Q Magazine

Essential Elements of Learning Bass Tabs

Link to FacebookShare to XShare to Email

The bass guitar may seem less complex and only part of the background, but it is an essential instrument for carrying the band and setting the song for the other band members. To learn how to lay down the beat, musicians have different methods available. Bass tabs offer a simplified way to master the bass and set the stage for learning traditional notation.

Article continues below advertisement

Defining Bass Tabs

In essence, tablature is a visual notation system that teaches players where to play notes on the fretboard. Instead of navigating the complex details of traditional sheet music, tabs use the layout of the bass guitar to help musicians learn a song. The system uses easy-to-understand numbers, letters, lines and symbols to teach which chords to play.

Benefits of Learning Tablature

For people unfamiliar with traditional sheet music, bass tabs provide a simple alternative. As this system focuses on where to place the hands, it makes learning more straightforward while enabling a more intuitive approach to playing the bass. Tabs are also available for countless songs, providing an eclectic approach to expanding players' bass knowledge.

Article continues below advertisement

Elements of Bass Tablature

Bass tabs use a horizontal line format, mimicking the four strings on a standard bass, which represent the highest and lowest notes G, D, A and E, from top to bottom. A number system on a vertical line is used to demonstrate which fret to play. Tabs typically have zero to 24 numbers to align with the number of frets on a bass guitar. Zero indicates playing an open chord.

When using tabs, the numbers read from left to right, similar to traditional notation. Depending on the song, there may be numbers stacked above one another. That lets the musician know to play particular notes together to create a specific chord.

Article continues below advertisement

Other symbols and letters on tabs to understand include:

• Parentheses: This tells the bassist to play a short grace note, which typically happens before playing a main note.

• Slash: Located between two notes, the slash represents sliding between the notes shown.

• B Symbol: This is an indication to bend the note to take the pitch higher.

• T Symbol: The t symbol appears when the bassist should tap instead of plucking the string.

While at first glance the system may seem complex, the system is designed to make it easy to catch on to learning to master a song playing bass.

Finding Rhythm With Bass Tabs

Since bass tabs are a simplified notation system, they often do not indicate the rhythm and duration of notes like traditional sheet music. The initial mastering of tabs often requires playing the tablature while listening to the song being learned. With each new tablature played, finding the right rhythm often becomes an easier endeavor.

Whether wanting to learn to play bass as a hobby or hoping to take your music as far as you can, learning how to read music is often a part of the process. For novices, traditional notations can seem overwhelming. Bass tabs offer a more accessible approach to the process.


Subscribe to our newsletter

your info will be used in accordance with our privacy policy

Read More