Reading Guitar Tablature II

This is a detailed, yet simple description on how to play tabs.

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Ok, so you've got a guitar, it looks great! But how do you play it?! The first thing you should know is this lesson works for both acoustic guitars and electric, but bass players are going to have to find another place. Ok, now that's cleared. Here we go.

There are two different ways of writing down or reading songs. There is the professional way, with all the fancy note symbols and there is the basic, more common way. I will be teaching you how to read the basic type. These are called tablatures.

The basic structure for a tablature (or tab) looks like this:
E|------------------------
B|------------------------
G|------------------------
D|------------------------
A|------------------------
E|------------------------
This may have confused you. Firstly, ignore the letters on the left. You have six lines. Each one of these lines represent a string on your guitar. Ok?

The bottom line represents the top (thickest) string on your guitar. The top line represents the bottom (thinest) string on your guitar. Look at this:
Thinest     |-------------
2nd Thinest |-------------
3rd Thinest |-------------
3rd Thickest|-------------
2nd Thickest|-------------
Thickest |-------------
Does that make sense? Now for the frets. This is the really awkward part. I will try and explain.

A fret is the area between the two (usually metal) bars on your guitar. If you were told to play the first fret on the top string then you would push down on fret 1 on the top string with your finger and pluck the string. I'm really hoping that made sense.

The first fret is the furthest away from you. There are usually 21, 22, 23 or 24 frets on a guitar. If you look, they all get thinner as they get closer to you. There are also marks telling you what fret is what. There is a dot on the third fret, the fifth fret, the seventh fret, the ninth fret, the twelve fret, the fifteenth fret, the seventeenth fret, the ninteenth fret, and the twenty first fret and maybe more. This is to help you get around your guitar quicker. Now to put frets into a tablature:
E|-----------------
B|-----------------
G|-----------------
D|-----------------
A|-----------------
E|1-2-3-4----------
What this tab is telling you to do is first, to put a finger (The Index Preferably) on the first fret on the top/thickest string. Then you pluck the string. If you are pushing hard enough onto the fret you shall find that you get a nice, deep note.

Next, you put your next finger (preferably your middle finger) onto the second fret on the top string. Now hit the string. You should get a nice, slightly higher pitched note.

Then you put your next finger (your ring finger) onto the third fret, if you are pushing down hard enough you will find that when you pluck the string you will get a slightly higher pitched note again.

Then you push your next finger (your pinky) down hard onto the top string pushing it down into the forth fret, pluck the string and you will get another, slightly higher pitched sound. If you followed this carefully you should be getting the idea. Look at this:
E|1-2-3-4----
B|-----------
G|-----------
D|-----------
A|-----------
E|-----------
On this one, you are doing the exact same as the last one but you are put your fingers on, and hitting the thinnest string. You should get a very high pitched sound. Try this:
E|----------
B|----------
G|----------
D|1-2-3-4---
A|----------
E|----------
Had a good try? If you're stuck, what you're doing is putting your fingers on the third thickest string, the third one away from you. So what about this?
E|---------
B|---------
G|---------
D|---------
A|---------
E|0-1-2-3--
A 0? What do you do with a 0? Fear not! A zero simply means you pluck that string without putting your finger on a fret. This is fret zero. Make sense? Here are two, infamous and simple riffs, try them out:

"Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple:

E|----------------------------
B|----------------------------
G|----------------------------
D|----------------------------
A|----------------------------
E|0-3-5---0-3-6-5---0-3-5--3-0
Ring a bell? Note that the whole song is played on the thickest/deepest pitch string.

"Come As You Are" by Nirvana:

E|------------------------------
B|------------------------------
G|------------------------------
D|------------------------------
A|--------0---0---------2-----2-
E|0-0-1-2---2---2-2-1-0---0-0---
This song is played on the top two strings of your guitar. It looks hard but do it slowly at first and you'll have it in no time. These two riffs are the first things I ever learned on guitar!

Now you know how to play basic tabs! Now the advanced bit:
What does the EADGBE stand for? You may have noticed that between nearly all the tabs I have written here there is:
E
B
G
D
A
E
On the left of it. Why is this? Each letter represents a note. If you have ever played on a keyboard or a piano before you will notice that each note is written as a letter. C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. All the EADGBE is is different notes. The thickest string on your guitar is a low E, the thinest is a high E, in between them is A, D, G and B. You don't have to remember this but if you do then you're one more step closer to being a professional. I remember it like this:
Eddy
Ate
Dynamite
Good
Bye
Eddy
It works for me! I hope it helps. Next, bends, slides, hammer-ons and pull offs. Sooner or later you're going to stumble on a tab with one of these three in it. I guarantee. It will help a lot if you know what they mean.

Bends

E|--------------
B|--------------
G|--------------
D|-3b4----------
A|--------------
E|--------------
What do I do? What do I do? Fear not. Firstly, put your finger on the forth fret of D and play it. That is what you want it to sound like. Now, what you want to do is put your finger on the third fret, play the string and bend it so it makes the exact same sound as fret four. Got it? It's not that hard.

