How to Read Guitar Tabs

How to Read Guitar Tabs

Sometimes, if you get in the mood to play a song but don’t really want to spend a lot of time learning it, you may look up guitar tabs. But if you do, you’ll notice that they aren’t formatted like normal musical notations. Since this type of tablature is de facto shorthand for a lot of the music you find online, here’s how to read guitar tabs.

Use tabs to fret notes and chords.

  • The tab notations are a representation of the guitar strings. The bottom line is the thickest string, while the top is the highest.
  • The tab numbers tell you where to place your fingers. Use the numbers to know where to fret spaces on the guitar neck.
  • Vertically aligned numbers are chords. Fret each note as it’s written in the tab, then play the chord altogether.
  • Tabs are written like a book. Read them left to right.
  • Lyrics can signal when chords change. Watch for chords above words to know when they are played.

Learn the Special Symbols

  • Hammer On: This is an “h” inserted between two notes. (Ex: 7h9)
  • Pull Off: This is a “p” inserted between two notes. (Ex: 7p9)
  • String Bends: This is a “b” inserted between two notes. (Ex: 7b9)
  • Slide Techniques: This is a “/” for ascending slide and a “\” for a descending slash. (Ex: 7/9\7)
  • Vibrato: This is either a “~”  or “v”. (Ex: 5v)

Grace Music School offers guitar lessons for all ages and in a variety of genres and styles. We can get you playing like a pro in no time. For more information about guitar lessons, visit our website or call us at 631-239-6169 (For Salonga) or 631-470-9705 (Melville).

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