Reading Guitar Tab

So some of you may know that I’ve been working on a second book- this one is music-based. Anyways, I have a few friends who are new to guitar and my book is more or less aimed at them, however some of them don’t know how to read tab- hence this post. So here’s the rundown:


The above is a sample of some tablature. Each of the 6 lines represents a string on the guitar, each number represents a fret on that string. The lower case (small) e represents the “high e” string on the guitar (the thinnest one), and the rest fall into place from there. In the example above, to play the first note you’d place a finger right behind the 5th fret on the A string (second fattest string), and pluck the string with a finger or a pick.

Above I’ve also laid out some basic notation, as listed below:

  • /: indicates a slide between two or more frets, e.g. 5/7 says start on the 5th fret and slide to the 7th. A forward slash usually indicates sliding up, while a backslash indicates liding down (e.g. 5/7\5\3).
  • x: Indicates a muted string. This is usually done with the fleshy edge of your palm on the pinkie side. In the instance above it’s used to set rhythm.
  • h: Indicates a “hammer-on”, where a note is struck and you hammer a finger on the next fret without actually striking the string a second time. By quickly pressing the following fret you retain the vibration from the previous note. This is often paired with p, pull-offs (e.g. 5h7p5 is 5, hammer on 7, release back to 5).
  • b: Bend a note. By stretching the string slightly sideways on the fretboard you can change the pitch of the note. Notes are usually only bent one or two step (frets), and are occasionally bent back, which is signified by an r (e.g. 7b9r7 means bend the 7th fret to sound like a 9, then back down to 7)
  • ~: Vibrato. there are two ways to do this- slightly vary the pressure on the string of a struck note so it wabbles back and forth, or bend it back and forth using the technique above very slightly, like a quarter of a step. It produces an effect similar to a whammy bar on an electric guitar. The more of these in a row, the longer you do it.

You’ll read through guitar tablature like the old pianos with the punch-card sheet music on a reel, playing each note as you go. Tab is meant to be a rough guide, so don’t expect exquisite timing details. Generally speaking, the farther apart the notes, the farther the pause; the closer the notes, the quicker the interval. Notes that appear on the same column are usually chords, and should be played in a single strum. Some tablature will define a set of used chords at the top, and simply refer to their name later on.

So that’s a quick intro into guitar tab. Let me know if I missed anything.

An Epiphany.

I’m the first to admit I’ve been slacking on my scales practice, mainly sticking to pentatonic (because I’m lazy). So while reading through my Scales and Modes book and I stumbled across something obvious, yet I’d never recognized. Each scale has a mode for each note in the scale- Major scale having 7, pentatonic scale having 5, etc. That I was remotely aware of, but didn’t think much of it.

I never really bothered with the major scale since it’s sorta boring, and felt overwhelmed by all of the basic scales (ionian, dorian, phrygian, etc) knowing that I’d have to learn their modes as well. Then the book pointed out that the first mode of the major scale was called the Ionian scale- wait, what? It turns out that all of those scales I feared learning didn’t have modes- they were modes- of the major scale!

So here’s the following:

Ionian In C:   C D E F G A B 
Dorian In D:     D E F G A B C
Phrygian In E:     E F G A B C D

This means, rather than learning 7 scales with 7 modes each, I just have to get down the 7 modes of the major scale. So simple, yet I never put it together.


So I just realized that I’ve become uber busy as of late. My current side projects look like this:
– Warhammer Army builder for ChrisP written in Ruby (on Rails)
– reviving and rebuilding my stream (RoR, again)
– SecretWord module and Logging for Ziggy (Perl + Po::Co::IRC)
– ImportLDIF plugin for Luma

This isn’t including the miniature painting, work, or Ian. The weird part is it feels nice to be busy- but only when it’s busy on my terms 🙂


Doing another annual recap this year like I did last year.

2006 was a pretty rough year- move from DC Metro back to Grand Rapids, got a crappy job, found out jackie was pregnant, got laid off from crappy job, spent 3 months unemployed, and at the end of November was offered an awesome new job in Troy, MI (the other side of the state). Other than Ian, and the new job, the best good news is we finally have a decent couch- two of them, actually.


I enjoyed working at CSX a lot, but Virginia started getting to me- a guy threw himself in front of the orange line and it was on the news down there, and I realized I could sorta understand why he did it… that was my hint that I needed to get out of there. The result was taking the first job that could get me back to Michigan.

