Accurate Tabbing. Part 1

Part 1 to a serious of articles that will be your guide to accurate tabbing and also will help you sharpen your sense of hearing.

Ultimate Guitar


Hey, my name is AJ but mostly all of you know me as TheMutts. I have a pretty good amount of tabs under my belt, and most of them I have tabbed my self by ear. I will not hide the fact that a good portion of the tabs I have submitted are from other transcribers/websites. And I do give credit to the transcriber if I ever do submit their work. However I try to do my own tabs if I can. So first off if you want to successfully and accurately tab a song, you need to know and understand the techniques and effects of a guitar. For example, you got to know the difference between a legato slide and a shift slide, or the difference between a Natural Harmonic and an Artificial Harmonic. So if you are just beginning and do not know this kind of things, please don't try and write/submit tablature until you gain some more experience. If you are an experienced guitarist, then let's move on

First Steps

Here are some first steps before you start tabbing a song. Let's say you hear this song that no one has tabbed or no one has tabbed accurately. You want to be the one to get it right. You open of your notepad program or whatever and you don't know where to start Here is what you need to do.


This should be the first thing you write down before you start putting down tabs. What tuning is the song in. This shouldn't be to hard. You can easily hear when a song is dropped. Bands that play their songs in drop tunings usually play a lot on the low E string. So listen for that. It's a little harder to tell if it's something like half-step dropped down. But you need to listen to carefully. You'll find that a good ear is the most important thing to tabbing any kind of song. If you can't figure it out, look at tabs already submitted, if they are all pretty much mutual on a tuning, then they probably are right., if they are different from one of another, than just go with your best judgment.

The Band, The Guitarists

You should know a little bit about the band itself. If you know the band has two guitarists, you gonna have to tab for both guitars and that's some what tricky if you are just beginning. So try out some punk bands first that have only one guitarists. As you get better and more ear trained than you will progress up to harder songs. Keep in mind that a lot of the times that in songs, one guitarist put down more than you layer of guitar tracks, so it seems like there are two guitarists or more. That's why I say start with easy stuff like some punk songs. For example songs like Brain Stew or Dammit.

Easy songs

Ok, so there are easy songs to tab, and harder songs to tab. It's no secret that bands like Blink 182 have really easy songs. So tabbing them isn't too hard, even if you're starting out. Let's say you want to tab out Dammit. What are the first things you do? That's right, tuning and how many guitar tracks. In Dammit there's only one guitar track and it is in standard tuning. So you did that, now where do you go? Well it simple, listen to the song a couple times. After you do that you should have a good idea if you are ready to tab it or if it's too hard. If you are ready, then lets move on to actually tabbing.

The Intro

Ok, the intro to Dammit is all single notes. And when tabbing single notes, it's important to find the root note. Like if you were practicing scales. So what you do is listen to the beginning of the intro to Dammit and picture what relative area would that note be at. So you play a few notes and then you hit it! The root (or first) note to the intro is on the A string, 3rd fret. Ok so you got that. Now what? Well you move onto the next note. Listen to the intro and does it go from the root note higher or lower? It goes higher so move along a fret or two or you could try going up one string and playing a couple notes. Don't forget if you go up one string, try playing it open. Ok, so now you found the second note. Open on the D string (or the 5th fret on the A string). So just keep doing this. And it always helps to be organized by breaking the measure into sections. Like in a phone number, you put dashes so it's a little bit easier to remember. So now you keep finding those notes and writing them down and now you have the entire intro tabbed out. Good job. Onto the next step.

The Verse

Before I tell you anything about the verse, if want all the readers to know why I am describing to you how to play Dammit. Well you see, I am giving you techniques and advise that you can use to tab pretty much any song. I am simply using Dammit as an example. So in the Verse, you can tell they move from notes to chords. And by listening to the song carefully and by experimenting with you guitar, you can tell they are most likely simple power chords. There are two different ways to find just what power chord. You can find the root note of the power chord or you can just play power chords down the fret board until you find the right one. For songs like this, that's as easy as it gets. The rest of the song is as easy as what we've just covered, so you can take it from there. That's it for Part 1 of the article. Here's what you can expect in Part 2:
  • How to tab hard songs (example: Metallica's One)
  • How to tab solos Thanks for reading.
  • 55 comments sorted by best / new / date

