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How to Read Guitar Tab Sheets: A Guide for Beginners

Have you ever wanted to learn how to play the guitar but been intimidated by all of the different notation methods? If so, you’re not alone. Many beginners feel overwhelmed when starting out because there are many different ways to write down music for the instrument.

In this post, you’ll learn one of the most popular methods: guitar tablature, or “tabs” for short. You’ll know all the basics of reading tab sheets for guitar and be on your way to playing chords in no time.

What are guitar tabs?

Guitar Tablature is the visual representation of notes in a song. It is a great way to learn how music works and what notes go where on the guitar. The standard format consists of six horizontal lines, with the top line representing the high E guitar string (the thinnest string) followed by the lines representing the B, G, D, A, and low E guitar string (the thickest string).

Learning The Basics

Guitar playing starts with becoming familiar with the parts of the guitar as well as the system for numbers on a fretboard.

  • Guitar strings – Strings can be tricky to remember. The first of the six strings is the thinnest, with the sixth being the thickest.
  • Frets – Frets are the pieces of metal that run along a guitar’s neck. They’re often numbered 1 through 4 and can be found on both guitars and some basses. Frets allow you to play different notes by pressing down with your fingers hovering over them. That means they provide great variety too.
  • Fingers – Fingers are an important part of the guitar. They match what you’ll play with on your fingers – 1 for index, 2 for middle finger, and so forth.

7 Common Techniques When Reading Guitar Tabs

Here are the common guitar techniques for reading the guitar tab so that your fingers can learn quicker too.

1. Hammer-ons

Playing the hammer-on on your guitar is a cool technique where you don’t pick the note but rather “hammer-on” with your fretting finger. You can do this from either an open one or a fretted section. The resulting sound should be higher.

The hammer-on is indicated in tabs by using the letter “H,” along with an arch connecting either the fretted note or open note to the hammer-on note.

2. Pull-offs

The pull-off technique is the exact opposite of a hammer-on. Instead of pushing down on your strings, you have to pull them up to an open note or one that has been fretted with another finger. Doing this will produce lower notes than what was played originally.

The pull-off is indicated by the letter “P,” along with an arc that connects the pulled-off note to either the fretted note or open note.

3. Vibratos

Vibrato is a great way to add expression and life to your playing. It is the expressive technique of repeatedly bending a note and reverting the note back to its original pitch without releasing it.

Vibratos are represented by a zig-zag line over the staff. Beginners reading guitar tablature must look at how long the line of the vibrato is. Remember, the longer the line, the longer you must apply the vibrato.

4. Tapping

Tapping with the index finger of your picking hand is a popular technique that involves fretting notes while also tapping or hitting notes on the same string using an open-handed strike. The letter “T” represents this technique and is placed over the indicated note.

5. Strumming

The strumming technique involves two types – downstrokes and upstrokes.

The downstrokes begin on the lower guitar strings and end with the higher string using a downward motion. Its symbol has two “legs” pointing downward on both sides.

Upstrokes are the opposite, beginning on high strings and ending on the low strings using an upward motion. Tablature for this type of stroke will have a “V” shaped symbol to signify its up-and-coming downward motion in music sheets or guitar tabs.

6. Slides

Slides are represented by either forward slashes or backslashes between two notes. This means holding down one note on your guitar with one finger. And while playing the note, you have to slide your finger down or up your guitar’s neck to the other note. A backslash indicates a slide down, whereas a forward slash means sliding up the neck.

7. Muted notes

Muted notes are indicated by “x” over the guitar string. To get this sound, simply hold your finger on the note without pressing down any fret. This technique yields a soft, muted sound.

Ready to Learn?

So, there you have it! You’ve learned how to read guitar tab symbols. It may take a little practice to get used to deciphering the guitar tab symbols, but eventually, it will become second nature.

The best way to learn reading tabs is by practicing with guitar music and songs that are at your current skill level. Gradually, move on to more difficult songs and tabbed music. There’s no limit to what you can achieve when learning how to read guitar tablature. Ready to get started? Check out some free guitar tabs, sheet music, and tutorials on beginner pieces online. You may even choose online or in-person guitar lessons with classical guitar pro.

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About Joseph Timmons (9806 Articles)
I am the Father of 5 and a "Would Be Philosopher of Idiocy" - Author and Writer for several Blogs and Online Magazine. Review Journalist, Musician and Audio Buff. Follow Me and I'm Sure to Entertain.

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