How To Read And Play Guitar Tabs

How To Read And Play Guitar Tabs

 

 

Hi!  Here’s another “HH&T” (Helpful hints & tips.)   I had a request from instagram to explain guitar tabs, so here goes….

 

So by now, you’re getting pretty good at transitioning between the 4 or 5 chords you’ve learned and you’re starting to feel some confidence playing some songs.  You’re feeling good that this whole guitar playing thing is finally progressing.   What do you do next?  You look up your favorite song because you really want to play it.  What you find is a bunch of letters, lines, dashes and numbers. Now what do you do?  What does it all mean?

 

One Direction “Half A Heart”

     G (x4)             D/F# (x2)         Em7 (x2)           C (x2)
e|---------3------------------2-----------------0-----------------0-----------|
B|---------3--3---3-----------3--3---3----------3--3---3----------1--1---1----|
G|------0-------0----------2-------2---------0-------0---------0-------0------|
D|----------------------------------------------------------------------------|
A|-----------------------------------------------------------3----------------|
E|---3------------------2-----------------0-----------------------------------|

G                            D/F#
So your friends been telling me
                             Em7                     
You've been sleeping with my sweater
             C               
And that you can't stop missing me



Guitar tablature is a method of music notation.  It’s simple and easy to read (yeah, right!), but not as precise like sheet music is for other instruments.

 

First of all here’s a pic of the neck of your guitar.  Below it I’ve put the tab from above-

 

gatneckfrets

 

 

 

 

 

 

     G (x4)             D/F# (x2)         Em7 (x2)          C (x2)
e|---------3------------------2-----------------0-----------------0-----------|
B|---------3--3---3-----------3--3---3----------3--3---3----------1--1---1----|
G|------0-------0----------2-------2---------0-------0---------0-------0------|
D|----------------------------------------------------------------------------|
A|-----------------------------------------------------------3----------------|
E|---3------------------2-----------------0-----------------------------------|

 

Looking at the picture and tab can you see the similarity?  The tab looks like the neck of your guitar and that’s what it’s representing.  The ‘EADGBe’ on the left hand side and the dashes next to each letter, are the guitar strings.  So all the lines and numbers are indicating frets and strings to be picked.   In the tabs I make, I always put the chord above the tab so you can change chords quickly without really even thinking about it and continue picking out the pattern. (In this particular tab,  the pattern you’ll be picking is basically the same for each chord with the exception of the C chord- the A string is being picked instead of the E string.)

 

The numbers are showing what fret and which string should be held down and that is the string that is picked.   E (6th) string  3rd fret is the first note in “Half A Heart”.

 

To read the tab– You look at it from left to right, but up and down as well.  The first ‘G’ chord would read in this order- 3, 0*, 33*, 3, 0, 3.  Does that make sense?  You’re reading from left to right but not necessarily top to bottom. For this tab you start at the bottom going up, then down, then back up.

(*-  ‘0’ (zero)  means that the string is open- Open means the string is not being held down on any fret.  Now for the 33’s- look at the tab, see how the 33 on the B and e strings are stacked?  That means those strings are picked/plucked together.  If you’re using a pick you would strum through them or with your fingers you’d just pluck them together.)

 

So with the first chord of this tab (G), you see the pattern on the tab is similar to a G chords shape of [320033]. (You’ll notice the tab does not have the ‘A’ string 2nd fret being picked but it’s okay to still have your hand in the regular ‘G’ shape.  You don’t pick that string so whether or not you hold it down makes no difference.)

 

The numbers by each chord [G (x4)] is how many times you’ll pick the pattern before changing to the next chord.  (If you’re still working on seamless transitions between chords, that’s okay.  Just keep practicing!!  It will all come together.  Your chord/finger shape memory will start to kick in and then you’ll start feeling less frustrated and really begin to have fun!)

 

 

NOW PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER! 

 

One Direction “Half A Heart”  Guitar Tab

Standard Tuning w/capo on 5

 

     G (x4)             D/F# (x2)         Em7 (x2)          C (x2)
e|---------3------------------2-----------------0-----------------0-----------|
B|---------3--3---3-----------3--3---3----------3--3---3----------1--1---1----|
G|------0-------0----------2-------2---------0-------0---------0-------0------|
D|----------------------------------------------------------------------------|
A|-----------------------------------------------------------3----------------|
E|---3------------------2-----------------0-----------------------------------|

 

Put your capo on the 5th fret and get into a G chord shape. (Whether or not you use a pick is up to you.  I prefer not to.)

Pick the 6th (or E) string, then the 3rd (or G) string, then pick the 1st & 2nd (e & B) strings together.  There’s a really short pause before you finish the pattern by quickly picking the 2nd string, then 3rd, then back to the 2nd string and that completes the pattern. But, you’re going to repeat it however many times the number next to the chord indicates before changing to the next chord and doing it all again.

This tab is easy because like I said above,  it’s the same strings/pattern being picked for the G,  D/F# and Em7 then just one minor adjustment for the C chord.  Once you have that picking pattern memorized, you can just play along with the chords.

 

 

G                            D/F#
So your friends been telling me
                             Em7                     
You've been sleeping with my sweater
             C               
And that you can't stop missing me

I constantly preach about playing along with the actual song to get the rhythm and timing of strumming or picking down.  When I’m learning a pattern for a tab, such as this one, I  listen closely to the first pass then pause it.  With that melody fresh in my head, I then read the tab and pick it out trying to match it.  After a few times going back and forth of listening/pausing, listening/pausing, then I try playing right along while the song plays.  Getting those chord changes to go smoothly can take some practice, but that’s what this is all about.  PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE!!

 

So I hope this helps!  I really tried to explain it as simple as possible, but like with anything new it may take a bit to really sink in!

 

Have fun!!!

LLG♥

 

**Disclaimer– LLG♥ is not responsible for any bad habits and such you may pick up from her self-taught ”H H & T” skills-Because she has many (bad habits, that is) and it’s too late for her to try to take professional lessons to fix those bad habits unfortunately ;)

 




 

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