How To Read Guitar Tabs For Beginners

Are you ready to begin playing your favorite songs on the guitar? But you are unclear about where to begin. Have you heard about tab notation? If not, don’t fret! Here’s our guide on How to read guitar tabs for beginners. 

Tab notation is an excellent way for beginner guitarists to learn songs; instead of playing by ear, you can just read the musical notes. But how do you read tab notation? Relax; it’s simpler than it seems. I’ll explain how to read guitar tabs in detail in this article, along with some advice on where to begin. Armed with some knowledge and practice, you’ll soon pick out your favorite songs like a pro!

Steps to Read Guitar Tabs for Beginners

Here are the steps to read guitar tabs for beginners are explained below. So, let’s begin with the first step-

Understanding musical notes and tablature notation

Learning to read guitar tablature (or “tabs”) is a great way to learn how to play guitar songs quickly. It looks like a grid of six horizontal lines with numbers on them. The lines represent the strings on the guitar, and the numbers represent the frets at which you will hold down the strings.

But before you dive into tabs, it’s important to understand musical notation. Generally, music is written in measures, and each measure is divided into beats. A single beat can be divided into smaller fractions as well. To stay on time and accurately play what’s written on paper, you need to count out individual notes within a measure in their respective beats. This is notated by quarter notes (each a quarter of a beat long), eighth notes (an eighth of a beat), and so on. Once you understand this concept, reading tabs becomes much easier.

So when you approach a tab, start by counting out all the beats in each measure first. This way, you know how fast or slow you must play before beginning each note. This will ensure that when you put everything together, it’ll sound like it does in the original song!

Tablature Symbols and Identifying Notes on the Fretboard

Now that you know the basics of tablature, it’s time to look at the symbols and how to use them to identify notes on the fretboard. Let’s start with the most important symbol: the fret numbers. The fret number indicates which fret to press down on when playing a note. For instance, “0” denotes an open string, while “3” indicates pressing down on the third fret. The numbers are written on either side of the strings.

Once you know this, looking at the position of the notes on the tablature will make it simple to determine which notes are being played. As a quick guide: 0 means an open string note; 1-4 represents the first four frets. And 5+ represents anything beyond that, such as harmonics or slides.

In addition to this, some other key symbols will help you read guitar tabs:

  • An ‘x’ next to a number indicates a muted (or dead) note.
  • A ‘b’ or a ‘#’ next to a number indicates whether or not that note is sharp or flat.
  • And an “h” will indicate if that note is played as a hammer-on or pull-off.

With these few simple symbols—and of course, practice!—you’ll be well on your way to reading guitar tabs like a pro in no time.

Constructing Chords and Leads with Tabs

Now that you know how guitar tabs work, you can learn how to play chords and leads with them. It’s all quite simple once you get it down!


With guitar tabs, it’s easy to construct chords from the tab symbols. The vertical lines on the tab represent the strings of your guitar. And the symbol at the corresponding fret determines what chord you’ll play. For example, if you see a “2” for string 3 and a “3” for string 4, then that means that you’re playing an A chord. Find different combinations of symbols for different chords.


You’ll construct one-finger melodies with the tab symbols along different strings when playing leads. Different notes can be played by moving along various strings while sustaining each note’s length depending on its duration written in the tab symbol. So if a musical quarter note is written over a certain fret and string combination, hold down that note for an entire beat. And then move on to the next one!

Guitar tabs help illustrate chords and leads because they show precisely which fingering is required when reading music. Just make sure to alternate between fingers whenever possible when playing complex pieces. This way, you won’t tire out your fingers so quickly!

If you want to learn to change guitar strings, here’s How to Change Guitar Strings at Home.


Learning how to read guitar tabs for beginners isn’t as hard as it seems! With practice, you can get better and better at understanding what the different symbols mean. And eventually, you’ll be able to read guitar tabs like a pro. Remember, with any skill; the key is practice and perseverance.

Your objective of becoming an excellent guitarist will be one step closer once you have the fundamentals covered. Good luck, and have fun!

Photo of author

Jr. Robert A. Plant

Hey there! I'm Jr. Robert A. Plant, an artist, blogger and reviewer who's absolutely in love with the world of music. I have a knack for reviewing music gear, sharing my thoughts and insights at Raisingsand FX. When I'm not exploring gear, you'll find me lost in the creative process of writing songs. Music is my passion, and I'm here to inspire and touch lives through my artistic journey.

Leave a Comment