The Grand Slam of How To Read Piano Tabs

Many popular piano songs can be easily performed without having to rely on piano sheet music thanks to these piano tabs (or the common way of calling them, some people call them tablatures). They supply the notes themselves but no particular details on how to perform them. To study piano tabs you have to understand all the note names from the white keys of your piano.

Tabs use letters, so they can be far easier to read than traditional sheet music notes. Tabs can help you learn the melodies super-fast. A serious musician or someone teaching piano should always learn how to read traditional sheet music at the same time, however, to become a complete artist.

It’s great that you’re learning how to read piano tabs, as they are a load of fun to work with. Sure, all the letters, hyphens and arrows may get a little tedious, but the essence of the piano music is still very clearly displayed. Letters are used to notate music when using piano tabs. A lowercase letter of the tab represents a note while a capital letter represents a sharpened note – there are no flats. Since there are no flats, a B-flat would be written as a ‘A’ as A-sharp and B-flat are the same note (also called an enharmonic change).

Details on how to read piano tabs

Although at the first look of the eye, it would seem that tabs were more designed for guitar players, since you have a string of lines extending over the page, they can be easily broken down into comprehensible elements. The first obvious things you’ll see when learning how to read piano tabs are the letters R and L. Simple enough, they represent which hand plays which line. In case we’re dealing here with a rocket scientist or ingenious mathematician, R stands for Right hand and L stands for Left.

Next to those letters, you’ll see a number representing an octave of the 88-note keyboard.

To get a better knowledge of octaves and piano notes, read our article on piano notes and keys. The rest has only to do with the piano notes themselves and the rests in between them. The great violinist Yehudi Menuhin once said that great music is made of music and silence.

The individual notes could not have been any easier to figure out. Lower-case letters represent the white keys of the piano, while upper-case letters indicate you raised or sharpened notes (hence, the black keys)The hyphens (—) represents rests while arrows (>>>) indicate the note is to be held down.

When you go about learning how to read piano tabs on a grand piano or electric keyboard, you’ll discover that rhythm is a little trickier as nobody really wants to count out the exact number of hyphens and arrows. So it’s best to listen to the song many times to get a natural feeling for the rhythm and then rely on the tabs to help you find all the right notes and their respective octaves.

Nab Those Tabs

It’s incredible how much this art of how to read piano tabs is unfolding in various internet communities. People are trading piano tabs in numbers never before thought possible. Our info about each popular song has a special section devoted to helping you find these tabs from various internet sources. This is highly recommended for your favourite songs or for anyone engaging in online piano lessons!

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