I ended up taking a contract-to-hire job back in Grand Rapids that paid poorly, treated me like crap, and generally made me come home and curl up in the fetal position. Part of the agreement to even get close to the payrange I was looking for was I had to work 55 hours a week. The problem was I spent all 55 hours each week for 3 months putting out fires and stressed myself so badly that the doctor told me I had to cut back. Five months(August) into the 3 month contract (oh, it was open ended, didn’t you know that?) I was laid off. No severance, just a boot out the door. I wasn’t the only one laid off since the company is apparently not doing as well as they thought they were, but there’s still a lot of bitterness there.

The recruiter flat out lied when he said the Grand Rapids job market had improved- the unemployment rate is still 7% and companies are closing down left and right. I spent 3 months searching for a job in the area when our friend Chris P. offered to hand my resume off to a friend of his who was looking for a linux admin. Three interviews later, they offered me the job for a decent amount of money and benefits. The down side was it’s in Troy, so we’re moving again. This place seems great tho, and I don’t have any of the doubts or negative feelings I had initially about the job in GR.


In July, Jackie and I found out we were going to have a child. It’s a boy, and he’s due on March 10th. We’ve decided on Ian Hawthorn for a name. We’re really excited about it, but to be honest it didn’t help the stress level when I was laid off a month after finding out. We’re looking forward to it, but the new job is complicating issues like lamaz classes and doctor changes.

My brother Jamie is off being a park ranger/professional bum, Brian is still in school, parents are doing good, inlaws are good, grandparents are all doing well and the cats still haven’t been set on fire- can’t ask for more than that.


I finally finished my chainmail shirt. The age difference between rings resulted in some bad discoloration which I tried to fix by treating with vinegar- Unfortunately that completely removed the zinc coating on some resulting in rusting- once I get the cash I plan on rolling it in a bucket of sand to remove the rust, oiling it, and then putting it in a tupperware container.

I played with my guitar quite a bit early in the year, but slacked off later on. I also realized that learning to play the keyboard is going to require more than 25 keys, so I’ve put it off until I have the time and money to get a real keyboard and take lessons. I did manage to pick up a trumpet and restring my violin- I can play a scale on the violin (barely) and can annoy the neighbors with the trumpet. I also bought some new reeds for Jackie’s clarinet and learned how to play a scale.

I got back into ruby and finally checked out this whole rails thing- it’s very cool. I wish I would have kept up with ruby way back when and ignored the nay-sayers.

I’ve also taken up walking- yes, walking. I’ve been walking about 3 miles every other day since we moved back to Grand Rapids- once around the block. Now that we’ve moved, that’ll probably go by the wayside due to the lack of walking partners and Jackie’s general roundness (from Ian).

Hopefully 2007 will see us getting back to where we were last year this time.

Coheed and Cambria, Screamcore and the monkey boy who wouldn’t quit

So I just got back from my first concert without jackie in a long long time- went with my friend phil to the orbit room to see Coheed and Cambria. The events are as followed:
* went and got dinner
* went to the orbit room, realized phil was the “old guy” there (actually 3 or 4 people ended up beating him for that title) We got a table in the back because, since we were 10-15 years older than 9/10ths of the crowd and needed the support.
* first band was named “three” I think. Very good- their keyboard player also played a second set of drums- him and the main drummer rocked out for a bit- very cool. the lead singer played an acoustic guitar. The whole thing sounded a lot like Coheed and was a hell of an opening act. Phil commented as much and I replied that I had had good luck with opening bands….

Rule # 1: Do not tempt Fate.

It turns out there was a second warmup band- I don’t know their name because they never introduced themselves. Besides looking 19 and acting 14, the lead singer sang like a 2 year old who was told he had to take a nap…

This my friends is called screamcore, and has replaced rapcore as the most annoying rock spinoff. The lead singer alternated between yelling lyrics and screaming them. I didn’t think it got much worse than that. The only reason we didn’t walk out was because we had a nice table in the back and we wanted to sit for the opening acts.

* I found out that there was yet ANOTHER opener called “dillenger” something or other, and that they were a much better act than the nameless band. Well, I guess it depends on how you define “better”. See, as far as screamcore went, the nameless band was untalented because the lead screamer sometimes yelled instead of screaming. Apparently this is frowned upon, and Dillenger showed us how it was really done.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, Dillenger upped the Ante. Not only did they suck, but they were louder, more incoherent, and didn’t have any decernable rhythm. again, we didn’t walk out cause we wanted our damn seats.

Finally they stopped and I clapped, and phil and I talked about other concerts he’d been to and how he was bitten in the back by a rabid butthole surfer fan at a concert. Coheed and Cambria came out and after the abuse we took on the last 2 acts, the bar was set pretty high- we wanted our money’s worth damnit. The only thing I really have to say about them is the lead singer has got some hair going on.

yeah, except it’s longer and frizzier than that picture- it ran to his shoulders, but actually mushroomed past them by about 3 inches on each side. when he sang it looked like the shaggy dog was licking the mic.

The music was good tho- I liked it quite a bit. the last song was a 20 minute blues rock jamsession where the lead guitarists traded licks back and forth. very cool.

and before I head to bed, let me tell you about monkeyboy… there was a coheed fan sitting about 20 feet in front of us who was enjoying the music a bit much. where some people would play air guitar, this gentleman had all the bases covered-
– he played “air base drum” with his foot coming about 2 feet straight up then back down to the beat
– he played “air cymbals” with his t-rex type arms (elbows never leaving his sides) flailing to the cymbal smashing
– and finally, “air guitar.” during the parts where there wasn’t really any guitarpart that stuck out.

On top of all of this, he’d occasionally flail out in something that could only be described as “sub human”. Once he even got up and did a little jig of some sort- not sure where that came from, but it was defininitely unique.

Other memorable moments included seeing a girl come out of the crowd while dillenger was up there gushing blood from her nose. I’d laugh, but I actually felt sorry for her… let see… Phil’s story about how he got his junk x-rayed… and of course random monkeyboay outbursts during the entire thing.
ok, time for bed I think.

UPDATE: after looking it up, the opening bands listed are “The Dillinger Escape Plan, Chiodos, and 3”. so yeah, 3 is a crappy name for a band since I can’t google for them, but I did find 3’s CD on ubl.

Review: iAudio M5 (day 5)

So Today is the last day that I get to play with Jackie’s M5. I’m gonna miss it 🙁

on the bright sid,e I did find out something cool- the battery almost died on the way to work- that’s because it hasn’t been charged since monday. The long ass battery life this thing has is very nice. I thought when I connected it to a USB cable it would trickle charge, but it turns out, as I just found out a few moments ago, you have to slide the power charge on, then the “charge button” I mentioned on day one glows bright red- it’s a light, not a button! The screen says charging and has a little “battery filling” animated icon. I’m gonna let it sit for a while and see how long it takes to charge.

I definitely want one though, and that’s what matters.

Review: iAudio M5 (day 4)

So I’ve been using the M5 for the last few days and have been pretty impressed. I missed a few days due to a long holiday weekend, but the last few days I’ve been on it.

I still haven’t read the manual- I need to check the CD tonight. It’s still broken on their site… Actually, I could just check google’s cache of the iAudio M5 mamual. I think I’ll do that now.

As it stands now, I’m 90% sure I’m going to buy one for myself. I haven’t used a portable music player since my CD player my freshman year of college, and a cassette player in high school before that.

Something else I’ve noticed- it’s more masculine than the ipod. It’s metal and shiny, where as the ipod looks like a femine hygene product. That amuses me on some level.

Review: iAudio M5 (day 1)

Since my music collection is 100% legitimate and ripped in Ogg Vorbis, finding a portable audio place that can play my music is a bit tough. There are 3 major players and a bunch of minor ones- the Neuros, the Rio Karma and the iAudio series are the leaders however.

The Rio Karma is very difficult to find these days since it went out of production. I purchased a Neuros about a year ago and it was such utter crap I returned it (which broke my heart since I was looking forward to it). I got Jackie the iAudio M5 for her birthday hoping it would be better than the neuros. She’s had it for a week and now it’s my turn to figure out all the features she hasn’t yet. I figured, “while I’m at it, I’ll do a little review.” Here’s one iAudio M5 review I’ve found for it which includes pretty pictures.

Disclaimer: This is my first real mp3 player (other than the neuros), so I am not spoiled by the features of other players.

First thing I notice was how small it was- it is also very sleek. It’s a nice neutral silver color with a polished control joystick. At first I had doubts about the joystick- I was afraid it was easily breakable. That is not the case. it’s very study, and as an added bonus I can adjust the volume while its in my shirt pocket without removing it. It’s just sensitive enough to make operating it in this fashion easy, but not easy enough to accident switch songs if it gets bumped.

it has a USB 2.0 socket on the side under a protective cover. The cover is connected in an odd way that makes it “dangley”, and I have doubts as to how long it will last. That’s just a minor complaint though- I honestly think it’ll last longer than the rubber booties on my digital camera did.

