Instructables

How to Write and Understand Guitar Tabs

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What good is creativity without an outlet?  About as good as words without a language.  Tabs are another way of writing music that works especially well for guitar.  In this instructuable, I will teach you how to read, write, and understand tabs so you can put "words" to your auditory ideas without tedious memorization of traditional sheet music.  It's surprisingly simple and rewarding.

 
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Step 1: Know your guitar

First, before learning to play music, a basic understanding of your instrument it fairly necessary.  Picture a guitar sideways- with the head of the guitar to the left and the bridge farthest to the right.  The vertical lines on the neck of the guitar are called the frets.  The strings, in order from top to bottom (or small to big, high to low) are a high E note, a B note, G, D, A, and lastly a low E.  The mnemonic that helped me when I was learning was Every Bad Guitar Doesn't Actually Exist.
Knowing this just makes understanding what other people are talking about, guitar-wise, a lot easier.

Step 2: The Tabs

Picture of The Tabs
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Tabs are a simplified version of writing music that works especially well for guitar.  Sheets for writing tabs have 6 lines.  6 lines just like there are six strings on a guitar.  How convenient.
The top line signifies what should be played on the high E string.  The second from the top is the B, third, G, and so on.
Numbers on the coresponding lines tell you where to put your fingers.  A number 2 tells you to put your finger on the second fret.  A 10- tenth fret.  You get the idea.
The notes are read from left to right.  For example, in the picture below, you would play 2, then 1, then an open E, then a 1 again.  Just like regular reading.  You dont skip around.  Pretty simple, right?
One of the beauties of tabs is that you can write them just about anywhere you can draw 6 lines.  This happens to be the back of my history homework.
gneal3 years ago
Do you have an instructable for learning violin? I've found some good online resources, but I'm always open to more!
3553744 years ago
When I was learing guitar, my teacher taught me: Easter Bunnies Go Dancing At Easter! This really helped me. I have never forgotten the string names now!
Jusamies 3553743 years ago
You'll be screwed when you try alternative tunings =)
hemley4 years ago
 is that electric guitar made by cort?, because it looks exactly like mine
Tunesrlife (author)  hemley4 years ago
The head on mine says fender.
But it's a very common design- the red strat.  I'm not surprised.
Hope you're putting it to good use :)
JAZ974 years ago
lol cool we got the same amp :)
reubyjay4 years ago
thank you so much for this it opened up way more playing for me
PKTraceur4 years ago
A fun song to start with, that is semi-easy for a beginner is the Lost Woods Theme from Zelda.

www.chordie.com/chord.pere/www.guitaretab.com/m/misc-computer-games/48968.html

Chordie also has some tab songs.
I have been playing guitar for quite some time and i feel that is imperative that when one journeys into the realm of more complex musical thought one must have, at least, a basic understanding for traditional sheet music. Tab is a great place to start but one should seek out a more traditional approach as time goes on and ones skill increase. Also this can be done without a teacher there are various sites such as 8notes.com that provide assistance with this task. Anyways, cheers, great instructable, but I would just like to stress the importance of not letting tab become your only means to retrieve music from text.
Tunesrlife (author)  mayan guitarist4 years ago
Always great to hear the opinions of a fellow guitarist. 
I, myself, have a very basic knowledge of traditional sheet music (you know, FACE, every good boy does fine.) 
But, with an interrest in rock and roll culture, I am contiunally surprised by the ammount of creatively gifted and famous musicians who haven't a clue how to read a note.  There is a 'cultural' aspect of rock 'n roll that seperates... say... classical, country, genres like that. Tabs are more accessable in the rock 'n roll genre than any other.  Personal preference, I suppose. 
Learning sheet music defenatly makes sharing with others easier.  I would be interrested in finding some patterns in sheet like I have in tabs.  An aspiration for another day.
By no means did I mean to imply "don't learn sheet," because, honestly, I would like to be able to sight read, but it just doesn't come naturally to me.
Keep on playing :)  Thanks for the comment
Sylvanus4 years ago
Excellent instructable, I wish this had have been on hand when I was learning to read tableture. You do a great job of not only providing information, but realistically sounding enthusiastic and encouraging.
That's a good explanation. I had the same problem as you where i started off with the easy tabs and then on the harder ones, I saw the letters and stuff and I was like, 'What the heck?'.