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Reading Tablature

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This series of exercises teaches you about playing scales. Begin by learning to read tablature, or "tabs", which is a similar process to reading a chord chart.

Goal: Understand the symbols on a line of tab.


  1. Horizontal lines represent strings. String 1 is at the top of the tab.
  2. Numbers on the tab tell you what fret to play.
  3. Numbers below the tab tell you what fingers to use.
  4. Pick direction is also indicated.
  5. Don't strum all of the strings; only pluck the note or notes indicated.

Tab of the A minor Pentatonic Scale

Tab of the A minor pentatonic scale


  • Lesson 1: Say the finger, string, fret, and pick direction for the first note. Get that note ready on the guitar. Pluck that one note only.
  • Lesson 2: Repeat lesson 1 for the other notes in the tab.
  • Lesson 3: Play along with the video to check your work.

Final Thoughts

Many people look down on reading tablature because they see it as a way to cheat instead of reading music. Though learning to read standard notation is extremely important, so is tab. Various forms of tablature have existed for hundreds of years, has been used by many great guitar composers, and even communicates certain ideas more clearly than standard notation.

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