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Author Topic: !!! HOW TO READ CHARTS/TABS !!!  (Read 8951 times)

Offline jeremyr

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« on: April 19, 2007, 10:51:34 AM »
All credit for these write-ups go to our very own Malthumb!!!  Thank you sir for helping everyone out. And without further delay have at it.


The strings on a 5 string bass are usually tuned from B (thickest) to G (thinnest).  A 4 string bass would not have a B string.
The lines on TAB refer to each string, and to the fret position, counting up from the headstock towards the body.
0 = play the string open, without holding down a fret position.  1 = play the first fret on the string.  2 = play the 2nd fret on the string......

Here's an example:

Listen to the intro to Donnie McClurkin's "I Call You Faithful" and follow along with this tab.....

G:l ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------6
A:l --------(3)-3--4-----4-----------------------(3)-3--4-----------(3)-3--4------4--------------------------(3)-3--4-----
E:l ---3H4-------------4---4--6--4------3H4------------------3H4-------------4-----4--6--4---------3H4-----------------
B:l 4-------------------------------6---4----------------------4--------------------------------------6---4-----------------------

First you play the 4th fret on the B string
Then you play the 3rd fret on the E string and hammer on the 4th fret (pluck the E while holding your middle finger on the 3rd fret, then put your ring finger on the 4th fret)
Then play a ghost note on the 3rd fret of the A string (when you play the note, you mute it by not holding it all the way down)
Then play the 3rd fret on the A string
Then play the 4th fret on the A string

I think you can figure it out from there.


When you look at a chart, see what key it is charted in.  For example, if a chart is written for a song in the key of "Db", then wherever you see a "1" in the chart, you can play a "Db".  For a 4 string bass, your lowest "Db" is the 4th fret on your A string.  For a 5 string bass, your lowest Db is the 2nd fret on your B string.

Now, everything else is relative to where you started, based USUALLY (but not always) on your MAJOR SCALE.

So, if you know where your Db is, and you know how to play a major scale, starting with Db, then you can follow the chart by playing the chord positions.  If the chart is written to play  " 1----1-----4---5--1", I know that the notes are "Db----Db-----Gb---Ab--Db"

Now, the beauty of charts is that if my MOM says "We ain't doin' it in Db.  I don't like Db.  We're doin' it in Ab", I already know how to play it, because I just move the figure from a Db root note to an Ab root note, but the relative position of the notes is the same.  Now " 1----1-----4---5--1" becomes "Ab----Ab-----Db---Eb--Ab".  As long as I know where to find those notes on the fingerboard I can play the song.

If you are looking for exactly which fret to play on a particular song, tab helps with that.  IMHO tab is much more limiting than charts.  Charts at least provide incentive for learning your scales.

Somebody put me in the key of E#
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