If you are new to BeatTab, check out Quickstart and then try an easy tune. For more detail, see the Summary. Then start working on good rhythm, tone and accuracy. Make each piece yours! But most importantly — make sure you are enjoying yourself. That is what music is meant for.

BeatTab Quickstart


Examples on this page teach the absolute basics of BeatTab.

  • Breath direction is: UNDERLINED #'s for BLOW holes — PLAIN #'s for DRAWS.

  • Beat rhythm durations are shown via context — per spacing, dashes and [ ]'s.

Just play some simpler known songs, after a review of this short Quickstart - learn by doing.

/4 4 6 6 /[66][66]6 - /5 5 5 5 /4 4 4 - / ...

/Baa baa black sheep /[Have you][an y]wool - /Yes sir yes sir /Three bags full - /

Underlined numbers mean to BLOW / Exhale. Plain numbers are to DRAW / Inhale.

Count each of the four (4) main downbeats within each of the four bars (measures).

Note that each dash ( - ) is also a downbeat. Basically dashes ( - ) lengthen note durations.

Square brackets [ ]'s indicate the contents are played within a 1/4 note duration beat.

  • Therefore a [66] plays one 6 draw on a downbeat and second one on an upbeat.

Square brackets [ ]'s squeeze the notes into a standard-sized reference beat of 1/4.

This allows triplets and 1/16 notes to be easily discerned. As well, [ ]'s can clarify the beat.

  • Brackets allow context in order to achieve complex detail of rhythm when needed.

/4 4 [4,4]5 /5,4[5,5]6 - /

/Row row [row, your]boat /[gent, ly][down, the]stream - /

/[777][666][555][444]/6,5[5,4]4 - /

/[Mer ri ly][mer ri ly][mer ri ly][mer ri ly]/[Life, is][but, a]dream - /

This example illustrates compound rhythm / swing. (Yes — Row, Row has complexities).

  • Basically the [ ]'s enable compression of three durations within a one beat duration.

This is very clear when we have [777] but it is also the case for [4,4] as well.

  • Commas essentially take the place of a (missing) note thereby notating for swing beats.

Therefore [4,4] plays a 4 blow on the downbeat — then hesitates because of the comma then finally plays a 4 draw just before the next downbeat (of the above 5 blow).

For those who know Standard Music notation, for the above four bars:

The 1st bar has two 1/4 notes followed by two swung 1/8 notes and one 1/4 note.

The 2nd bar (and 4th bar) has two sets of swung 1/8 notes then followed by a 1/2 note.

The 3rd bar (2nd line) has four sets of triplet 1/8 notes.

A good notation should not only be ACCURATE and CONCISE, it must also be easily learned, be INTUITIVE and account for the most COMMON playing of notes, RHYTHM & ornamentation.

  • It should encourage, both — relying less on notation as well as for improvising more.

Easy - Offers choices from the minimal to the most complex. Very intuitive once understood.

Compact - Uses standard keyboard symbols — logically and consistently.

Precise - Enables full rhythm detail including all durations and complex chording and bends.


BeatTab is best learned organically — just pick some simple known songs and play

BeatTab Summary

Some notations have precise rhythm while others give none. BeatTab is a full musical notation with BOTH of the main elements of PITCH and RHYTHM yet looks much like standard Harp Tab. Even the DOWNBEATS and UPBEATS are clearly expressed. A simple notation for the easy licks — with precision features as needed for the more complex stuff. Don't be overpowered by the detail. Just go try some simple examples like Row, Row, Row Your Boat to gain clarity.

_______________________________________________

General

Bar (or measure): Use the forward slash ( / ) - /4 5 6 5 /5 6 4 - / = 2 bars of 4 beats each.

Hole: Hole numbers are 1,2,3 … 8,9,0 (using 0 for the 10th hole).

Rest: An ( x ) indicates a "silent" note ( 1/8 rest or stop if after note).

