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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Tablature \Tab"la*ture\, n. [Cf. F. tablature ancient mode of musical notation. See Table.]

  1. (Paint.) A painting on a wall or ceiling; a single piece comprehended in one view, and formed according to one design; hence, a picture in general.

  2. (Mus.) An ancient mode of indicating musical sounds by letters and other signs instead of by notes.

    The chimes of bells are so rarely managed that I went up to that of Sir Nicholas, where I found who played all sorts of compositions from the tablature before him as if he had fingered an organ.

  3. (Anat.) Division into plates or tables with intervening spaces; as, the tablature of the cranial bones.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

type of musical notation for lute or stringed instrument, 1570s, from French tablature (1550s), from Italian tavolatura (also Medieval Latin tabulatura), from Late Latin tabulare, from Latin tabula "table, list, schedule" (see table (n.)). "It differed from the more general staff-notation in that it aimed to express not so much the pitch of the notes intended as the mechanical process by which on the particular instrument those tones were to be produced" [Century Dictionary].


n. 1 A form of musical notation indicating fingering rather than the pitch of notes, commonly used for stringed instruments 2 An engraved tablet etc.


n. a musical notation indicating the fingering to be used


Tablature (or tabulature, or tab for short) is a form of musical notation indicating instrument fingering rather than musical pitches.

Tablature is common for fretted stringed instruments such as the lute, vihuela, or guitar, as well as many free reed aerophones such as the harmonica. Tablature was common during the Renaissance and Baroque eras, and is commonly used in notating rock, pop, folk, ragtime, bluegrass, and blues music.

Three types of organ tablature were used in Europe: German, Spanish and Italian. There are several types of ocarina tabulature.

To distinguish standard musical notation from tablature, the former is usually called " staff notation" or just "notation".

Usage examples of "tablature".

She shook her head, and began to leaf through the pages again, but so far as she could see, the slim volume held no words for spells, and nothing resembling music, not even the flaglike medieval tablature she vaguely remembered from her graduate days.

There was also an odd tablature that looked a bit like written music, indicating that the spell was to be sung.

Cuneiform tablature indicates that the River disappeared in its entirety on two separate occasions.

But he knew someone who could help him find it, someone who could read the tablature that told how to gain entrance to the inner sanctum of the Old One.

The orchestra skipped several beats as musicians looked up from their tablature to peruse the new arrivals, and two couples missed their turn to go down the line, and so fell out of the dance.