How To Read Guitar Tabs Under Few Min

A guitar tab or tablature is the language used in writing music and is more common among guitarists.

The TAB is made up of 6 horizontal lines which are used in representing the six strings found on a guitar. The top line, which is thinner than the rest, represents the first string while the bottom line, which is thicker than the rest, represents the sixth string.

The guitar tablature uses a bit different technique from other music writing techniques. This is because it uses numbers, while other music writing formulas use notation.

This makes it easy to understand even for beginners.


The numbering systems 

Just as we mentioned above, tablature uses a numbering system as a music writing technique. Before we go deeper into learning how this tab is read, it is essential to look at the different numbering systems.

At the moment, the numbering systems are divided into three, and they are as follows:

  1. Frets: Frets are generally the metal strips that are found along the neck of any guitar. These are numbered from the right side. Therefore, if you are right-handed, the string that is closest to you is said to be the first fret. This is also the string that is found farthest from your left. The next is the second, and the numbering continues like that to the last one. Although this can seem to be an elementary lesson to master, it is given a lot of importance as it comes in handy as the lesson continues. 

  2. Fingers: another very important numbering system in your guitar tabs reading class is the fingers. These are the fingers found on your fretting hand. Although reading and mastering the numbering of these fingers is also very simple, it is also very important. The numbering starts from your index finger, where it is numbered as number one. The middle finger is the second while the ring finger is the third, and second, from last is your pinky. This comes in handy when one starts studying finger positioning when making chords. 

  3. Strings: this happens to be the final numbering system of the guitar’s open strings. Just as the other two, this one is also very easy to remember. The thinnest string is labeled as number one while the thickest is labeled as the 6th string. These follow each other, making them very simple to remember. 

The basic layout of a tab

The next step is looking at the tab and learning the basics. The basic layout of a Tab is the standard notation that is placed on the top and the bottom of the Tab.

The six horizontal lines found on the Tab represent the six guitar strings. Just like a guitar, the high E string is on the top of the Tab while the lower E is found at the bottom.

Although this is easy for experts, it might be a bit confusing for beginners.

Therefore, trainers simplify it easy for them by labelling the top line as the thinnest and the bottom line as the thickest.

Simple tip: Always remember that a guitar Tab is read from left to right. However, you might be forced to play multiple notes at once, but this is only when the notes come stacked on top of each other.

Notes and chords

The numbers listed on a tablature is used to represent the frets. The player is expected to place their fingers. And always remember the golden rule of reading a Tab from left to right. 


These are single numbers that move from left to right and are used to represent a solo or a melody line that you might be expected to play. 


These are normally represented by numbers that are stacked together. 

Palm Muting & Muted Notes

After dealing with the basic layout of a guitar Tab, below is a list of a few other things that you will encounter as you progress with your lessons.


this is abbreviated as the “P.M.-“marker. The dash maybe longer, depending on how long the note is supposed to be muted. 

Muted notes

the muted notes, which are also known as Dead notes, are symbolized by an “X” on a certain string. The dead note should be muted with either a left or a right hand, and the note should be played as a way of completely muting the pitch. This is as shown below.


This is very common when it comes to reading the Tab. This is indicated by an arrow pointing upward next to several or a single number.

Next to the arrow, you’ll find an indicator showing you how long the note should be bent. Once you get familiar with this, you will understand the different bends available.

You might find a “full” bend or a “½” bend. A bend is represented, as shown below.


Vibrato comes by bending and releasing a note again and again to bring an expressive vocal effect.

This is normally symbolized by a squiggly line that is placed over a note. The thickness or boldness of the squiggly line tells how wide or intense the vibrato should be. Below is an example of a vibrato.


sliding is symbolized by a fret number, a line, followed by another fret number. The line slants up or down depending on whether the pitch is lower or higher, just as shown below. 


​​​​Giving yourself enough time to study and understand the guitar tab makes your guitar playing lessons more fun. Although it might look like a big challenge at the beginning, once you get familiar with the basics, it will be much easier.  

This is the easiest and the best way of learning to play chords and different songs on a guitar. Once you get the tablature at the tip of your fingers, it will be very easy to play any song with just some training. The above is for the common six-stringed guitars, but for the rest, the difference is also not very big. 

  • Chase
  • Updated last year

If you want find a right beginner guitar for yourself or your kid, you are in the right place. If you have shopped for your beginner guitar but can’t decide which guitar to buy, you are also in the right place. My name is Chase. I love music and guitar. I have been playing guitar for more than 10 years and I am teaching guitar lessons now. Most of my students or parents of my students feel headache when they choose the first beginner guitar for themselves or their children. Sometimes they asked me for advice and every time I was asked I told them what I know to help them. This is main reason I built this website.

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