An Easy Guide for Getting Started With Guitar Tab Sheet Music

words Al Woods

There are many people who love to play an instrument, yet feel it is out of reach due to a lack of professional training or music lessons. Though music theory is often an important part of being a skilled musician, there are some instruments that you can pick up on your own and become quite good at without a teacher.

The guitar is an instrument that is easy to learn, even without the ability to read sheet music. If you want to try your hand at this stringed instrument, here’s your go-to guide for getting started.

Guitar Tab Sheet Music

Comparing Guitar Tabs vs Sheet Music

If you had taken private lessons to learn how to play the guitar, you would probably start with learning the scales, the basics of music clefs and other theory-based skills. It takes a long time to develop fluency in reading sheet music, requiring many hours of practice and studying. Professional instruction is never a waste of time, but reading guitar tab sheet music is a natural, shorter way of being able to play a wide range of songs. This kind of music and instruction shows the proper placement of the fingers, rather than concentrating on music notes and elements of theory, such as tempo and dynamics.

Understanding Guitar Tablature

The guitar tab is a diagram that shows the neck of the guitar. It has six horizontal lines to identify the six strings of the instrument. It is labeled with fret numbers to show the player which strings are played in the proper fret position. You won’t actually learn the name of each musical note, but instead, learn the directions and symbols that will guide your playing. This includes learning things like bend, slide or hammer-on or hammer-off. Guitar tablature is an easy way to start playing a song, and there are thousands of popular songs that have been written in guitar tab sheet music.

When you start out with guitar tab playing, it’s helpful to already know the way a piece of music sounds. This makes it easier to identify the technical details of the music, such as how long a note should be held or how long to rest between lines. Some tablature pieces will have musical notations included on the sheet music to give you the theory information, but if you are familiar with how a song is played, you may not need this extra information. The only other concern with guitar tab music is that some pieces focus on just melodies or riffs, rather than providing complete chord progressions for entire songs.

Guitar Tab Sheet Music

Reading Guitar Tabs

In order to successfully read guitar tab sheet music, you must be familiar with the locations of the frets on the neck of the guitar and the six strings of the instrument. With this skill, you can move on to reading the guitar tab.

The Guitar Tab Staff

The guitar tab staff looks much like the staff used on standard notation sheet music. However, the staff is usually labeled with TAB to keep from confusing it with standard notation. One key difference is that the staff lines represent the six strings of the guitar and not the notes of a scale. The high E string is represented through the top line of the staff, and the low E string is the bottom line on the guitar tab staff. This visual and the correlation to the sounds of the strings can make it easier to follow along and understand.

The Guitar Frets

The frets are the metal strips that run across the neck or fretboard of the guitar. Your average guitar will range between 19 to 24 frets, and these move in half-steps. This means one fret is one note from the next. Each octave will use 12 frets, and many guitars include markers on the fretboard or side of the guitar neck that show the odd-numbered frets between three and 12.

When looking at the tablature, you need to remember that any fretted string to be played has a number, while a string marked with a zero means play it open. You won’t use your fretted hand and just pluck the string to create the sound.

The Guitar Chords

Chords are often included in guitar tab sheet music, and the vertical lineup of notes in a tab indicates playing the strings at the same time to create a chord. In part, this is how riffs work. They are a combination of partial chords and single notes, and these are usually found in rock music. A chord chart uses a diagram to show fret placement and strings needed to make a chord, and in the guitar tab, these could be placed above the lyrics to show the chord changes that occur in a song.

Getting Started With Guitar Tab Sheet Music

This information can be useful in getting you started with reading and playing guitar tab sheet music. For a great selection of songs from your favorite bands and performers, check out the selection at Musicnotes.


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