Introduction: How to Read Guitar TAB

About: I teach guitar through my website My free guitar lessons help people learn guitar scales and chords in the fastest time possible with animations and TAB and graphics. I plan on adapting as many …

This instructable aims to take the mystery out of reading guitar TABs. It's the same method I use for my free guitar lessons I give on my site at

Guitar TAB is written on a staff that mimics the strings of the guitar. The line at the bottom represents the lowest (thickest) guitar string while the line at the top represents the highest (thinnest) string.

Reading guitar TAB is a whole lot easier than reading standard music notation. A lot more technical information can also be expressed with Guitar TAB compared to music notation because you are able to show the mechanics of how the music should be played.

Step 1: TAB Symbols

TAB uses numbers to represent the frets where you are supposed to put your fingers to play a particular note. For example: if you see the number 9 then you place your finger just behind the 9th fret with your fretting hand then use your pick to pick the string with your picking hand.

There are tons of TAB symbols that are commonly used to express guitar techniques and I have most of them pictured here. You can also make up your own symbols. If you make up your own symbols be sure to include a legend with your TAB so other guitarists will know what they mean.

Step 2: Guitar Chord TABS

You can use TAB to describe guitar chords too. When you see TAB fret numbers stacked on top of each other, it means to that you are to play the notes simultaneously.

Step 3: TAB for Rhythm and Timing

You can also use symbols to represent timing in TAB. Timing symbols are placed under the staff and are lined up with the TAB fret numbers. Timing symbols are modified music notation symbols that are used only to show the duration of each note.

Step 4: Writing Your Own TAB

Writing your own TAB is a great way to share and archive your own musical ideas. Print out a few sheets of blank TAB paper to keep next to you while you play. Jot down everything you want to save and store it in a folder or binder so that you will never forget those cool licks and riffs you make.

I print the TAB paper above using these print settings:

Scale - 100%
Paper size - US

Letter or 8.50 x 11

Layout - Portrait

Good luck with your next musical idea!

If you like this instructable please vote for it and be sure to follow me as I will be adapting some of my guitar lessons from my site as instructables.

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