How To Read Guitar Tabs and Chord Boxes
One of the major benefits of learning guitar (other than the fact that it sounds absolutely awesome) is the fact that you really don’t have to learn sheet music unless you want to. In fact, there are plenty of top guitarists out there who have never even looked at a piece of sheet music. It is baffling to them. Why? Because guitars benefit from something known as guitar tab and chord boxes. You can actually learn these as a beginner, and they are not too difficult to understand either. On this page, we are going to take a little look at how you can read the two.
These, as the name suggests, will tell you how to play certain chords. Let me show you a sample chord box. This is for the D chord, one of the first chords you are ever going to learn how to play when you pick up a guitar:
This should be fairly self-explanatory. But, let’s break it down a little bit, so there is no uncertainty. When you read a chord chart, you will need to consider the following: so there is no uncertainty. When you read a chord chart, you will need to consider the following:
- The line on the left represents the thickest string on the guitar i.e. the top string (an E). The line on the right represents the thinnest string on the guitar. This is the e. The lines in between are A D G and B. In that order.
- The line at the top will be the ‘end’ of the guitar by the nut. This isn’t always the case. If you are meant to play slightly higher up the neck, then there will be a small number which dictates the playing position.
- The horizontal lines dictate the frets. Basically, the look is going to be exactly the same as your fret board, so it should not be tricky to decipher at all. You just compare the look of your guitar to the look of your fret board. It is that simple!
- The guitar chord chart is going to highlight exactly where you need to put your fingers. As you can see from this chart, the first finger needs to go on the G string on the second fret. Your second finger will need to go on the e string on the second fret, and your third finger will need to go on the B string of the third fret. This should be fairly easy to accomplish.
- Right on the nut of the guitar (i.e. the top line) you will see either an X or an O. This will tell you the exact strings that you need to play in order to get the sound. If there is an X, you do not play that string. If there is an O, you play it open (i.e. no finger there). Obviously, you are going to play the string that your fingers are pushed down upon.
Here is a chord chart of some of the most popular guitar chords out there. If you can nail these, then you are well on your way towards becoming an accomplished guitarist:
Reading Guitar Tab
Nailing guitar chords are only half of the battle. As brilliant as they are, they don’t really help you to punch out those gut-busting solos and those individual notes. This is where guitar tab comes into play. If you are learning songs from the internet, then it is likely that they will be given in guitar tab form. Once again, guitar tab is going to be very simple to learn. Let’s start with a guitar tab sample.
This is the pentatonic scale in E minor. It is one of the most important scales that you can learn. You will notice it a lot (often in different keys) when you are learning the guitar. It is, therefore, important that you learn this. It is simple to play too, which makes it perfect for those who are just learning tab. It is worth noting that the sheet music will not always appear above the tab. In fact, it very rarely is going to appear above the tab. It just does in our example.
When you are playing tab, you need to remember the following:
- The top line is your e string. As you will probably remember, this is the thinnest string on the guitar. The bottom line is your E string. So, basically, when you look at tab it is going to look EXACTLY like you are looking at the fret board, albeit ‘upside down.’
- The number on the tab will be the fret number that you place your finger at. So, for example, if the number is ten then you put your finger at the 10th fret on the corresponding string.
- Any string which does not have a number will not be played. If the string has an 0 on it, that means it will be played on an open string.
It is actually really that simple to play tab. In this example, you will play the E string on the 12th fret, followed by the E string on the 10th fret. Then the 12th fret on the A string, and then the 10th fret on the same string etc. Have a little bit of a play with it, and you should be okay.
Just to wrap up this section, I want to show you how the D chord would look on the tab as opposed to a guitar chart.
When numbers appear in the same ‘chunk,’ you will play all of those notes at the same time. The only real down side to guitar tab, at least in comparison to chord charts, is the fact that there is no real indication as to which fingers go where on the fretboard. However, as you become more and more experienced as a player, your muscle memory will start to kick in. It will very much become second nature at that point!