How to Read Guitar Tab

How to Read Guitar TabReading Guitar Tablature Made Easy – How to Read Guitar Tab

Guitar tablature is a system for guitarists to be able to learn a piece of music without being able to understand the traditional music score. Many guitarists can read music that many more able to get by without being able to read music in the traditional sense. Guitar tablature is also known as Guitar Tab. Here is a guide to reading Guitar Tab.

The system relies on being a graphical representation of the strings on the instrument. Managing lying your guitar down in front of you flat on its back with the headstock to your left and the sound hole or pickups to your right. Glancing down at the strings you would see the highest E string uppermost and the lowest E string nearest to you. It would look something like this:

E———————
B———————
G———————
D———————
A———————
E———————

So, the top line represents the thinnest E string, the
down represents the B string, then it would be the G string and so on.

The system then goes on to show you which fret you need to place your finger upon for each string. This is achieved by placing the numbers on the lines of the tablature. A number 0 (zero) tells you that you should play the string without holding your finger against any of the frets. In other words, the string is left open. A number on one of the strings tells you that a particular string should be played on the corresponding number fret.

Here is an example of how to read guitar tab using the top, at the least, E string only:

E—-5—3—-0—1–
B———————
G———————
D———————
A———————
E———————

So you would start off by playing the fifth fret, then the third, then the open string and finally on the first fret. The notes would be A, G, E and finally F.

Playing Guitar Chords Using Tablature – How To Read Guitar Tab

Guitar tab is perfectly capable of showing you a chord shape to play. Let’s have a look at the chord G:

E——3————–
B——0————–
G——0————–
D——0————–
A——2————–
E——3————–

This will look familiar to many guitarists. The top E string is played on the third fret, the B, G and D strings are left open whilst the A string is played on the second frets and finally the bottom E string is played on the third fret. Any chord can be demonstrated using guitar tablature.

Strumming patterns can be represented on guitar tab although only to a degree. Let’s imagine that you need to play the above G chord four times:

E——3—3—3—3—
B——0—0—0—0—
G——0—0—0—0—
D——0—0—0—0—
A——2—2—2—2—
E——3—3—3—3—

This demonstrates the shortcoming with using guitar tablature in order to learn a piece of music. It only indicates to you the position in which you should play it does not indicate time. So, you only are ever getting half the picture. True, you can listen to a piece of music and get the timing using that method but, of course, that is more akin to playing by ear and being able to sight read. Nobody has been able to overcome this problem although many have tried different techniques, such as putting traditional note values at the top or bottom of each beat of the music.

This is complicated on the eye and only gives a general idea of time.

To its credit though, guitar tablature does have methods of showing you how to play various guitarist type techniques in quite a good fashion. Hammer on is and pull offs can be demonstrated quite well as well as slide ups and slide down is and bends. Here is how it works using the top E string is a demonstration:

Hammer On:

E——7h9—————
B———————
G———————
D———————
A———————
E———————

Pulling Off:

E———9p7——–
B———————
G———————
D———————
A———————
E———————

Sliding Up:

E——7/9———–
B———————
G———————
D———————
A———————
E———————

Sliding Down:

E———-9/7——-
B———————
G———————
D———————
A———————
E———————

A Bend Up

E——–7(8)——–
B———————
G———————
D———————
A———————
E———————

I hope that this initial look at how to read guitar tab has been of use to you. It is fairly self-explanatory want to get the basics and you can normally understand what the author of a piece of tablature is trying to convey to you even when they go away from the formally accepted version of guitar tablature notation.

Enjoy!