How to Read Ukulele Tabs Chords With Lyrics

The trickiest part about learning any instrument is deciphering its sheet music, but thanks to music tablatures, you can learn how to play the ukulele in one setting.

If you’re not familiar with tablatures, these are a type of music sheet designed specifically for stringed instruments. Instead of showing musical pitches, they show you where to position your fingers to hit specific notes. In other words, they guide you in a more straightforward way to play your favorite songs without spending much time on the theoretical stuff.

We’re going to be your ukulele teacher for the day and explain to you how to read ukulele tabs in a simple and super-easy way. By the end of this article, no ukulele sheet music is going to stand in your way. So let’s get to it!

How to Read Ukulele Tabs Chords With Lyrics
How to Read Ukulele Tabs Chords With Lyrics

A Guide to Ukulele Music Tablature

Before we start, let us tell you that ukulele tabs are diagrams that demonstrate how single notes and chords should be played on a ukulele. However, they don’t show you the timing nor the notes’ duration. So, while you’ll be able to know which notes to play, there’s nothing to tell you how long you should stay on each note.

That’s why unless you know the song you’re playing and can actually hum it in your head, there’s no way you can work it out. Now that we’ve got this information out of the way, let’s get down to business!

Main Components of a Ukulele Tab

A tab has four main components:


Just like a ukulele has four strings, a ukulele tab features four lines. Each of the horizontal lines corresponds to a particular string on the uke.

Now, when you hold the uke with the headstock in your right and the neck in your left, the G string becomes the top string, followed by the C and E strings and the A string as the bottom string.

The basic form of a tab looks like the following:

A | ————————————————- |

E | ————————————————- |

C | ————————————————- |

G | ————————————————- |

As you can see, the four lines of a ukulele music tablature are written in the opposite direction, so the bottom line of the tab becomes the string nearest to your head and vice versa.


On top of each line, a number is placed to indicate which fret you should push down on which string. Let’s take this example:

A | ————————————————– |

E | ————————–3———————- |

C | ————————————————– |

G | ————————————————– |

The number “3” on the second line indicates that you should press the 3rd fret of the E string with your left hand and play the same string with your right hand.

What if there is more than one number?

A | —————–9——————————— |

E | ————————–1———————— |

C | —–3——————————————— |

G | ———————————————0—– |

Tabs are read from left to right, so to play the example mentioned above, you should push down the 3rd fret and play the C string first as it holds the first number. Proceed by pushing on the 9th fret while pulling on the A string, then press on the 1st fret while playing the E string.

What about the zero on the bottom line? The zero indicates an open string, meaning that you’ll have to pick the G string without pressing down on any frets.


When you see more than one fret number written in a vertical row, that means you should play them simultaneously to get the sound of a chord. Please, see below:

A | —————–2——————————— |

E | —————–3——————————— |

C | —————–2——————————— |

G | —————–0——————————— |

In this example, you should push all frets at the same time to get the sound of the G major chord. Note that there’s no fret at the G string, so you have to play it as an open string.

Bar Lines

In a standard music sheet, a bar line would divide the bars according to the time signature. However, since tabs don’t have timing, a bar line serves as a means of separating the song parts, just to make it easier to read, but it has no significant value whatsoever.

Tablature Symbols

Now that you’re familiar with the basics, let’s jump to what makes the tones more alive. To be able to read tab symbols, you should know what each symbol looks like and what it represents.


Hammer-ons are a way of transition from lower to higher notes without cutting the tone.

See this tab below:

A | ———————2h8———————– |

E | ————————————————- |

C | ————————————————- |

G | ————————————————- |

The letter “h” between the two fret numbers represents a hammer-on. To play this note, put your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the A string and pick the note. While it’s ringing, place your ring finger on the 8th fret quickly without picking the note.


Contrary to the previous symbol, a pull-off represents the transition from a higher note to a lower one and is expressed by the letter “p”. For example:

A | ————————————————- |

E | ———————2p0———————– |

C | ————————————————- |

G | ————————————————- |

This tab should be played by pushing on the second fret of the E string then picking the note while pulling your finger away from the fret.

A Guide to Ukulele Music Tablature
A Guide to Ukulele Music Tablature


A slide is used to shift from a note to another without doing a staccato or legato attack. If we’re ascending, we use the symbol: “/” while the descending movement is represented with a “/”. Please, observe:

A | ————————————————- |

E | ————————————————- |

C | ——–2/6————————————- |

G | ————————-6/2——————– |

Here we have an ascending note on the C string and descending one on the G string. To play the first one, push the second fret while picking on the C string, then ascend to the sixth fret without picking. The second note should be played the same way but in reverse order.

Ghost Notes

Numbers between parentheses represent a ghost note. For example:

A | ————-4———————————— |

E | ——6——————————————- |

C | ————————-(7)———————- |

G | ——————————————-9—— |

When playing the note on the C string, you should mute the strings with your fretting hand. That’s how you produce a ghost note.


If you come across a number placed between two wavy lines on a tab, that means you have to play a vibrato note. To do that, rock your finger back and forth with the fret and let its pitch go up and down.

A | ————————————————- |

E | ——————-~3~————————- |

C | ————————————————- |

G | ————————————————- |

Bends and Releases

When you raise a string with your fretting hand, its pitch goes up. That’s how you have a “bend,” and it’s symbolized by the letter “b.” If you return the string to its original position, you get a “release,” which is denoted by an “r.”

A | —————–4b6r4———————— |

E | ————————————————- |

C | ————————————————- |

G | ————————————————- |


Harmonics are shown on tabs with the symbol “<>” and are played by touching the fretboard’s string very slightly while picking the note.

A | ————————————————- |

E | ———————<12>——————— |

C | ————————————————- |

G | ————————————————- |

Rhythm and Tempo

Remember when we told you that a uke tab wouldn’t show you the duration of each note? Well, since music is all about creativity, ukulele players have tweaked the rules to introduce rhythm and tempo to ukulele tabs by using the traditional standard notation symbols on top of the fret numbers.

For example, if you see the letter “w” above a fret number, you should play a whole note. Similarly, an “h” represents a half note while a “q” indicates a quarter note, and so on.

Conclusion: How to Read Ukulele Tabs

If you’ve reached this part of the article, congratulations! Now you know how to read ukulele tabs. As you can see, it’s much easier than reading standard notation.

Of course, it might take a couple of “A-Ha!” moments before you get the hang of it practically, but as we always say, practice makes wonders, so practice as much as you can. We’ll be waiting for you on the stage!