Slides

E|------------
B|------------
G|------------
D|----7/9-----
A|------------
E|------------
This, too, is also simple. Put a finger on seven of string D, hit the string and quickly, making sure the finger is still pushing the string down onto the frets, slide your finger up to nine. If performed correctly you'll get a nice sound rising in pitch.

Hammer-On

E|-2h4-------
B|-----------
G|-----------
D|-----------
A|-----------
E|-----------
The "h" represents a hammer-on, put your index finger on fret two of High E (the thinest string on the guitar) and pluck the string, quickly slam your ring finger down onto the fourth fret. It will change pitch and be a bit quieter. That's all a hammer-on is.

Pull-Off

E|----------
B|----------
G|----9p7---
D|----------
A|----------
E|----------
The "p" means pull off. Put your little finger on 9 and your index finger on 7, pluck the string, and quickly slide your little finger off in a downwards motion (this keeps the string vibrating) and the pitch will change quickly from 9 to 7. I hope you understood that, it's hard to explain so please don't flame me if you don't get it.

I hope this lesson helped you a lot, tablatures are the most important thing you will come across when you try and learn guitar. If you just can't understand my lesson then I suggest you go find another one, you won't get anywhere without being able to read or write your own tabs.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me: MSN/Email: martialartzmaster@hotmail.com AIM: darksouls88.