As for oddities, there’s a button on the top of it labelled “charge”. I don’t know what it does, and it doesn’t appear to have much to do with charging. I’m guessing it’s tied into the windows software that came with it. I’d read the Manual but it appears to have gone missing.

The actual onboard software is a bit confusing at first- it took me a minute or two to get the hang of it. Jackie had a hard time trying to figure out how to get it to shuffle, but I found the setting in “settings->playmode->shuffle” in about 30 seconds.

One nice feature I found was fade-in. I set it to 3 seconds, and I’m guessing that it’ll take the last 3 sconds of the current song and fade into the next, which is much nicer than the half-second gap that was there beforehand. I’ve had it set like this for the last 30 minutes, but I haven’t actually heard it do it- the transition is too smooth for me to notice despite the range of music I’m listening to.

As I write this, I’m listening to “Hittin’ the Note by the Allman Brothers. I’m using my own set of headphones, and the sound quality is pretty good. This is one of the CDs I’m currently favoring

It also has a voice-record feature for taking verbal notes- it’s a good idea and nice feature, but the mic placement is a little crappy- if you hold it like you’d expect to hold an oldschool micro-tape voice recorder( with your thumb on the record button), the mic hole sits between your thumb tip and the fleshy part at the base of the thumb.
I haven’t tested the quality yet, I just know that it exists.

Probably the best feature of the entire system is the fact that it’s a USB storage device, meaning I can directly copy files/playlists voice records, etc back and forth in linux as if it were an external harddrive. This also makes it easy for me to script up playlists in bash and write it to a file.

Overall I’m impressed with the unit, and have no problem recommending it, especially if you’re a linux user or have a collection in FLAC or Ogg Vorbis.


Hrm… I think I’ll try something new this year. As some of you know, 12/31 is my birthday, and I’m 26 now. That makes it twice as good to look back on my life and reflect. So what’s changed? Quite a bit. I always had a goal growing up, that when I was 25, it would be the one of the best years of my life. Looking back, I think that it very well could be.


This was my first full year in Virginia. Went with jackie back to visit friends in Michigan a couple times and realized how much I dislike Virginia. Growing up, I couldn’t wait to get out of michigan… now that I’m here I want to go back. That was quite a shock.

I worked at SPX(I still don’t use their full name here) for a full year, and went from junior developer to developer to webmaster to system admin to lead developer, which those last 3 all happening at the same time. I left the company over money issues and ended up with CSX(again, no full name), where I’m a full time Linux System Administrator. The job is great. I’ve been with them for 3 months as of christmas eve. It also allowed us to afford a new bed- the original move down here did a number on my back, and has been messed up for the last year. I went and saw a doctor and got some anti-inflammitories about the same time as we got the bed, and for the first time in a year, I was able to sleep 8 hours straight. I just ran out of the naproxin, but my back is in much better shape than it was.

We’ve been at our apartment complex for over a year now- This is the first time I’ve stayed at a single apartment this long since I started college. It’s not a huge apartment but it is quite expensive. We’ve also been digging ourself slowly out of debt. We did end up taking on a new debt- my Ford Tempo finally died, and we bought a new Toyota Corolla (my first foreign car; has a lot more meaning to someone from MI). The car is great, but we added a whole lot more debt to our lives.


Family has been good and bad, lots of interesting things going on. Jackie spent a good chunk of the year working 70 hours/week in New Jersey working on a case that her lawfirm ended up being disqualified for. The big bonus she was promised? well, she got 1/3 of it. She’s the 3rd person I’ve talked to this year who got screwed on a year end project based bonus through no fault of her own. From now on she ONLY works 40 hours a week. If they don’t like that, she can go elsewhere and make 50% more.

And to round things up:

  • Chaos, the cat who lives up to her name, turned 1 and has calmed down. She isn’t quite… “domesticated,” but she’s calm enough now that I don’t want to throw her off the balcony.
  • Toby still hides under the bed.
  • My brother Jamie broke his hand punching a guy, then got his ass kicked a few months later by a mob.
  • My brother Brian is still playing trumpet at UofM- his second year there I think.
  • My mom has been bowling a lot
  • My dad shot Bambi in the spine. He says Bambi is delicious.
  • My good friend Jeff got married to his girlfriend Corrie
  • my Mother in law Rhonda got married to her boyfriend jerry


It’s been a Good year for hobbies- or bad, depending on how you look at it. I’ve been hitting the guitar with a renewed passion after finding the Guitar Grimoire series of books and Rockhouse “Learn to Play Guitar” DVDs. Before this year I could only play chords and single notes- I was a rhythm guitarist essentially. Now I can play all 5 modes of the pentatonic scale and the first mode of the F major scale. I still got a ways to go, but this was a big hurdle for me; one I thought I’d never get past. Now I’m to the point of being able to understand music a whole lot better.

