How To Read Tab – Becoming A Pro Player!

By on December 24, 2012

Learning to play a musical instrument of your choice can be a very rewarding pastime as a hobby. You can also pick it up for professional reasons and enjoy the mastery of an instrument such as a guitar. But to get to the level of a Carlos Santana or a Jimi Hendrix, you need ‘practice, practice, practice’ and then some more! Nobody said it was going to be easy but if you follow something known as guitar tablature you can perhaps pick up this musical instrument quickly. Guitar tablature otherwise known as guitar tab, is simply a system of music notation that promises to make it easier to read music.

In simple terms, this kind of notation uses a graphical representation of strings and frets of the guitar. The six strings of the guitar are represented by lines. It is easy enough to learn how to read tab by keeping the following points in mind.

If you were to look at your guitar strings you will notice that the bottom string is the thickest and this is known as the sixth string or E string. The thinnest string or e string is on the top and while using or trying to read tab, the strings are represented with six lines as follows


On these lines specific numbers are placed which represent where you should place your finger on the guitar fret board. So for instance, if you had tab that looked like the following:


Then you would play the guitar in the following manner: put your finger on the fifth string just behind the second fret then at the fourth fret, go back to the second fret again and finally strum on an open string which is represented by the zero.

Chords can also be represented with the help of guitar tab for instance:


this represents a C chord. And if you need to play this C chord thrice, then the vertical series of numbers would be repeated in 2 more columns.

You can also use guitar tabs to learn special techniques such as hammer on, string vibrato and pull off to name just a few. These special techniques are represented by specific letters or symbols such as”

/ and \ for slide up and slide down respectively, ‘v’ for vibrato, ‘p’ for pull off, /n\ for tremolo bar inverted dip, ‘r’ for release bend, ‘h’ hammer on and ‘x’ on rhythm slash or muted slash. Each of these specialized techniques result in various effects. For instance, something known as ‘a bend’ which is represented by the symbol ‘b’ allows the guitarist to produce a wobbly effect. This special technique can be represented as follows


Types of guitar tab

Generally speaking, three main types of guitar tab can be found- tab with rhythm information, ASCII tab and tab with notation. The ASCII tab is perhaps one of the most common guitar tablature. These are the basics of how to read tab.

James is a writer and blogger with 5 years experience.

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