How to read guitar tablature

Here’s a quick lesson on how to read guitar Tabs.

Before diving into a tab; it’s always good to read the information typed up before. This is so you can check if your in the correct guitar tuning and whether or not you will need a capo.

(the letters under this diagram are for explanatory purposes only! they are not the notes or chords being demonstrated and will not be in typical tablature as such)

In Tablature, the bottom line displays your thickest string (low E) and your top string displays your thinnest string (high e).

Example A – when you see a 0; you play the string open (i.e do not play a note with your left hand).

Example B – when you see multiple numbers in a columned order you play it as a chord; all notes played together.

Example C – In this example, you still play a 3 note chord, however it involves a string skip!

Example D – Same as Example C.


On this example, there are 3 groups of letters above the tab; H, P and sl. The H stands for Hammer on; The P stands for Pull off and sl stands for slide. (if you are unaware of these 3 techniques you can get the lesson by clicking here!). These letters will be placed either above or below a tab between the notes you need to apply the technique to.

How To read tabs (part 4).png

The Wave length symbol above the 3 indicates a vibrato. To play a vibrato, simply wiggle the note you are holding with your left hand up and down. This is a simple technique, so just play around with it and get use to the sound.

(note: do not over use vibrato’s! they are great for giving character and dynamics to your music; however, too many can quickly ruin a good solo)

As you can see, one of the 4’s has a line pointing upwards with 1/2 noted above. this means to bend it until your note has raised by a semi-tone/half step. (1/2 bend is a half step, 1 bend is a full step etc). bends are sometimes indicated with the letter ‘b’ instead.

The 5 in parenthesis is called a dead note. To play a dead note, simply hit it gently (either with a pick or just tap it. (dead notes may also be indicated with an ‘x’)

/ – a forward slash indicates a slide up the guitar neck (from low notes to high)

\ – indicates a slide down the neck (from high notes to low)

If you see the letter X under the tab, it indicates that the note is palm muted.

P – Represents playing the note with your thumb

W – Whole notes

H – Half notes

Q – Quarter notes

E – Eighths

S – Sixteenths

T – Thirty Seconds


Now your ready to start reading tabs and learn some songs on guitar!

click here to go to our guitar lessons directory!