Tab (Tablature) Primer

Guitar Tab or Tablature is a graphical representation of the Six Guitar Strings and Guitar Frets (Notes) played from left to right.  Representing Lower and Higher Notes: the Top Line of Tab represents the Guitar’s Thinnest String (the last guitar string on the bottom). The bottom Line of Tab represents the Thickest Guitar String (the string closest to you on Top).  Guitar Strings are numbered from the Thinnest String Number 1 to the Thickest String Number 6. (see Right Picture)

String Numbers

Strings are Numbered from Bottom to Top 1 Thur 6

The Numbers on the Tab Lines state what Frets are played (read from left to right).  If there is only a single number, then only a single Fret or Single Note is played.  If there are 2 or more numbers stacked vertically, all those Frets (Notes) are played simultaneously.  

Tab Basics Example #1

Tab Basics Example #1 shows a series of zeros starting at the Lowest String (Lowest in Pitch) from the left and ending with a zero on the Highest String on the Right.  A Zero in Tablature means “Zero Fret”, playing a string unfretted (no finger on the fretboard) (also known as playing a string “Open” or playing an “Open String”). To play Tab Basics Example #1, the guitarist simply plays each string “open” one time each in sequence starting with the thickest string and ending with the Thinnest String.  

Tab Basics Example #2

Looking at Tab Basics Example #2, you see a 1 on the Top Tab Line.  This means the 1st Fret of String 1 is played (“First String 1st Fret is played).  

Tab Basics Example #3

Tab Basics Example #3: Play the 3rd Fret of String 2. “Play the 3rd Fret Second String”

Tab Basics Example #4

Tab Basics Example #4 Play String 3 “Open”

Tab Basics Example #5

Tab Basics Example #5  Play the 4th Fret String 6.

Tab Basics Example #6

Tab Basics Example #6: Vertically Stacked Notes on a Tab mean play all the Frets at the same time, either by Strumming or Picking.  Tab Basics Example #6 shows a chord (D Major Chord) being played on  Strings 1 to 4.  1st Finger on 2nd Fret of the 3rd String, 2nd Finger on the 2nd Fret of the 1st String, and 3rd Finger on the 3rd Fret of the 2nd String.

Tab Basics Example #7:  Played from Left to Right.  In the first measure (Measure 1)  4 notes are played in sequence starting with: 3rd Fret String 1,  then 1st Fret String 1, then String 1 played “Open”, then the 3rd Fret String 2.   Immediately continue to the 2nd measure and pay: 1st Fret String 2, then 3rd Fret String 2, then String 1 Open.


In Tab Example #8 three single notes are played then the C Major chord is strummed. In order: Play 1st Fret String 2, Play String 1 Open, play String 3 Open, Strume C Major Chord.


Tab Basics Example #9 displays four C Major (CMaj) chords in the 1st measure, and three A minor Chords (Am) in the second measure.  The numbers are stacked vertically which means either Strum or Pick the notes simultaneously.  The name of the Chord is labeled on Top for simplification.  Tab does not show Rhythm nor Duration of notes unless music is written above or below the Tab Line.  The Audio file provided demonstrates Strumming the Chords with the beat in 4/4 time.

Common Tab Symbols