How to Read Banjo Tab

Lines, Numbers, and Letters

Tab is one of the most popular learning tools available. Tunefox features tabs for all of it's banjo songs, licks, and lessons so to prepare you for the rest of the site, let's talk about how to read tab.

First, let's take a look at the staff. The 5 horizontal lines on the staff represent the banjo's strings. The lowest line is the 5th string and the highest is 1st string. The 5th string on your banjo is the one closest to your face when you're holding the instrument and it's the short string. When you see a number on the tab, this is an indication for you to push down the string behind that fret. So if you see a number '2' on the top line, this means you'll push down right behind the 2nd fret on the 1st string.

How to Read Banjo Tab Video Tutorial

The tab below gives you a sample so you can test it out for yourself. Another element you'll see in Tunefox's tab are right hand fingerings. These are notated underneath the staff. When playing bluegrass banjo, you'll either use your thumb, index, or middle finger in your picking hand and these are notated as T, I, and M in the tab. Another thing to watch for are the slur indications, which we will cover more in-depth in a future lesson. In the 2nd measure of the tab below, you'll see lines connecting the notes in the staff. The diagonal line indicates a slide. The curved line moving under the notes is a pull-off and the one moving over the notes is a hammer-on. The last thing to note is that there are chords above the measure. You can click on these to see the fingering of the chord notated.