Guitar Tablature Articulation

There are many unique articulation techniques you can play on the guitar.  Tablature has the ability to notate them.  Some of the symbols can also be used on standard music notation but most are specific and unique to tablature.  Some of these symbols like bends may be strange at first but once you get used to them you can become fluent in tablature.


Articulation is a way to express a note or set of notes in a non-standard way.  One of the great things about the guitar is the ability to play lots of different articulations.  Below is a table to help match a particular articulation technique with how it is represented in tablature.

Tablature Special Notation

Hammer OnWhen there is a lower numbered fret connected to a higher numbered fret on the same string by a curved line. That is a hammer on.Hammer On
Pull OffWhen there is a higher numbered fret connected to a lower numbered fret on the same string by a curved line. That is a pull off.Pull Off
SlideWhen there is a straight line that connects two frets on the same string. That is a slide and it can indicate a slide up or down based off of the notes.Slide
BendA bend is indicated by a fretted note with a line that bends up away from the tab staff. This example shows a full bend (full) and a half bend (1/2).Bends
PrebendTab defines a prebend when the bend line starts high and ends low at the final note. This example shows a full prebend.Pre-Bend
Combining ArticulationYou can combine several articulation symbols to create more complex phrases. This example combines a full bend up then back down followed by a hammer off.Combined Articulation
String MuteA string mute is simply an X marked on the string. As you pick the string de-fret enough so no pitch sounds but rather a percussive muted sound.String Mute
Palm MutePalm mutes are notes that have a staccato like dot over them above the staff. Palm mutes are often annotated with a P.M. as well.Palm Mute
VibratoAny note followed by a squiggly line means you should apply vibrato.Vibrato
TremeloA set of lines above the note just above the staff indicate the note should be played as a tremeloTremelo
Natural HarmonicA note with an open dot above it just above the staff indicates a natural harmonic. Natural harmonics are often notated with a N.H.Natural Harmonic