What is Guitar Tablature

While musical notation has been around for centuries and works well, the barrier of entry is high. There's musical "grammar" to learn and it's a 2-step process to translate notes on the staff paper to the guitar's fretboard.

Unlike instruments like trumpets or saxophones, the guitar offers another way of notating music that's much easier than traditional musical notation. This "way" is using: Guitar Tablature.

How Do Guitar Tabs Work?

Much like staff paper, guitar tablature has its own "staff" of 6 lines, where each line corresponds with the guitar's strings.

The top line corresponds with the guitar's thin top string, and the bottom line corresponds with the guitar's thick bottom string.


Numbers are then written on those lines, which indicate the frets to be played.

Notice in the figure below how the tablature relates to the guitar's strings and frets.


The Drawback of Tablature

While tablature is undoubtedly an easier way to notate and read music on the guitar, it comes with its drawbacks.

Critically, guitar tablature does not tell you the "time value" of each note.

For that reason, if 2 people are given the same sheet of guitar tabs and they're both asked to play the music, you'll hear 2 different results.

Reference Recordings

One way to skirt around this is by hearing a recording of the music, alongside the tablature.

Using your ear, you can hear how the song is meant to be played, matching the recording and using the tablature as a reference guide for playing the proper notes.

Tabs & Musical Notation

Another solution is by using guitar tablature with traditional musical notation.

The tablature tells you where the notes are, and the musical notation tells you how the notes should be played.

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