How Do You Read Guitar Tabs?


Quick Answer

To read guitar tabs, or tablature, consider each of the six lines on the diagram a representation of the corresponding string. The numbers located on those lines represent the unique positions where the identified notes are to be played on the fret board. The horizontal distance between the notes illustrates speed, or tempo.

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Full Answer

Guitar tablature presents the six strings of the guitar stacked top to bottom, with the low E usually on the bottom, followed by A, D, G, B and the high E. Each number represented on a string directly indicates a fret, 1 meaning first, 12 meaning twelfth, with 0 indicating that the string is played openly, without any finger action whatsoever. When fret strikes appear vertically aligned, this typically indicates a chord. Alternatively, single notes or note patterns commonly designate solo playing or chord arpeggios.

Tablature employs a range of symbols to represent specific techniques. P and H, for example, symbolize pull-offs and hammer-ons, two of the most common guitar effects. Similarly, forward and reverse slashes stand for pick slides, and B indicates a string bend. Bends are sometimes also illustrated with swooping arrows indicating direction. To start learning tablature, begin with simple chord and solo arrangements, and try to follow the music note for note.

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