How to Read and Write Guitar Tablatures

Learn how to read and write tabs in under 5 minutes!

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Ultimate Guitar
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When I first saw tabs I was pretty confused too, but after my friend showed me how to read them I was able to play them as soon as I got home. Tabs are a great way of learning new songs because it's most likely the most popular way to learn how to play songs on the internet and in general. Anyways lets get started.

The tabs base is this:

e|--------
B|--------
G|--------
D|--------
A|--------
E|--------

If you do not know the names of the strings than this should help explain what order tabs are arranged in:

e|-The bottom/thinnest steal/nylon string-----
B|-Second to the bottom-----------------------
G|-Third to the bottom------------------------
D|-Third to the top---------------------------
A|-Second to the top--------------------------
E|-The top/fattest threaded string------------

So in other words, the strings look upside down.

Now lets get started on an example.

e|-----
B|--0--
G|--1--
D|--2--
A|--2--
E|--0--

This is the note of E. The 1 means that you put a finger on the first fret of that string, The 2 means you put a finger on the second fret of those strings and so on. Now what do those 0's mean? Well, those mean that you strum those strings, but it is saying that you do not put your finger on that string. These are called open strings. Also you see the - on the high e string. That means you do not strum that string.

Now that we have that covered we can start to play a chord progression!

e|--3-----2--
B|--0--1--3--
G|--0--0--2--
D|--0--2--0--
A|--2--3-----
E|--3--0-----

This is the first progression I learned how to play which is just G C D. Now, you notice that there is not anything like a time signature in tablature. Most tabs show the speed by putting more or less spaces between the notes. Also, since most tabs are based off of real songs, you should listen to the song before attempting to play it other wise it could possibly be hard to get the timing right.

Now I will show some of the basic symbols you will need to know.

e|---x---
B|---x---
G|---x---
D|---x---
A|---x---
E|---x---

X's mean that you rest your finger over the string/strings to make a muted sound.

e|---2/3---
B|---------
G|---------
D|---------
A|---------
E|---------

The / means that you have your finger on the second fret and then while the string is string humming you slide it up without picking it. You can also use this to go down.

e|--3h4--4p3--
B|------------
G|------------
D|------------
A|------------
E|------------

The h means that you already have your finger on the third fret and while the string is humming you "hammer" one of your other free fingers on the fourth fret instead of sliding. It makes a more sudden noise rather than a noise that increases more slowly. This is called hammering. The p means that you have on of your fingers on the fourth fret and another on the third. While the string is humming you pull your finger off the four and it comes out with the opposite sound that hammering gives you.

There are other symbols like this but there not as needed as these. These are more likely to appear on tabs than others. Well I hope this helped! Go start jamming!

10 comments sorted by best / new / date

    kermitdf
    I feel that there are a lot more detailed articles about this already.
    Noob1994
    nice :p i just started and i thought the biggest string is e and the thinnest E thanks dude!
    RoxStar69
    Hahaha I so know what Noob means! I am as new and clueless! Good stuff! I now know 3 chords after 10mins!
    Xx Riley xX
    so how would these work??Tablature Legend ----- L - tied note x - dead note g - grace note (n) - ghost note > - accentuded note NH - natural harmonic AH - artificial harmonic TH - tapped harmonic SH - semi harmonic PH - pitch harmonic h - hammer on p - pull off b - bend br - bendRelease pb - preBend pbr - preBendRelease brb - bendReleaseBend \n/ - tremolo bar dip \n - tremolo bar dive -/n - tremolo bar Release up /n\ - tremolo bar inverted dip /n - tremolo bar return -\n - tremolo bar Release down S - shift slide s - legato slide / - slide into from below or out of upwards \ - slide into from above or out of downwards ~ - vibrato W - wide vibrato tr - trill TP - tremolo picking T - tapping S - slap P - pop < - fade in ^ - brush up v - brush down
    Jadee Jinxxx
    e:-3-3-3---0-0-0-0---0--0-0-0-----| B:-3-3-3---0-0-0-0---0- -1-1-1---3-3-3----| G:-0-0-0-----5-5-5--0-| D:-----4-4-4-- 4-| A:-----2-2-2-2---0--3-3-3---5-5-5--5-| E:-3-3-3-----| How would the gaps between the gret numbers work? Do you strum them too, or do you avoid them.
    SeepH
    Thank you for this Been looking around for a while but this made me understand it