In most of tablature notation for fretted instruments, each line represents a string and the numerals, representing the frets where to stop the string, are printed on the respective lines.

However, for 4-stringed instruments there exists literature [1, see picture] with the tablature consisting of five lines and the numerals printed in between those lines. In this case a string is represented by a gap between two lines.

Is there nomenclature distinguishing between those two types of tablature?

Tablature with numerals between lines. From Mel Bay's Complete Jethro Burns Mandolin Book.

1 Jehtro Burns and Ken Edison, Mel Bay's Complete Jethro Burns Mandolin Book, Mel Bay Publications, Inc., ISBN 1-56222-663-0 (1993)

  • 1
    It's still tab. Not sure there is a different name. I have seen this for guitar as well.
    – user50691
    Dec 16, 2018 at 18:58
  • I'm not able to answer definitively, but I would just refer to it as Tab for mandolin as opposed to Tab for guitar. Dec 18, 2018 at 1:41

1 Answer 1



Your opening sentence is confirmed here: "In tablature, the horizontal lines represent the strings of the instrument: six strings for guitar and dobro, four for mandolin and ukulele, five for banjo." This notation guide uses a 6-, 5-, or 4-line staff, with a clef "TAB."

Your picture's omission of the unusual clef and usage of the common 5-line staff both suggest that this is a publisher's shortcut, not yet deserving the dignity of its own name.

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