Ukulele 101: How To Read Ukulele Tab Part 4

Advanced Tab

Advanced Strums

Tremelo Strums

Strumming the same chord over-and-over in a regular, quick tempo is known as a tremelo strum. These can be tabbed in a couple of different ways. They can be shown in the normal way (e.g. as a set of sixteenth notes) or as the total length of all the strums together with diagonal lines underneath the note.

tremelo strum

 

In this example, the first half of the bar and the second half are both played in exactly the same way. One diagonal line under the note indicates eighth notes, two lines denotes sixteenth notes and so on.

Rasgueados

Rasgueados, sometimes called rolls, are a technique that entered ukulele playing via its Portuguese roots – developing from flamenco playing.

 

They are produced by strumming with each finger in quick succession. You start by flicking downwards with your little finger, then ring, then middle and finally index finger. It’s important that the movement comes from the fingers rather than the wrist so you can hear each individual strum. In the example, I play through slowly (so the strums are very distinct) then up to speed.

You can learn the proper, flamenco technique from this guy’s videos.

Rasgueados are tabbed in a very similar way to usual strums. The only difference is an ‘R’ at the base of the strum.

rasguedos tab

Advanced Rhythm Tab

Dotted Notes

Often in tab you’ll see dots after the note lengths.

In standard notation these dots occur next to the circle of the note:

standard notation dotted notes

 

In tab, the dots occur next to the bottom of the line (you have to be careful as dotted quarter notes can be easily confused with eighth notes).

dotted notes tab

These dots increase the length of the note by half. For example, a dot after a half note would increase its length by quarter note i.e. it would last for three beats.

In example 9 it is a quarter note which is dotted. This means it last for a quarter note plus an eighth note.

Ties

When notes are tied together you add their lengths together. The tab for ties is an arch between the notes – the same as hammer-ons but in this case there is no note at the end of the arch.

For instance, the dotted note examples could be written with ties to create this:

ties ukulele tab

Often ties will be used to show one note ringing into another.

tied notes ukulele tab

 

In this example, the open A string is left ringing while the C string is played. Quite often notes will be intended to ring into each other but there will not ties in the tablature. In this case, you should listen to the performance and decide what you think sounds best.

Triplets

With triplets, three notes are played in the space of two.

They are indicated by a bracket under the notes with a 3 in the middle.

triplets tab

 

You can have any length of note in a triplet, but in this example it’s eighth notes.

A triplet of eighth notes takes up the same amount of time as two regular eighth notes i.e. one ‘pip’ in the example.

Make sure that your triplets are evenly spaced within the time.

Swing Time

When a piece has a triplet feel throughout, it is said to be in ‘swing time’. Swing time can be heard in musical styles from blues to Irish folk music to reggae. In swing time, the first half of each pair of eighth notes is played for longer than the second eighth note of the pair.

Swing time is indicated at the top left of the tab like this:

swing time ukulele tab

Compare this example in swing time:

 

To this one in straight time:

 

Swing time changes the length of eighth notes. The first in a pair of eighth notes now takes up the amount of time of two eighth notes in a triplet. The second eighth note in each pair now only takes up one triplet eighth note.

The technical explanation of this makes it sound more complicated to play than it is. Once you get the feel of a song, it becomes natural to play it and you’ll be able to do it without thinking about it..
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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.

View Comments

12 Comments

  1. Art Crocker January 23rd, 2008 8:04 pm

    Just when I thought I really did not need instruction reading Tab, I happened to look at your Part 4.
    Mystery Solved!
    I had been reading the Dotted Quarters as Eights – Guess I will start using my reading glasses a little more.

    Thanks,

  2. Woodshed January 23rd, 2008 9:16 pm

    It is a mistake that’s very easy to make. There needs to be a different way of tabbing it really.

  3. oam July 18th, 2010 1:52 pm

    great lesson! unfortunately, links are dead.

  4. Woodshed July 18th, 2010 4:55 pm

    oam: Thanks for letting me know. The fix is on its way.

  5. JoRo January 18th, 2012 4:21 am

    if the first note in a pair of eighth notes is the shorter of the two instead of vise versa, is it still considered swing time?

  6. Woodshed January 18th, 2012 6:50 am

    JoRo: Good question! I’m not sure. I don’t think you’d call it swing time. I’ve seen it referred to as Scottish time (it turns up in a lot of traditional Scottish tunes) but I don’t know if that’s the formal name for it.

  7. JoRo January 18th, 2012 11:21 pm

    Thanks for the quick response Woodshed!

  8. Duncan November 23rd, 2012 11:03 pm

    I was doing great up until now! Lol. Thank you for the lessons, I’ll move on to the next section after my girlfriend helps me with this one lol! My internet is down so im using my phone which wont let me hear examples of this stuff so I’m a little out of luck until then! Thanks again mate!

  9. Woodshed November 24th, 2012 9:23 am

    Duncan: I hope your girlfriend can help!

  10. UkePerson April 17th, 2013 9:38 am

    Hi. I’m young and I kind of dont get this. Its a bit confusing. I used to do piano then I forgot how to play and now I do uke and I need to learn sheet music. please help!

  11. Nitin January 24th, 2014 9:44 am

    I understand how swing time for eighth notes would sound like. But, I am having problems understanding the division of times in swing time for sixteenth notes. Out of the 4 sixteenth notes in a standard 4/4 measure, will the first note take as long as the first two notes of a triplet and the next 3 will take as long as the last note of the triplet or is it something different?

  12. Woodshed January 25th, 2014 10:34 am

    Nitin: I don’t really know. I can’t remember encountering straight sixteenth notes in swung eighth note time. I’d probably try playing them straight. And then play it as if it was double time (so the eighth notes are straight and the sixteenth notes are swung). See which one sounds right.

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