How to Read Guitar Tablature

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How to Read Guitar Tablature

Guitar tablature is a method of recording musical notes played on a guitar by marking the fret and string where a particular note is located.

The strings are represented as a set of six parallel lines, one for each guitar string.

Guitar Tab Diagram

The frets of the guitar are numbered starting from the nut continuing towards the body. The open strings are numbered 0, the first fret is numbered one, and the second is numbered two, and so on. See the image below.

Frets numbered from 0 to 12

Optionally, numbers indicating the fret board hand fingers are placed under the tab for particularly challenging phrases where the correct fingering may not be obvious. The index finger is number 1, the middle finger is number 2, and so on.

Below is an example of a C major chord and a C major scale transcribed using guitar tablature.

Example of guitar tablature

The above tab is played as follows:
C Major Chord (all notes played simultaneously)

  • Third (ring) finger at the fifth string third fret
  • Second finger at the fourth string second fret
  • Third string open
  • First (index) finger at the second string first fret
  • First string open

C Major Scale (notes played one after the other)
  • Second finger at the fifth string third fret
  • Fourth (pinky) finger at the fifth string fifth fret
  • First finger at the fourth string second fret
  • Second finger at the fourth string third fret
  • Fourth finger at the fourth string fifth fret
  • First finger at the third string second fret
  • Third finger at the third string fourth fret
  • Fourth finger at the third string fifth fret

For further tablature examples please see the Tablature Legend page

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