How to Read Guitar Chords Tabs

When numbers appear stacked vertically, they represent chords. Play all the notes in a chord at once for maximum impact and sound!

Hammer-ons refer to a fingering technique in which one finger touches multiple fretted notes simultaneously to produce a higher-pitched noise. A or x can be seen to indicate mutes strings (this is done by placing one side of your picking hand below where each note falls on).

Learn about tab symbols here.

What are tabs?

Tab notation for guitar music shows your fingers where to place them on the fretboard, usually appearing underneath standard musical notation. It features six horizontal lines to represent each string – from thickest at the bottom to thinnest at the top – with numbers on each line representing which fret to press on when playing (unfretted strings are indicated with a zero).

Tabs support several special symbols. A w indicates a whole note, while an h indicates half note and an s indicates short note or rest.

Other symbols show you how to give notes a muted sound. Palm-muting is one way; using a damper bar (press down with your picking hand on the fretboard at an appropriate spot with it), or tremolo bars with dip or rise can also work; they’re indicated with an “n/” or an “/”.

How do tabs work?

Tabs are written underneath conventional music notation and utilize a different set of symbols. Horizontal lines represent strings from thickest (lower-pitched) to thinnest (high-pitched). Each line is marked with numbers to indicate where to press your fingers when playing each fret; vertically stacked rows indicate chords; playing all numbers simultaneously will produce full chord sounds.

Some tabs include notes to instruct whether to strike the strings hard or soft and will detail any special techniques necessary, such as hammers, pulls, muffles etc. Additionally, temporary muzzles of specific strings may also be noted on certain tabs.

Tabs don’t always show you the rhythm at which to hit notes, so listen carefully to the song you are learning in order to hear how it should sound. On occasion though, tabs may indicate the rhythm more quickly and accurately so you can learn its chord progression more efficiently and quickly.

How do I read tabs?

Before diving in and reading tabs, there are a few essentials you should keep in mind. First and foremost is understanding how your guitar strings are tuned (usually standard tuning).

Familiarize yourself with some key guitar-reading symbols, including ties, open strings and muting. A tied note should be held twice as long as its predecessor; an open string does not need to be depressed by fingers; and mutes mean playing any string without touching it directly with any finger(s).

The numbers on each line tell you which frets to press with your finger, with circled numbers representing fretting hand fingers; vertically aligned numbers signifying all strings at once. Tabs don’t provide much guidance in terms of rhythm; to get an accurate understanding, try listening to the song while reading its tab for guidance as to whether to play quickly or slowly.

How do I play tabs?

Reading guitar tabs can be straightforward once you grasp their core principles. Each of the six lines represents strings on your guitar from thinnest (top) to thickest (bottom), with numbers showing which fret to press your finger against – blank strings are an indication that an open position should be taken.

Guitar tabs will typically provide information on what kind of chord is being played as well as its tempo in beats per minute and time signature. Furthermore, guitar tabs provide instruction on how to play single notes or riffs.

Harmonics can be played by fretting the note indicated by the tab with your picking hand and quickly tapping another string directly above it with your other hand – creating a bell-like tone. There are also tab symbols which indicate various ways of “bender”, or changing pitch on strings; these are indicated with curved arrows above a fret; though learning these techniques may take some practice from beginners.