Reading Tabs

I am sure lots of you out there struggle with reading tabs. Well here you go!

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Guitar tablature only works if the player already knows how the solo or the chords sound like, since TAB usually doesn't allow you to count beats like standard notion. The TAB "staff" (a six line bar usually with the letters TAB on it) is made up of six lines. Each line represents a string on the guitar. Look at the example below. The top line of the TAB staff represents the top string (the high E or 1st string) of the guitar. The next line down on the TAB staff equals the second string (the B string) of the guitar, and so on for all six strings.
E--------------------------------------
B--------------------------------------
G--------------------------------------
D--------------------------------------
A--------------------------------------
E--------------------------------------
Look at the example below. The numbers on the TAB directly correspond to the notes on the standard music notation.
E--3-5-3---------------------------------
B--------5-3-----------------------------
G------------4-2-------------------------
D----------------5-2---------------------
A--------------------5-2-----------------
E------------------------5-3-------------
Let's go through the example note by note: The first note is a G. The TAB staff shows you that the note is played on the 1st string (the E string). You know that because the number "3" - which represents the first note - is on the top line of the TAB staff. Remember, the top line of the TAB staff represents the 1st string. The number "3" tells you that the note is played at the 3rd fret. So, the first note is played at the 3rd fret on the 1st string. The next note is the number "5" (an A note.) The note is also played on the 1st string, but this time at the 5th fret. The "5" tells you to play the note at the 5th fret. The third note brings you back to the 3rd fret, still on the 1st string. The fourth note is played at the 5th fret, but this time on the second string (the B string) of the guitar. Since the "5" is on the second line of the TAB staff, we know it is played on the 2nd string of the guitar and so on. Chords can also be represented in TAB. Here's a E7 chord. The x shows that the string should be muted. You'll play with the first finger on the 5th fret of the 2nd (B) string, with the fourth finger on the 7th fret of the 3rd (G) string, with the second finger on the 6th fret of the 4th (D) string and with the third finger on the 7th fret of the 5th (A) string. You'll mute the 1st and 6th strings:
E------x-------------------------------
B------5-------------------------------
G------7-------------------------------
D------6-------------------------------
A------7-------------------------------
E------x-------------------------------
So, in a nutshell, the number represents the fret of the string (show at the side) that you need to hold.

6 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    guitar/bass95
    You have nice ideas for the compact, easy-to-read lessons, but really, there are much more in-depth tab reading lessons here, why would you make another, remarkably shallower lesson from probably the most used lesson topic in the forums? Also, this only covers the very very basics of the tab reading, and still you somehow managed to miss hoe to tab out an open string. And can I ask, why did you use that E7 chord shape? There are a not only one but two more common and convenient chord shapes for E7, that shape there just unnecessarily confuses beginners.
    thechaostheory
    guitar/bass95 wrote: You have nice ideas for the compact, easy-to-read lessons, but really, there are much more in-depth tab reading lessons here, why would you make another, remarkably shallower lesson from probably the most used lesson topic in the forums? Also, this only covers the very very basics of the tab reading, and still you somehow managed to miss hoe to tab out an open string. And can I ask, why did you use that E7 chord shape? There are a not only one but two more common and convenient chord shapes for E7, that shape there just unnecessarily confuses beginners.
    I agree with you on this one Guitar/Bass95. This should be more detailed. You did good explaining the lines on the tab, but you should defiantly expand on this. Try adding the technique symbols: What they look like and mean. Overall, not bad, you just need to flesh it out a bit more.
    mascanifawn
    Thanks for all your constructive critisism, i was going for an incredibly basic one as i found some of the more detailed ones hard to understand, thanks, mascanifawn! x
    pHiLLa
    www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/for_beginners/tabs_for_those _just_starting_out.html
    nartygates
    there are more complicated lessons than this which might be a little more difficult to understand, but i agree with guitar/bass95 about using E7, I think using something more basic like an A, D or an E chord that a beginner will probably know might have worked better.