Frequently Asked Questions: an Introduction to Guitar Tablature
1:20 AM 3/17/2006 Sam Johnson

Playing guitar is easy. It is the easiest instrument I've learned, and the most fun to play.

Section 1: Beginner
  [Introduction to Tablature]
  [Roman Numerals]
  [The Power Chord]
  [Light Chord Theory]
  [Barre chords]
      Clarifying the "Capo"
  [Go Tab Something!]

Section 2: Intermediate For more on chord theory, structure and scales.

[Introduction to Tablature]
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Okay, so for those who are completely new to tablature;
    You got six lines;
    -------------              Which represent the 6 strings on a standard guitar,
    -------------             E-A-D-G-B-E.


For those who don't know the notes of the strings then MEMORIZE them (j/k, although it's not that hard. I know them because I used to tab songs from sheet music during my 9th grade english class)

so, it goes like this;
  E-------------1 string
  B-------------2 string
  G-------------3 string
  D-------------4 string
  A-------------5 string
  E-------------6 string

  The 6th string is the thickest and the 1st is the thinnest. Other ways to remember this;

  Holding the [right handed] guitar, look down at the guitar.
The string closest to you is the sixth string.

The string that breaks most often is the 6th string (or all except the first string in my case)

Lowest note= sixth string. Highest note= First string.

  Now, what do the numbers mean?
The numbers mean the fret to put you finger on.

"frets" are the "lines" on a guitar. Look at your guitar, see the lines?

If you don't know what a fret is, then you should go learn the basic terminology of a guitar before playing tabs...



Anyways, for example:


>_< <"oh shit! what the fuck is this doing here?!!?)

question 1 (5 Pts)


                 This note is _____________


("what the fuck is this note?!?!?!"> >_<

D: < I DON'T KNOW!!)

BUT WAIT! let's look at this:


"5 on E.... hmmm... that's 5 1/2-steps from E.. "


CORRECT! YAY! + 5 Exp Points!
You learned Firaga!!!

Anyways, there are usually 23 frets on a guitar (although my friends fender only has 22) and each fret represents a half step up from the note before.

So A----5---- means to play 5 on the A (second) string

if there is a 0, that means to play it that string "0pen."

   b- bend. I don't say how much to bend, because you should just bend it to as much as you feel, because that's what makes bending notes so fun.
   s- slide. There are quite a few scenarios for this. For the following I will use the note "5 on the A string" or D.

----s5---- means slide to 5.

----3-s5--- means play a 3 and then slide to 5

----3s5---- means put your finger on 3, and as soon as you play the note, slide up to 5.

----5s----- means to play a 5 and then slide down

h- hammer You use your finger to hammer a note.

---3h5---- play a 3, then hammer 5. p- pull You keep your hand on one fret, play a note somewhere above it, and then pull the finger (higher up on the neck).

---5p4--- play a 5, then pull to a 4.

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Roman numerals are quintessential in writing out professional tabs, and are just damn handy to know. They usually teach them (or at least should teach them) in grade school...

R.N.    What we usually see them as.
I                 1
II                 2
III                 3
IV                 4
V                 5
VI                 6
VII                 7
VIII or IIX          8
IX                 9
X                 10
XI                 11
XII                 12
XIII                 13
XIV                 14
and so on...             ; ...

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Tuning is rather easy, as long as you got one string that is in tune.

If either E is in tune, you can tune the second E to the same note
(although it will be in a different pitch)

-0- e
-0- E

To tune the rest of the guitar:
(before going into this) I will explain the reason you can do this.
What is a 5 on the first string?
Well, 5 half steps from E.... (E,E# (which=F),F#,G,G#,A)
is the note A. What else is A?... 0 on A of course. So, to tune the A string, play a 5 on E.

--------0-5-- a 5 on B is an 0 on E
------0-4---- a 4 on G is an 0 on B
----0-5------ a 5 on D is an 0 on G
-0--5-------- a 5 on A is an 0 on D
-5----------- a 5 on E is an 0 on A

Notice the pattern? Notice the little change when trying to tune the B? Why is it a 4 instead of a 5? No one really knows why...(actually, someone probably does, but for the time being) I think it's so the first string and the sixth string are both the same note.

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The most useful thing to know are scales. All songs can be broken down into chords, and all chords come from scales.

A most basic of scales is the C scale, simply because it does not have any flats (b) or sharps (#)

    C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C... etc.
In the C scale, An [octave] is the distance between two C notes.
So, it can thus be stated: In the i scale, An [octave] is the distance between two i notes,
where i = any note (A B C D E F G)

It's true. For example, a C7 chord is nothing more then a C chord with the 7th note of the scale added on.
  So, the basic formula for a scale is this;

So, and example is; this scale.

But what's the name? Well...3 on E...that's 3 half steps from E, making it (E, F, F#, G) G. But that's a MAJOR chord. Minor chords are like this;

I forgot the rest, but that's all you need to know. It's the root of all 'sad songs' or songs of angst. Seriously.
There are many other types of scales that I won't go into, Although here's another useful one;
Which is basic blues.

Practicing scales is the best way to get fast, and since most solos are based on a certain scale, it makes playing solos natural.

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Power chords are either chords that people who can't play normal chords play, or they are chords to be played with distortion. Lets face the facts; Playing a full F chord or E chord would sound stupid with heavy distortion.

The basic formula for a power chord is;

And it works for all strings except for G and B;

And why does this always work? Because, whenever you play a note, the note on string up and two frets up is always in the scale. And if a note and X number of notes of the same scale are played, you get a chord. Simple.

Here are some examples;

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People new to guitar will probably not know chords.

I didn't learn chords until about a year into guitar, but it's best learned as more of an add on process, as in, you should learn chords only necessary to songs. Take, for example, the song "Eyes on Me."

[Eyes On Me (Faye Wong)]
C-Am-F-G, C-Em-F-G.
Very, very basic and very good to learn.
The major chords that everyone should eventually know are E,A,F,D,G and the C chord. So I'll list them now;

A Minor is used more then A, so
is useful to learn.

Don't bother learning all the chords at once, or even focusing on chords. Just learn them as you learn songs.

The song that actually got me into chords was Minority by Green Day. That's just C-G-F-G C-G-F-C.

Anyways, if you want to learn more, keep going.

[Light Chord Theory]
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I call this "light" chord theory, because I'm not going to go into all the details of it. Simply because, to be quite honest, I don't know it, nor do I really care to. As a songwriter, it does little good to know chord theory, because just because you don't know the name of a chord doesn't mean you can't play it.
So, we'll use a C as a basic chord.

So, it goes like this:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

And what notes exactly are you playing?
1 on B = C
0 on G = G
2 on D = E
3 on A = C

Please note that in most music notation, roman numerals are used.

Also, note that a "m" is a minor, and "M" is Major. e.g Am = A minor, EM = E Major.

So, the chords played in a major C scale is C E G C...
I III V VIII (1,3,5,8)

Anyways, so what exactly is a C7, Cadd9, Cdim5, etc?
well, in chord theory, the following terminology means:

dim = diminished
aug = augmented
sus = suspended
add = addition

Diminished means that you take whatever number (note)... "diminished" = make it flat (b)

So a Cdim5 would be a CM chord, but with a flat fifth. C D E F G A B C 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

So, make the 5th (the G) b.
so it would be I III Vb VIII (1,3,5,8)
So, to play it, it would go like:

A Cadd9 chord would be the addition of the ninth note in the C scale to the chord, like so:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Add 9, or D.

So it would look like this on a guitar:

because 3 on B is a D.

Other useful terms, used a lot in chord theory: [enharmonic] means that it's the same note, just an octave higher or lower.
-3------- These are all C notes.

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It is possible to take any note anywhere on the guitar and play the chord.

Except for maybe on the last 2 or 3 strings, but only because there are not enough strings to really give it that sound.

But on the first or second string alone, 46 possible chords can be played... how?

Imagine playing an F (1-3-3-2-1-1-) now just keep your fingers where they are and slide your hand up to any fret. You got another chord! E.g.

For those who don't know how to play an F chord here's how most people play it (and although I discourage teaching specific fingers for chords, I'll do it here):

First finger, put in over the first fret of all strings. This is called a BARRE CHORD.
Second finger- 2 on G.
Third finger- 3 on A
Fourth finger- 3 on D

Now, to do a chord on for a note on the A string, it goes like this;

What are the differences? Well, note the 3, 4 or 5 on B. Normally,
it goes (x)-(x+2)-(x+2)-(x-1) but now it's (x)-(x+2)-(x+2)-(x+2). Why?
That damn B string. But what if you try to play it normal? For example

You get a minor chord. This is a common chord, played it many, many songs.

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After playing guitar for quite a bit of time and playing a variety of songs ranging from rock to blues to punk to classical, I've found many common chord changes, many common chords, and the not so common (quite unique) chords. Examples;

random chords!

Example; Common chord changes of punk
---------- --------- ---------- ---------- --------
---------- --------- ---------- ---------- --------
---------- --------- ---------- ---------- --------
--7------- -7------- ---8-10--- --7-9----- --------
--5-7-9-5- -5-9-7-5- -5-6--8-8- --5-7-7-5- -7-5-4--
----5-7-3- ---7-5-3- -3------6- ------5-3- -5-5-5--

Plus many more!

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A capo is a device that, in essence, makes the neck of the guitar shorter... why? I don't know who invented it, but it it, by far, one of the most useful tools a guitarist or songwriter/guitarist can have.

Basically, the capo attaches around the neck of the guitar to make 0 that note, rather than 0 on the guitar.

Most tabbist, at least on a professional level, tend to assume you understand that a CM (C Major) played standard (x32010), as opposed to a C played with a capo (ex: capo I = x43121), is still the CM chord in structure. Special emphasis on STRUCTURE. Also, ROMAN NUMERALS.

For example:
[Clarifying a Capo]

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Anyways, my best advice is not to go out and try to learn everything, but to learn stuff as it comes at you.

Especially: play what you are interested in!

Is there a certain song you would love to play? Well, learn it.

Learn the song, but I would suggest not becoming obssessed with the chords in the song!

By just learning the song, you indirectly learn the chords, but it doesn't seem so "something you gotta study" thing.

A lot of things I know about guitar were learned over time. I don't like the standard guitar teachers because they would probably teach you hammer and pulls, then scales, then chords, then songs. I say the first step is to learn a song, and almost all songs are easy to play, it's just the speed that throws some people off.

Although, on an interesting note, all songs can be broken down into scales and chords on the guitar... although, there are so many scales!

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Tabbing is a skill that will greatly increase your own skills. Why? It's the playing by ear. I've tabbed over 100 anime songs and even more punk/ other songs. After tabbing songs, you start to recognize common chord changes.

Written by SJ ( AKA The guy who thinks he's halfway decent at guitar. 2:13 AM 3/17/2006