If you want to know how to read guitar tabs, you should first understand the basics of guitar strings and frets...
Many a time, beginners avoid learning to read guitar tablature just because the tabs seem a lot complicated at first. Those wanting to read guitar tabs should first understand the fundamentals in the diagrams of guitar chords. Once you are familiar with the basics of reading guitar tablature you can play any chord with simply referring to the particular tab.
Guitar Tabs for Beginners
In simple words, a guitar tab is a diagram of six parallel horizontal lines which represent six strings of a guitar: acoustic or electric. On each of the strings there are specific numbers or symbols. The numbering on strings tell you on which fret you have to place the fingers of your fretting hand.
If there is a '0' shown on any string, it means you should play that particular string open without placing your finger on the fretboard. If there is an 'X' shown on any string you are told to mute that string with your strumming hand or not to play the string at all. Let us take an example of the 'C' chord, which will help you better understand the concept.
In the further diagram or tab (you must refer to it before reading this paragraph) of the 'C' major chord, there is a '0' shown on the 1st 'e' string, which means that the string has to be played open.
On the 2nd 'B' string, the number '1' shows that you need to press the string on the 1st fret of the fretboard. On the third string, that has the 'G' open sound, the number shown is '0', which simply means the string is to be openly played.
You have to press the 4th 'D' string on the second fret on the fretboard. The 5th 'A' string has to be pressed on the third fret, whereas the last 6th 'E' string has to be muted or not played at all. This is what makes a complete 'C' chord on an electric or acoustic guitar.
When it comes to understanding guitar tabs, symbols are as important as the numberings. Along with the numbers on the strings, there would also be certain alphabets and symbols which direct you to use specific techniques of playing the guitar. Few common techniques are mentioned here.
A hammer-on is a technique that relates to a note being produced by plucking a string, and using another fretting finger to press on a different fret on the same string. It is symbolized as an 'h' on the guitar tab. In a hammer-on, two sounds can be produced by a single pluck.
Tapping is another good technique that is used for producing fast guitar solos. It is similar to a hammer-on but does not include any plucking. You simply have to keep tapping points on the fretboard with either hands, without plucking any string. It is symbolized as a 't' on the guitar tab.
In this technique, you have to play a note and bend the string to vary the tone, without taking the finger off the string. It is symbolized as a 'b' on the guitar tab.
A slide up is symbolized as a '/' on the guitar tab. It directs you to play a note on a fret and slide the fretting finger to any succeeding fret. You should not take the finger off the string, but just slide it on the same string onto any further fret.
A slide down is symbolized as a '\' on the guitar tab. The concept in this technique is right opposite to a 'slide up'. In a slide down, you slide the finger to any preceding fret on the fretboard.
These are just a very few techniques and symbols shown on guitar tablatures. There are many more complex ones, which you will get to learn once you are well acquainted with the basics and if you continue your guitar lessons.
For those wondering how to read guitar tabs online, there are several websites which will provide you with the advanced tabs you want to learn. Once you learn these techniques, you can easily read bass guitar tabs, as there is no difference between the fundamentals of the tablatures of a rhythm guitar and a bass guitar.