Full Access Members Only

How To Read Tablature Part 1


Get Full Access Today To Learn

How To Read Tablature

Plus 11,000 More Guitar Lessons.

Product Cost Lessons Instructors Instructor Help New Lessons Return Policy
Guitar Tricks $19.95 11,000+ 45 Instructors Yes Yes, Weekly 60 Days
Guitar Dvd's $30 - $60 20 - 30 1 Instructor No Interaction No No
Guitar Books $20 - $40 30 - 40 1 Instructor No Interaction No No
Other Sites $20 - $40 100 - 500 1-5 Instructor Sometimes Sometimes 3-7 Days
In-person $40 - $80 1 Hour 1 Instructor Yes Yes No
The notation we use here on the Guitar Tricks site is called tablature, which is usually simplified by the abbreviation, tab.

Tablature is very easy to read. It shows you what notes to play on your guitar by means of two basic pieces of information: which fret space to play and which string to play. Tab ingeniously combines these two pieces of information into one unit by indicating numbers for the fret, on lines representing strings.

  • Each of the six horizontal lines represents a string on the guitar.
  • The bottom line represents the thickest string (the lowest sounding string), the top line represents the thinnest string (the highest sounding string).
  • The numbers indicate the fret spaces of the guitar that you should play. Start at the nut which is called the zero fret and count each fret space up toward the body of the guitar (1, 2, 3, and so on).
  • Tab is read from left to right.
  • The vertical lines represent measures of the song.

    The thickest string is called the 6th string. It is the lowest sounding string. This is a helpful visual clue because it is represented by the lowest of the six lines in tab. Conversely, the thinnest string is called the 1st string. It is the highest sounding string. This is also a helpful visual clue because it is represented by the highest of the six lines in tab. The other strings in between are simply numbered in order and this results in strings 1 through 6.

    Tab does not show rhythm (when to play notes), except in a loose way. So, it is inferior to standard musical notation as a complete explanation of how to play music. But it is much easier to learn and get you started. So, it is a helpful roadmap for beginners. By the end of this page, you will be able to read tab!

    In the video I cover three types of notes.

  • The number zero as the open string note.
  • The numbers above zero (1, 2, 3) as fretted notes.
  • Numbers stacked vertically (on top of each other) as notes that happen at the same time (simultaneously sounding notes).

    In the first situation, the zero indicates that a string will be played open, at the zero fret. This means it will be played without putting any finger on any fret. In the tab example, the zero is on the highest line, representing the highest string, the E string.

    In the second situation, the numbers 1, 2 and 3 on the highest line in the tab indicates to put your fingers on the appropriate fret spaces and the appropriate string and play the notes one after another in order from left to right.

    In the third situation, we have three notes that are stacked vertically directly on top of each other. This indicates to put your finger on each appropriate fret space and string. Then, play all three notes together at the same time (simultaneously sounding).

    To learn more about the different tab symbols we use to indicate different techniques, click the help button on the toolbar above.

    Happy tab reading!

  • Open In New Window
    lesson notation