How to Read Piano Tabs

How to read Piano Tabs? You will get all the information
you need on how to read & play piano tabs.

Well, it is not really necessary to know about "piano tabs" if you can read & write music in the traditional sheet music style.

Even if you can read music, the other person with whom you want to share your music may not be able to read it… or it may happen that you may not have access to the manuscript on which you want to write.

That is where knowing how to read piano tabs comes handier.

how to read piano tabs

Basically, it is an easier way of sharing your music though it may not be as detailed as a traditional sheet music.

Advantages – How to play Piano Tabs!

Just to recap the benefits of knowing how to read piano tabs over the traditional style of notation.

• Easier to understand. One can pick up things faster from a tab.

• You don’t need access to any special software or manuscript. You can just scribble notes on a piece of paper.

• Easy to write notes, comments.

• If you use notepad to write music, the file size can get very small.

• More flexible. You don’t have to follow fixed standards as in traditional sheet music.

Disadvantages – How to play Piano Tabs!

Are there any disadvantages? Of course there are.

• No substitute for traditional sheet music. If you are serious about music, you will have to learn to sight read.

• Doesn’t have universal acceptance. Connoisseurs will not vouch for it.

• Cannot provide detailed information about a song; though it is good to get a quick overview.

• Can get messy with lots of notes; depends on the writer.

Example – How to read Piano Tabs!

To help you understand how to read piano tabs, let’s take an example. Let’s notate the first line of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. It would look something like this.



So how do you read this?

• The first line indicates the melody to be played and the second line indicates the beats(rhythm) of the song.

• The number at the beginning of the first line indicates the octave where you need to play the song. Here it tells you need to play in the fourth octave.

• The symbol “|” indicates a bar line. The various “|” indicates the different bars/measures in the song. This song has 4 beats in every bar.

• The letters indicate which notes you need to play. All the white keys are denoted by letters in small case. If the letter is in capital, it means you play the sharpened note. All the black keys need to be denoted as sharps – no flats!

• The second line denotes the timing for this song. This song has a 4/4 tempo. The “–” indicates “and” which is normally used while counting. So “1-2-3-4-” is same as “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and”.


I hope the example mentioned above gives you a better understanding of tabs.

You must have observed that knowing how to read tabs is definitely easier than sight reading the traditional way. But learning from a piano tab may not give you a very clear picture.

It will be helpful if you can listen to the song and then try to play it from a tab.

If you are using a computer to write tabs, use notepad; the file size will be much smaller. On a web browser, change your settings to small text size to get a better view of the tabs.

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