Lesson #5: How to read a fingerpicking tab?


You are starting to learn ukulele and you see many PDF files with lines and numbers, but you don’t understand their meaning?

Don’t worry! You’ll learn everything about the reading of a fingerpicking tablature here and you will soon be able to read all of them!


First of all, you must be comfortable with the different parts of the ukulele, and with the rhythm. If you are not, go to lesson #2, and lesson #4, and then come back.

In  my opinion, it is necessary to make the distinction between fingerpicking tablatures and singing tablatures because their reading is different. So you can find my lesson #6 : How to read a singing tablature here.

How do I read a fingerpicking tab?

Here is an exemple from Minuet by Henri Purcell (you can find the full version here) :

Excerpt from Minuet by Henry Purcell

It’s actually quite intuitive: each line represents a string. The lowest line is G, the top line is C, then E, and finally the highest is A.

These notes correspond to the tuning of your ukulele, i.e. the sound of each string without pressing a fret.

Now that you know what these lines correspond to, let’s take a look at the numbers. The number you see written on a line corresponds to its fret. Thus, this excerpt will begin by scraping the string of E with the finger pressed on the third fret. Remember that you read the notes from left to right, paying attention to the rhythm of the piece of music.
Beware, for the first 4 notes, only one string is strummed!

It is also quite possible to strum 2 of them at the same time when they are side by side, as in the 3rd bar for example.


To conclude, here are the points to remember:

  1. The tuning (GCEA) reads from bottom to top
  2. Each number corresponds to the fret where to place the finger.
  3. Tablature is read from left to right

Well done !
Ukulele master 40%

Great, you can now read fingerpicking ukulele tab! Go to lesson #6 to learn how to read a song tablature.

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