So some of you may know that I’ve been working on a second book- this one is music-based. Anyways, I have a few friends who are new to guitar and my book is more or less aimed at them, however some of them don’t know how to read tab- hence this post. So here’s the rundown:


The above is a sample of some tablature. Each of the 6 lines represents a string on the guitar, each number represents a fret on that string. The lower case (small) e represents the “high e” string on the guitar (the thinnest one), and the rest fall into place from there. In the example above, to play the first note you’d place a finger right behind the 5th fret on the A string (second fattest string), and pluck the string with a finger or a pick.

Above I’ve also laid out some basic notation, as listed below:

  • /: indicates a slide between two or more frets, e.g. 5/7 says start on the 5th fret and slide to the 7th. A forward slash usually indicates sliding up, while a backslash indicates liding down (e.g. 5/7\5\3).
  • x: Indicates a muted string. This is usually done with the fleshy edge of your palm on the pinkie side. In the instance above it’s used to set rhythm.
  • h: Indicates a “hammer-on”, where a note is struck and you hammer a finger on the next fret without actually striking the string a second time. By quickly pressing the following fret you retain the vibration from the previous note. This is often paired with p, pull-offs (e.g. 5h7p5 is 5, hammer on 7, release back to 5).
  • b: Bend a note. By stretching the string slightly sideways on the fretboard you can change the pitch of the note. Notes are usually only bent one or two step (frets), and are occasionally bent back, which is signified by an r (e.g. 7b9r7 means bend the 7th fret to sound like a 9, then back down to 7)
  • ~: Vibrato. there are two ways to do this- slightly vary the pressure on the string of a struck note so it wabbles back and forth, or bend it back and forth using the technique above very slightly, like a quarter of a step. It produces an effect similar to a whammy bar on an electric guitar. The more of these in a row, the longer you do it.

You’ll read through guitar tablature like the old pianos with the punch-card sheet music on a reel, playing each note as you go. Tab is meant to be a rough guide, so don’t expect exquisite timing details. Generally speaking, the farther apart the notes, the farther the pause; the closer the notes, the quicker the interval. Notes that appear on the same column are usually chords, and should be played in a single strum. Some tablature will define a set of used chords at the top, and simply refer to their name later on.

So that’s a quick intro into guitar tab. Let me know if I missed anything.