How To Read Guitar Tabs: The Basis

Let’s just skip the boring intro and get straight to what you came here for, and that is how to read guitar tabs.

Let’s look at a blank tab:

A guitar tab is a really simple concept. The lines symbolize the strings. The top string (the 1st one) is the thinnest string. The bottom string (the 6th one) is the thickest string.

A tab with some sounds on it:

This tab tells you to play these 4 simple sounds in equal intervals. Usually tabs are not saying anything about things like half notes, whole notes, etc. so you will have to figure this stuff out on your own. This is really the biggest flaw about guitar tabs – they lack information about rhythmic notation. The only thing a tab tells you is to play the sounds one after another, sometimes in equal intervals and sometimes not.

The numbers indicate the frets that the tab is telling you to play. So in the example above sound #1 should be played on 6th string 4th fret. Sound #2 is an open 5th string, and sound #3 is meant to be played on 4th string 2nd fret.

Sound #4 is a little more complicated because all six strings need to be played at the same time. This is a chord (an A chord for that matter). To play sound #4 you need to hold down strings 2, 3, 4 on the 2nd fret, and then strum all six strings at once.

And that’s it. There’s nothing complicated about tabs. That’s because they were invented to make life easier for people who didn’t want to go through all the hustle to learn how to read notes.

Of course not all tabs are that simple and sometimes there are other symbols used in them. Symbols for things like: a hammer on, a pull off, and other. Let’s leave it for the next time, and until then have a good time, and practice what you’ve learned so far (and share your thoughts in the comments of course).

Additional video:

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