A Guitar tablature at the most simple form,  gives you the finger-position (which frets to press).

These are some examples of the finger-position information on a tablature.

Example 1


E bass

open strings

Tablature has 6 horizontal lines. Each one represents one string of the guitar.

Observe, that: 

  • The bottom tablature line represents the E bass of the guitar. (Ebass, A, D, Sol, B, E)

  • A number on a  tablature line, instructs which fret to press on the corresponding string while 0 is the open string.

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Example 2


If we just are aware of the finger-position (which frets to press), then we may be capable to play the song IF we know it by ear, or if we have an audio file of the song to study along.

In this case the simple form tablature is enough.

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Example 3 standard music stave And tablature

But ff we have never heard the song, then the finger position knowledge is not good enough - we should also know WHEN to press the frets, that is we also need the time information.

Here, we combine the simple form tab with  standard music notation (music stave).

The tablature number shows which fret to press.

On the music stave we see the notes duration, while the numbers suggests which fingers to use and we also have the barre indications. 


+ mp3

Clearly, we may use this combination (tab and music stave) IF we have a little knowledge of standard music notation. If this is the case, then we have a working solution.

If we do not know anything on standard music notation, then we may use a tablature form with some kind of time information. These forms are more complicated and some of them use elements of the standard music notation as in this example (Annie Laurie) :


Observe how the regular tablature numbers are enriched with lines as the music notes have.

There are also many tablature forms with spaces (}-------4----3 -----0 |)  between numbers. More spaces or more disctance between notes, mean more time for that notes.

Because this type of tablature, is difficult to use, we rarely use them here at musicBooknet - especially on Bach's works or works with an increased rhythm complexity.

At most cases we use the standard music stave with tablature and the audio file to help those guitarists with little or none music notation knowledge !


(from wikipedia)

Example of numeric vihuela tablature from the book "Orphenica Lyra" by Miguel de Fuenllana (1554). Red numerals (original) mark the vocal part.

If, in 16th century,  they could read this type of multi-information tablature, then we certainly are at a more convenient position !