Reading Guitar Tablature: a Beginner’s Guide

How To Read Guitar Tablature


If you are someone aspiring to be a musician, it is beneficial to learn to read music. While reading music is standardized with many other instruments, guitarists have developed their own method to ease the reading of music in tablature. Unique to guitarists all over, tablature though not perfect, is a simple method of effortlessly reading and sharing music with others, especially with other guitarists.  Below you will find a quick primer on how tablature works.


<a href=””>Basics of Tab</a>


Guitar tablatures are available online. In the above diagram, six horizontal lines comprise the tab staff for the guitar. Each line symbolizes each string of the guitar. While the second line from the bottom denotes the A string, the bottom most line denotes the E. guitarists find this simplified tablature very easy to use and follow.

When you notice carefully, you will find there are numbers in the center of these lines which actually denote the strings. The fret has to be played by you according to these numbers. For example, if you look at the above diagram you will note that you have to play the third string and the seventh fret. Number zero in the tablature tells you that you have to play the open string.

Tablature is one of the most basic and easiest methods of reading music which can also be found online. Reading chords involves a more advanced method of reading notations in the tab.

Reading tabs does not take much time to learn. The most basic tab reading can be learned by almost anyone. As opposed to other instruments like the piano which requires intensive training for a prolonged period of time, most of the guitarists learn to play on their own after a set of basic lessons. Piano involves training in sight reading as well as rigorous coaching in theory lessons.

As a guitarist, if you are trying to learn songs on your own, you may find it difficult to read music. Sight reading is quite complicated, especially for beginners and self taught musicians often avoid doing this. By using online tablatures, you can learn various songs.

Reading guitar tablature online is also simple. If a series of numbers are displayed vertically by the tab, it means you are supposed to play all the notes simultaneously. According to the tab picture above, the notes in the E major chord has to be held down and all the six strings must be strummed simultaneously. To make things simple for the guitarists, the chord name is displayed in the tablature. This enables them to identify the chord easily.

Fundamental Flaws of Guitar Tab

There are however a lot of flaws in this tab system including the rhythmic notation. For example if you have no idea about the part where the guitar has to be played in a particular song, you will be at a loss to know how long to hold the key. Without rhythms it is next to impossible to determine this.

There are attempts to include rhythms in some guitar tabs. This is done by including stems on the numbers. This however is difficult for the guitarist to read, recognize and play fluently. Instead of doing this, it is easier to actually going in for the basic standard notation. Guitar tablatures can be read only by guitarists as opposed to the standard notation which can be read by every musician.

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Presto is a writer for this store seeks to educate about the world of music.

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