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Aug 12

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.