A Short Beginners Guide To The Guitar

A short introductory lesson on guitar familiarization, reading tabs and tuning.

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You And Your Guitar

There are a few things about your guitar you should be familiar with before you start playing guitar. Some may sound stupid but they are important:
  • Your guitar has 6 strings.
  • Each string has a designated note.
  • Highest pitch to lowest pitch they are e,B,G,D,A,E.
  • Every metal bar on the fretboard represents a fret.
  • Each fret on one string has a different note however some frets on other strings may have the same note.
  • tuning a guitar by ear is a very important lesson because you are not always going to have a guitar tuner with you.

    The Basics Of Tableture

    Tableture, or "Tabs", are one of the most common ways to write out songs for guitar these says. Tabs are written on a picture like the one below:
    Eg.1
    e|-------------   >Thinnest string
    B|-------------
    G|-------------
    D|-------------
    A|-------------
    E|-------------   >Thickest string
    Each of the six lines represents a string on the guitar. The lowest sounding string, "E", is the lowest on the chart followed by the next lowest, "A". Single notes written in tab form look something like this:
    Eg.2
    Lady at the Gate - Maylene and the Sons of Disaster
    e|----------------------------------------------------|
    B|----------------------------------------------------|
    G|----2/3-0-------------------------------------------|
    D|----------3-0-0-3-5-3-0-----------------------------|
    A|-----------------------------3-0-3-5-3-0------------|
    D|---------------------------------------------5-3-0--|
    The numbers on each string represent the fret that is supposed to be played. For instance, "G|----2/3-0--" would mean first play the second fret followed by the third fret and ending on an open note. "0" represents a the string played without touching an of the frets called an open note. Chords are written in tab form look like this:
    Eg.3
    e|---2---0-------
    B|---3---1-------
    G|---2---0-------
    D|---0---2-------
    A|-------3-------
    E|---------------
    When notes are placed directly above or below one another on a tab it represents a chord that is to be played. The tab above shows a "D" chord followed by a "C" chord. The "D" shows that you have to have your fingers placed on e-2, B-3, G-2, and play an open on "D". Strumming this whole pattern will result in a "D" chord. Here is an example of a both concepts in one tab:
    Eg.4
    e|------0-------0-------3----
    B|------1---1-0-1-------0----
    G|------0-------2-------0----
    D|------2-------2--2-0--0----
    A|--0-2-3-------0-------2----
    E|----------------------3----
    As you may have noticed in Eg.2 there is a "/". this represents a slide which is a guitar technique. A list of how some other guitar techniques are written in tab form are shown below. (these are standard ways of writing them and may not be how some people write them)
    Key:
    /    - slide up
    \    - slide down
    .    - palm mute
    h    - hammer-on
    p    - pull off
    ~    - Vibrato
    ^    - bend
    r    - release bend
    T    - tap
    x    - Kill string (stop the string from vibrating)
    < >  - Pinch harmonic (the number inside reprents the fret)

    Tuning Your Guitar

    To tune your guitar by ear follow these instructions:
    e|-------------
    B|-------------  the 5th fret on "B" and open on "e" should sound the same
    G|-------------  the 4th fret on "G" and open on "B" should sound the same
    D|-------------  the 5th fret on "D" and open on "G" should sound the same
    A|-------------  the 5th fret on "A" and open on "D" should sound the same
    E|-------------  the 5th fret on "E" and open on "A" should sound the same
    Now unless one of your strings are at their own perfect note than your guitars not going to be perfectly in tune. However, each string will be in tune with the others so you songs will sound good but might be higher pitched or lower pitched depending. To have a perfect tune you would need to tune at least one of the strings to someone else's guitar that is in tune, an electric tuner, a pitch pipe, or some other source of that note. Some bands or guitarist play in different tuning. For instance, bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Underath, and Three Days Grace play in a tuning called "Drop D". This simply means that you have to make the the low "E" two semitones lower (a semitone is equal to one fret, as in, e-2 is a semitone lower than e-3). Other common tunings include Flat, Drop D flat, and Drop C.
  • 42 comments sorted by best / new / date

    comments policy
      countryboy15
      good lesson the tuning helped a lot and it cleared up everything about tabs much appreciated
      vvKristin
      It helped me alot. but one thing i did'nt understand was how to read chords -sigh-. i might never get to know.
      Alexi wolfboy
      i can't understand the part..when to change the key..in eg 1 you said,D to play then c,in other eg. there's many number in that part i'm confused,,would you please held me
      beerme79
      i'm new to this forum. i found this and it helped alot. whats next after tabs? lol
      Necray
      The tutorial is good, helped clarify my confusions about reading tabs a bit. Thanks!
      yasirhantoush
      this is very good lesson, it showed me how to reead the tabs and chords, which was very confussing for me, it also showed me how to tune my guitar with very easy way, this is magic. I tuned the E string (sixth string) with the help of the software Guitar Chords Laboratory, then it was pretty much easy to tune the rest of the strings. thanks a lot for the lesson
      robert s brown
      tabs look a lot easier than reading music but i am having as much trouble finding things on your web site as playing the guitar. remember a beginer knows nothing. looking for tabs on music that i know so i have a clue what it should sound like when i play. suggestions?????
      achaean
      Simple but useful for beginners like me. Tuning is kind of sketchy though. But like you said, at least all of the strings will be in tune with each other, better than nothing.
      hoodaneez
      good lesson mate but im still sucky at tuning my guitar since "all" my strings are way out of tune...
      InTheFlesh!
      To paraphrase the contents of this lesson: -A guitar has 6 strings -Tablature for dummies -How to relative tune a guitar