Keyboard tablature

Keyboard tablature

Keyboard / Piano tablature is a system of tablature or musical notation written using letters and numbers that designate the timing and keys to hit on a keyboard or piano. Modern piano tablature is based on scientific pitch notation, a variation of letter notation which has roots going back to the 11th century when Italian Guido of Arezzo developed Solfege.

An example of modern piano tab notation - the scale of "f" played on 2 octaves:


  • The numbers on the left (3, 2, 2 and 1 in the above example) indicate the octave. All octaves start on the "c" key. Octave 4 is in the middle of the keyboard (starting on c4, or "middle C").
  • Lowercase letters (a,b,c,d,e,f,g) indicate the note names as natural (the white keys)
  • Uppercase letters (A,B,C,D,E,F,G) indicate the note names as sharp, ie: A#,B#,C#,D#,E#,F#,G#.
  • The "|" symbols separate measures / sections of notes
  • The "-" symbols are used for spacing
This is what the system looks like on an actual keyboard:

Another Example of Piano Tab Notation - the chords E, F, and G:

e f g 3|---|-c-|-d-


An alternative version of keyboard tablature (though less frequently seen) is based on a periodic system of numbers, like most modern tablatures, although incorporating negative and positive numbers assigned to the clefs (as positive for treble, and negative for bass). This particular method uses the middle C as the reference point. Unlike many tab forms the keyboard tab has far different placement values, meaning, regardless of the arrangement of the numbers it can still have the same value, but is displayed differently.

Visual Sample

12 12 12 12 12 12 12 1207 07 07 07 09 09 09 0904 04 04 04 04 04 04 04 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -12 -8 -7 -5 -3 -3 -3P-----------X P-----------X

(a basic C, Am/C, progression)

How to Compile

The numbers are projected and arranged by value. The particular number is placed in the corresponding column; however, columns are "pushed upward" when notating chords. This "column" system is not affective of the tab itself, more so the appearance, thus it is basically irrelevant.

Col.4=Double digit positive numbers(10+)Col.3=Double digit positive numbers(0-09)Col.2=Single digit negative numbers(-1,-9)Col.1=Double digit negative numbers(-10+)

Special Notations

"Grace note"Shown using smaller numbers as the grace notes, relative to basic music notation.

"Gliss"A "gliss", or "slide". Shows the start location of the gliss and the stop location.

"Tremble"Rapid alternating between two notes.

"Pedal Use"Shows when the pedal is held (---) and when released (X).

"Inaudible Note"An inaudible or hard to hear note.

External links

* [ - Additional explanation of modern piano tablature. ]
* [ - Another modern piano tablature format developed by Tor Sigurd Undheim]
* [ How to read piano tabs, the basics]

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