Reading Tablature (TAB)

Tablature is a special way of writing music for guitar players (and other guitarlike instruments, presumably). It is an easy way to write down chords and fingerings, and allows quick and easy songwriting.

While the TAB discussed here is for a 6-string guitar, it can be modified to apply to other instruments. To understand TAB, you first must know fret numbers, and the names and numbers of the strings. On a 6-string guitar, the strings go E (High), B, G, D, A, E (Low), From high to low. The higher strings are thinner than the lower strings. They also have numbers. The highest string (High E) is #1, and the lowest string, (Low E) is #6. Thus, somewhat counterintuitively, when you hold the guitar, #6 is on the top (nearest the ceiling) and #1 is on the bottom (nearest the floor). The strings are written, in TAB, in the following ways:

 With the string names

E -------------- 
B -------------- 
G -------------- 
D -------------- 
A -------------- 
E -------------- 

or

With the string numbers

1 -------------- 
2 -------------- 
3 -------------- 
4 -------------- 
5 -------------- 
6 -------------- 

Try placing the guitar on your lap, like you would hold it, but lying down. It should match the above diagrams.

Fret numbers are easier. 0 is open (no fret), and then they go up from there: 1 is the 1st fret, 2 is the second fret.

Thus, typical TAB might look something like this:

E -------------------------------------------------0-----
B ---------------------0--1--0---------------------1-----
G --------------0--2------------2--0---------------0----- 
D -----0--2--3------------------------3--2--0------2----- 
A --3------------------------------------------3---3----- 
E ------------------------------------------------------- 

The last line means to play all those positions at once, creating a chord.

Rythm is represented very loosely. Spaces between the numbers usually describes note length, although the count may be written above the TAB, like this:

    +  1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  1  +  2  +  3  +  4 
E -------------------------------------------------- 
B -------------------------------------------------- 
G -------------------------------------------------- 
D --4--4--7--7--------------4--4--7--7--------------
A --2--2--5--5--------------2--2--5--5-------------- 
E --0--0--0--0--------------0--0--0--0--------------