• Richard The Guitar Teacher

Understanding Guitar Tablature.


Richard the guitar teacher here. I thought I would discuss the basics of guitar tablature.

Now I will state straight away that although guitar tablature is easier to read then standard music notation, I would strongly recommend learning the basics to be able to read standard sheet music.

I'm not saying you must become a master at sight-reading, (being able to read music notation with little to no rehearsal) but being able to look at a sheet of music and be able to understand and play what is written, with some practice.

Guitar tablature is a very unique system, that shows you what notes to play and where to play them. I say tablature is unique because it is only used for guitar. No other instrument has this secondary form of notation, in western music anyway. Whether this is a good thing or not, I will leave that up to you.

As a guitar teacher I tend to have the rule that I will only use tablature to teach very beginner students.

One of the reasons I do this, is I like the student with in their first few lessons to physically concentrate on playing the guitar, and having fun. Working on music notation can come at a later date.

so let's dive right in, and let me show you the basics of tablature.

This is an empty bar of tablature. As you can see it has 6 lines, each one of these line represents a guitar string.

The bottom line represents the lowest string on the guitar. This will be your low E (6th) string.

The top line represents the thinnest string on the guitar. This will be your high E (1st) string.

From here you can work out that the 2nd line is your 2nd string (B string), 3rd line will be your 3rd string (G string) and so on.

Lets have a look at some tablature with some music on it.

Here you can see some tablature with information on it, that we can interpret into music.

At the beginning, just like in normal music notation, we have the time signature. This tells us how many beats are in each bar.

If you are unfamiliar with time signatures, feel free to get in contact for your FREE 30min lesson to all new students.

Next we have numbers on each line.

In the first bar we can see an E major chord. On the bottom line, which is are low E string, has an zero on it, this means the string is to played open.

If the line (string) has no number on it, the string is not meant to be played.

Numbers on tablature are indicating which fret is to be played. Say if you see the numbers 5,6 and 7 it will mean you need to play frets 5,6 and 7.

So as you can see here the 5th and 4th lines have the number 2 on them and the 3rd line has the number 1 on it. This mean you will finger the 2nd fret on the 5th and 6ths string, and the 1st fret on the 3rd string.

Last we have Rhythm.

At the top of each bar, above each note (number) you will have simple rhythmic notation. This will indicate how the notes are to be played.

You can see in this example, that in the 3rd bar you are playing 8th (quaver) notes, 4th string, 2nd fret. This will help you play the music in time, and with the correct rhythmic feel.

Pretty simple really, but can help you start playing your favourite riffs and songs.

In summary tablature shows you what fret to play on what string.

I hope you find some cool tablature to play, and start enjoying playing the guitar and music in general.

Til next time.

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