I’ve gotten back into art with the purchase of a Wacom graphic tablet. I’ve started working on several drawings, mainly pictures of old DnD characters I’ve played. lots of fun and interesting stuff.

For writing, I finally decided to write a story about the DnD world I created- Willis. since I can’t play DnD, I figured I could at least write about it. I got about 10k words in and realized that my outline had stopped being an outline. went back through and started writing a first draft, got about 1500 words in and got sidetracked with other projects.

One thing I’ve wanted to get into since I was 10 was electronics- never got the chance though. Well, the last 2-3 months I’ve decided it would be cool to make my own guitar pedals, so I picked up “Demystifying Electronics” and started learning. It’s a slow process, but I’m getting there. Right now I have a 130 in 1 electronics kit, and I plan on getting a real breadboard in another month or two (to make sure this isn’t another failed hobby).

And of course there’s my programming. I’ve been working on a bot named Ziggy who is based on one of my favorite DnD characters. He’s become quite a source of amusement to me, though I think he’s wearing a little thin on others. I’ve also started working on a Streaming Radio interface to allow me to tag and catagorize songs and create shows. It’s called Ridllr. If I can get this up to a certain level, I’d like to place it under a GPL license and sell support for it (though I doubt there’d be many takers). The hardest part was coming up with enough music to stress test it with large loads. Fortunately there was a used CD store down the block from me at SPXwith cheap CDs.

Linux is of course my bread and butter now, so I’m continually learning about new services and such. at CSX, I’m using Redhat, which I’ve honestly not had much experience with- I’m relieved to learn that it’s reall not much different, it just has some minor annoyances. the updates and security issue is really the most annoying. I’ve done a lot of work with apache, subversion and bind this year, and quite a bit with perl.

Lets see, hobbies that are going into stasis… Jow Gar is obviously since 1) there’s no place to practice and 2) my teacher is still in MI. Chainmailing is as well because I’ve always got my hands full with my other hobbies….


As I mentioned in the section above, Jeff got married. Shabbs got his wife pregnant and she popped out little zsolt …”skullteddy”.. ugh I’m horrible with spelling that, so phonetic will have to do for now. Made some new friends- Pete(dendrite) who I actually met in 2004 but we’ve kept in touch after both leaving SPX. There’s also Tony, who’s well on his way to a bright music career. Worked with him at SPX as well. Met William(shaldannon) and Ben(ben) who we hired at SPX right before I left- I keep in touch with them to help them when I can.

Of course there’s my new coworkers, but I differenciate between coworkers and friends to keep the lines unmuddied.

I also spoke to porter for the first time in over 5 years. I’ve come to the conclusion that being pissed off at people, no matter what crime (real or imagined) isn’t worth keeping up the hate. I doubt we’ll ever be close friends again, but at least it’s less thing I have to deal with. being mad at someone is entirely too much work. That said, he hasn’t continually annoyed me like other people I’ve put on a mental banlist. He’s never claimed to own my friends; he’s never threw temper tantrums and forced me to remove him; etc. Perhaps next year I’ll bury another hatchet.

I’ve spend a lot of time back in the #asp channel, so now I have a place to focus and vent my anger and hate. Met VP in real life, and he’s just as scary in person as he is to a clueless noob who wanders into #asp. But they’re all good guys generally and a very valuable information source.

All in all, it’s been a very good year. I have a pretty good idea how I’m gonna top it next year, but that’s my secret… for now.

Enjoy 2006 and happy birthday to ME, MUAHAHAHA.

Pod XT Live

So jackie and I did our christmas stuff early (sorta- we’re still trying to pick out a monitor for her) and I got a Pod XT Live.

Pod XT Live

My friend Ryan told me about his brother’s Pod way back when I started playing guitar, and it seemed pretty cool. I’ve wanted one ever since.

What’s it do? it models certain amplifiers, stompboxes and setups, effectively emulating thousands of dollars of equipment I could never afford. Obviously it’s not 100% perfect, but since I’ve never used 99% of the stuff it’s modeling, I can’t tell the difference.

This will be replacing my Boss ME-X pedalboard, DOD American Metal Stopbox, Dunlop Crybaby Wah pedal, and Boss Blues Driver stopbox. As of right now, these are all up for sale- so if you’re in the market, contact me.

I’ve been playing with the pod in the living room- when I get it moved to the office I’ll hook it up and record some stuff.

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