how to read guitar tabs

Learn How to Read Guitar Tabs Easily

Are you interested in learning how to play the guitar, but don’t know how to read sheet music? This is not a problem because a method of illustrating notes and chords has been developed specifically for the guitar. Here we'll show you how to read guitar tabs.

This method is called “guitar tabs” and does not require a reading of traditional sheet music. Below are very basic and simple directions on how to read tabs.

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Horizontal Lines​

Similar to guitar chords, the tab method utilizes 6 horizontal lines each of which represents a different note and string on the guitar. Starting at the top line, the e-note, and the thinnest string is represented. The second from the top line represents the B note, followed by the G note, the D note, and the A note.​ Just like the strings on your guitar.

The very bottom horizontal line represents the E note which is also the thickest guitar string. Please note the difference between the thinnest string which is represented by a lowercase e and the thickest string which is represented by a capital E.

guitar tabs

Vertical Lines​

Also similar to guitar chords, the tab method utilizes vertical lines to indicate which fret to play in. This does not change what the actual note being played will be but instead, this controls the pitch of the note. The fret to be played will be indicated with a number starting with 1.

If the tab has a number 1 this means you play the fret farthest away from your body. The numbers will increase as the fret gets closer to the body. If there is only a 0, that means you play the notes openly without having to fret the indicated string.

guitar tabs

Image Courtesy of PB Guitars

Bringing it All Together​

Now, you have an idea of the very basics of tabs. The horizontal lines represent which note to play whereas the vertical line represents which fret you are to either hold down or just strum the note in. Just to be very clear, a note is to be played if there is a number on top of the horizontal line associated with the note.

For example, if a number one is placed on the third highest horizontal line you are to play the G note or the third string from the top on the first fret. Remember, the first fret is farthest away from your body with numbers increasing as the fret gets closer to your body.​

Just to illustrate this, please click the link to see how a basic tab looks. Notice how the music indicates that the e-note, the B note, the G note and the D note are all to be played because there is a number of the horizontal lines.

​With the basic instructions above, you will find yourself playing the guitar in no time. Whereas traditional sheet music generally requires a long time to learn and master, the tab method allows those with little or no musical experience to start to play the guitar quickly and accurately as far as it is concerned.

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