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(tăb`ləcho͝or), in music, a generic system of musical notationmusical notation,
symbols used to make a written record of musical sounds.

Two different systems of letters were used to write down the instrumental and the vocal music of ancient Greece. In his five textbooks on music theory Boethius (c.A.D. 470–A.D.
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 indicating actions that the player must take, rather than "representing" the music itself that will result from those actions. Tablatures have been in use in the West since the early 14th cent., mostly for keyboard and plucked string instrument. Most used a horizontal grid read from left to right, with letters or numbers indicating the production of pitches, and rhythmic signs above. In the 16th and 17th cent., differing systems existed in Germany, Italy, Spain and France. Tablatures are used today to notate music for guitar and ukulele. These have vertical lines representing strings of the instrument, horizontal lines for the frets, and dots to show the position of the fingers.


See W. Apel, The Notation of Polyphonic Music, 900–1600 (4th ed. 1953).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a system of musical notation with letters or numbers, in use from the 15th to the 17th century. Tablature existed in several national variants, and the tablatures for individual instruments, such as the lute, organ, and harpsichord, also had their own distinguishing features. In organ tablature, the letters or numbers designated notes, and they were written on a staff assigned to an individual part; music for several parts was written on several staffs. In lute tablature, the letters or numbers designated the positions at which the strings were pressed to the fingerboard. The duration of the sounds and pauses was indicated by special symbols. Tablature was gradually replaced by the simpler and clearer staff notation (seeNOTATION).

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. A tabular surface or structure.
2. A painting or design on a part of an extended surface, as a ceiling.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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I will be happy, but surprised, if it reaches such a wide market: at such a price, and with this generous layout, including facsimiles and tablature beneath the stave, it will inevitably appeal mainly to the small but fervent coterie of qin specialists round the world.
Buxtehude himself almost certainly used beamless tablature notation rather than staff notation, but the earliest sources in staff notation employed a mixture of beaming patterns which frequently seem to relate to the nature of the music itself.