How To Read Tablature

Tablature (most commonly referred to as tabs) is a form of musical notation indicating fingering rather than the pitch of notes, written on lines corresponding to the strings of a guitar. In order to read tablature you need to understand 2 things:

#1 What the frets on a guitar are
#2 Which number each guitar string is

Frets are the metal bars that run along the neck of the guitar. In the example below the frets are represented by the vertical lines. As seen in the image below each number tells you which fret it is on the guitar fretboard.

Fretboard diagram

Next we have the guitar strings. On the guitar there are 6 strings, the highest sounding string is number 1. The next one above that is number 2, the one above that is number 3, and so on.

Guitar-neck

Now let’s move on to how to read tablature. Tablature has 6 horizontal lines that represent the strings on the guitar. Below you will see an example of this.

1 ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
2 ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
3 ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
4 ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
5 ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
6 ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

The top line represents the 1st string, the second line represents the 2nd string and so on.
Next you will see numbers written on these lines as seen below.

1 —0—0—2—0—5—4——0—0—2—0—7—5——0—0—12—9—5—4—2——10—10—9—5—7—5————————
2 ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
3 ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
4 ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
5 ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
6 ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

In this example all of the notes are located on string 1 because all the numbers are on the line that represent string 1. The first number is 0 which means you will not place you finger on any of the frets. You will hit that string open, which means plucking the string without your left hand touching any string. After you play 0 twice there is the number 2. This means you will press your finger down on the 2nd fret first string and then pick that string with your right hand. This is all there is to reading tablature.

So to recap, tablature consists of 6 horizontal lines that represent the strings of the guitar. The line on the top represents the first string, the line below that represents the second string and so on. Then the numbers on the lines represents what fret to play. You know what string to play by what line each number is on.

About The Author:
Dylan Andrews is a professional guitarist, teacher, and entrepreneur living in Lawrenceville Georgia. Dylan has been teaching guitar for over 5 years and has helped over 100 people learn how to play the guitar. If you’re looking for guitar lessons in Lawrenceville Dylan is the person you want to see.