How To Understand Guitar Tabs

This is a beginners lesson on how to understand guitar tabs.

23
Tablature is a system of notation that that graphically represents the strings and frets of the guitar fingerboard. Each note is indicated by placing a number, which indicates the fret or finger position to be picked, on the appropriate string. For example:
|---------------------|----------10----------|----------3----------|-|
|---------------------|----------10----------|----------0----------|-|
|---------------------|----------------------|----------0----------|-|
|----------5----------|----------------------|----------0----------|-|
|---------------------|----------------------|----------2----------|-|
|---------------------|----------------------|----------3----------|-|
The first bar indicates the 4th string, 5th fret. The second bar indicates the 1st string, 10th fret and the 2nd string, 10th fret to be played together. The third bar indicates an open G chord. Dictionary Of Guitar Notation One or two note up bend: Pick the first note, then bend the string to sound up either one or two frets.
|---------------------|                                     
|----------5b7--------|                                      
|---------------------|
|---------------------|
|---------------------|
|---------------------|
One or two note down bend: Pick the first (bent) note, then straighten the string to sound the lower (second) note.
|----------------------|
|----------7b5---------|
|----------------------|
|----------------------|
|----------------------|
|----------------------|
Slide and Pick: Pick the lower (first) note, then slide the fret finger up to sound the higher (second) note.
|-----------------------|
|----------5/8----------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
Slide Off: Pick the note, then slide the fret finger down an indefinite number of frets, removing the finger tension at the end of the slide.
|----------------------|
|----------5\----------|
|----------------------|
|----------------------|
|----------------------|
|----------------------|
Hammer-on: Pick the lower (first) note, then hammer-on (tap down) the higher (second) note with another finger. Pick only the first note. These notes are always played on the same string.
|------------------------|
|------------------------|
|----------5h7-----------|
|------------------------|
|------------------------|
|------------------------|
Pull-off: Place both fret fingers on the two notes to be played. Pick the higher (first) note, then pull-off (raise up) the finger of the higher note while keeping the lower note fretted. Pick Only the first note.
|--------------------|
|--------------------|
|----------7p5-------|
|--------------------|
|--------------------|
|--------------------|
Vibrato: Pick the string as the fret finger or a tremolo bar rapidly rolls back and forth or bends up and down, making the note sound slightly higher and lower. An exaggerated vibrato can be achieved by rolling the fret finger a greater distance.
|--------------------|
|--------------------|
|----------5~--------|
|--------------------|
|--------------------|
|--------------------|
Now that you know what these symbols mean you can try and play this guitar solo i wrote that uses them. By the way brckets () mean the note is to be held/sustained. Rock Guitar Solo
    Em             Em7           D       A                   Em
|e|-------12-11----------------|--------------------------------------|
|B|-15b17-------12-15-14-------|--------------------------------------|
|G|----------------------12-11-|-15~-----12-13-14-(14)-12-------------|
|D|----------------------------|--------------------------14-15p12----|
|A|----------------------------|-----------------------------------14-|
|E|----------------------------|--------------------------------------|

             Em7                 D             A           F#m
|e|----------------------------|----------------------12-|-12b14------|
|B|----------------------------|---7h8-10~-------9h10----|------------|
|G|-14p12----12p10----10----9--|-7-------------9---------|------------|
|D|-------14-------12----12----|-------------------------|------------|
|A|----------------------------|-------------------------|------------|
|E|----------------------------|-------------------------|------------|
       A           B           E             F#m             A
|e|-12-9--------------|------------7-----7-|-9------------------------|
|B|------12-10-14b12--|--------0h5---5/9---|---------10-9----12b14~---|
|G|-------------------|--------------------|--------------11----------|
|D|-------------------|--------------------|--------------------------|
|A|-------------------|--------------------|--------------------------|
|E|-------------------|--------------------|--------------------------|
            E
|e|-10p9-----------------------------------|
|B|------10-------9--9---------------------|
|G|---------9~--9h11-9------9--9-----------|
|D|--------------------11-9h11-9-----------|
|A|------------------------------11-7------|
|E|----------------------------------------|

30 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    Jack Bevan
    5b7 means you play the 5th fret and bend the string towards you or the floor. It helps if you put your third finger on the note your bending and your second and first behind it to bend it two frets higher.If its something like 5b6 you should just use 1 finger to bend it or it might go to high
    DryvBy
    I'm lost on the 5b7 stuff. No idea what I'm bending. Anyone know of a video I can watch to see this in action?
    Chris16373
    I've just started with the guitar and I was looking into tabs (no note-reading yet ).I did not have the slightest idea how to do the "special things" like those explained here. This keeps me practising! Thanks a lot...
    ClaytonElgin
    I'm writing a tab, I've been playing for 7 years....how do I write a power chord and slide at the same time...is it like this? ----- ----- ---7/--5----- ---7/--5----- ---5/--7----- -----
    l111
    in 2h3h4 do you pick 3 and then hammer on 3 and then 4??
    RedDog22
    what does it mean when there are a line of x's like on the E, a, & d strings?
    vampyweekend
    what if the stuff is written horizontal like this: Ebm: x-6-8-8-7-6 F#: 2-4-4-3-2-2 B: x-2-4-4-4-2 C#: x-4-6-6-5-4 Ab: 4-6-6-5-4-4 what would that be, translated to something more vertical like this?: e--7--5--3--5--3---| B--8--5--3--7--5---| G--9-- 5--4--7--5---| D--9--7--5--7--5---| A--7--7--5--5--3---| E--x--5--3--x--x---|
    Jack Bevan
    on slides if your slideing 2 or more notes at once you put the tab like how claytonelgin put it but if your playing 2 notes at once but only sliding on of them you would put it like this. |-----5----| |-----5/7--|
    doomstring21
    can someone please tell me how to read the complicated chords and strings like 15 16 12 18 12 10
    jakestib8r
    Im a beginner but i didnt understand what a hammer on and stuff like that is... sorry
    gallioh1
    jakestib8r, hammer on is when you hit your finger to that note hard enough that it will make a sound. Pull off is when you have your fingers like this: ----- | | | | | | o | | | | | | | | | | | o | | | | | And you pull the lower finger out (snaping it alittle) so it makes a sound. I suggest you go look the guides from youtube (search "Hammer ons and Pull offs")
    tommy1232009
    in the solo at the end of this lesson what is the purpose of the chord letters above the top line of the staff? if these need to be strummed as well as the lead notes being picked u think i'll be needing more fingers !! please enlighten me.
    Jack Bevan
    tommy1232009 wrote: in the solo at the end of this lesson what is the purpose of the chord letters above the top line of the staff? if these need to be strummed as well as the lead notes being picked u think i'll be needing more fingers !! please enlighten me.
    there just chords that go well in the background of the solo
    Jack Bevan
    gallioh1 wrote: jakestib8r, hammer on is when you hit your finger to that note hard enough that it will make a sound. Pull off is when you have your fingers like this: ----- | | | | | | o | | | | | | | | | | | o | | | | | And you pull the lower finger out (snaping it alittle) so it makes a sound. I suggest you go look the guides from youtube (search "Hammer ons and Pull offs")
    this is the first lesson ive put on before so some of the parts were going to be wrong