Ukulele 101: How To Read Ukulele Tab Part 3

Fingering Positions

When the fingering of a certain passage is important, tab will give a guide as to which fingers should be used both for fretting and picking.

Fretting Hand

The fretting hand (the left hand for right-handed players) is indicated by numbers in circles underneath the tab.

left hand fingering ukulele tab

The index finger is 1, middle finger 2 etc. When strings are played open, no finger is indicated.


Picking Hand

right hand fingering ukulele tabThe tab for the picking hand is less intuitive.

T = Thumb
I = Index Finger
M = Middle Finger
A = Ring Finger

The finger names come, apparently, from Latin (indice, medius, annular).

These letters appear under the tab also.

right hand fingering ukulele tab

Repeats

There are a number of ways that repeats are shown in tabs. The main way is with a set of double bar lines (one thick and one thin) and two dots.

When you come across a set of these with the dots facing right, you skip straight past them. When the dots are facing left, you go back to the first set (where the dots are facing right) and play through again. The second time you reach the repeat sign, play straight through it unless it indicates otherwise (by say x3, x4 etc.).

repeat signs ukulele tab

In this example, you play bar one and bar two, then bar two again.

If there is no first set of repeat signs, go back to the beginning and play through again.

Sometimes you’ll see sections at the end of each repeat blocked off like this:

repeat signs ukulele tab

Here you play the bar underneath the 1 section the first time round, follow the repeat sign as normal, then second time round you skip that bar and play the bar underneath the 2 instead.

So, you’d play bars:

1, 2, 3, 4, 2, 3, 5

The section under the 1 can be any number of bars – the idea remains the same.

You can also have any number of alternate bars. If the section is repeated 4 times, there may be 4 different endings written. You just play these in sequence the same way..
.

Read the rest of the series here: How to Read Ukulele Tab.

This series was derived from my ebook Ukulele 101: 101 Things Every Ukulele Player Needs to Know.

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18 Comments

  1. Jeff January 17th, 2008 3:47 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial. I have been learning “Hene” from John King’s book and he uses some real intense notation in his book “Famous Solos and Duets for the Ukulele” Your tutorials are very useful.

  2. Woodshed January 17th, 2008 10:53 pm

    Thanks, Jeff. Glad you’re finding it useful.

    I don’t have that book. It seems to be difficult to get in the UK. I’ve just checked, searching for the title gives you one result in the UK. I’m tempted to get it if it’s as good as his classical book.

  3. Jeff January 17th, 2008 11:11 pm

    I’d say the book is very similar in complexity. The song I have almost memorized is perhaps the easiest in the book. I have seen this book on eBay many times. Sometimes you’ll find much better prices on Amazon. 14 songs are Hawaiian judging by the names. There are a total of 22 songs.

    There is some fun tablature on Brooke Adams page along with chorded tunes. Brooke likes to add some fun into his songs. He also has a bunch more songs under the Ukelaneys Songs. But you probably know all about this stuff.

    http://www.brookadams.com/jumping-flea/ukeSongs.html

    Check out the song “Blackbird”

    Also take a look at Mike DaSilva’s site under the Berkeley Ukulele club. Scroll down for our songs. Some good arrangements here and you will find “Hene” there too.

  4. Jeff January 17th, 2008 11:12 pm

    The Berkeley Ukulele Club is on Mike’s website at http://www.ukemaker.com

  5. Caleb Wilson February 10th, 2008 6:27 am

    Who invented the tab system for ukulele?

  6. Woodshed February 10th, 2008 2:56 pm

    I don’t think anyone really invented it. Uke tab grew out of guitar tab, and guitar tab grew out of lute tab and so on for about 700 years.

  7. Caleb Wilson February 11th, 2008 5:39 am

    Oh. Yeah, of course. ^///^ I should’ve thought of that.

  8. Christine December 13th, 2008 4:37 am

    thankyou

  9. Woodshed December 14th, 2008 8:02 am

    Christine: You’re welcome.

  10. jeri August 30th, 2010 6:29 pm

    sure could use some left handed tabs. I am playing the uke tuned left handed. thanks

  11. Woodshed September 1st, 2010 9:02 pm

    jeri: I’m not sure what you mean by left handed tabs. I think most left-handers switch the strings so they’re like a right-hander.

  12. Rad February 20th, 2011 7:33 am

    Actually Woodshed, being a newbie in playing Ukulele and a left-handed drummer I was recommended by different people (online and in music stores) to not switch the cords for the Ukulele and play it upside down. It appears to be the common thing amongst “us”. One reason being it makes one able to play all Ukuleles anywhere and 2nd reason is its simplicity compared to guitars.

  13. Sarah March 1st, 2011 6:46 am

    When reading a fingerpicking tab (e.g. Super Mario, etc) how do we know when to strum and when to fingerpick?

  14. Woodshed March 6th, 2011 11:28 am

    Sarah: For strumming there’s an arrow next to the notes.

  15. boshoffs February 15th, 2012 11:13 am

    Gotta say this stuff is so much easier because i already play other instruments but you explain it so well for someone new to music:) good job

  16. Woodshed February 16th, 2012 2:01 pm

    boshoffs: Thanks very much!

  17. Unclekenny March 19th, 2012 10:51 am

    I have been learning to play the uke for about a year now and this is one of the best sites that I have found. The lessons are clear and concise, lots of useful advice and a great community of uke enthusiasts. Many thanks and keep up the good work

  18. Woodshed March 19th, 2012 11:10 am

    Unclekenny: Thanks so much!

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