Learn To Read Guitar Tab ...

By Associate

Learn To Read Guitar Tab ...

Guitar tab is short for guitar tablature and is a type of music notation. It differs from standard notation and makes it easier to read for guitarists. You don’t have to have any previous music experience to learn to read guitar tabs. Here’s how to do it.

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Type of Guitar Tabs

There are two different kinds of guitar tab, called ASCII and formal tab.


ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange and is based on text. It uses hyphens to create lines representing each string of the guitar. It also uses numbers written on the strings to show which fret to play on each string. 

This is the most intuitive type of guitar tab to read, and it is extensively used online as it can be created easily using text. 

The downside to ASCII tab is that sometimes details like rhythm can’t be easily conveyed and are sometimes left out altogether.

Formal Tab

Format tap is a type of tab that allows for more details as far as the rhythm of the notes, palm muting, hammer-ons, bends, vibrato, and other important information. These are hard to convey on ASCII tab but are extremely clear on the formal tab.

Formal tab takes more music training to be able to read, although many times the top is treble clef and the bottom is similar to ASCII tab and shows finger placement on the strings.


How To Read Tab

As mentioned earlier, the guitar tab has horizontal lines representing the string. They are E, B, G, D, A, and E in order. The vertical lines represent bar lines. The numbers, which can run from zero to 24, tell you which fret to play on. They are located on one of the horizontal lines, which tells you which string to play. 

Notes and Chords

Guitar tabs are read from left to right, and you play the indicated fret on the indicated string as it comes up. If two numbers appear together, vertically, that is called a chord. You play those frets and strings at the same time. Open strings will be marked with a 0.


Sometimes strumming is marked on the guitar tab. This is a small symbol that looks like a tiny table. This means you should downstroke, while upstrokes are shown with a ‘V’ above them.


Muted notes are indicated often with an ‘X’ on the horizontal. Palm muting can be indicated with the letters PM.

Bending and Sliding

To indicate bending, a curved arrow accompanies the note. Sliding up is shown using a slanted line between two numbers. These represent the note you start on and the note the slide should end on. The line will slant upward when you should slide up, and downward when you need to slide down.

Hammer-Ons and Tapping

Hammer-ons are indicated on guitar tab with an arch and an ‘H’ while tapping is similarly written using a curved line and the letter ‘T’.


Playing Songs Using Guitar Tab

Getting used to reading guitar tabs is simply a matter of consistent practice. The more you do it, the easier it will get, and soon you’ll be playing more advanced music.

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