How to Write Bass Tabs

Writing actual music notation requires an understanding of music theory, writing tabs for guitar and bass is a lot easier. The basis of bass guitar tab is having four horizontal lines which represent the four strings on the bass. The bottom line represents the E string, the line above it represents the A string, the line above that represents the D string and the fourth line represents the G string.

Just as when reading normal text or music notation, bass tab is read starting at the left of the page and moving across to the right until the end of the line. You then move down to the next line. The numbers of the frets intended to be played are simply written as numbers, from left to right, on the relevant line or string. For example, if you saw a “5” on the second line from the bottom, you would play fret 5 on the A string. Whereas music notation also depicts the rhythm and timing of the notes intending to be played, with bass tabs and guitar tabs the notes are usually spaced out in the relevant format to give you an idea of the timing. However, tabs are usually accompanied by the proper music notation for those who can read music. This would therefore give an indication of the correct timing.

Most of the time, basslines and guitar riffs written in tab are also accompanied by the key that the bassline or riff is played in. For example, if a bassline or riff is in the key of A, an A may be depicted above the relevant riff. If the piece of music changes key, this would also be depicted at the relevant point. If a full or partial chord is ncluded in the piece, this would also usually depicted.

Acoustic guitar tabs are generally no different to to electric guitar tabs. However, whereas bass tabs would only use four horizontal lines to represent the four strings, standard guitar tab has six lines to represent the six strings of the guitar. To the left of the four strings presented, an indication of the open tuning of each string would shown (i.e. E, A, D, G).