If you can read tab you’ll be able to pick up new musical things much faster on the guitar, without having to read traditional music scores.

So if you don’t already know how to read tab, check out the video and lesson below.

You’ll learn how to read tab and what all the different symbols mean...

If you’d like to get a PDF download of this lesson, click the button below:

The Lines & Numbers

The 6 horizontal lines represent the strings with the low E string below and the high E string above.

The numbers that are placed on the lines are the frets you need to fret on a particular string and a 0 indicates an open string. So here we have the 2nd fret on an A string indicated by the number 2 on the 5th line, and an open D string with a 0 on the 4th line:

And this is what an ascending and descending C major scale in the open position will look like:

If you have numbers grouped together like this, then it means all the notes are played simultaneously like this C major chord:

The Strokes

The square-shaped symbol indicates a downstroke and the v-shaped symbol indicates an upstroke. They can be used for both picking and strumming.



The Rhythms

It’s possible to add rhythms to tab without the use of a traditional stave. The stems look the same as traditional notes, except we replace the note heads with tab.

Two bars of two half notes looks like this:

Two bars of quarter notes looks like this:

Two bars of eighth notes looks like this:

Two bars of sixteenth notes looks like this:

The Articulation Symbols

Hammer Ons & Pull Offs

Collectively these are known as slurs and are shown with a curved line.

Hammer ons example:

Pull offs example:


Slides are illustrated with a straight line connecting two notes:

String Bending

String bending can be shown in one of two ways...

The US way makes use of arrows with the distance of the bend indicated on the tab.

The UK way places the note we’re bending into between two brackets, and adds either a “bu” (indicating a bend up in pitch), or a “bd” (indicating a bend down in pitch) above the notes. The distance of the bend is obvious when you look at the preceding note.


Vibrato is illustrated with a squiggly line like this:

The Text

“Let Ring” means that all the notes should be ringing over each other:

“PM” is short for palm muting:

“capo 2nd fret” means you need to place a capo on the second fret. This means that all 0’s on the tab will be referring to the open ringing strings at the second fret:

“pima” relates to your fingerpicking hand:

‘p’ stands for the thumb; ‘i’ for the index finger; ‘m’ for the middle finger; and ‘a’ for the ring finger. Sometimes you may see a ‘t’ which stands for the pinky finger.

The Shapes

An X placed on the string represents muted notes where you mute the string with the fretting hand and strike the strings with the strumming hand:

They’re also used to indicate rakes like this:

When you place a circle around a note it indicates a tapped note:

When you place a diamond around a note it indicates a harmonic:

If you’d like to get a PDF download of this lesson, just click the button below: