Tablature (tab) is a way of writing music for a specific instrument. A tab for one instrument cannot be used for a different instrument. On the piano, notes are easy to recognise --- because of the pattern of black and white keys --- so the only questions are which fingers to put where and when. On the guitar the notes are not visible --- and the same note can be made at different places --- so the important information is where to fret each string and when. Translating from guitar tab to piano tab is a multi-stage process.
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Decide how you are going to break up the guitar tab into material for two hands. Single note melody lines are probably going to go the right hand for piano. Guitar music for rock, folk and jazz is often written as a single melody lines with chord names written above the staff. These should be transcribed by writing the notes for the chords for the left hand on the piano and the melody for the right hand. Classical and flamenco guitar tend to play bass lines with the thumb and melodies with the fingers. This means that the top three lines of the guitar tab will be translated to the right hand piano tab and the bottom three lines of the guitar tab will be translated to the left hand of the piano tab. If this leaves some blank spaces, that is OK --- it will be filled in later.
Translate the notes one beat at a time without worrying about how reasonable the piano tab is. If you are not a guitarist, you need to learn the notes on the guitar fretboard in order to translate. Guitar tabs consist of numbers placed on a structure of six lines. These lines represent the guitar strings and the bottom line is the biggest (deepest sounding) string. This lowest string sounds as the E below middle C. Each subsequent line represents a string that is tuned a second or third higher. The sequence is: EADGBE where the high E is two octaves above the low E. Each fret of the guitar is a half-step on the piano, so a 5 on the second line of a guitar tab represents the D above middle C --- 5 half-steps above A.
Rearrange the new piano tab so that it is playable. Blank spaces can be filled in with the appropriate chords. The melody and bass parts can also be moved up or down an octave. Complex chords from the guitar tab can be divided up between the left and right hands in the piano tab.
Tips and warnings
- Sometimes moving notes --- even parts of chords --- up or down an octave can make a lot of difference in the sound. Notes can also be doubled in different octaves.
- Some guitar effects like tremolo and slurs are impossible to play on the piano --- avoid transcribing pieces that rely on these techniques.
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