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Ok, so I love guitar tab but it’s kinda like sheet music for dummies. Or maybe we should call is sheet music for guitar players! haha, I guess I’m making fun of myself here!

Tab or ‘tablature’ as it’s derived from, is a form of learning songs on the guitar using skills that we’ve had since grade school – LINES AND NUMBERS! furthermore, just like a book, we read tab left to right. So can ya handle the heat?







So here is the trick for tab that will be the only confusing thing ever…We hold the guitar upside down to read it. Yup, that’s right!

So notice the string names that I’ve listed there. Let’s note there are 6 strings on the guitar and 6 lines there for you. Got that?

Now we’ve got the biggest string and the smallest string, right? Well, both those resonate the frequency that represents an E note, so we call them both the E strings (although one obviously sounds higher than the other AKA an octave).

ok, did you notice I have a capital E and a smaller case e? Yup, one is the big string and one is the small string.

So, see what I mean when I say that when you’re playing guitar you have to flip the guitar upside down (so that the strings face you) in order for the tab on your screen/paper to line up with the appropriate big E and small e?

Now, if you’re saying: “Will, you’re confusing me, I thought tab was supposed to be easy?” Well it is, you’re gonna love me for this! Trust me!

Ok, the lines are handled. Now the numbers –

The numbers represent what fret you play on the guitar. If this is beyond your comprehension – stop here, sign up for my mailing list or like my facebook page and I’ll send you a FREE video on all your technique you need to know with your left and right hand. This includes a run-down on the guitar, what the frets are are how to place your fingers into the frets.

Ok, simply put, the numbers, the 1,2,3’s represent which fret you put your finger(s) on.








If you put your finger on the 5th fret of the big E string, you nailed it! Nice work!

ok what about now?







Ok, big step here. We’ve got 4 separate notes here. Now remember read left to right, just like a book. The big thing here is to make the switch to the 3rd fret of the A string.

Ok and the whole riff – SEVEN NATION ARMY BY THE WHITE STRIPES! (in the key of A)







Did you stumble on 0? Just think of ‘zero’ as being O for open! So that would mean just play the A string but don’t fret anything on that string.

Now what fingers are you using? That’s a trick question because this is the biggest thing that tab DOESN’T show you – it’s what finger to play. With a bit of experience you will learn what fingers work better and what order to put them in. Just remember this for now – use the fingers that allow you to play the notes in the easiest, and laziest way possible.

Yup, I want you to be lazy! You want to use the fingers that require the least amount of work and allow your fingers to line up in the smoothest order.

So let’s take this again, WITH the appropriate fingers (it’s the only way you’ll get this riff up to speed)





A———-3-(first finger)————————————————-

E–5 -5 (use your ring finger for all these notes)—5–3 (1st finger)–1 (first finger)—0—–

So, do you see now how nicely your fingers line up? You don’t have to move your hand around too much once you employ other fingers.

Some other great riffs to learn on tab are:

  1. Nirvana – come as you are
  2. Heart – crazy on you
  3. Deep purple – smoke on the water (see if you can find the 1 string beginner version for this)
  4. Rage against the machine – bulls on parade
  5. Jimi Hendrix – hey joe (the riff! not the intro or the chords)
  6. basslines: Another one bites the dust

Anyways, there are countless. Just start searching on google like “come as your are tab”. Beware, that there is a lot of bad info on the internet, and tab is no exception!

Happy tab hunting! If I can help you with a video-call lesson or one of my video products, be sure to let me know through my site! 

Here to help. Keep on rippin it up!

-Will Ripley

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