Howdy Friend! I noticed you out here on the internet looking lonely, so I decided to share some of my experience with reading a guitar tab! I know, how kind of me right? It really isn’t a big deal pal, and by the end of this (very excellent) post, you will be reading tabs like a uhm…, like a librarian? So get ready for today’s answer to How To Read Guitar Tabs.
I will tell you that I learned how to read tabs by going through actual songs that I like (so I have an idea of what the song “should” sound like). All you need to do is understand the symbols (which are basic) and then you will be set for success!
What The Heck Is It? – The Cheat Sheet For The Masses
Let’s face it most people are lazy (I’m a people, so I know!). That is why someone very clever made a way for the more efficient (lazy), individual to read musical formulae than sheet music. Sheet music is pretty cool, but let’s face it most people (especially casual players) probably won’t be devoting a whole lot of time to learning sheet music.
A Guitar Tab or more formally Guitar Tablature (if you’re feeling fancy) is one of the fastest ways I use to learn a song I like. Once you get used to the layout and instructions given by the symbols its easy as pie! The best way to learn songs and train your musical skill is to learn songs by listening to them and figuring out the notes and playing them again.
The tab is instrumental (hehe) in building up your confidence and skill level until you reach that point. Tabs allow you to quickly learn songs because they use a simple layout which is very easy to get used to, so don’t be scared away by anything on them that looks complicated because chances are you probably already know how to do them.
Some Good Advice – If I Do Say So Myself!
Take it slow! You owe it to yourself! If you rush anything most of the time you will fail, which can make you develop negative feelings towards a certain subject (like mathematics!). Always start slow, even if you are playing Happy Birthday! Here are a few helpful steps to help you succeed:
- Make sure your guitar is in tune. (with tuner, without a tuner)
- Listen to the song and try to hear every note (If its a long song for you, do it in sections)
- Look at the tab only after listening to the song at least once
- Play every note extremely slowly, clearly and confidently without making any mistakes (that’s how slow you should go.)
- (if you play a chord try to play all the notes in the chord together and make sure they are all clear unless the song dictates otherwise)
- Once you have played the song slowly, and without mistakes slowly increase the speed until you reach the actual speed of the song.
- Play the song again checking that all your notes are still correct and clear.
- Play along with the original song an be amazed!
A General Tip For Success – You’ll Thank Me Later!
Take as much time as you need. The guitar is sort of like driving around a track in a really nice car. If you slow down in the right place you can actually decrease your lap time (which is good). Likewise for guitar playing, taking things slowly at the beginning can set you to learn much faster than you normally would.
This effect is also cumulative for your skill in general. It is a skill that can snowball to the point that you can look at a tab once, remember all the notes, play them in your head, pick up your guitar and proceed to play a song you have never even heard before (based on a quality tab of course!)
A step up from this would be hearing a song, recognising the notes, chords and scales, “writing” the tab in your head and then being able to replay the song all within minutes of hearing a song for the first time. The reason this is possible is that most songs (especially pop songs) are very simple. The more you practise, the better you become.
This may seem absurd, but as you play the guitar, your pattern recognition skill may increase and you will notice common scales, notes and chords and how they relate from experience as opposed to theory (which a lot of people don’t like for some reason)
Put It On Your Tab! – Play Around
You now finally know how to read guitar tabs. This will allow you to learn virtually any song you want without learning sheet music (which can be a bit intense). I would encourage you to mess around with your own tab. Just write some numbers down and add some hammer-ons, a few slides or a bit of vibrato and then play what you wrote.
Even if it sounds terrible now, I think this is a very good step to get you more confidence when reading other peoples tabs. Another important thing to remember is that tabs are generally made by the common man (and woman) out there just like you ( and yes I did just call you common, but in a nice way :).
That is important to remember because people hear and reproduce the songs in tabs differently. That means if a particular part of a tab sounds off, wrong, not the way the band plays it or not the way you like it you can feel free to change it. If you’re brave enough and 100% sure that a mistake has been made you can even suggest an edit for most tabs.
Go For It! – Your Time Is Now!
I hope this post has shed more light on the topic of How To Read Guitar Tabs. If you haven’t already please check out How To Read Guitar Tabs – (Part 1) – Straight To the Point for the no-nonsense step by step guide to reading guitar tabs. Please comment below with any thoughts, opinions, questions or just to say hello!
Happy reading friends, until our next encounter!