Tab sheets are very useful for new guitar players and, as soon as one understands how to read one, provide opportunities to learn a variety of new songs. With the internet, finding tabs for your favourite songs is easier now than it has ever been before. 911 Guitar Tabs, Ultimate Guitar Tabs, and Tab Crawler, if not laden with advertisements, are great online resources for tabs.
At first, a tab sheet may appear esoteric–an unexplainable combination of lines and numbers. Thankfully, tablature is quite easy to read, and, with a little practice, one can be learning new songs almost immediately. The first thing to know is that each line represents a string on the guitar. That’s why there are six lines. The line at the bottom represents your guitar’s bottom string, or low “E” string when in standard tuning, and each subsequent line represents the next string up. The top string is the high “E” string on your guitar–the lightest string with the highest pitch. This is where many beginners get confused when learning tabs: the bottom string represents your heaviest, low-pitched string, not the top, highest-pitched string. As soon as one understands this, the rest almost explains itself.
Now that you know what each line represents, however, you may still be wondering about the numbers. Each number represents the number of the fret on which you should place your finger or fingers to play a particular piece of music. For example, if you see the number 5 printed on the 3rd line from the bottom, you would place your finger on the 5th fret and on the guitar’s “D” string. Oftentimes, certain chords are listed at the top of a tab sheet, and the fingerings are presented as numbers set vertically upon one another. Whenever two numbers appear on two different lines stacked vertically, that indicates that each note is played at the same time, like a chord. After the tab sheet tells you the fingerings for a song’s chords, the rest of the song is often just listed as chord after chord instead of repeating each fingering several times, for simplicity’s sake.
As for finding tabs for your favourite songs, the internet now has free links to tabs for nearly any piece of published music one can imagine. In the past, you had to visit a music store and browse its selection in hopes that maybe you could find the tab for a song or two you wanted to learn. Now, however, it’s just a matter of entering in the song title on a search engine and clicking through to the tab. The downside of internet tab listings is that anyone can post them, so you may have to sift through several until you find one that sounds correct upon actually playing it. Most sites list several versions of tabs for particular songs, so it’s not too difficult to click through several until you come across one that’s adequate. If all else fails, there are still those songbooks at the music store.