Violin Tabs

• Jul 20, 2015 - 08:04

Some time ago I saw several requests for a violin tab to be developed for MS. There was even some support for it, and I believe one MS developer wrote he/she was working on it. I have since been wondering why this is necessary. I understand the need for guitar tablature since to include the guitar part on a regular staff would make the score harder to read and even make the guitar part harder to play since they are mostly strumming or playing chords. I've seen some tablatures written when the guitar is playing the melody, but it seems to me that the use of tabs is unnecessarily restrictive.

Violin music uses two notehead styles (regular and harmonic) as well as a lot of ornamentation. (I do admit that when a violin plays double stops [or triple or quadruple stops] the tab notation would be easier to read, except in the higher positions.) In addition, for faster music, following a tab seems to be more complicated than it is worth. I don't want to seen crass, unrefined, indelicate, insensitive, thick, coarse, callus, harsh, grim, unpleasant, rough, jarring, or even unpleasant, but wouldn't it be easier to just learn to read music?

I have been playing violin for over 50 years and have yet to feel the need for tabs.

What do you think?


I would love to see violin tab for MS. I learned to read music at age 3 and enjoyed playing piano for 30 years until I suffered a brain injury in Iraq. When I finally recovered enough to get back to music I realized I could no longer read music. I was devastated. I see notes on the staff, hear them in my head, and can still sing from sheet music, however my brain can't make the connection to my hands. A friend introduced me to tab and that has made all the difference! Although I can no longer play piano, I have learned to play violin using tab. When one door closes, another opens. Violin tab for MS would be wonderful for me!

In reply to by 3Griffs

This is an excellent reason to provide violin tabs.

Niccolo Paganini, who some believe to be the world's greatest violinist of all time, played guitar, as well. He even composed for the guitar, and according to one author, he created more compositions for guitar than he did for violin. The website has a few of his guitar compositions and they are all written out in standard musical notation - no tabs. Any attempt to convert Paganini's music to the use of tabs would be unnecessarily burdensome. It seems to me that if the music calls for strumming, then tabs would be ideal. But, more elaborate music would demand standard notation. Someone who relies on tabs is restricting their selection of compositions to perform.

I have never seen violin tab. Can anybody tell me where I find an example? It seems to me that such a tab would have to be very complicated as there are incredibly many options for fingering and a whole slew of different ways to bow. I am truly curious.

In reply to by azumbrunn

At the risk of reviving an ancient thread, I've attached an example of the violin tab my daughter's violin teacher uses.
I was looking for a way to generate this in MS to help her bridge the gap between learning fingerings and notes, but I think it's too different from the fretted tablature. Here the number refers to the finger, not the fret. In the example above, the rhythm is straight eighths and the notes would be A B C# D E E E E F# D A F# E cetera

In reply to by androo

You won't be able to automatically generate this in MuseScore. You could do it manually but it would be a lot of work.

The idea of making it consists of making a 4 string tab from any instrument, that you will mute in the mixer so it doesn't play any notes. This will NOT be a linked tab. The letters and number would be text, and you would want to make the letters and numbers colored rather than black on a colored background.

In reply to by mike320

For sure this can't work as it regular tabs; it's a different species. I though it was worth looking into out of curiosity and I found this thread, so I thought I'd show an example. It seems like this could be scripted by someone clever at that sort of thing. Manually would be (rather, is) tedious.

In reply to by androo

There is a long string on this topic here:

There are examples quoted there (with links) of fully worked* out tablature systems complete with color coding for hand positions and stickers on the fingerboard for finger positions.

The problem with violin tabs is of course the lack of frets. It means that the numbers signify fingers (whereas in the presence of frets they mean fret numbers and are each associated with a defined pitch for each string). But since the same note can be played by any finger depending on position and most notes can be played on two or three strings** it becomes very complicated as soon as one leaves the first position.

Which means two things as far as I am concerned: It will be much more work to implement violin tab in Musescore than guitar or mandolin tabs. And it is of limited use in pedagogy since standard notation with fingerings contains all the information a tab will give plus lets the student get used to standard notation (in which 99% of all violin sheet music is published) in preparation for the more advanced stages of learning where tablature will be of no use whatever.

However in the fiddle world--as opposed to the violin world--tablature appears to be popular and widespread and some people really desire the feature. Those people should take it upon themselves to do the complicated work to implement it IMO.

* Covering all 24 major and minor keys and positions 1 - 3.

** Example: Third finger on the A string is d. You can play that same d in second position with the second finger, in third position with first finger, in fourth position with the fourth finger on the D-string, also in fifth, sixth and seventh position with the third, second and first finger respectively on the D-string plus higher up on the G string as well.

I read music, not great sight reader, but good enough to get by. My main instrument is guitar. I've been playing mandolin for about 40yrs so I'm somewhat familiar with the fret board on the mando as far as intonation goes. I've had an old violin of my aunt's, late 1800's german student violin, and never played it. Well, the other day I got it out of the case and tuned it up. My ear is pretty go so I just played some scales that I use on the mando and decided to learn a few songs. It's going well and one thing I've used is mandolin tabs for some quick melodies on old time tunes. The mando tab works fine for me as a quick way to learn a few tunes.

When I began to learn fiddle at age 6, I learned tab, and skipped sheet music. I transferred from a Public school to a private school, where it was too small to even hold a basic music class. I just never learned sheet. I am desperately trying to learn to read sheet for the fiddle. I learned enough in public to read it, but it’s hard to know where to put my fingers, and bow just by looking at the sheet. I can see it’s 1/8 E, but i can’t play it. I don’t know where what is on my instrument. Tab is second nature to me. When I read it I hear a song. Any suggestions?

In reply to by nimdog51

Start your score with the string quartet. You can then use the instruments and add tablatures as you like. Unfortunately, you must max out at a string quartet if it makes a difference. If you add a linked staff for the tablature, you can enter the tablature info and the notes will be displayed. At least if you use a tablature method MuseScore supports. I'm not familiar with fiddle tabs. Since you don't read music, you'll have to play with it a bit to see how what you play and what you hear match up. Post examples and explain what you want to hear, perhaps tell us you are putting your finger on the 6th "fret" of the G string, give an example of what it looks like on your tab, and we can help translate it to a note on the staff.

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