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The following tutorial will help to explain to you the basic concept of reading guitar tablature. Although it may seem confusing, learning to read guitar tablature is quite simple, and you should find yourself reading tablature easily in no time.
Guitar tablature is the name of the music notation system that graphically represents strings and frets of the guitar fretboard, and guitarists mainly name it as "guitar tabs" to shorten it down. This system is not very perfect but it is easy to learn.
Let's make it step by step:

How to read guitar and bass tabs

1) Look at the tab in the same way you look at your guitar fret. There are six lines in a tab, each line corresponding to a string on the guitar.
Each string is listed at the tab generally (unused strings could be cut out sometimes). The top string here ('e') is the thinnest string on the guitar with the highest note and the bottom string here ('E') is the thickest string on the guitar with the lowest note. Both strings happen to be 'E' in regular tuning. So all the other strings fall into place and it looks somewhat like a guitar neck.

e------------------------------|| (Thinnest string of the guitar)
E------------------------------|| (Thickest string of the guitar)

2) Now, the numbers. Numbers on these lines represent the finger positions on the fretboard of your guitar.
If you read the example tab below you would play this by putting your finger just behind the 2nd fret on the 5th string (the second thickest string). As musical notes this tab would read as follows B B B C# B A. The ‘zero’ represents playing an open string. So in this case you would play the A open without any finger position on the fretboard of your guitar.

Let's give some more examples:
 Ex 1    Ex 2
e-----   --0--
B-----   --0--
G-----   --1--
D-----   --2--
A--3--   --2--
E-----   --0--
In the example 1 above, you would hold the string A (second string from the top) at the 3rd fret. This example shows "middle C"
In the example 2 above, you would hold the string G at the 1st fret, A and D strings at the 2nd fret, and leave the other strings open. This shows an Emajor chord.

3) The space between each note should represent the time required to hold the note for or the rhythm.
(But unfortunately some tab writers don't consider this option when writing tabs). If you want to use the guitar tabs easily, we suggest you to listen the song for guidance on timing then read the notes at tabs. See the below example, this tab shows the timing of ‘Day Tripper’ by the Beatles, see the distances between the numbers, the first note '0' (open string note) should be played little longer then the next four notes. And also the distance between D2 and D0 should also indicate a break in timing:


Tablature Symbols

The numbers representing notes at a tab don't describe the subtle techniques much that a guitarist can play, so some symbols can be needed. See the tablature symbols below that represent various techniques.
  • h - hammer on
  • p - pull off
  • b - bend string up
  • r - release bend
  • / - slide up
  • \ - slide down
  • v - vibrato (sometimes written as ~)
  • t - right hand tap
  • s - legato slide
  • S - shift slide
  • - natural harmonic
  • [n] - artificial harmonic
  • n(n) - tapped harmonic
  • tr - trill
  • T - tap
  • TP - trem. picking
  • PM - palm muting
  • / - tremolo bar dip; n = amount to dip
  • - tremolo bar down
  • n/ - tremolo bar up
  • /n\ - tremolo bar inverted dip
  • = - hold bend; also acts as connecting device for hammers/pulls
  • <> - volume swell (louder/softer)
  • x - on rhythm slash represents muted slash
  • o - on rhythm slash represents single note slash


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