Live Grateful Dead Music Home

Grateful Dead Tablature Explained

Grateful Dead tablature and tabs in general differ from regular music notation in that they use standard keyboard letters and numbers instead of symbols.

Jerry Garcia with his Travis bean guitar.

In order to use guitar tabs you'll either need to know the song really well or have a recording of it to play along with while you learn. This is because tablature doesn't provide specific information on the note lengths or timing. If you know the song well you'll already be familiar with the rhythm, otherwise you'll need to listen to it. The space between the notes will show you which notes are longer and which notes are shorter but this will only give you a general idea of timing.

Tabs are designed to be simple to read. If a song can be displayed well with only chords then usually just the chord names and shapes will be given along with their location relative to the lyrics. If there's a repeated verse and chorus then usually the chords will just be written once.

When more information is necessary a graph of six lines which correspond with the guitar strings is used. The pitch of the strings gets higher from the bottom up just like on a guitar.

Numbers appear on the lines to indicate where to fret the string. Zero is used to show that you play the open string.

Jerry Garcia's tiger guitar made by Doug Irwin.

When two notes are played together, they are written on top of each other - similar to standard musical notation.

Extra characters are used between the notes in order to show how to play them.

The characters most commonly used are:

h - hammer on
p - pull off
b - bend string up
r - release bend
/ - slide up
\ - slide down
v - vibrato
t - right hand tap
x - play note with heavy damping

When bends are indicated a number is given after the "b" to show how far to bend it.

So there you have it - all the basic info you need in order to understand Grateful Dead tablature and get started playing some sweet tunes!

American Beauty rose

Wolfgang's Vault - Hundreds of Concert Downloads

grateful dead skull with rose in the desert sand by stanley mouse

Subscribe to Live/Dead

My occassional GD fan newsletter. Each issue contains an in-depth review of a different show as well as Dead related news and recent additions to the site.




Don't worry -- your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Live / Dead.
tie dye lightning bolt
Enjoy This Site?

Then why not use the button below, to add us to your favorite bookmarking service?

Bookmark and Share

Psychedelic Grateful Dead Uncle Sam Skull

Wolfgang's Vault General with Posters

grateful dead bear

[?] Subscribe To This Site

follow us in feedly
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to My MSN
Subscribe with Bloglines

vermont grateful dead license plate sticker

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

All written material (except lyrics) copyright 2012 Live Grateful Dead
All images copyright their respective owners.

Copyright© 2012.