How To Read Guitar Tablature – Basics To Reading Guitar Tabs
How To Read Guitar Tablature – Basics To Reading Guitar Tabs
By Chris Wilcox - April 10, 2019

If you do not know how to read musical notation, but lets say you want to learn how to jam the new Fall Out Boys song on your guitar. You will first need to learn how to read guitar tablature. Don’t worry though, because learning guitar tabs is very easy once you know all the basics.

Guitar Tab Basics

A standard tablature staff would look something like this:


When you look at this, you have to visualize that each line and letter represent each string on a guitar. Starting from the bottom to the top they are:

E ñ the 6th string (thickest)
A ñ the 5th string
D ñ the 4th string
G ñ the 3rd string
B ñ the 2nd string
e ñ the 1st string (thinnest)

Now you will see that there are numbers written into the the staff. Each number represents what fret you push down and on what string. In the following tab example , each number is lined up on the A string (5th string) one after another which tells you that they should be played one after another. The 0 means that you pluck the A string open (without pushing on the string),1 ñ move to the 1st fret pluck, 2 ñ move to the 2nd fret, 3 ñ move to the 3rd fret.


Chords are represented with numbers written on top of each other.
Here is what a C Major chord would look like:


You will notice that the 1st string (e) , and the 3rd string (G) have no numbers, this means that you do not strum those strings. They are in a basically just muted and not played.

The biggest disadvantage to tablature is the the fact that you are not able to accurately define how long each not should be held for. The best way to figure this out is by listening to the actual song that you are trying to play. This is actually the best way to use tabs.

Find the tab to the song you want to learn
Play that song on a radio, or your computer, or whatever means you have
Break the song into sections, starting with whatever is easiest for you
Slowly begin to put each section together
Although tablature does not give you the exact timing, they do give you some idea by spacing the numbers out. An example would look like this:


You will also come across symbols that are use to represent certain actions.

h – hammer on —-2h3—-
p – pull off —-3p2—-
b – bend string up —-5b7—-
r – release bend —-5b7r5—-
/ – slide up —-5/7—-
\ – slide down —-7\5—-
v – vibrato (sometimes written as ~) —-3v—- or —-3~—-
x – muted, struck string —-000–xxx–000—
pm ñ palm mute