How to Read Guitar Tablature


Thanks for continuing along in our How To: Guitar series. For this lesson, we are going to learn how to read guitar tablature. Guitar tablature (or guitar tab as it is commonly known) is simply a really easy way to write down guitar music.  Writing guitar music in tab makes it easier for other guitarists to understand how to play the music.  In our last lesson, we learned a bit about piano in order to understand how the musical staff works.

Guitar Tab is Easier than Sheet Music?!?

Well, why would you study a diagram of a piano in order to learn how to play guitar? You don’t have to learn standard music notation in order to learn how to play the guitar. Luckily for guitarists, a couple hundred years ago some wise person developed a type of notation especially for stringed instruments called Tablature. Guitar tablature lets you read standard sheet music notation while also giving you the actual fingering of the frets This makes it much easier to read and play guitar from sheet music. Guitar tablature works like this:

how to read guitar tablature

Both Guitar Tab and Standard Notation Are Good!

guitar tablature notation legend

This guitar tablature notation legend is a key for guitar tab.

Most of my examples on this website will give both standard sheet music notatio for piano as well as guitar tablature above it. It can be very important to learn how to read from standard music notation if you are planning to ever study classical guitar or play in orchestras or school bands. It is also a little easier to learn music theory from standard notation. Therefore, I have included the sheet music along with the tablature. How you want to learn is up to you but I do find it to be much easier to explain how to play guitar using tablature as it gives the student a fast track way to begin playing actual songs. By learning how to read guitar tablature, you can quickly search online and find your favourite songs and easily learn how to play them. Take a brief look through the examples songs in the back of this book. Try to play some of your favourites.

All the Notes!

Here’s a handy example that shows not only the notes in tablature and on the treble cleff, but also clearly shows many of the duplicate notes across the guitar fretboard. Studying these notes will help you become a really great guitarist. Notice the 8va on the last bar indicates that it is an octave above what you’d expect from the treble clef.

how to read guitar tablature

How to Read Guitar Tablature!

Thanks for sticking around for our continuing guitar lessons here on How To: Guitar. For this lesson, you learned how to read guitar tablature which is going to definitely come in handy in future lessons where we are going to start teaching you how to actually play guitar!  For homework, I want you to go to the guitar tab archive and find some of your favorite songs and attempt to figure out how they are played on the guitar!

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