top of page
  • Writer's pictureАлександр Васильев

Features of guitar notation (Part 1)

Updated: Jun 26, 2023


Tablature is a schematic notation of music that operates on the working elements of a musical instrument.

Tablature can be recorded both independently and in parallel with traditional musical notation.

The horizontal lines represent the strings of the instrument, arranged on the tablature in order from thin to thick from top to bottom. It is visually convenient to imagine a guitar lying on laps: the lines will be arranged in the same way as the strings of the instrument.

The number on the string indicates the fret number on which it must be pressed. The number 0 is the sound of an open string. The vertical bar is the bar boundary. Note durations and rests are specified like standard notation.

On Tablature, you can designate additional methods of sound extraction. We will analyze them later in detail.


Letter notation can be used to indicate chord accompaniment: A (A major triad), Am (A minor triad), C7 (C major dominant seventh chord), etc.

You can learn more about chords in a series of articles dedicated to them, following this link.

Notation in sheet music and tablature and corresponding playing techniques

Downstroke and Upstroke

Downward movement is called downstroke, upward movement is called upstroke. They are indicated by displayed signs correspondingly.

These signs are commonly used for the notation of single sounds.

How to remember: the direction of movement coincides with the direction of parallel or divergent lines.

When playing chords, lines with up and down arrows are used:

Straight lines indicate the rapid picking of sounds on the strings involved in the chord, perceived as simultaneous; wavy lines — arpeggiated picking when we hear sounds sequentially.


Rasgueado is technique that come from Flamenco: fingers make outward movements, resembling a sharp click, alternated with inward movements. Depending on the rasgueado performance pattern, the 1/4 duration chord in the example above can consist of 3, 4, 5, or more sounds.

Sometimes such patterns are written separately, and the chord remains in the text (as in the example above), sometimes directly in the text.

Legato, trill

In addition to the usual meaning of the term legato, which refers to a coherent, without pause, performance of sounds, legato on the guitar can be played using the hammer-on (ascending legato) and pull-off (descending legato) techniques.

Both techniques involve sound picking without the direct participation of the right hand.

When hammer-on is performed, the finger of the fretting hand placed with force to the desired fret of the already picked string; when performing a pull-off, the finger of the fretting hand, pressing the string, pulls it down at an angle of about 45 degrees to the fretboard and thus picks the next note.

These types of legato are denoted by the letters H and P above the league.

With the help of a quick alternation of hammer-on and pull-off, a trill is played. It is denoted by the symbol tr and a wavy line of the same length as the trill duration.


Ghost notes and Dead notes

Ghost notes are quiet notes played between regular notes in a measure. Ghost notes are played more to be felt than heard and can bring life and texture to parts.

They are indicated by brackets ( ) around the note.

Dead notes are percussive sounds without pitch when you mute the strings with your left hand and hit them with a pick or finger.

They recorded using diagonal crosses on the staff and/or X symbols in the tablature.


Golpe is a hit to the body of the guitar.

There are many variations of this technique.

Golpe is performed using different parts of the player’s hand and in different places of the guitar body:

  • Thumb. The hit is usually applied to the top of the guitar body above the resonator hole;

  • One or more fingers. It can be the middle or index finger, or both together, or the middle and ring fingers, or three or four fingers together. The hit can be applied with the pulp of the pads or using nails. Place of hit: mostly, it is a goalpeador / pickguard (especially when using nails), also a hit can be applied to the top soundboard, but not to the goalpeador, to the bridge, or to the side of a guitar body. When using several fingers, the golpe can be performed simultaneously or arpeggiated;

  • The back of the wrist. This type of hit has the softest, dullest sound and is applied to the top of the guitar.

In musical notation Golpe is indicated by an asterisk (*) below or above a note, or by the letter G. The notation may be accompanied by an instruction.


A tambourine is a stroke of a brush on the strings in the region of the bridge.

It is abbreviated as Tamb. or Pop (or the letter P).

14 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page