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How to read guitar tabs

What is guitar tablature

Guitar tablature is a system for writing down music for the guitar, or other fretted instruments. The system lays out the fingerings used for a particular piece of music in a kind of short-hand.

How does guitar tablature work?

Guitar tablature comprises a six line grid, where each line represents a string on the instrument (guitar). The top line represents the first string (the little E string) and the bottom line represents the sixth string (the low E string) on the guitar.
Here is an example of a blank grid ready for recording guitar tablature:

The grid is used to record the number of the fret at which each note is played.

For example, the introduction to Chicago's Hard to Say I'm Sorry, begins by playing the note at the fourth fret on the first string, so:

The subsequent notes are:

fourth note on third string, fifth note on second string, fourth note on first string, fifth fret on first string, fourth note on first string, seventh note on second string, fifth note on second string

Therefore:

You should now know how to read guitar tabs!

That is how to read guitar tabs. You may have noticed that there is no mention of time signatures, the length of each note, rhythm or timing. Guitar tablature is purely a shorthand for recording the notes and the order in which they are played and therefore cannot compete with the accuracy of music notation. However, it is easier to learn to read and is a valuable aid if used in conjuction with a recording of the music you wish to play.

Additional symbols used in guitar tablature

The letters b and r are sometimes used to represent a bend or a release of a bend to the following fret.

The symbol / is sometimes used to represent a slide up and \ to represent a slide down the fretboard.

VVVV or ~~~~ or even /\/\/\/\ can be used to represent vibrato



Common mispellings of guitar tablature

guitar tableture, guitar tabliture, guitar tableature