How to read guitar tabs

How to Read Guitar Tabs – Beginner’s Guide

Are you planning to become a Guitarists? Is it getting hard for you to understand how to read guitar tabs? What would you do if I tell you there are simple ways of learning to read guitar tabs? I know you will look for answers. So don’t worry because here we have a complete guideline to help with how to read guitar tabs.

Guitarists have a specific yet unique system of notation of music which is known as Guitar tabs or Guitar tablature.

With the help of these guitar tabs, the guitarists can play multiple notes.

Although guitar tabs are not the perfect method of labelling music. However, this is an ideal opportunity for new guitarists to quickly share information regarding how to play music or songs on guitar across the globe via the internet.

On the other hand, when it comes to generating music by understanding guitar tabs, this is highly important for everyone out there to know how to read guitar tabs in the best possible way.

Learn how to read guitar tabs

Guitar tabs are the usual method of writing music that is being played through the guitar.

Instead of using typical symbols that were being used in the standard music sheet, guitar tabs contain ordinary numbers and characters. So this can be the best option for you to learn how to play music on the guitar.

But you are unaware of special music notation. Learning how to read guitar tabs is quite easier. So you will quickly be able to play various songs on your guitar in the best possible way.

Question: How to read guitar tabs? Well, here we have brought some of the best ways which are surely going to help you in the entire process of learning in this regard. So, let’s start:

Names of guitar strings

Let’s start with the names of the guitar strings

Most commonly guitars have 6 strings. The very first thing which you have to do before starting to learn how to read guitar tabs is to know the names of the guitar strings.

The top string of a guitar is the thickest which is known as E or 6th string of the guitar. It is because this string will be used to play E-note in open fret.

It is essential to learn the names of strings if you want to learn how to read tabs.

The very next string to this one is known as 5th-string or A-string. And the next string is known as D-string or 4th string. And next is G-string or 3rd string. The one before last string is the B-string or 2nd string, while the thinnest of these is called 1st string or e-String which is the last string.

Well, the very first and last strings of the guitar are known as E-string.

Reading guitar notes for frets

A tab is commonly written with the help of 6 horizontal lines. And each of these is corresponding to the strings on the guitar.

Unlike the standard musical notation, a tab will never tell you the notes you have to play; instead, you will know where you have to put your fingers for the next note.

However, the numbers available on the lines are corresponding to the frets on a fretboard. Each of the numbers denotes a particular fret on the line where it is written.

For example, a number 1 on the lower line will mean the very first fret on that string to play that note. If that number of the fret is greater than “1”, then you have to press the fingers on that fret while playing the note.

As “1” is representing the frets that are closest to stock. But, the numbers are increasing when you will travel towards the body of the guitar.

However, if the fret is 0, then you have to pluck the string without notes fretting.

Guitar notes

Reading guitar notes for chords

When you are reading tabs and find some numbers placed vertically, these are known as chords.

You can fret the written notes into the chords and after that play all the notes at a similar moment. Now you will experience a full sound. Even in some cases, you can also see the names of the chord written there.

Here are some tips for playing chords effectively

  • Square up your fingers to keep hitting them from other strings
  • Understand the ideal location for fret, which is usually the three quarters toward the next fret.
  • Put enough pressure on the strings with your all fingers to play any chord. And ensure the use of your entire fingers to create a more powerful sound.

Although there are specific placements for every chord, you must allow your fingers to move from one to the other chord freely.

Read the notes from left to right

Reading the notes on the guitar tab is much similar to reading the book. It is because you have to read the tabs from left to right direction.

Once you have reached the end of one line, you will start to read from the next line, and the sequence will go on till the last symbol.

Single notes will be represented by one on each line while if there are any stacked numbers, then these will be played as a chord.

Some of the rhythmic markings also include following specific symbols too. Each of these has a specific meaning which is given below:

  • w = whole note
  • q = quarter note
  • h = half note 
  • s = sixteenth note.
  • e = eighth note

However, the placement of a dot at the end of any rhythmic symbol means the rest is dotted such as q. is known as a dotted quarter note.

Let’s learn to read the special symbols on guitar tabs

When you are learning how to read guitar tabs, you may find some symbols which you have not seen before.

Sometimes, a tab also presents some techniques you should play besides what to play.

Well, here we have brought some of the most common methods and symbols which will be helpful for you to know in the process of reading guitar tabs and effectively creating multiple sounds with ease.

Have a look at the following information to know more about how to read tabs and symbols:


This is a technique that consists of hammering on the string in a specific fret with your left hand.

The hammer-on will be presented by the letter “h” along with the fret which you should play. However, it can be presented with a line which is connecting one note with other, as shown in the figure below:

Hammer-On guitar tab technique


This is the technique which consists of vibrating your finger after playing a specific fret on a string.

This fluctuation can be achieved with the help of shaking your fingers. This is similar to as multiple short bends on a quick basis from up and down. However, its notation is just a light wave “~” after the note which you are going to be pressed.

Vibrato guitar tab technique


When you are going to see a “p” placed between two notes just like “6p8”, it means you have to practice a pull off here.

Generally, this technique is the opposite of the hammer-on. In this, you have to generate the first note by any of your fingers while using the other finger to fret the second given note and quickly lifting a finger to fret the first note.

Pull-off guitar tab technique


This technique consists in lowering or raising a string of your guitar with the fingers of your left hand.

The aim of this technique is to reach the sound of the fret, which is coming after the fret that was pressed at present. When there is a bend and sound reaches one fret forward, then this will be called Half Tone Bend.

However, when the bend reaches to the sound of two forward frets, then this will be known as Full bend or one tone bend.

In this technique, you can also reach forward and as much as the string will be raised acute sound will be produced.

In some simple words, with this technique, forwarding to more tones is possible. However, in the guitar tabs, this will be presented as follows:

These can also be represented in various guitar tabs as 5-D-7. While on the other hand, if you have to come to the initial point after raising the string halftone forward then this will be symbolized as follows:

Rising Guitar Tab Technique


This is the technique in which you have to hold down a note with your one finger only. However, when you are playing that note side your finger down and up your guitar’s neck to other note.

Slides are commonly representing backslashes and forward slash between two given notes. While the forward-slash is indicating that you have to slide up the neck and the backslash is indicating that you have to slide down.

On the guitar tabs, slides will be symbolized as 5/7 or 4\7.

Moreover, you have to know here is that there is a dispute among various guitarists about whether a lightly picked strike can be appropriate for this or not.

However, the thing which you have to remember here is that you do not leave any gap between the played notes to create the perfect sound.

Guitar slide up and down


Once you have learned various techniques and methods of reading the guitar tabs, then this is the time to play the entire notes together to enjoy.

It is highly recommended to work slowly and steadily when you want to master reading and playing the guitar tabs effectively.

When it comes to how to read guitar tabs, the learning process might take some time. But once you have understood all the key concepts which I have mentioned here, you will be able to create your own variations of music and play.

So let me know your experience on reading guitar tabs?

Would you also like to know how to read guitar chords?