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How to Read Guitar Tablature

The following tutorial will help to explain to you the basic concept of reading guitar tab. Although it may seem complex, learning to read tab is quite simple, and you should find yourself reading tab easily in no time.

Guitarists are a unique breed. Chances are, if you play guitar, you are either self-taught, or have taken a small number of lessons via a friend or guitar teacher. If you were a pianist, however, you almost assuredly would've learned to play the instrument through years of private study, which would include both music theory lessons, and heavy focus on sight reading.

Nothing wrong with taking the more informal approach to learning music, but it does create some inherent problems when it comes to laborious duties like learning to read music. Learning to sight read takes a reasonable amount of work, without immediate benefit, and it is these sort of duties that self-taught musicians tend to avoid.

It's never too late to learn to read music... if you want to get serious about a career in the music industry, it really is essential. However, guitarists have created their own method of music notation, guitar tablature which, while admittedly flawed, provides a simple and easy to read way of sharing music with other guitarists.

Basics of Tab

A tab staff for guitar has 6 horizontal lines, each one representing a string of the instrument. The bottom line of the staff represents your lowest "E" string, the second line from the bottom represents your "A" string, etc. Easy enough to read, right?

Notice that there are numbers located smack dab in the middle of the lines (aka strings). The numbers simply represent the fret the tab is telling you to play. For example, in the illustration above, the tab is telling you to play the third string (third line) seventh fret.

Note: When the number "0" is used in tablature, this indicates that the open string should be played.

This is the concept of reading tab, at it's most basic. Now let's examine some of the more advanced aspects of reading tablature notation, including how to read chords in tab.

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