How to Read Banjo Tabs

Cripple Creek tab

Banjo Tabs are a great and easy way to learn your favorite songs, but how do you read Banjo Tabs? We’ll show you everything you need to know.
Check out our free Banjo Tabs resource.

What are Tabs or Tablature?

Wikipedia defines tabs or tablature as ‘a form of musical notation indicating instrument fingering rather than musical pitches’. This gives us a different system of notation that uses letters, symbols, and other types of visual cues to tell us which note to play, rather than standard notation.

How to Read Banjo Tabs

For the 5-string banjo, the tablature system is represented by 5 horizontal lines that represent the 5 strings of the banjo. The top line represents the 1st string while the bottom line represents the 5th string.

Banjo tabs use a series of numbers and letters. The numbers that are placed on the lines show you which fret to place your left-hand finger. It also shows you how long to hold the note. The letters are placed underneath the lines and show you which right-hand finger you should use to pick the string.
T stands for thumb, I is for index, M is for middle, and R is for ring.

You may also see other information that shows you what tuning the banjo should be in, for example ‘G tuning” or ‘gDGBD’

The number ‘zero’, or ‘0’ represents open playing, so you are not holding down any note (fret) with your left hand.

You may see 2 numbers on top of each other. This means that you play both notes at the same time.

Here is an example of some chords in tab

You always read Banjo tabs from left to right.

Other letters you may see indicate special ways to play the notes. For example, S stands for Slide, H is for Hammer-on, C is for Choke, and P is for Pull-off.

It’s time to jump in and try. Find your favorite song at our free Banjo Tabs resource, and lets get started!

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