questions about tabsPerhaps you are completely new to playing guitar and guitar tabs or tablatures, we all started there at one point, right. Guitar tabs can look scary to the new guitar playing, so don’t feel like you’re alone when you look at them and scratch your head.

Learning to play guitar tabs can seem complex and have confused a few of my friends when I showed them how I learned leads and riffs they would like to learn. It’s not as difficult as it looks and with a little understand it all becomes clear.

Okay, So Just What Are Guitar Tablatures?

Guitar tabs, also known as guitar tablatures, are a musical notation forms that tell the guitar player the finger positions for each note played. The tablature bar or music staff represents the neck of your guitar and shows finger positioning instead of the individual notes.

Once I learned and practiced guitar tabs they became really easy to follow. I think it’s a great way to display as one doesn’t need to know the notes.

It’s a form of writing music for the guitar that easy. You don’t even need a musical background to write tabs. You just need to represent your guitar neck and frets. From there you just place a dot on the tab staff where each note is played.

Even a beginner guitar player can learn to read tabs and even write tabs after just a few minutes. They just look difficult but are rather easy at the basic level.

A Note On Basic Beginner Guitar Tabs

The music staff for tablatures kind of looks like your guitar neck. If you were to lay the tabs along the neck of your guitar you can see it represents your six string guitar. Although I have seen some people use it backwards, perhaps left handed guitar players. It can be a bit confusing when that happens.

Here is an example of a tablature for Happy Birthday.

happy birthday tabs

This is the simplest example I could find as there are a lot of variations in how even Happy Birthday can be played. The bottom line on this tablature represents the lowest E string, next is the A, then D, next G, then B and finally the high E string.

In this example I found all the notes are played on the high E string.

What Do The Numbers Mean

So now you know what the lines represent but what do the numbers on each string represent?

This is easy as they represent the fret to hold a finger on while striking the string or strings. So the number zero means you hit the string without holding it down at all. Two is telling you to put a finger on the second fret and so on.

happy birthday tabs

The spacing between each note is the timing or beats, however not all tablature writers are concerned with noting the timing and more about what note is being hit.

Here is another example of Happy Birthday using different strings and has a little different ending.


So if you’ve been intimidated with guitar tabs, like my buddy Gary was, well stop fretting and start practicing. When I want to learn tabs I use Google to do a search and usually find or and happy playing.

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