How to Read Ukulele Tabs

Ukulele Tab is an easy way to read and write strings instruments tunes. It’s simple and easy. So, how to read ukulele tabs? Read our complete guide and learn it all. 

About Tabs: 

Ukulele tabs show strings signal to play the right strings and taping the right frets. Users have to learn only 3 things to play it easily. 

  1. Tab line: The tabs come with four horizontal rows. The upper line indicates the down strings on the ukulele. So, you have to play ukulele strings opposite the tabs.
  1. Number: The number on the tabs shows the fret number to play.
  1. Symbols: The symbols on a ukulele tab indicate tapping and plucking techniques. 

Easy way to read ukulele tabs:

To read ukulele tabs there are 3 things to concentrate on. 

Firstly, the rows. You have to pluck the opposite strings that show in the tab. For example, 1st on tabs indicate 4th strings, 2nd on tabs indicate 3rd strings, 3rd on tabs indicate 2nd strings and the 4th on the tab indicates 1st strings on a ukulele. 

After pointing the exact strings to play you have to find out which frets to tap. The number on the tab’s line shows the position of the fret. For example, if the tab indicates to play 4th strings and there is a number 10; you have to tap the 10th fret on the 4th string then pluck. 

Well, it was the basic thing to do but that’s not the end. There are some techniques to create a different tune. In the tab, it shows some Notating Articulations on the tab that intimate you to play some different techniques.

Notating Articulations:

  • h” or, ‘h’ on to of an arced line (hammer-on): The word ‘hammer’ sounds like hitting something. The hammer-on on the ukulele is similar to it but a little different. It’s like hammering on plucked string’s fret using a finger. To create a different tone, when plucked strings get tapped on a fret very fastly is called hammer-on. 
  • p”(Pull-off): Pull-off is another technique to create Notating Articulation. So, how to find out the pull-off on the tab and how to play it? In the tab, the pull-off is symbolized as the small letter “p”. To play pull-off, you have to pluck strings by tapping a fret. Then release the finger instantly to create a beautiful melody. The expert suggests taking the finger downward before lifting. By doing this the fret-finger automatically plucked the tapped string a little. In short, pull-off is the exact opposite of a hammer-on. 
  • \ /”(Slide): Sliding is another technique of notation articulation. You can easily find it on the tab with “/ or \” symbols. To play slide, you have to pluck string by tapped a fret and then slide the finger from one fret to another. It creates articulation and allows for different fingering opportunities and playing options
  •  b”(Bend) &  “r”(Release): Bending or, string stretching is an articulation technique that creates a unique tone. It happens when the ukulele players bend strings while plucking. 

The ‘release’ indicates the point to release the finger from the bend. There are some different methods of bending. Have a look at How to Bend on Ukulele with Tablature. 

  • ~”(Vibrato ): It’s a simple and effective technique to create beautiful articulation. It sounds quite similar to the normal plucking but vibrato adds more melody to it. So, how to find out vibrato on the tab and how to play it? You can easily find out vibrato by seeing “~” this symbol. It’s not just easy to figure out, it’s easy to play. Like normal plucking, you have to pluck string by tapping fret then shake the finger to up-down or side by side.
  • < >”(Harmonics): Harmonics is a uke technique that is played by a soft touch on a specific place of strings. it creates high-pitched notes. To know more about ukulele harmonics, read Ukulele Harmonics – A Beginner’s Guide

Last but not the least, you have to follow ‘|’ bar lines to take a little break. After following all these techniques you will be able to read and play ukulele but it will take so many practices to play smoothly. 

The Ultimate Guide: How to Read Ukulele Tabs

Normally soprano, concert, and tenor ukulele tunes as GCEA. in this lesson, we will example all as GCEA. in the case of your ukulele tunes different then follow 1st line on a tab to 4th string, 2nd line to 3rd string, 3rd line on a tab to 2nd string and 4th line on a tab to 1st string.

Now, take your ukulele and play with our example and guideline and learn “how to read the tab on ukulele”!  

BASIC PART-1

The tab tells you to play ‘A’ or the bottom string by tapping 3rd fret. 

The next tab tells you to play the E strings or the 3rd uke strings without tapping any frets. 0 on ukulele tabs indicates open notes.  

Here you have to play the ‘A’ string by pressing the 2nd fret and then pluck again by pressing the ‘A’ string’s 1st fret.

This tab tells you to play the ‘A’ string by pressing the 5th fret, the ‘C’ strings 4th fret, and then ‘A’ strings open notes. 

To play this tablature, tap the ‘A’ string’s 1st fret and ‘E’ string’s 4th fret then and play it separately. After that, you have to take a little break for tablature’s bar lines. Then, do it continuously with the ‘G’ string’s 3rd, and ‘A’ string’s 2nd frets. 

BASIC PART-2 

This tab tells you to play the ‘A’ string with tapping 3rd fret, ‘E’ string’s 2nd fret,  ‘C’ string’s open notes, and ‘G’ strings 1st fret simultaneously.

Similar to the previous one, play ‘E’ string by tapping 3rd, ‘C’ string’s 2nd, and ‘G’ string’s 1st fret concurrently. 

This tab tells you to play the ‘A’ string by tapping the 3rd and ‘E’ string’s 2nd fret together. After that, you have to play the ‘C’ string by pressing the 1st fret and the ‘G’ string’s 1st fret simultaneously.

