How to Read Guitar Tabs

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How to Read Guitar Tabs
Read Guitar Tabs

You do not have to be a skilled musician to read guitar music. Special notation has been developed to help amateur guitarists read music without years of practice. It is actually quite easy to read, but following the tabs is what can get tricky some times.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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  1. 1

    Notice the difference between guitar tab and traditional sheet music. Guitar tab has six lines--each line corresponding to a guitar string--rather than the five-line stave.

  2. 2

    Learn which line on the tab goes with which guitar string. The bottom line on the tab is your low-E string. Going up, the other lines are the A, D, G, B, and high-E strings.

  3. 3

    Read from left to right.

  4. 4

    Read the numbers on each line. They signify which fret (or note) is played on which string. For example, if a 5 is written on the bottom line, play the note by placing your finger on the fifth fret of the low E string (which is the A note).

  5. 5

    Play a chord when there's a number on more than one line at the same point (one or more numbers above another) on the tab.

  6. 6

    Strum a string as an open string when a line in a chord is left blank with no number on it.

  7. 7

    Muffle a string when an X appears on its line.

  8. 8

    Learn to read the rhythm last. Because there is no set rhythm notation in tab, most tab editors group the numbers together or far apart. The closer the numbers are together, the faster the rhythm.

Tips and warnings

  • Guitar tab is a method that takes getting used to. It is always helpful to have a recording of the song you are playing with you to learn rhythms and chords easily.
  • For those who can read standard rhythms, real guitar notation is usually found written above the guitar tabs for help.

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