I have a tab notation question.
I will be using arbitrary numbers so that the examples are easier

When you pluck the 12th fret in the G string, and then you bend the string a full note (from G to A), that's written like this:

G -----12b14------

The string remains ringing in the A note (like it was the 14th fret).

But.... what if you want to do the same but end with the note ringing back in G?

I typically write it like this:

G -----12b14b12------

But I'm not sure if that's correct. From 14 to 12 I'm not actually bending, but "releasing slowly" (a "continuous" release and not "discreet" release).

The "slowly" is key here, because: ---12b14r12--- is a "discreet" release, isn't it? so I discard that r notation in here.

The sound I'm talking about is actually exactly the same as using a bottleneck-slide and doing this:

G -----12/14/12------ (with a bottleneck slide!)

...but with bends instead of a bottleneck slide.

  • 1
    Good question. I don't know of specific notation for this, but I think 12b14b12 is pretty clear.
    – user28
    Mar 9, 2015 at 0:31
  • Apparently I don't know what is meant by tab notation. I thought tab notation was the same as tab with 6 lines and so forth. Perhaps notation is more like instructions on how to draw the tab. Mar 9, 2015 at 20:57

2 Answers 2


As suggested in your question a bend can be a quick bend and hold, a quick bend and release or a bend and gradual release. I have seen bend and release notated in different ways in various tabs I have come across. I think using an arrow to indicate the bend is the easiest way to clearly indicate how the relative timing of the bend and release.

Below are some ideas. 1 indicates a full step bend (equivalent to 2 frets) and 1/2 indicates a half step bend (equivalent to 1 fret). The arrow's curve can indicate how fast the bend is held and how fast or gradual it is released.

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  • The middle option is what I've seen in tablature. The question, despite the title, seems not to be about that, but rather some ascii derivative of tab... Mar 9, 2015 at 13:19
  • @MeaningfulUsername - oh I see what you mean. ascii text to describe how you would draw the tab. So not actually tab but the code for the tab. So you have to add the letter of the string ie G or A or E or e in front of the string of text to define which string of the tab the notation will be drawn on. Mar 9, 2015 at 20:54
  • I think the text version is a popular format for sharing "tabs". I think this is the correct answer to the question, but maybe not what the asker intended :). Mar 9, 2015 at 22:16
  • @MeaningfulUsername I can't think of a way other than drawing it out as shown - to indicate the relative timing of the bend and release if it is to be held longer before releasing. But who knows. Someone may standardize a method one day. Mar 9, 2015 at 22:34
  • Well your answer does answer my question.. but, as @MeaningfulUsername said, I was thinking more of "ASCII tabs" (tabs written with computer keyboard characters, like the ones you find in ultimate-guitar). I didn't thought of "paper tabs", in which you have a more flexible way of expressing yourself (doing arrows, curved lines, etc). Maybe ASCII tabs are just too limited!... I've seen your notation in songsterr.com (which has a way of writing "paper tabs" through special codes, similar to LaTeX)
    – sports
    Mar 10, 2015 at 2:36

When tabbing bends myself I usually use / for up bends and \ for back bends, not too sophisticated but it does the job!

So with your example: ---12b14r12--- I'd write: ---12/14\12---

Not sure about how to tab this out for a slide...

  • 1
    how does the person who reads --12/14\12-- knows that the author of the tab means "bending" instead of "sliding"? you would have to use another symbol for sliding, like --12s14s12--
    – sports
    Mar 10, 2015 at 2:37
  • 1
    sports - that problem is why tabs as outlined in Rockin Cowboy's answer exist.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Mar 10, 2015 at 8:42
  • They can both coexist. Do you know LaTeX? In math language there are a lot of symbols and notations that ASCII cant graphically represent directly (eg: sum of x from i=0 to N). Thats why LaTeX was created. In LaTeX you write code such as sum_{i=1}^N which is compiled/rendered to the graphical typical notation (eg. A capital sigma symbol with subindex, etc). I guess thay songsterr.com does something similar. The question now is if the simplest ASCII notation (used by ultimateguitar) is capable of expressing all kinds of bends and effects. My guess and fear is that it is not
    – sports
    Mar 10, 2015 at 16:55

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