656 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    siamesedream
    There is already something like this all over the internet. But this one makes more sense...
    cadesius
    i really did learn something!!! thanks!!! hihi.. I'm going to surprise my girlfriend!! She is just soooo lovely!! greatest girl i the world!!
    linnylenae
    WoW! That was awesome kmow I know how to read them I was so confused for a long time! Thanks alot, now I can get the jits of how to play songs that I like!
    groovygirl
    It's not supposed to teach you music. The purpose of this lesson is to show you how to read tablature. If you don't know the difference between tablature and music then perhaps you should't criticize what you don't know!!
    Bishamon
    e|------------------------------------------------| B|------------------------------------------------| G|-----66\44/6--77\66/7--99-77-6----------| 4x D|-77\66/7--66\44/6--77\66/7--99-77-6---| A|-77\66/7--4 4\22/4--55\44/5--77-55-4--| E|-55\44/5--------------------------------------| please help me to read dis tab..please do it like the upper part..2morow i will check dis site to find the answer to my request..thank you!
    WhiteKnight123
    F*** Fag its to confusiong! Just kidding, good job i wish i had something this easy and userfriendly when i learned to read tab, thanks!
    edwinzanpaku
    what do you do when it got a line like this ----- do you have to pick the string or not? and another question,if it have like this-----9-4-- do we make a power chord or just pull a string.
    fingersofflame
    you know, it's not that hard to read tablature...just check out the notation guide at the end of the tab, or in the back of a guitar world after all of the transcriptions...i started reading tablature right away without really..."learning" it...but nevertheless, you get points for effort because not everyone understands tabs...
    FloW220
    WoW that helped alot,,,, thanx for the lesson,,, that was easier then ii thort it would be... thanx
    biga29
    Ok, so you've got a guitar, it looks great! But how do you play it?! The first thing you should know is this lesson works for both accoustic guitars and electric, but bass players are going to have to find another place. Ok, now that's cleared. Here we go. There are two different ways of writing down or reading songs. There is the professional way, with all the fancy note symbols and there is the basic, more common way. I will be teaching you how to read the basic type. These are called Tablatures. The basic structure for a tablature (or tab) looks like this: E|----- B|----- G|----- D|----- A|----- E|---- - This may have confused you. Firstly, ignore the letters on the left. You have six lines. Each one of these lines represent a string on your guitar. Ok? The bottom line represents the top (thickest) string on your guitar. The top line represents the bottom (thinest) string on your guitar. Look at this: Thinest |----- 2nd Thinest |----- 3rd Thinest |----- 3rd Thickest|----- 2nd Thickest|----- Thickest |----- Does that make sense? Now for the frets. This is the really awkward part. I will try and explain. A fret is the area between the two (usually metal) bars on your guitar. If you were told to play the first fret on the top string then you would push down on fret 1 on the top string with your finger and pluck the string. I'm really hoping that made sense. The first fret is the furthest away from you. There are usually 21, 22, 23 or 24 frets on a guitar. If you look, they all get thinner as they get closer to you. There are also marks telling you what fret is what. There is a dot on the third fret, the fifth fret, the seventh fret, the ninth fret, the twelve fret, the fifteenth fret, the seventeenth fret, the ninteenth fret, and the twenty first fret and maybe more. This is to help you get around your guitar quicker. Now to put frets into a tablature: E|----- B|----- G|----- D|----- A|----- E |1-2-3-4----- What this tab is telling you to do is first, to put a finger (The Index Preferably) on the first fret on the top/thickest string. Then you pluck the string. If you are pushing hard enough onto the fret you shall find that you get a nice, deep note. Next, you put your next finger (preferably your middle finger) onto the second fret on the top string. Now hit the string. You should get a nice, slightly higher pitched note. Then you put your next finger (your ring finger) onto the third fret, if you are pushing down hard enough you will find that when you pluck the string you will get a slightly higher pitched note again. Then you push your next finger (your pinky) down hard onto the top string pushing it down into the forth fret, pluck the string and you will get another, slightly higher pitched sound. If you followed this carefully you should be getting the idea. Look at this: E|1-2-3-4---- B|----- G|----- D|----- A|----- E|----- On this one, you are doing the exact same as the last one but you are put your fingers on, and hitting the thinnest string. You should get a very high pitched sound. Try this: E|----- B|----- G|----- D|1-2-3-4--- A|----- E |----- Had a good try? If you're stuck, what you're doing is putting your fingers on the third thickest string, the third one away from you. So what about this? E|----- B|----- G|----- D|----- A|----- E|0-1- 2-3-- A 0? What do you do with a 0? Fear not! A zero simply means you pluck that string without putting your finger on a fret. This is fret zero. Make sense? Here are two, infamous and simple riffs, try them out: Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple: E|----- B|----- G|----- D|----- A|----- E|0-3- 5---0-3-6-5---0-3-5--3-0 Ring a bell? Note that the whole song is played on the thickest/deepest pitch string. Come As You Are by Nirvana: E|----- B|----- G|----- D|----- A|-----0---0-- ---2-----2- E|0-0-1-2---2---2-2-1-0---0-0--- This song is played on the top two strings of your guitar. It looks hard but do it slowly at first and you'll have it in no time. These two riffs are the first things I ever learnt on guitar! Now you know how to play basic tabs! Now the advanced bit: What does the EADGBE stand for? You may have noticed that between nearly all the tabs I have written here there is: E B G D A E On the left of it. Why is this? Each letter represents a note. If you have ever played on a keyboard or a piano before you will notice that each note is written as a letter. C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. All the EADGBE is is different notes. The thickest string on your guitar is a low E, the thinest is a high E, in between them is A, D, G and B. You don't have to remember this but if you do then you're one more step closer to being a professional. I remember it like this: Eddy Ate Dynamite Good Bye Eddy It works for me! I hope it helps. Next, bends, slides, hammer ons and pull offs. Sooner or later you're going to stumble on a tab with one of these three in it. I guarantee. It will help alot if you know what they mean.
    bbblinkunit
    hey linnylenae its jist not jits an dont post stuff twice no im kidding i dont care nice lesson man
    Gustavatron.
    This is an awesome lesson... I use either this one or the first one to teach GSB noobs how to play. This doesn't have chords, so it's not perfect. But I laughed alot, and guitar is supposed to be fun. Right? xD
    kamjam7
    Does ANYBODY know what the Q's E's and S's on top on the notes of some tabs stand for? I'm not sure if it's any thing important, and i cant find it in any lessons
    paul1991
    I have been playing guitar for a short while and inderstand the tab but I don't understand what the brackets mean like 12-13-(14)- or 22b(24) how do u play this ?
    hxiss
    ive had my guitar 1 month and can play 5 songs but i didnt understand how to do hammer on, pull off, or bend and this has helped me out soooo much. Thank you, now i can play the tabs i been avoiding.
    bhags
    wahhhhh thanks now i know HOW tO read the tabs thanks to you...now its not so confuse to me now.. thanks
    DarK_AssassiN
    Thank you SO much! I can read it finally! I'm so happy This was an awesome lesson. Looking forward to readin more of yours.
    mfkr
    I find Pull Offs and Hammer Ons hardest to understand but yeah, that was pretty helpful.
    vaughan528
    i'm new at this and i was wondering if anyone could explain how to play the part where the 0&5 are not next to each other. like 0&7 or 0&8 i understand that but when there is spaces between them im lost. -0-----7--8----7h8/5--7--5p3/2----- -----0--0-----0-----5 ----5-----5- -----0-----5----- ----- -----0----- -0----- i know if numb
    l84scool
    sabin wrote: can sum1 tell me what the x's mean
    ---x--- means that u dont ring that string.sumtimes u need 2lay a fingr on dat string weak enuf so that it wont sound.is that d 'x'that u mean?
    paul1991
    I have been playing guitar for a short while and inderstand the tab but I don't understand what the brackets mean like 12-13-(14)- or 22b(24) how do u play this ? someone plz help
    Ses
    That was really great Im not a beginner but I never knew how to read tabs(only sheet music) but now I getThankyou
    westberry
    tabs are for all sorts of guitars, and all sorts of music. Just look on this site or others for songs you would like to play and they will probably be listed as chords or tabs.