The last tabs on basics indicate to play the ‘A’ string with tapping 2nd fret and then ‘E’ string’s 4th fret and ‘C’ string’s 2nd fret altogether. Then take a very short break because of bar lines. After that, play the ‘A’ string by tapping 1st fret and a ‘G’ string open notes concurrently.

HAMMER-ON

It gives a classical ukulele tone with an extra unique tone in a single plucking. All you have to do is hit on an instructed fret. 

To play this technique, pluck ‘A’ string’s open notes then tap fastly on the 2nd fret.

This tablature indicates to play ‘G’ string by tapping on 2nd fret then hammer on 3rd fret immediately using another finger. 

Let’s have a try on a harder one. To play this tab, play the ‘E’ string’s open notes. After that, hammer on the 3rd fret using the index finger then immediately tap on the 4th fret using the middle finger. Remember! All things should be done with single plucking.  

The tabs tell you to play ‘A’ string’s by tapping the 2nd fret then hammer on the 4th and 5th fret respectively using index and middle finger. After that take a few second breaks and play the ‘C’ string’s open notes then tap fastly on the 5th fret. 

PULL-OFF 

Performing pull-off is an easy task to do but you have to do it in the right way to get the perfect tune. To do it correctly, release the finger a bit downward then upward to create a perfect sound. 

To play this pull-off technique, pluck ‘A’ string by tapping the 3rd fret then release the finger immediately from the frets. 

This tablature indicates to play ‘C’ string by tapping 2nd & 4th fret together. After that pull off the finger instantly. 

Let’s do the previous two lessons together. 

The tabs tell you to play the ‘A’ string by tapping 3rd and 2nd fret altogether. After tapping, release the 3rd and 2nd fret sequentially.   

Let’s do something harder. This tab tells you to pluck the ‘A’ string by tapping 1st, 2nd, and 3rd fret together. At the moment you pluck this string, start releasing the 3rd and 4th fret respectively. After that play the ‘E’ string by tapping the 3rd fret then release the finger from the fret. 

SLIDE 

Sliding between frets is not a hard thing to but it’s a bit harder for a noob. At first, you won’t be able to do it clearly but with practice, you will be able to do it easily. 

To play this tab, pluck the ‘A’ string by tapping the 3rd fret. Then slide your finger to the 4th fret to create a beautiful sound. 

This tab tells you to pluck the ‘E’ string by tapping 3rd fret. After tapping strings move the finger to the 5th fret then come back to the 3rd frets immediately. 

Similar to the previous one, pluck the ‘C’ sting by tapping the 5th fret then slide the finger to the 6th fret. Do it with the ‘G’ string’s 5th and 7th fret too. 

Let’s do something harder. To play this tablature, tap ‘A&E’ both strings 3rd fret using left hand’s finger and pluck these concurrently using right hand’s index and thumb finger then slide left hands finger to the fifth fret. 

Similar to the previous one. Pluck strings and tap frets in the same way. But in the case of sliding, slide left hand both tapped finger 3rd to 5th fret and bring it back to the 3rd fret. 

BEND

Bending strings on a ukulele is not an easy task to do. You need a lot of practice and effort to do it correctly. To play this articulation, you need to follow the instruction from tablature and good hand positioning. Read this first for better understanding “How to bend on a ukulele with tablature”

To play this tab, tap ‘E’ strings 12th fret with the ring finger and tap the previous two frets with the other two fingers to get leverage. Then pluck the string and bend 2 strings upward using wrist and finger strength. Here, the 12th fret’s 2 strings up create tunes similar to normal 14th fret’s. 

This tab tells you to play bend and release. To play it perfectly, tap the ‘C’ string’s 12th fret and pluck it. After plucking, bend the tapped frets two strings downwards and then go to the normal position instantly. You can’t bend ‘C’ string two strings upwards otherwise it will go out of the fretboard. That’s why you have to do it by bending the string downwards. 

To play this pre-bend, tap the 12th fret of the ‘E’ string then pull up 2 strings upward. After bending the string, pluck the string and bring it back to the normal position. 

VIBRATO

Playing Vibrato on a ukulele is the easiest task to do. For playing this articulation, you just need to shake tapped fret up-down or side-side after plucking the string. 

This tab tells you to pluck ‘A’ string by tapping the 2nd fret and plucking vibrate pressed finger by moving up-down or side to side. 

To do this task play ‘A’ string with tapped 3rd fret then vibrate the finger. Do it same to the ‘E’ strings 4th fret. 

This tablature shows a bit harder vibrato. To play this tab, press the ‘A’ string’s 4th fret and ‘C’ string’s 3rd fret together. After that, pluck the ‘A’ string (using index finger) and the ‘C’ string (using thumb finger) simultaneously.

HARMONICS

This articulation creates some of the sweetest notes on a ukulele but it isn’t so easy to master. You need a lot of practice to play it perfectly. Before practicing with guidelines, read Ukulele Harmonics – A Beginner’s Guide.

To play this harmonic, tap ‘A’ string’s 12th fret softly then pluck the string. 

Similar to the first one do it same to the ‘E’ string’s 7th fret and ‘A’ string’s 12th fret. 

This tablature shows artificial harmonics. To play this harmonic, tap the 3rd fret of the ‘C’ string using the left hand then touch the 15th fret softly with the right hand’s index finger and play the notes with the right hand’s thumb finger. 

Similar to the previous one play ‘E’ string with a soft touch on the 15th fret with tapping the 3rd fret. Then play the same string by tapping the 5th fret and plucking with the 17th fret’s soft touch. 

Hope this article on tablature was useful to you. Have questions? Feel free to comment below! 

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