Modifiers: Always placed AFTER the note in the order of:

1. Pitch (direction & bending), 2. Chording (note combinations), then 3. Rhythm (durations).

_______________________________________________

1. Pitch Modifiers

Direction of airflow: Draw holes are plain ( 3 4 ), Blows underlined ( 3 4 ).

Bend: ( ' '' ''') = single/double/triple bends (2' , 3'' , 3''' or 8') - degree of bend per context.

Dip Bend: ( ` ) = (4` or 8`) - start on bent note & swoop up to the unbent tone.

Dip Bend Down: ( v ) = (2` or 8v) - start on the unbent tone & quickly bend down per context.

Overbend: ( * ) - (6* = 6 hole overblow) (7* = 7 hole overdraw).

For slides, glisses, vibrato, etc. — see 2020 Music Notation.

_______________________________________________

2. Chord Modifiers

Chord: ( c ) Placed after the LOWER hole - (2c = 23 together - often with 3 a bit weaker).

Chord Smile: ( s ) After CENTER hole (3s = 234 together) - ie: play the 3 draw and “smile”.

Chord Tongue Block: ( t ) After main HIGHER note - (4t = 14 together - tongue covers 23).

Wide Tongue Block: ( T ) After main HIGHER note - (8T = 48 together - tongue covers 567).

Trill / Shake: ( = ) Placed AFTER 1st lower note - (4= is 4545).

_______________________________________________

3. Rhythm Modifiers

All notes (& rest x’s) start with a 1/8 note default duration before Modifiers are applied.

Reference Duration (BEAT): (1/4 note duration normally) - ie: The counted beats in the bar.

Default Duration: (1/8 note normally) - All unmodified notes are 1/2 the duration of the BEAT.


Extension Modifiers for Durations:

Dashes add the default duration to itself - eg: 1/8 notes become 1/4 notes - for downbeats.

Spaces add the default duration to itself - eg: 1/8 notes become 1/4 notes - for upbeats.

Periods add the default duration to itself - like a space but more visible (good for handwriting).

Commas also add a default duration - but also "sticks" adjacent notes (holes or x's) together.

Semicolons (;) are equivalent to a period+comma (seldom used but for very small durations).

Explicit swing can be shown via [hole-space-hole] eg: [2 3] per context, OR by 2,3 whereas:

Comma's allow explicit swing rhythm (delayed notes) - eg: /2,23,34,45 / or /[2,2]3,3[4,4]5 /.

Comma’s add about 1/3 to a preceding note duration & removes 1/3 from the next note.

As commas "stick" the two adjacent notes (holes or x's) together, they then imply [ ]'s exist.

Note that Downbeats are BEFORE commas & swung Upbeats are AFTER commas.

Spaces, Dashes, etc. all ADD 1/8 durations - (eg: /2 - - - / is 1/8 + 7 more 1/8's =8/8=1).

Spaces, Dashes, etc. all act as "placeholders" thereby allowing context durations to be applied.


Contraction Modifiers for Durations:

Square Brackets: [ ] = BEAT (duration of 1/4 note) - eg: [23] or [234] or [2343].

[23] indicates the same duration as 23 alone so [ ]'s are only needed so to clarify the grouping.

[234] would indicate a 1/8 triplet (with 3 notes played in the same duration context as the 23 alone).

[2345] being faster 1/16 notes (4 notes played in the same duration context as the 23 alone).

Or use placeholders like commas (or semicolons for "double" placeholders) to enable other durations such as [2,,457,,] or [834567;] here showing as all 1/32 notes except for the 2 and the 7's which are 3/32 notes. Note that nested [ ] brackets can also be used (they represent a duration being one-half of the Beat brackets). However it is usually more clear to simply show durations such as [237,8,9,] using comma placeholders. Nesting is discouraged as it obscures.

_______________________________________________

Also see the chapters 5 and 6 of 2020 Music Notation for a complete detail per all of the above.

2020 Music Notation website