Reading Guitar Tablature II

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

Reading Guitar Tablature II
637
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

comments policy
    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!!
    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!
    siamesedream
    There is already something like this all over the internet. But this one makes more sense...
    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!
    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!
    mcr_27
    You said "put your little finger on 9 and your index finger on 7. Pull Off:
    E|-----
    B|-----
    G|----9p7---
    D|-----
    A|-----
    E|-----
    Isn't the illustration backwards? Or am I IQ impaired? I'm brand new to guitar plus I'm over 50 so my brain isn't what it used to be. If I'm mistaken, someone please explain.
    TalithaK
    you are such an easy to understand teacher!! My cousin who has been playing guitar for probably 2 years longer than I have was not able to teach me tabs! (I am self taught and have been playing since last Sept.)
    LadyFace
    Thank you so much. My sister explained tab but I was still a little confused. Now I get it!
    ermangelo
    Thanks a lot man that helped a lot, but I have a question. Do those tecniques that are explained at the end of the lesson work with a classical guitar? I would be glad if someone can answer my question. Cheers
    beanieheartsme
    wow! you're really good at teaching. this article is the easiest one i've read! thxxx! i hope you write some more! :>
    Sch1sM
    @notenuftalent: no it's not backwards. you just finger the 9th, pick the string, the let go of the 9 and have your index or middle finger on the 7th. the 7 should come through without you having to pick it, and that's what a pull-off is :]
    Guitarest Tony
    Thx SO much this helped a lot because i wanted to learn some of the songs I like and wasn't able to read the Tabs.... Now i can =D Thank U!!!
    neoexistence
    hehehee .. i dunt think i need to tell u how good that lesson was ... guess u kno by now !! thank u !!!!! seriously .. i dunno wher id still be stuck up if it wasnt for that !! keep posting lessons !!
    fiegs
    hey thanks for the lesson...can someone message me chords? in tab form...cuz i need to learn my chords(notes) and i dont know them
    NotEnufTalent
    You said "put your little finger on 9 and your index finger on 7. Pull Off: E|----- B|----- G|----9p7--- D|----- A|----- E|-- --- Isn't the illustration backwards? Or am I IQ impaired? I'm brand new to guitar plus I'm over 50 so my brain isn't what it used to be. If I'm mistaken, someone please explain.
    mcr_27
    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-----|
    Amakiresu
    This is soooo good. I just got one question: How do you know what finger to use to press on the note? :\
    BlakeJoseph
    that eddy ate dynamite goodbye eddy is catchy but easter bunny gets down at easter owns
    The Great Satan
    the nirvana song "come as you are"doesnt sound right.add more help to that.sounds like you have to do it pretty fast so sound right
    daball
    lolitaa if there is a x6 after the tab it does mean repeat six times.. and remember those x's mean mute the string.. d
    VoRzCeNt
    Can someone tell me what that means: |-----| |--o----| |-----| |-----| |--o----| |-----| Don't say it means play an open A and B unless you're positive it does. I see this in tabs, and it isn't really heard in the songs. Notice I put the letter "o" not the number "0". This is how it appears in tabs..
    sophiee323
    e|-------------------------------------------------------|
    B|--10-10-10-10--10-10-10-10--12-12-12-12--10-10-10--10--|
    G|---x--x--x--x---x--x--x--x---x--x--x--x---x--x--x---x--|
    D|---x--x--x--x---x--x--x--x---x--x--x--x---x--x--x---x--|
    A|--10-10-10-10--10-10-10-10--10-10-10-10--10-10-10--10--|
    E|-------------------------------------------------------|
    would i play both 10s at once im confused help
    rachy2992
    you really explained it well. thanks a lot. now i can actually read the tabs.
    KirkStinE
    sexc man... sex bomb.... it was great... i am a complete noob and when i played the deep purple song "smoke on the water" i really felt that i had learnt something... cheers man.. great job..
    daviox
    this post has helped me so much lol half an hour r ago i couldnt play th e guitar!
    Sime14
    I'VE STUFFED AROUND FOR YEARS ON GUITAR AND LERN TO PLAY BOOKS NEVER EXPLAINED IT SO SIMPLY. THANKS, NOW I CAN READ TABS!!!!!
    Filter
    Excellent job on this lesson, extremely well put and easy to learn. This is what helped me understand tablature. Well done darksouls88!