How to read TAB

TAB is, for me at least, a new development for guitar players that has made reading music accesible to millions of people, has to be a good thing. It has other advantges and it has significant limitations but in any case beginner players will want to learn it. I'd hope that, given it's many limitations you'd want to learn standard notation as well, but that's for another time perhaps.

  • Essentially you have 3 lines, 4 string players will have 4 lines because each line represents a string.
  • The lines on the bottom are the lower strings (in pitch) and the top lines the higher ones.
  • The numbers on the line tell you which fret on that particular string you need to play. 
  • You still need to know the tune if you're going to play it but at least now you have a fighting chance.

The diagram below shows the same simple melody in both standard notation and in TAB. It's for a 3 string so there are only 3 lines, the top line is for the notes on the top string, the middle line for the notes on the middle string and the bottom line for the notes on the bottom string.