The Ukulele Tablature Notation: Everything You Need To Know

by Madonna

Ukulele tablature, often referred to as “tabs,” is a widely used notation system that allows players to learn and perform music without the need for traditional sheet music. While ukulele tabs are relatively straightforward, they incorporate specific symbols that convey essential information about the way a piece should be played. In this article, we unravel the mystery behind ukulele tab symbols, providing insights into their meanings and how they enhance the player’s understanding of the music.

Basic Structure of Ukulele Tabs

Before delving into the symbols, it’s crucial to understand the basic structure of ukulele tabs. Each line in the tab represents a string on the ukulele, and the numbers on those lines indicate which fret to press down. The top line corresponds to the highest-pitched string (A string), and the bottom line corresponds to the lowest-pitched string (G string).


For example, if there’s a “2” on the A string line, it means you should press down the second fret on the A string. Understanding this fundamental structure is essential before interpreting the symbols that can accompany the numbers in ukulele tabs.


Hammer-ons and Pull-offs

Two common symbols found in ukulele tabs are the hammer-on and pull-off. A hammer-on is denoted by the letter “h” and indicates that, after plucking the initial note, you should use your fretting hand to tap down on a higher-numbered fret without picking the string again. For instance, “2h4” on the A string means you pluck the second fret and then hammer onto the fourth fret without picking again.


Conversely, a pull-off is denoted by the letter “p” and signifies that, after plucking the initial note, you should pull your finger off to sound a lower-numbered fret without picking the string again. An example would be “4p2” on the A string, where you pluck the fourth fret and then pull off to the second fret.

Slides and Bends

Slides and bends are techniques that add dynamics and expressiveness to ukulele playing. A slide is indicated by the letter “s” and instructs the player to smoothly transition from one fret to another without lifting the finger off the string. For instance, “2s4” on the A string means you slide from the second fret to the fourth fret.

Bends, denoted by the letter “b,” involve bending the string to produce a higher pitch. The number following the “b” indicates the desired pitch. For example, “7b9” on the A string means you bend the seventh fret to achieve the pitch of the ninth fret.

Vibrato and Tremolo

Vibrato and tremolo are symbols that introduce subtle variations in pitch and volume, respectively. Vibrato, represented by the wavy line “~,” suggests a slight oscillation in pitch. To apply vibrato, wiggle your finger while pressing down the fretted note. Tremolo, denoted by the abbreviation “trem,” instructs the player to rapidly alternate between two notes, creating a pulsating effect. Both techniques add nuances to the ukulele’s sound and contribute to the overall musical expression.

Chords and Strumming Patterns

In addition to individual notes, ukulele tabs often include chord symbols and strumming patterns. Chords are typically indicated by the name of the chord above the tab, providing guidance on which frets and strings to press simultaneously. Strumming patterns are often represented by arrows indicating the direction of the strum and numbers indicating the rhythm. Mastering these symbols is essential for playing chords and strumming patterns accurately.

Repeat Signs and Endings

Repeat signs, such as “||:” and “:||,” help signify sections of the music that should be repeated. When you encounter a “||:” symbol, it indicates the beginning of a section to be repeated, and the corresponding “:||” symbol marks the end of that section. This allows for efficient practice and performance of specific segments in the music.

Additionally, endings, marked with numbers (e.g., “1,” “2”), indicate different conclusions to a repeated section. If you see an “1” above a set of measures and a “2” above another set, you would play the first ending the first time through, then skip to the second ending upon repeating the section.

See Also: Playing “Jesus Loves Me” on the Ukulele: A Quick Guide

Conclusion: Enhancing Musical Literacy

In conclusion, understanding the symbols on ukulele tabs is instrumental in unlocking the full potential of the instrument. Hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, bends, vibrato, tremolo, chords, strumming patterns, repeat signs, and endings are all integral elements that contribute to the richness and complexity of ukulele playing. Aspiring ukulele players should invest time in mastering these symbols, as they serve as a bridge between the written notation and the nuanced, expressive language of music. With a solid grasp of ukulele tab symbols, players can embark on a musical journey that transcends the technicalities, allowing for a more profound connection with the instrument and the music they create.


You may also like


Musicalinstrumentworld is a musical instrument portal. The main columns include piano, guitar, ukulele, saxphone, flute, xylophone, oboe, trumpet, trombone, drum, clarinet, violin, etc.

【Contact us: [email protected]

Copyright © 2023