Custom ukulele – When first learning how to play a musical instrument with no musical experience, trying to learn how to read music itself, let alone the actual instrument, turns many people away. Although it’s actually been around for hundreds of years, the use of custom ukulele seems to have been revolutionized by the internet.
For a beginner custom ukulele player however, being told to play a 3-2-0-0-0-3 is a lot more understandable than being told to play a G chord. But to some, even that seems confusing at first, so here are the basics to learning how to read the tabs.
A Little Background on Tabs
The word tablature itself, originates from the Latin word for table, tablature, simply means to put something into a table, which, essentially, is what custom ukulele tabs are. Like music notation, it actually dates back hundreds of years in Europe, and it is believed that they were around for much longer in Asia. In short, guitar tabs are a much simpler way to learn how to play music on the guitar. Tabs are also available for bass guitars, banjos, mandolins and a variety of other string instruments.
Understanding Ukulele Tabs
Standard tuning on a custom ukulele is, starting at the lowest note, EADGBE. These notes are represented by a number, for example, is a guitar tab reads 0-0-0-0-0-0 that means that the notes are all open and simply strummed. If a tab reads 3-2-0-0-0-3, it means that on the E string, the string is pressed down on the third fret, the A on the second fret, the D, G, and B strings are all open, and the E string is pressed down on the third fret. This is playing a G chord.
The tabs are also sometimes written in this format:
Here, it is written just so that it is easier to see which fret is held down on each individual string. It is often written like this with a few chords written in a row, divided by a couple of dashes, (here there is just one chord). Since many popular songs usually repeat the same chords for each verse and then alternate for the chorus and bridge, it’s easier to write out say three verse chords and then three chorus chords than writing it out individually.
Also, usually this format is used when individual notes are being used. Using the example of the part of the song “Dueling Banjos”, it can be seen how guitar tabs are used for individual notes.
How to Tab Ukulele Music?
In tablature, fret numbers are used extensively, but to guitarists, patterns (for chords, scales, arpeggios, and such) can be more useful.
Why use Tablature?
Tablature tells a player exactly what string(s) to play and at what fret. Tablature is important since the notes are laid out in a matrix. Each individual string presents the notes linearly like a piano, but since there are six (or more) strings, some of the notes repeat.
For instance, on the piano there is only one way to play middle C, but on custom ukulele there is more than one way to play middle C. Tablature clearly shows which middle C to play so there is no confusion.
It is useful to have multiple choices of note placements. It can make a song easier to play, among other things. Tablature clearly shows a guitarist which note (pitch) to play, if there are multiple choices.
Since the notes on the guitar are laid out in a matrix, sight reading standard notation can be a challenge – if the correct notes are not specified. However, the best guitar music incorporates both standard notation and tablature notation. A ukulele who learns both notation methods is well prepared to communicate and interpret musical ideas.
If a custom ukulele player knows the tab, in addition, they also know how a piece of music sounds (from a recording), then they can learn to play the piece without having to learn how to read standard sheet music. Tablature usually does not stand alone – recordings of the music with the tab are essential.
How to Tab Chord Progressions
Typically, a player will use standard tab notation to list their chord progressions. Most of the tablature used today tabs chords with fret numbers, but there is another useful way to tab chords. It is similar to looking at a chord chart. It shows the same pattern that a chord chart shows.
One of the best ways to tab chords is to use chord charts. Chord charts are actually a version of custom ukulele tablature. Why not combined them? This is what is shown in the illustration below – a specific way to write chords using tablature (or six lines).
The illustration shows the tab of the chord progression: E major to E7 to E. Notice the two ways shown to tab this progression.
The chord chart way shows the chord patterns. There are many patterns on the guitar, and the patterns can be more useful that just a list of tabbed numbers. Patterns are easier to remember for many guitarists. The second way shows the standard way to tab chords, which is useful in its own right – but it is not what the chords look like on the ukulele!
Examples of Tabbed Chord Progressions
Interestingly, you can also use this tab method to tab scales in pattern form. Tab them the way they look on custom ukulele.
If a guitarist combines the pattern form with the tabbed numbers, it serves as a very effective way to tab song ideas.
In summary, a player should familiarize themselves with alternative tab methods. One can easily tab chords, scales, and such in pattern form – that is, they can tab them as they look on the custom ukulele. Consequently, the patterns can be easier to remember than simple writing down just fret numbers. This method of tabbing can be efficient and effective when it comes to documenting songs.
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