Fingering Diagram versus Tablature

zoomed-how-to-read-ukulele-tabs-and-chord-diagrams

Just as pictograms preceded our phonetic written language, every ukester quickly learns to read “fingering diagrams” before learning tabs.

Fingering Diagrams are just pictures of the ukulele’s fretboard, zoomed-in, showing where to place your fingers. They’re awesomely intuitive!

Tablature (aka “tabs”), on the other hand, aren’t immediately obvious, being a hybrid of diagram (the four lines are, in fact, your uke’s four strings) plus written instructions (the column of numbers indicating the fret to press on each string).

Whereas a fingering diagram shows where to place your fingers (which frets to press down) tablature tells you which frets to press.

That’s it — that’s the difference!

The “trick” for either method is to know the orientation: if you can locate the G string you’ll be fine.

For fingering diagrams hold the ukulele away from your body, but facing you — this will place the G string on your left (the A string’s to your right). See top picture.

Now, still holding your uke at arm’s length, rotate it counter-clockwise 90° to a horizontal position — this puts the G string on the bottom. This is how the lines in tablature are drawn; “A” at the top, “G” on the bottom (see bottom picture).

Now all that’s left is jotting down which frets to play, so, using the simple, triangle shaped G chord as our example we’ll begin with the “G” (bottom) string:

  • the G string is played “open” (you don’t press any frets at all) so we write “0
  • on the C string we press down the second fret, so we write “2
  • on the E string we press the 3rd fret, so, yup write “3
  • finally, the A string. We need to press the second fret, so, sure, write “2

Congrats! You can read tablature!

By the way, this is how chords are written, G string to A string, so we wind up saying a G chord is:

0232

Why use tabs? Well, it’s a very compact way of writing lots of chords (or single notes), but more on that later.

Tags: , ,

2 comments

  1. Hi there,

    great stuff on yyour website !!!!
    Is there a possibility to convert Guitar Riffs into Ukulele Riffs ?
    That would be really cool
    – i.e. I would like to play the Riff from princes mornig papers on the Uke
    http://princetabs.50webs.com/morning.txt

    Cheers

    markus

    • Cool suggestion. Seems that the chief problem is establishing rules for preferring one note location over another. Since many notes may be interchangeably played on any of 3 strings it’d be an interesting task to have an app choose one flavor of “A” over other equally viable ones. Rules might favor staying on the same string, or staying near the same fret, or even try to pick the lowest fret position for a given note.

      Smells like a fuzzy logic engine!

      Once had a automatic chord diagram generator’s workings explained to me and the part that really impressed me was the work this dev had put into calculating a “prettiness” score of each possible equivalent chord diagram. Since there’s quite a few ways to play every chord turns out recommending one that doesn’t cramp the fingers is the real chore.

      I need to revisit some of the tab code soon anyway, whilst in there I’ll look into places one might be add hooks for a convertor. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *