How to read Guitar and Uke Tablature

Here is a quick easy guide on how to read tablature for Guitar, Ukulele or any stringed instrument!


Jace Snel

3/25/20232 min read

person reading musical note
person reading musical note

How to Read Guitar and Ukulele Tablature: A quick Beginner's Guide

A quick guide on how to read guitar tablature or "tab" for short. Including the placements on the strings and symbol meanings!

Tablature, or simply "tab," is a popular way for guitarists and ukulele players to read and write music. Unlike traditional sheet music, tablature uses a visual representation of the instrument's strings and frets to indicate where to place your fingers. If you're new to playing guitar or ukulele, reading tab can be a helpful tool to learn new songs and practice techniques. Plus, most of the music you will find on the internet is written in tab these days. In this beginner's guide, we'll go over the basics of how to read guitar and ukulele tablature.

Understanding the Basics

  • Tablature is made up of a series of horizontal lines that represent each string of the guitar or ukulele. EADGBe for the Guitar and GCEA for the Ukulele.

  • The top line represents the highest-pitched string, and the bottom line represents the lowest-pitched string. An easy way to remember is that the closest line to your eyes when you're reading is also the closest string to your eyes when playing.

  • The numbers on the lines indicate which fret to play on that string. For example, if there is a "0" on the top line, that means to play the open string. If there is a "3" on the second line, that means to play the third fret on the second string)

Understanding the tablature symbols

In addition to numbers, tablature also uses symbols to indicate specific techniques or effects. Some common symbols include:

  • / or \ : Slide up or down to the designated fret

  • h : Hammer-on

  • p : Pull-off

  • x : Mute the string

  • ~ : Vibrato or bend the string

  • b : Bend the string to the designated pitch

  • r: Release the bend

  • (n): Play a note on the designated fret with your left hand while simultaneously tapping the string above the designated fret with your right hand.

Practice Reading Tab

The best way to get better at reading tab is to practice! Start by finding some simple songs with easy tablature, and try to play along. As you become more comfortable reading tab, you can move on to more complex songs and techniques.

Use Online Resources

There are plenty of online resources available for guitar and ukulele tablature. Sites like Ultimate Guitar and Songsterr offer tabs for thousands of songs, and you can also find tabs for specific techniques and exercises.

Reading guitar and ukulele tablature can be a great way to learn new songs and practice your skills. With a little bit of practice and patience, you'll be able to read and write tab like a pro!