Ukulele Lessons

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How to Read Tablature

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In 4/4 time (the most common timing) there are 4 beats in each measure. A beat is a regular and rhythmical unit of time. A beat can be fast or slow, depending on the speed of a song. If you tap your foot as you play a song, then each time you come down with your foot will be a beat. The example above shows the most commonly used notes. All of the notes are played on the first string open in this example.

 Whole notes -- In measure 1 there is one whole note. A whole note gets 4 beats, so if you play this note on the count of 1 you will hold it for an additional 3 beats (2, 3, and 4). Notice that a whole note does not have a stem descending from it.

 Half notes --  Measure 2 consists of two half notes. A half note gets 2 beats, so two half notes will fit into a measure. You can distinguish half notes by the short stem that descends below the line of tablature.

  Quarter notes -- Quarter notes are probably the most commonly used notes and they receive 1 beat. Measure 3 consists of four quarter notes, each of which receive 1 beat. You can tell these are quarter notes by the long stem that descends all the way from the bottom of the note to below the line of tablature.

 Eighth notes -- An eighth note receives a half beat and is usually (but not always) connected by the stem with a straight line to another eighth note. Measure 4 above shows 8 eighth notes, all connected in pairs. At times there will be eighth notes that are not in pairs, in which case a single eighth note will be designated by a small hook at the end of the stem. You should play two eighth notes in the same amount of time that you play one quarter note.

 Dotted notes -- If a dot follows a note the time value of that note is increased by 50%. For example a dotted half note would get 3 beats instead of 2. A dotted quarter note would have a value that is equivalent to a quarter note plus and eighth note, or 3 eighth notes.

 3/4 Time -- The second most commonly used timing for songs is 3/4 time, also called waltz time. In 3/4 time there are only three beats in each measure instead of four.

 

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