Beginner’s Guide to Guitar Tabs [What You Should Know]

Almost all of us who start learning guitar encounters with the Guitar Tabs.

The Cheat code that you get from your buddy or search on the internet, that helps to learn songs quick and easy way, Guitar Tabs become a good friend for newbie and in some cases, old guitarists as well.


You think of that nothing is better then those “Guitar Tabs”,

and of course,

  • They help you learn those songs that you love but could have never figured out on your own.
  • You can play songs start to end without hassle.
  • Get the attention of your grinds and family.

Cool, Right?

Important Announcement: Join My Exclusive Membership Platform and get Weekly Member-Only Newsletter, Member-only articles, How-To guides, product reviews, Exclusive coupons on PRO MUSIC products, Gear and software Giveaways.

But could you really play guitar? Ask, yourself. Imagine a stranger comes and ask you the same question what will you answer him?

Guitar Tabs don’t make you perfect. Its the fact.

But they help in the process of learning.

Sure, you might play some popular songs perfectly (almost), but if someone asks you to play something different, You stuck.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that we recommended. Read more about Affiliate disclosure here.

That could be pretty embarrassing situation, huh?

Even, you keep going with the tabs day by day and become more and more dependent on them. Here comes the goal of this post.

Here are the highlights.

  • Understanding the Guitar Tabs.
  • When you should be using them?
  • The Myth of Guitar Tabs that “they make you perfect”.
  • When should you stop using Guitar Tabs, and why?

First off,

What Are Guitar Tabs?

Guitar Tabs are easy process to learn the songs and exercises on guitar where numbers are used to indicated the notes, chords and harmonics, placed on six horizontal lines shapes called tabs.

Unlike the standard notation system, Tabs are easy to read. In Guitar tablature system, numbers and lines are used to represent notes on the guitar fret-board.

It’s very different from the traditional staff or clef notation system. In Guitar Tabs, numbers are placed on six horizontal lines that represent the six strings of a guitar, with the numbers indicating which fret to play.

When you see two or more numbers stacked one upon other that means its instruction to play more then one notes simultaneously. So, as compared to traditional notation system, its very easy to play chords with the help of Guitar Tabs.

How to Read Guitar Tabs?

Image Source

Reading Guitar Tabs is actually not as tough as you are think. AS you know, guitars have six strings which are when played in special combination on frets, what we get to listen are “chords”. We also play songs in guitar by pressing individual strings on certain time interval.

Guitar Tabs have six horizontal line where the topmost line represents the upper string on guitar an so on. The numbering system guide us about the finger placement on the frets.

When you see the numbers one upon another at the same place, that means its instruction to play the notes simultaneously to create chords and harmonies. On the other hand if the tab has individual numbers one after another that means it’s the instruction to play single notes ie; songs.

That’s it.

Understanding guitar tabs and playing through it is fairly an easy task but its has some drawbacks in long run.

Such as,

  • You will become dependent on Guitar Tabs.
  • Using Tabs it seems that you are a perfect guitar player but actually you are using a tool and without that tool you will become helpless.


So, when you need this tool on your hand?

When You Should be Using Guitar Tabs?

The answer is simple.

We need tools when we are new comers. Once we master ourselves in that particular field we don’t need them anymore. In guitar learning, the same rule is applied.

When you are a newbie guitar player, you face problems in catching up songs and their chords. That’s not just your problem but quite common among guitar learners. I this condition you need a “tool like guitar tabs” to catch the songs, chords and harmonies.

Just like,

A baby who want to walk but “can’t” is been provided with a walker

But with time he is able to walk without any support and then their is no need to provide the walker to the baby.


The Myth Behind Tabs: Overgrowing Skill

The problem begins when you become dependent on this tool. It would be the worst condition for a guitar learner when he will become dependent on a tool like Guitar Tabs.

Because, they think that it’s an awesome tool helping them to learn guitar quickly but it’s not.

I’m not saying that using guitar chords is bad thing. But, you need to think it like a baby walker. When you feel that your can be able to play songs without tablature it means its time to remove the tabs from your practice schedule.

