How To Read TAB

Reading TAB for guitar is very simple, but it does take some practice. In TAB we have 6 lines, and these represent the 6 strings of the guitar. The tricky thing to remember is that these are ordered by pitch and not by the actual placement of the strings on the guitar. What that means is the bottom line represents the thickest string on the guitar, and the top line represents the thinnest string.

On the lines we write numbers, and the numbers represent what fret you need to play. For example, if you see the number 0, you play the string without having to put your finger down anywhere (this is called an ‘open string’). If you see the number 2, then place your finger on the 2nd fret of the appropriate string.

Take a look at the example below. The first note is a 0 on the lowest line. This means you need to play the thickest string on the guitar. We’re going to call this string the ‘low E’ string. Next is a 2 on the line just above it. This means play 2nd fret on the A string. We then play another 2 but this time on the D string. The last 3 notes are all open strings, and they are the G, D and high E strings. If you can play all of these notes at one time you are playing and E minor chord. Congratulations, you can now read TAB and play your first chord!




How To Read Chord Charts


If you can read TAB, then reading chord charts should be even easier. Each chord is its own diagram of the neck of the guitar which shows you where to place your fingers. The thickest string on a chord chart is either at the bottom of the diagram or on the left hand side depending on the orientation of the chart. We’ll use the E minor example again. You’ll notice this time in the diagram below that the two black dots are placed at the 2nd frets on both the A and D strings. Look closely, and it will even tell you which finger number to use on which string (use the 1st finger on the A string, and the 2nd finger on the D string). The Os to the side diagram indicate that you also need to strum those strings as well. If there are Xs to the side of the diagram that indicates that you are not to strum those strings.