How To Read Tablature

How to Read Tablature and Play Your Favorite Songs

Have you recently picked up a guitar?  Maybe you’ve even had the time to learn some of the basic chords.  Eventually though you’re going to want to learn some songs to show off your skills.  Not all of us can read music and even though we all should we’re usually too lazy for that.

Tablature(also known as tab for short) on the other hand require no interpretation and can be explained very simply and quickly.  This article will talk about how to read tablature, common notations and advantages/disadvantages of using tabs.

Whenever you see a tab there will be six long lines running down the page.  As you can probably guess each of these lines represents a string.  Some people write which string is which but usually you can figure out by sounds.

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On these strings you’re going to see numbers.  Every number represents a fret on the guitar.  If the tab is on one string and has the numbers 3-5-3 that would translate into third fret, fifth fret, third fret.

There you have it; you’ve learned the complete basics of how to read tablature.  You could go out and start learning songs right now, but read on to find out some essential information.

If you’re looking for chord tabs then you’ll see six numbers all over top of each other.  Each of these will hold a number and that number represents the fret you should hold down to play that chord.  Most chords will have 0’s in them.  0 signifies that you leave this string open.  X signifies that you should mute this string or not play it.

Some commonly used notations in tabs are h for hammer-ons and p for pull-offs.  Some more examples include B for bends and V for vibratos.  If you see / that’s the official symbol for slides so 3/5 would mean slide from third to fifth.

Now that you’ve learned how to read tablature, you’re probably thinking why should you ever learn to read music, when you’ve got guitar tabs?  Well although tabs are a very quick and easy way to learn songs they have some fundamental flaws.  An example of this is the inability to translate rhythm through tabs.

Another problem with tabs is that they’re exclusively for guitar players.  This means they cannot be read by other instruments.  Whereas traditional music can be read by all instruments and transposed to fit their sound.

Hopefully you now understand how to read tablature.  The best way to learn how to read tablature is of course to practice.  Tabs are great for learning new songs or writing down riffs and licks that you’ve come up with.  It’s essential that all guitarists understand how to read them and they’ll improve your song list dramatically.  Good luck and keep on practicing!

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