 
E----3p0--------------------------------------------------------
B---------3p0---------------------------------------------------
G--------------2p0----------------------------------------------
D-------------------2-------------------------------------------
A---------------------------------------------------------------
E---------------------------------------------------------------
 
 
Here we have a descending notes using pull-offs to the open
strings. For each pull off you only pick the first note of the pair
with the right hand - so in this example you would pick all the
notes on the 3rd and 2nd frets, and the open strings would be
sounded by pulling off.
 
 
Because you give the string an extra bit of energy when you hammer on
and pull off, you only need to hit the first note with the picking hand.
You could even have a long string of hammer-ons and pull-offs like
this :
 
 
E----------------------------------------------------------------
B----------------------------------------------------------------
G---2h4p2h4p2h4p2h4p2h4p2----------------------------------------
D----------------------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------------
E----------------------------------------------------------------
 
In this case you only pick the first note.
 
 
BENDS     
 
 
When bends are involved you need to know how much to bend the note
up. This is indicated by writing a number after the 'b'.
For example, if you see this :
 
E----------------------------------------------------------------
B------7b9-------------------------------------------------------
G----------------------------------------------------------------
D----------------------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------------
E----------------------------------------------------------------
 
 
it means strike the B string at the 7th fret, then bend the note up 
two semitones (one whole step) so that it sounds the same pitch as
a note fretted at the 9th fret would do.
 
 
SLIDES 
 
 
The most common symbols used for slides are / for a slide
up and \ for a slide down.
 
You might also see 's' used to mean slide.
 
 
 
E----------------------------------------------------------------
B------7/9-------------------------------------------------------
G----------------------------------------------------------------
D----------------------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------------
E----------------------------------------------------------------
 
is clearly a slide *up* from 7th to 9th fret. However you might 
also see things like these:
 
 
  
You could have a whole series of slides running together, like this
 
E----------------------------------------------------------------
B------7/9/11\9\7\6\7--------------------------------------------
G----------------------------------------------------------------
D----------------------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------------
E----------------------------------------------------------------
 
which would mean you only strike the first note using
the sustain to produce the other notes.
What tablature will not tell you 
  
Tablature will (usually) not tell you the note lengths of the notes - so in most 
cases you will *have* to listen to the song yourself, with the tablature in front
of you to work out the ryhthm of the notes. However, some tablature editors, 
like Guitar Pro, will show the notes lenght exactly as in standard notation. 
Tablature will not tell you which fingers you use to fret which note.
Tablatures (Russian translation)by Piter Swenson
Polish translation by Vicky Rotarova 

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