How To Read Guitar Tabs

Although there really is no substitute to traditional musical notation, tablature has become popular on the web mainly because it’s generally percieved to be easier to understand.

In this particular guide we’re going to demonstrate some of the basics of how to read guitar tabs. Hopefully by the end  of this quick lesson you should be able to pick up most songs written in guitar tab, and be able to figure them out.

So, let’s get started…

How to read guitar tabs: The Basics

Although it may seem complicated at first, learning how to read guitar tabs is quite simple.
Take a quick look at the image below to see how the tab staff actually refers the guitar fretboard.

e------------------------- <-- Represents the high E string
B------------------------- <-- Represents the B string
G------------------------- <-- Represents the G string
D------------------------- <-- Represents the D string
A------------------------- <-- Represents the A string
E------------------------- <-- Represents the low E string

The tab staff for guitar has a total of 6 horizontal lines. Each one of these lines represents a string on the guitar.
When learning how to read guitar tabs, the first thing to remember is that the line at the bottom of the staff represents the lowest sounding “E” string, the next line up from the bottom represents the “A” string, etc. And this repeats up the staff; 3rd line from bottom = D string, 4th line = G string, 5th line = B string, and finally the 6th string represents the “high” E string.

In the image below you can see that there is a sequence of numbers along the tablature. These numbers simply relate to the fretboard numbers.

e-----------------------------------5--8--
B----------------------------5--8---------
G----------------------5--7---------------
D---------------5--7----------------------
A--------5--7-----------------------------
E--5--8-----------------------------------

For example: The number 5 on the lowest horizontal line represents the 5th fret on the low E string, and the number 8 refers to the 8th fret on the E string.
You might have noticed that this sequence of notes is actually how you would write the A pentatonic scale in tab notation.

Another point worth mentioning before we finish this lesson, is that when you see the number “0″ on one of the tab lines, this indicates that the open string is to be played.