I was reading a songbook by Richie Kotzen, and in the song "Shine" (which he played with Mr. Big), there's a rythm guitar part that goes like this:

Verse part of Shine on guitar

What do the symbols M, C, D and P mean? I'm pretty sure "M" is for "palm-mute" and "P" is for "pull-off". But I'm not certain as to what C and D mean. Maybe "D" is for "don't play", since there's a bow line from the same note, but what about C?

By the way, it's probably not a slide or a hammer-on, since those are noted in other ways. Check out an excerpt of the solo part of the same song:

Solo part of Shine on guitar

Notice the presence of "C" and "D" again, but now alongside "H", "P" and "S", indicating that they are something else.

So, what do these symbols mean?


5 Answers 5


I don't know for sure, but I'm fairly certain "C" means a string bend and "D" means a release. Here's why I think so:

Notice the tab in the rhythm part. Where the "C" occurs, you play the D-string, 4th fret---that's an F#. And sure enough, the standard notation shows an F#. But then the standard notation shows that note becoming a G, while the tab continues to show D-string, 4th fret. The only way to play a G at that string/fret is to bend the string a half-step.

And then the standard notation shows the note going back to an F# at the same place where the "D" occurs, which makes me think the "D" indicates releasing the bend.

If you look at the solo, you'll see the same thing occur. At the beginning of the solo, the tab shows B-string, 12th fret -- that's a B. Then it's marked with that "C" marking. The standard notation shows a B grace note going up to a C, which again could only be achieved on the 12th fret of the B-string by bending it a half-step. And then the pitch of the note goes from that high C back down to the B, while the tab stays on the 12th fret, but this time marks it with "D".

Basically, wherever C is notated, the pitch of the note goes up, but the fret stays the same, and when D is notated, the pitch goes back down again. Notice, too, that "C" and "D" seem to come in pairs.

So again, I don't know for certain, but this is my educated guess: "C" means "bend the string" and "D" means "release the bend".

  • 1
    Good explanation. Note how the bend (="C" action) is used to produce an appogiatura (the little grace note before the main one, first bar of second extract). You should play on position not-bended the first B and bend quickly do C before releasing in the next bar. I am surprised to find these "C" and "D" letters though. In contradiction to the other letters, I do not find an easy mnemonics. I have seen a "Z" for bend sometimes.
    – ogerard
    Apr 19, 2011 at 6:56
  • 4
    I know that 'C' stands for Choke: a quick bend, I've also seen it spelled as CH on some tabs not sure what D stands for though
    – Smugrik
    Aug 15, 2011 at 18:28

I would agree with what Alex said above about M, C, and D -- the other symbols are most likely:

H => Hammer-on

P => Pull-off

S => Slide


Consult this Wikipedia article on tablature symbols. It contains an extensive chart of commonly-used symbols and their meaning.


But the bottom line is that there are no universally-agreed-upon conventions for notation. You must consult the individual book that this example comes from.

  • It was the first thing I tried... although a good reference overall, this Wikipedia article unfortunately doesn't cover this particular "corner case". Aug 16, 2011 at 23:20

C - Crescendo - Move Pitch, or volume, UP D - Descend - Move Pitch, or volume, DOWN H - Hammer-On - Hit note to produce a sound P - Pull-Off - Remove Finger to allow note, of lower pitch, to sound S - Slide - Raise/Lower Pitch, while maintaining sounding note, & changing Finger Position


P = Pulgar (thumb in Spanish) To be played by the thumb.

  • This seems inconsistent with both the original question and the other answers, which say P is for "pull off". Do you have a source for your answer? That would help better establish it.
    – Aaron
    Nov 12, 2020 at 22:49
  • For this particular piece, I find it unlikely that "P" is "thumb", as the piece is played entirely with a pick and the part where the "P" appears is certainly a legato-based trill. Nov 13, 2020 at 21:28

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