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A Beginner's Guide To Guitar Tab


Guitar Tab ( or tablature ) is a method of writing music for guitar, which doesn't use traditional music notation. Many people find that tab is easier to read, once they have mastered a few basic rules.

Instead of using the normal staff of five lines and four spaces, tab is written on six lines, each line representing one of the six strings on your guitar, and the notes are written as numbers along these lines, which indicate which fret has to be fingered.

The only dis-advantage of tab, is that it will not tell you which are long notes, and which are short ones. It will only give you a rough guide to note lengths. This is done by spacing long notes further apart, and short notes closer together. Don't let this put you off, as there are several Guitar Tab programs available for the PC which have an easy way of accurately identifying these note lengths, but more about this later.

Here is an example of a blank tab:


E-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

B-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

G-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

D-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

E-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The string names are at the left, with E (thinnest string ) at the top, going down to E (thickest string) at the bottom.

Numbers are written along the lines to indicate where to press the string onto the frets. Where a zero is shown, it simply means that the string is played without any finger on the frets. This is known as an 'open string'

Here is an example of a tab with the notes to be played on the thinnest E string. Play the notes one at a time, pressing the string onto the fret number shown (The correct finger position is just behind the fret, and not pressing on the wires)

E--0---1---2---3---4---5-------------------------------------------------------

B-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

G-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

D-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

E-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 

 

 


To play the above tab, play the first (thinnest) string, 'open' i.e. with no fingers on the frets, then put your first finger on the first fret and play the string again, and so on, moving your finger up the fretboard, to fret number 5

Now try playing the following tab, and see if you recognise the tune.

E----------------------------------------------------------------------

B-------1---0---1---3-------3-------1---0--------0---1----------------

G---0--------------------2---------------------2-----------------------

D----------------------------------------------------------------------

A----------------------------------------------------------------------

E----------------------------------------------------------------------

Beats or counts.
1 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 4

The guide to note lengths shown above, is not always shown on normal tab. Timing is determined by the distance between the notes. i.e. the bigger the gap, the longer the note is held

If you just played something that sounded remotely like the opening bars of " Love me Tender", then you are getting the hang of it!

Chords can be also be written, by placing the fret numbers in a vertical line. This indicates that all of the notes must be played at the same time, or strummed. Here is an example of a D major chord. (the thickest 'E' string is not to be struck in this case)

E-----2---------------------------------------------------------------------

B-----3---------------------------------------------------------------------

G-----2---------------------------------------------------------------------

D-----0---------------------------------------------------------------------

A-----0---------------------------------------------------------------------

E---------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

A more accurate way of writing and reading Tab, is by using Tab composing and editing software, which is widely available for the PC.

One such program, is 'Guitar Pro'.

This program, enables you to write, edit, print and playback your tabs, add additional instruments, and import and playback the wide range of Guitar Pro tabs that are freely available on the internet. Standard musical notation can also be shown automatically if desired.

The guitar tabs on this site are written with 'Guitar Pro',

and below is a short explanation of the various symbols used.











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Guitar tab
The numbers 4 /4 at the beginning are the 'Time Signature' showing that there are 4 beats in each bar.

The notes with the long vertical line beneath them, are Quarter Notes, or Crotchets, and last for ONE beat, or count. The shorter vertical line, represents a Half Note, or Minim, and lasts for TWO beats.

The long vertical line with a dot next to it, is a Dotted Quarter Note, and is worth One and a Half Beats.

The long vertical line with a short horizontal line on the bottom, is an Eighth Note, or Quaver, and is HALF a beat long, while the last note of the piece, has no markings at all, and is a Whole Note, or Semibreve, and is worth FOUR beats.

If you get it all right, you will see that the music above, is the beginning of Jingle Bells!

These are just a few of the symbols used in Guitar Pro, but I think you will agree, that it is much easier to read
*For free guitar tabs for beginners to print and play,
please click HERE
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