Reading music is an essential skill for guitar players, and would be something that gets covered in your guitar lessons.
There are 3 types of music reading that all guitar players should be aware of:
In this lesson, we are going to focus on reading TAB, or tablature. Reading TAB is a skill that will help you start to learn songs, riffs, and other material that is written down
Tab shows you the strings on the guitar, and uses numbers to tell you what fret to put your fingers on.
It’s kind of like a coordinate system - you find the right string or line, and then you find the right fret or number - then you’ll have the right note!
It is important for you to learn how to read TAB because most guitar resources today incorporate it into the way they present musical ideas, whether they are showing chords, single notes, or arpeggios.
Depending on how serious you are about learning music, TAB might be the only music reading skill you need.
If you are looking into learning to play guitar as a hobby, TAB is a perfect way to get started.
If you are looking into a degree or a career in music, TAB is still a great way to start out - you’ll just want to transition into reading standard musical notation as well.
In this lesson, you will learn the basics of how to read TAB for guitar, and get a basic understanding of how it will help you learn to play songs on your guitar.
How Does TAB Work?
TAB gives you a visual reference for what string, and what fret to put your finger on to make a certain note or chord on your guitar.
TAB has 6 lines - one for each string on the guitar.
The first string (closest to the floor) is written at the top of the staff, and the 6th string (closest to your face) is written at the bottom of the staff.
There are 2 reasons that TAB might be written this way:
On each line, there will be a number. The number tells you what fret to put your finger on, and the line tells you which string.
How Do You Use TAB To Play Music?
Guitar TAB works in a similar way to standard musical notation in that you read it left to right.
The notes to the far left of the page are played first, with new notes being played as you read towards the right hand side of the page.
This way TAB doesn’t just tell you where to put your fingers, it also gives you the correct order to play the notes of the song, riff or musical example.
Partly because of this, getting comfortable with reading TAB notation can make for an easier transition to reading standard musical notation later on if that is something you want to learn.
TAB can be used to show single notes, or chords and harmony. The difference between the two is easy to see.
If there is only one note in a space, you are playing one note at a time.
If there are notes on multiple strings line up vertically, you are playing a chord or harmony.
How Do You Get Good At Reading TAB?
There is no secret to getting good at reading and playing guitar TAB notation. The best way for you to get started is just to jump in.
Ultimate-Guitar and Hooktheory are both good sites to go to for TAB songs. They have extensive libraries, and most of the material is available for free.
If you remember and follow the guidelines we talked about in this lesson, you’ll be on the right track. If you’re stuck, ask your guitar teacher to help you out.
Don’t have a teacher? I teach online guitar lessons, as well as lessons at my home studio in Portland Oregon.
I’d be happy to answer questions via email, or set up a lesson if you need extra help.
Things To Think About
While TAB is an important tool for helping you learn to play guitar it’s also not too complicated to learn and use.
Here are the big things to remember:
Keep practicing, and let me know how things are going. If you need help or have questions, feel free to contact me today and I’ll be happy to help you out.
Remember to visit Ultimate-Guitar and HookTheory to get access to some free TAB songs.
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