How to Read Guitar Tab

Posted by Brian Parham on Monday, February 19, 2018

Guitar Tab Example

Guitar tablature—more commonly known as guitar tab—is a simple way for guitarists to learn how to play chords, melodies, and songs. If you write original music, it’s also a great way to communicate your musical ideas to other musicians.

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The Numbers Represent the Frets

The frets are the thin metal bars embedded into the fretboard of the guitar. Frets are represented by numbers. The first fret begins at the nut—or the first metal bar. 

Guitar Tab

The Lines Represent the Strings

 The six lines represent the six strings of the guitar. In fact, it’s like looking at your guitar upside down. The bottom line represents the lowest, thickest string while the top line represents the highest, thinnest string.

How to Read Guitar Tab

Play Your First Guitar Riff in Guitar Tab

You read guitar tab from left to right just as you would read a book. In this example, the first note you will play is on the second fret of the A-string.  In the following example, notice how guitar tab (the bottom line) is paired with standard notation (the top line).

How to Read Guitar Tab

 

That’s because guitar tab doesn’t communicate rhythmic information. For that reason, most professional guitar tabs include standard notation, so guitarists can play the right notes with the right rhythms.

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