How to Read Piano Tabs, The Basics

If you want to know how to read piano tabs then let's start with a simple example, most people know (Mary Had a Little Lamb) so let's try that. First have a look at this.

mary had a little lamb
mary had a little lamb music

That's how it would be written in the traditional notation, now have a look at the piano tabbed version.



Now first, what does that number at the start mean, the "4", well that's the octave that you're playing on (usually with piano tabs the first octave starts from the lowest C note on the keyboard) most of the time if you know what the song sounds like you won't have to worry about this as you can play the song on the octave that you like the most.

Later on though when you get to more advanced piano tabs this number will become more important. OK now let's look at the "|" it indicates a bar line, in this song there are 4 beats in every bar or measure.

Now to the notes, as you can see the letters indicate which notes you hit, if the letter is a capital then it is a sharpened note. Now all you need to know is the timing, you read the tab from left to right and the timing of the first line would go.


__1-2-3-4- 1-2-3-4- 1-2-3-4- 1-2-3-4-

So if you count out the 1-2-3-4- that's underneath the tab, (the "–" indicates "and" so you would count it (1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and) so the "e" is on beat one, the "d" is on the and of beat two, the "c" is on beat three and so on.

OK so now you should have a grasp of how to read piano tabs, the example above is only one line at a time, later on I'll show you some more advanced tabs with upwards of four lines, that way you can play more than one note at a time.

Piano tabs are great for if you want to jot down a song on a piece of paper too, you might not have any manuscript paper and might not be near a computer, when I'm teaching a song from memory I often write it down on a piece of paper in tab incase my student needs to be reminded of the notes to play. Here's an example of Mary had a little lamb hand written.

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