      Congratulations. I posted first! Shame I already understood the basics of tabbing but thanks anyway. I appreciate your effort.....
      Really good article, normally i point out somthin bad about an article after saying that but now, im not going to. It was very good. Wen i tabbed songs (ive dun two lol) I jus sat with my axe in front of m e n played it typing as i went. never really thought it was that complecated. Then i just played the tab as if i was learning it. Shows wat i no, BTW PLEASE CAN PPL RATE MY TABS, THEY ENT BIN OUT VERY LONG AND THEY ENT RATED, THEY ARE NOT BAD EITHER, COWBY SONG SOLO, AND FIREBALL SOLO thank you use backspin, BYE!
      Nice work.....i already knew most of the stuff...but it can help beginners. 4 Stars.
      I knew everything already, but great to help beginners....really. Too bad you had to mention Blink 182, ruinded my
      on part 2 i expect you to write, You Too Can Write Out Yngwie Malmsteen Tabs In Just 30 Days..
      Already knew most of da stuff but whatever. good review of the basics.
      ramstormrage: on part 2 i expect you to write, You Too Can Write Out Yngwie Malmsteen Tabs In Just 30 Days.. [POSTED: 16 June 2005 - 06:42]|
      Maybe in Part 12 haha, just kidding.. But I will probably write 4 parts, I'm almost done with the 2nd part now actually.
      good, but it tends to go towards your musical preferance, which is emo, which is shit. blink sucks. if you want punk, try some new sum 41 albums(chuck's their best one) 4*'s
      good article. Most of this is common sense, but hey, now I know not to start tabbing stuff (as in the stuff I like which is mostly harder stuff) until I'm really experienced with guitar, not just somewhat.
      Nice article. I've tabbed a couple of times, and it's great to now know the framework that needs to be used. Thanks, guy.
      i think the "hit the mailbox and win a sony PSP" pop up ad was pretty cool, but other than that, this page was boring
      I have only tabed 2 or 3 times. I am glad you wrote this, very useful info. Looking forward to the next article.
      ehhh.. not sure what to think....i dont really care about the songs that take 2 minutes to tab the whole thing...but i am looking forward to hearing what you have to say about solos...keep up the work (4/5)
      Very good for beginners. Funny how many people acutally care that you..dare I even mention it again..called Blink-182 a punk band. Looking forword to reading the next article.
      BEACH BOYS ROCK and squires suck cows. LONG LIVE THE COUNCH REBUBLIC...HAZZAA!!!..
      tthis is awesome, but i've ben tabbing songs for two years and what i can't understand is that i don't know the musical playing style... Like palm mute or etc... will you give info 'bout that too!!!
      BLINK 182 ISNT... i know, im not going to. cuz i dont really care. anyway, i think its a good article. i personally dont like to tab songs, i sometimes learn them on my own, but i dont really submit them. but thanx for the tips for learning by ear.
      1st. not bad. says what needs to be said. but since people use this site largely for lookin up tabs theyre probably familiar with the layout.
      The warning train: Choo-Choo! Valhalla GuitaPlaya timesignal Each receive a warning for spam. spam deleted
      Well, as far as basics go you nailed them all. I can't wait to see the next installment. Thanks for a nice article.
      This article is not supporting blink182, no reason to say they suck ass. Anyways, good article for beginners.
      GuitaPlaya: blink 182 is not punk DAMNIT Well, Mr. Genre Whore, how does this comment contribute to the article? This article is not about Blink 182, it makes a simple reference to one of their songs. Congratulations, you jumped on an incredibly old bandwagon and made yourself look like a fool. Back to the comment... You'd also want to make sure you're tabbing the correct fingerings. For example, some people tab Paranoid on the A string, when it sounds more accurate on the E string. Doing so will increase your tab rating.
      WHO FUCKING CARES ABOUT BLINK'S GENRE?!?!?! How do you morons not get nauseated just by TALKING about blink's being punk/not punk? GOd damn you. No one said they were punk; it's one kid that needs to be Mr. Genius and point out that they're not, and Valhalla is here to join him. At any rate, it's completely irrelevant and immature.
      what about if i wanted to tab speed metal symphony? wasnt really impressed by this to be honest
      thanks for the article, for the next one it would be cool if you gave tips for fast and effective tabbing (less typing, etc...)
      "So if you are just beginning and do not know this kind of things, please don?t try and write/submit tablature until you gain some more experience" I dont like that statement by TheMutts Dont discourage a new guy to write or submit tablature because trying to write tab will improve your guitar playing tremendously and submitting it will let u know how accurate You are... if its wrong people will know and the rating will be low but if its right u can be happy
      actually....until recently, i never even knew what a root note or such was, so was tremendously lost as to what to do in tabbing that i have some minor music theory understanding its getting easier. althought this covers all the basics most people would IS part one....the next section will probably help a good bit more...calm down. something like this woul dhave been a help to me back in the day tho, so it does have its place...kudos, hope the next article keeps up the goodness.
      It's also a good idea to get an editing program like Sound Forge. I use that to isolate single notes that I am unsure of and then I play them over and over and figure out that way which note it is. Very helpful.