In the simplest terms, a guitar tab is a word that is used to describe a musical notation, which may contain either numbers or letters and explains to the musician where to place his/her fingers on the instrument. Guitar tabs consist of multiple lines and is often called a ‘staff notation.’ These lines, which are present in guitar tabs, each represent one of the guitar strings.
New musicians often find guitar tabs to be especially baffling in that the strings are written backwards. The highest string is found at the top of the guitar tabs, which is often difficult to learn since most people would expect that guitar tabs would be written from top to bottom instead of the other way around. In actuality, guitar tabs are written from the highest to lowest and the numbers on each line represent the guitar fret. In order to understand guitar tabs, all new guitarists need to learn string placement and how to correctly read frets.
Generally written in standard format, guitar tabs may slightly vary depending on the sheet music publisher. Even still, guitar tabs are easier to read than learning staff notation. Because of it’s visual representation, new musicians are often more comfortable reading guitar tabs than any other kind of music.
When learning the guitar, musicians will become familiar with the instrument and how it works. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including private instruction, informational reference books and videos. In some cases, classroom lessons may even be used to help better equip the musician to learn guitar and how to read guitar tabs. As the musician becomes familiar with the terms used to describe a guitar, including the neck, fret, string, chord, etc., he/she will also begin to easily read guitar tabs.
In the beginning, guitar tabs can be intimidating. Multiple lines and letters, numbers or other symbols may seem quite confusing. With practice and time, a guitar tab will be as easy to understand as the links found your favorite website. Few musicians can play by ear without first learning a song via sheet music, which is why reading guitar tabs is the first step that a guitarist must take before learning how to play.