And many guitar learners become confuse in this stage. They feel that tabs are helping them overgrowing in guitar playing. They think that practicing with tabs making them perfect.

But actually that’s not the case.


Are You Addicted to Guitar Tabs?

You are getting addicted to guitar tabs. Just like a baby who s forced by his parents to leave the walker but he want to stick with it.


Well, in the case of babies their parents help them to leave the addiction of walker, but in your case, nobody can tell you when you should remove guitar tabs from practising schedule.

It’s only you who can decide if you are ready to leave tabs or not. But detecting the crossline is not easy. Many new guitar learners are unable to find out the best time to leave their addiction to guitar tabs.

Believe me or not, using tabs is just like addiction to drugs. And it will affect your whole guitar playing skill.

So, as soon as you realize that your are no more need of them, try to remove them from your practice.

There are certain reasons why I’m convincing you to leave guitar tabs at the end.


Tabs are Holding You Back

Tabs actually don’t help you master in guitar. You think of that continuously practising guitar with tabs make you perfect but its not true. Guitar Tabs are just a tool. They help you just in playing songs, chords and harmonies by seeing the tablature.


The whole procedure of mastering any instrument depend on only three skills.

  • Pitch Perception
  • Memory
  • Improvisation

Without these three skill nobody can be able to play songs and chords on his own. Let me explain these three skills in details and the harm regarding them when using guitar tabs as well.

1. Pitch Perception

This is the single most important skill in music. Good pitch perception is the base of mastering any instrument. And with guitar tabs this skill never really develop.

Actually our brain is too lazy in absorbing new information. Its a human nature that when we are provided with the easy options we don’t want to go through the long process.

Hence when we practice hours and hours with some tools like guitar tabs, our mind thinks that their is no need to observe the pitch perception of a song or a riff as it is easily available in the form of guitar tabs.


Now think, when you are practicing to catch a song or a riff or just a base chord of a song without any written document, What happen?

You become more prominent in recognizing different scales. Your mind wakes up begin to do work on your pitch perception and tell you about the right and wrong notes.

And with continuous practice that time comes, when you become master in guitar.

2. Memory

The second skill you develop by throwing guitar tabs away is better memory.

In your daily work how much you memorize doesn’t really matter when you are playing a song while staring at chord charts and notations. The whole practice will become helpless when in the middle of the song someone takes that tab paper away from you.

Its just a cheat paper which guide you in playing guitar. You can’t stand even 10 secoinds off when someone takes the guitar tab paper away from you.

Because you didn’t memorize the song on your own mind.

But when you practice a song without a guitar tab and commit yourself that you will learn songs entirely by memory. The magic happens and you are getting memorize the song quickly with every passing practice schedule.

And it help you master the guitar.

3. Improvisation

When you start practicing without any guitar tabs and notations, I bet from the first day you will noitcie the improvement in certain things such as,

  • using the different type of effects
  • Familiar with changed tempo
  • feel free combining leads and rhythm etc..

You mind will begin to observe,

  • How things sound in recording vs real life.
  • The strumming techniques.
  • How to improve the timing
  • And many more things.

And the last word I want to tell you that,

If Tab Writers Can Do it…You Can Also Do?

Whether you grab the tabs from internet or from your buddy, have you ever wondered that from where these all tabs came from?

The fact is its not an automatic process. There are peoples behind making tabs called tab writers. That means those people sit down and listen the songs carefully while trying to duplicate them.

And write them on tabs to share with the world.


Then the question is if they can do it…why not you can do it?

Obviously, you can do it too. You just need to throw away your tab book and listen to the song carefully, observing the pitch perception on your mind while finding the scales on the guitar fret.

With mastering this skill you will be able to say your friends that your are a complete guitarist.

That’ it.

However, if you are struggling in learning guitar, here is a course which I always recommend to my readers.

Try this course and you will wonder how fast your are improving your guitar skills.

Read also,

Share this article on your social circle if you like it and let me know your thoughts about this article by leaving a comment below.

Gautam Roy is a recording engineer and a blogger from India. He loves music, writing, and travelling. He is also an active investor and a successful entrepreneur.

You Might Also Like:

Leave a Comment