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How to Read Guitar Tabs & Chord Boxes for Beginners in 15 Minutes!

fender guitar model

So, you want to learn how to read tabs?

Let me guess, you recently purchased your first guitar and you want to learn how to play some songs.

The only problem is……

You can’t read tabs

Well, you are in luck!


In this article, I will show you how to read tabs.

And as a bonus, I included 25 easy guitar songs to learn. These songs were some of the first songs I learned how to play on the guitar.

These beginner guitar tabs include, Green Day, Arctic Monkeys, Rolling Stones and many other huge bands.

Learn the songs and impress your friends!


If you are looking for the best place to learn the guitar, check out JamPlay.

They have many of these songs on their website as lessons. While tab is a great way to learn how to play songs, video lessons are the best. Learn from the best instructors on the web, click here.

JamPlay Fingerpicking Guitar

Needing a new guitar?

Check out Guitar Center. They have an amazing lineup of acoustic and electric guitars that can help you play the songs below. They have assistance available if you need any help finding a sweet new axe. 

Guitar Center Fingerstyle Guitars

Everything YOU Need to Know About Chord Boxes and Tabs

Reading Chord Boxes

Before being able to read tablature, you should be comfortable about reading chord boxes. Essentially, a chord box shows you where to place your fingers to play a chord. In a chord box, the six lines represent the six strings on a guitar. EADGBE.

The Horizontal lines represent the different frets on the guitar.

Each of the dots represents the different places where your fingers are supposed to be. The number inside corresponds to what finger is supposed to be used.

1: Index Finger

2: Middle Finger

3: Ring Finger

4: Little Finger

The O above a string means that you should play the string.

The X above a string means that you shouldn’t play the string.

C Chord Box

Reading Tab

TAB is a specific way of representing notes for a guitar. It is significantly easier to read than written notation.

TAB has six horizontal lines which represent the six strings on a standard guitar. The top represents the first string(e) and the bottom represents the sixth string(E)

The number on a horizontal line represents the fret that should be played. A 0 represents playing an open string.

Example guitar notes for songs

Hammer On and Pull Offs

There are multiple ways to represent hammer on and pull offs. Probably the most common way is to have an h between notes for a hammer on and a p for a pull off.

An alternative method is using ^ for both a hammer on and a pull off.

Bends

The most common way to represent bends in tabs is to use b followed by the note you want to emulate.

For example, 2b4 means you would bend the second fret to sound like the fourth fret.

Slides

A slide is represented as / and  the / represents sliding up the fretboard, the represents sliding down the fretboard.

Muted Notes

A muted note is represented as an X

Vibrato

A vibrato is represented as a v

Finger Tapping

Finger tapping is noted with a t

Harmonics

Harmonics are represented by <fret>

Switch your ears on too

What people have the most problem with in tabs is how long a note needs to be held down for. The only way to solve this problem is to listen to the song and hear how long a particular note is played. Then when you look back at the tab, you should have a general idea about how long a specific not should be played for. 

Fonts for TAB (and what to do if it looks weird!)

When you copy and paste a tab, it might end up looking all messy and disorganized. You may want to change your font to Courier New. The tab now should line up and look organized

Should I learn to read notation or is TAB ok?

It is not necessary to learn notated music.

While you should eventually learn it, unless you play jazz or classical music it’s not worth the time for a general guitar player.

The time spent learning how to read notated music is better off spent practicing and improving skills such as speed and endurance.

You are welcome to learn it though, but as a hobby player it isn’t worth the time. It is your call though!


25 Easy Guitar Tabs

1. Albert King - Sky Is Crying

Year: 1969

Album: Years Gone By

Tuning:  E standard

Tab 

2. Alice in Chains - Man in the Box

Year: 1990

Album: Facelift

Tuning: Eb Standard

Tab

3. Arctic Monkeys - Do I Wanna Know?

Year: 2013

Album: AM

Tuning: E Standard

Tab

4. Blur - Song 2

Year: 1997

Album: Blur

Tuning: Drop D

Tab

5. Bon Jovi - It's My Life

Year: 2000

Album: Crush

Tuning: E Standard

Tab

6. Bring Me The Horizon - True Friends

Year: 2015

Album: That's the Spirit

Tuning: Drop D

Tab

7. Bryan Adams - Summer of 69

Year: 1984

Album: Reckless

Tuning: E standard

Tab

8. Def Leppard - Pour Some Sugar On Me

Year: 1987

Album: Coyote Ugly

Tuning: E Standard

Tab

9. Evanescence - Bring Me To Life

Year: 2003

Album: Fallen

Tuning: Drop D

Tab

10. Everclear - Father Of Mine

Year: 1997

Album: So Much for the Afterglow

Tuning: E standard

Tab

11. Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out

Year: 2004

Album: Franz Ferdinand

Tuning: E Standard

Tab

12. Green Day - Basket Case

Year: 1994

Album:  Dookie

Tuning: Eb standard

Tab

13. Jarvis Cocker - Angela

Year: 2009

Album: Further Complications

Tuning: E standard

Tab

14. Judas Priest - Breaking The Law

Year: 1980

Album: British Steel

Tuning: E standard

Tab

15. Linkin Park - What I've Done

Year: 2007

Album: Minutes to Midnight

Tuning: Drop D

Tab

16. Marilyn Manson - Sweet Dreams

Year: 1995

Album: Smells Like Children

Tuning: E Standard

Tab

17. Pixies - Where is my Mind?

Year: 1988

Album: Surfer Rosa

Tuning: E Standard

Tab

18. R.E.M. - Everybody Hurts

Year: 1992

Album: Automatic for the People

Tuning: E standard

Tab

19. Ramones-Blitzkrieg Bop

Year: 1976

Album: Ramones

Tuning: E standard

Tab

20. The Rolling Stones - (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

Year: 1965

Album: Out of Our Heads

Tuning: E standard

Tab

21. The Black Keys - Next Girl

Year: 2010

Album: Brothers

Tuning: E Standard

Tab

22. The Cure - Boys Don't Cry

Year: 1980

Album: Boys Don't Cry

Tuning: E standard

Tab

23. The Lumineers - Ho Hey

Year: 2012

Album: The Lumineers

Tuning: E standard

Tab

24. The Kinks - Lola

Year: 1970

Album: Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One

Tuning: E standard

Tab

25. The White Stripes - Seven Nation Army

Year: 2003

Album: Elephant

Tuning: E standard

Tab


Thanks for checking out the list!

If you are struggling to learn any of these songs, check out JamPlay. Their teachers can and will help you learn through the best guitar teaching videos on the internet. 

Why struggle try learning from tab, when you can learn from a professional guitarist?

JamPlay has a 7-day money back guarantee so if it’s not for you, claim a refund and get your money back.

Don’t sit back and procrastinate learning guitar, learn from the best at no risk. I would 100% recommend JamPlay to both beginners and experts as it can cater to both needs.

Check it out today and further your guitar journey.

JamPlay is one of the best resources on the Internet for guitarists to learn the instrument. There are endless video lessons of songs and techniques from the best players around.

It is a virtual community filmed and recorded with the most professional quality and right now All Axess has a partnership for a free trial. Head on over to Jamplay.com to peruse their materials and get your free trial now!


If you are looking for a new guitar check out Guitar Center. They have the best prices on all the main brands.

Whether you are looking for an electric, acoustic or bass guitar they have you covered.

Their staff is friendly and are more than capable of helping you out for all your needs!




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