This guitar lesson is going to be all about tablature. Tablature or TAB is a system that graphically tells you where to put your fingers on the fretboard in order to play a specific song or musical idea. It is nice to be able to read tablature because it takes much less time and effort to learn how to read TAB than it does to learn how to read standard musical notation. The main drawback to tablature is that most TAB does not really have way to communicate the time value of the notes. We will start by looking at the basic layout of TAB and then look at some of the common symbols that you will see in some TABs.
If you look at a line of TAB you will see six horizontal lines that represent the six strings of the guitar. The bottom line represents the low E string and the top line represents the high E string. The numbers that you will see on the lines represent the fret number that you should play on that particular string.
Let’s take a look at what a chord looks like on TAB. If you were looking at some TAB and you saw some numbers stacked up vertically, you would be looking at a cord. For example, if you saw a 0, 2, 3 and 2 stacked up on the 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st strings, you would be looking at a D chord. To contrast this, if you saw a sequence of single numbers from left to right you would be looking at a scale, lick or lead line of some kind.
Great, now you know the basic layout of TAB but there are still a few basic symbols that you need to be familiar with before you dig into some full songs. If you see an X on a string that simply means that you should either mute the string or not play it at all. An arrow that is curving upward indicates a string bend. There are two basic kinds of bends, a full step bend and half step bend. A full step bend will be indicated by the word “full” after the arrow. A half step bend will be indicated by the fraction “1/2” after the arrow.
Learning how to read TAB can be slow at first but if you stick with it you can get pretty good at it fairly quickly. Reading TAB is great. It is a fun skill to have and it can help you to figure out songs very quickly. I would encourage you to learn how to read standard notation as well. There are not a lot of guitar players out there who can read music. If you want to give yourself an advantage and make yourself stand out as guitarist, you should really put some effort in to learning how to read music. If your goal is to just enjoy yourself and learn some cool songs, then TAB will be just what you need.