Basic Music Theory:

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Reading The Guitar Tabulatute (Tabs) : Lines and Numbers

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Chapter - 3c

Reading The Guitar Tabulature / Tablature (Tabs):

Guitar music sheets are available on the net mostly as tabs. This is because this system is easy to write in on a QWERTY keyboard. Here's how to read it.

The Lines in Tabs:
The tab lines correspond to the guitar string as follows (as this site uses):

E|---------------------------- 6th String
A|---------------------------- 5th string
D|---------------------------- 4th string
G|---------------------------- 3rd String
B|---------------------------- 2nd String
e|---------------------------- 1st String

The 6th (thickest) string on top, to the 1st (thinnest) string, at the bottom.

N.B.: Many people also use the reverse order; so read the eBGDAE / EAGDBe order before you start playing. This is more common but not used on this site in general.

e|---------------------------- 1th String
B|---------------------------- 2th string
G|---------------------------- 3th string
D|---------------------------- 4rd String
A|---------------------------- 5nd String
E|---------------------------- 6st String

The 1st (thinnest) string on top, to the 6th (thickest) string, at the bottom.

As can be seen, at the beginning of every line, the open string note of the string indicated is written, followed by a divider, "|" - found in between the backspace and +/= keys of standard 101 / 102 keys keyboard. Often - not always, the 1st string E note is written as "e"(small E) to denote the strings thinness or the notes fineness as compared to the 6th string open E note.

The lines are drawn with the standard hyphen "-"

At times, the number of lines drawn may be less than six to save space, as all of these lines may not be required. Examples of this are common, like:


(P.S.: the 1st line is the 1st string; notice that the E is written in a small letters)


The numbers on the lines indicate the fret number on the string corresponding to the line on which that number is on.

The numbers are read from left to right. No matter which line these are on, the one more left is read and played first. Not one line at a time!

Left to right no matter what....

So, in the above example, we will play this sequence:
1(1) - 1(3) - 2(4) -3(2) - 1(open)
.......x(y) meaning "string number(fret number)"

N.B.: x(0) means string number x, "fret number zero", i.e. open string.

Numbers occurring in a cluster as one column - these are chords. Hold and play all these notes together.

Timing in Tabs:
There is no indication of timing here. Just play the song you are playing from your album/CD/PC and match notes to the timings in the song. Trust me, its easy.

This is where Tab fails to Staff - no time component expressed. But, when a person looks for a tab online, generally, he / she has already heard the song. So, its not a major concern.

Guitar Tablature Series:

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Reading The Guitar Tabulatute (Tabs) : Lines and Numbers

Comments: 14 comment(s)...have your say!


What do the letters denote when reading the tabs, eg

0h p2p0 X2 etc what does h,p and x denote here ?

Arindam Sarkarsaid...

Keep reading....You seem to have just read the 1st page and it at least 5 pages long ;-) ....all this has been explained in detail in the later pages....follow the "continue..." link below the post....


can u pls post full tabs for so gaya ye jahan

pls... pls

Arindam Sarkarsaid...

full tabs may take quite a bit (exams) . Try this till then


can i get the tabs for jeena isi ks naam hai song of anari movie my i.d. is

Arindam Sarkarsaid...

Of-course...(in some time)...

the legendsaid...

a small correction,the 1st string is the thickest and the 6th string is the thinnest as per your representation.correction would be appreciated.:-)

Arindam Sarkarsaid...

The diagram was upside down. Much appreciated... ;-)

Siladityaa Sharmasaid...

What is the meaning of the hyphen (/) betweensoem fret number like 4/55----7......???

Arindam Sarkarsaid...

The / means a slide between the two frets where its shown. Its explained with examples - read on to the next few pages (link below post).

Amit Sonisaid...

it is not user friendly pattern of writing the guitar notation. it should be up side down.
all other guitar tab proving websites tab like this.

Dr. Arindam Sarkarsaid...

I would have to agree on that but I guess I'm in too deep to change everything on all my sites now. Anyway, the tab is labelled in reverse order (which is also used by some dum-dums like myself) :P

apurba saikiasaid...

dn't understand d meanign of "h" symbol..wat is dat for?

Dr. Arindam Sarkarsaid...

The 'h' symbol means "hammer on" - read the next few pages for details.

BasicMusicTheory Tip:

Tune your guitar before you start playing.^Top^

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