Guitar TAB is the linchpin of guitar playing. Understanding tablature will be essential for your guitar-playing journey. Stick around to see what it’s all about…
Guitar TAB: Lines and numbers, what do they mean?
Are you a beginner guitarist? Are you just starting the long and winding road of guitar playing? Well, you’ve come to the right place!
TAB, short for tabualture, is a great way of reading and understanding music for guitar. Benefiting beginners and virtuosos, guitar TAB is a universal language among players.
We’re going to delve into the details of guitar TAB, look at what it all means and how you’ll be able to use it with your everyday playing and tuition. Moreover, if you’re a beginner, then you might not have your first guitar yet. Here’s a great place to start:
Standard notation is great for musicians, it shows what to play and where to play it. However, all of those different lines on the stave can get confusing. Well, TAB is here to help.
Here, we’ve got six horizontal lines across the stave. Each line corresponds to a string on the guitar, be it acoustic or electric. It works just the same.
The line at the bottom of the stave represents our low E string. But why is that string at the bottom? Because it is the lowest in pitch. Therefore, the high E string is shown at the top of the stave. Outside of guitar TAB, the low E string is closest to your chin, whereas the high E is closest to the floor.
Okay, so now that we’ve looked at which string is each on the stave, we need to look at how we could play each string.
You’ve probably seen before that guitar TAB is a sequence of lines and numbers. We’ve looked at the lines, now to touch on the numbers part of the deal.
To show which string we need to play, you’ll see a number on that specific line. However, at the moment we’re looking at open strings. The number zero highlights that we need to play an open string.
Fantastic. Numbers and lines covered. Although, there’s just another element to it that’ll show us which frets to play.
If you’re familiar with your instrument, then you’ll know that each fret is numbered. 1, 2, 3 up to 20 and sometimes beyond. Furthermore, we can remember where some of the frets are by utilising the inlays on the fretboard. The first dot inlay shows us the 3rd fret, second the 5th, third the 7th, fourth the 9th and the fifth double dot would be the 12th fret.
Check out this example below, it shows various places on the neck across the stings.
Most of the time, guitarists will use chord box diagrams to initially learn chords. Although they’re really useful, it’d be quite difficult to squeeze one of these diagrams onto a piece of guitar TAB.
This is why we need to look at how chords are displayed on a stave. We know already that each line is a string, and a number is a specific fret. Usually, we’d only play one note at once. Contrastingly, we’d see and play multiple strings simultaneously when playing chords with TAB.
The same rules apply as before, however, this time we’d just need to play a few strings at the same time. Power chords come up frequently, and we know this because just two, or three, notes will be shown. The route, perfect fifth and potentially an octave. You’ll also see open and barre chords.
Guitar TAB: Peter Gunn Theme
What’ve we looked at so far then? Strings, frets and chords, all via the medium of guitar TAB. Let’s try and put some of those core skills into action.
Taken from the smash hit 1980 film, The Blues Brothers, this piece of music showcases some of what we’ve been looking at. Combining open strings with fretted notes on the stave.
Starting with an open E string, followed by a few frets, this is a great place for beginners to look when practising guitar TAB.
Guitar TAB: What’s Next?
Having taken a glimpse of the workings of guitar TAB, you’ll be on your way to learning some pretty cool riffs. Whether it’s a quick Google search for your favourite song, YouTube video, or in your guitar lessons, you’ll know how it all works!
If, like me, you like something physical, why not check out these? A couple of songbooks filled with TABs for some legendary guitar licks…