Introduction to Brass Tabs for pBone and pTrumpet

In a Modern Band or “rock band” settings, Brass Tabs, like guitar tabs, present quick and simple ways to
• Join in with music on pInstruments mainly by ear
• Incorporate materials that is useful in an informal learning setting
• No music notation reading skills needed to get started
• Slide positions and valve combinations shown
• Some basic technical help with “operating” a brass instrument
• Include an insight into how brass instruments work

What traditional brass parts look like: 

What existing simple guitar tabs look like:

Existing simple guitar “tabs”

• Each horizontal line represents a string on the guitar
• Each vertical line works as a bar line in traditional music
• The lowest pitched string (E) is at the bottom the highest (E) at the top
• Numbers represent frets
• Numbers are stacked to create chords

• There is no guide to the rhythm patterns of the music.
• There is no guide to the actual pitch of each note, only the physical placement of fingers on string and fret

• There is no articulation, i.e. strum, pick, slur, hammer on/off etc.
(More advanced tabs do begin to incorporate these missing musical elements but naturally become increasingly complex and difficult to read live and are more for “learning how to play the tune” i.e. memorizing for later performance and trying to “get” bits you can’t work out yourself.)

Understand Brass Tabs

The first step was to decide to use our harmonics or partials like strings in guitar tabs. 

In the graphic
• the Blue line represents the low Bb for concert pitch or C for Bb transposing instruments with no valves or in first slide position
• The yellow is F for concert or G for Bb
• Orange is the upper Bb or C harmonic
• Red is the harmonic that gives us a D in concert or upper E in Bb
We next placed guides to where to put your slide or valve combinations on each harmonic

Brass Tabs pBone Trombone Example One – See You Again by Wiz Kalfa

Here we’ve taken a simple bass line form “See You Again” by Wiz Kalifa If this was written out in traditional notation it might look like the manuscript below the tab 

• We used bar lines, like in guitar tabs, to roughly order the notes
• Just like guitar tabs we are not giving any guide to the rhythm, that’s for you to listen and copy
• The tabs are an “aide memoire” or guide chart
• The tabs do not offer the same information as traditional, written music.
You’ll notice that I’ve also offset the positions to give an indication of the pitch within each harmonic, so 4th is slightly lower than first etc. 

Brass Tabs pBone Trombone Example Two – See You Again (shout chorus)

In this tab for the brief shout chorus in “See You Again” we get a little more complex. However if you listen to the riff in the song first all is simple enough. If you were to try to learn the riff first from the tabs, as you might in traditional brass learning, this would be really quite hard! So please remember these tabs are to aid informal, ear based learning not become band parts!   

Brass tabs: pTrumpet

Simply exchanging slide positions for valve combinations will make the tabs work for any Bb pitch valve instrument! 

What else do Brass Tabs show?

• The Harmonic lines are thicker for lower pitches to encourage and remind about a more open aperture in the lips
• The lines become a “hotter” color as the pitch is raised to encourage faster air as the pitch rises.
• Each teacher or player could adapt these concepts to fit with their personal views of how brass works of course!

It’s Just the Beginning!

Brass Tabs have been created to help new brass players have access to easy and fun music.

Our tabs give fragments of the music and the idea is that this is the beginning for more creative exploration of how modern music is created and how wind instruments are an integral part.

Our greatest hope for each student is that Brass Tabs is not the end, but the beginning of a musical journey filled with creativity and exploration so that every child is given the full opportunity to explore their musical voice.

Your comments are welcome. Contact

Brass Tabs for select Modern Band Song Styles

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