Guitar Tablature

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Learn to read guitar tablature

This guitar lesson explains how to read and use guitar tablature. Guitar tab is used in place of music notation.  
Guitar tablature instruction: A six line staff that represents the guitar fretboard. When reading tablature, numbers indicate which fret you play. Each line equals the guitar strings.

Illustration 2

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When you read guitar tablature, the lines above represent each string on the guitar. Look above and notice each string and its placement. The red line above shows the Low E string which is the fattest string on the guitar. You do not have to use your middle finger, you can use your index finger if you like; see illustration 2.

Look at the the first tablature example above. This tab box has the number 2 which represents the second fret, on the 3rd string. Play the 2nd fret G string. The note you just played is the A note. Look below. Each line in tablature represents each of the guitar strings. The numbers on each line or string is the fret number you play. So, the illustration below has the number 2 on the G string, this means you play the note at the 2nd fret G string. This would be the A note.
 
e-------------------skinny E string
B-------------------
G----2-------------play the note on the 2nd fret G string.
D-------------------
A-------------------
E-------------------Fat E string
 
The next illustration below shows a 12 on the first string E and a 12 on the second string B. Both of these notes are played together at the 12th fret E and B string. Play both of those notes together. These two notes are the E note and B note. Recall that I stated all notes repeat after 12 frets. Look below for an example of these two notes. 
 
e-------12-----------skinny E, this is showing the note on the 12th fret.
B-------12------------this is showing the note on the 12th fret on the B string.
G-------------------
D-------------------
A-------------------
E-------------------Fat E string
 
The illustration below illustrates the E major chord.

 
Look below and notice how the E chord would be displayed in tablature. Since all the notes below are lined up on top of each other, they would be strummed together.
 
e -------0-------------skinny E string, 0 means leave open, don't fret but strum.
B -------0-------------The 0 means leave open, don't fret, but strum.
G  ------1--------------note on 1st fret, G string
D  ------2------------- note on 2nd fret, D string
A  ------2------------- note on 2nd fret, A string
E  ------0--------------Fat E string, don't fret but strum.
 
Look below and notice how the A minor chord would look like in tablature.
 
e -------0-------------skinny E string, don't fret, but strum.
B -------1------------- note on the 1st fret, B string.
G  ------2--------------note on 2nd fret, G string
D  ------2------------- note on 2nd fret, D string
A  ------0------------- don't fret, but strum.
E  --------------------Fat E string, don't fret but strum.
 
The next Illustration below is that famous A minor pentatonic scale again. This time it is shown in tablature and also in the Root Note Position 5th Fret. In the last lesson, I had you working on the A minor pentatonic scale with the fingers highlighted. This time in the image below, the frets are numbered on each string. I stated earlier that it is important to learn the fingering pattern system. The reason for this is because eventually we will only be showing the numbers representing the frets on the strings and not the fingers to play each note of the scale. You will eventually have the fingering for each scale memorized anyway. 
 
Look at the image below and notice how it starts on the Low E string 5th fret. In the image below, the index finger is playing the note on the Low E string at the 5th fret. This first note would be the first 5 or 5th fret below.
 

The numbers below the strings in the image above are the fingers that play the notes through the scale. Look below and notice what number equals each finger. The scale above is the same scale as below. The image above is shown in tablature. 
The numbers below represent the fingers to play each note.
 
1 Index
2 Middle
3 Ring
4 Pinky

The fingers used to play the scale above are: 1-4, 1-3, 1-3, 1-3, 1-4, 1-4
 
 
The illustration above shows the same A minor pentatonic scale in tablature form in the root note position. The image below shows the same scale but shows the fingers that would play each note.

Here’s an example using the Am pentatonic root note fret position. Notice how the lead guitar part starts on the A note 7th fret, play this over the Am chord. The numbers under the lead are the suggested fingering to use. We still need to practice some finger exercises and understanding tablature will make the exercises that much easier to work on. Don't worry if you don't have the A minor pentatonic scale in the root note position memorized we will be working on it again. Finger exercises.