How Picking Techniques Are Notated in Guitar Tablature

Upstrokes and Downstrokes

Upstrokes and downstrokes with the pick are indicated with symbols placed above a note. A downstroke is indicated with this symbol:

Downstroke symbol

Upstrokes are indicated with the following symbol:

Upstroke symbol

Sweep Picking

Upstroke and downstroke symbols are often used to indicated that several notes are to be played using sweep picking. A line extends from the symbol to indicate which notes are included in the sweep:

Sweep picking


A rake is a percussive effect created by 'raking' muted strings before playing a pitch. The technique is similar to sweep picking in that the right hand plays several upward or downward strokes in succession. A rake can be played on anywhere from one to five strings (not including the note at the end of the rake) and can go up or down. It is indicated by placing an 'x' on the strings to be raked and a line over the raked strings and the pitch played at the end of the rake.

Rake with the pick

Palm Muting

Palm muting is indicated by the text 'P.M.' over the notes.

Palm muting applied to a single note

If several notes are palm muted, a line may be used rather that writing 'P.M.' over each one.

Palm muting multiple notes

Tremolo Picking

A tremolo is a rapid repetition on a single note. It is indicated by one or more slanted lines above or below a note.

Tremolo in tab

Pick Scrapes

A pick scrape is a percussive technique performed by dragging the edge of the pick along the strings. It is indicated with an 'x' on the string(s) to be scraped and a slanted line after the 'x'. The text 'P.S.' is used sometimes.

Pick scrape notated in tab


An arpeggio is a way of rapidly playing a chord so that each note sounds in succession. This is different from a strum because each note should sound separately. An arpeggio is indicated with a wavy line:

Arpeggio with a wavy line

The wavy line may include an arrow on the end indicating the direction of the arpeggio. An up arrow indicates that the arpeggio should start with the lowest pitched string. A down arrow indicates the arpeggio starts on the highest pitched string in the chord.

Arpeggio with arrows