How To Play On Guitar TabsPosted by Mike Schuck
When starting out as a guitarist, one of the hardest things is learning how to play guitar tabs. They are way too complex for most people!
Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to this. You can learn how to read music notation using natural language. This article will help you do that!
Reading musical notes using natural language
You can start reading music by understanding the basics of treble (high) and bass (low) notes. These two notes make up what we call a pitch.
By raising or lowering the pitch of your voice, you can create different sounds. By adding extra bits between each note, melodies can be built.
In this article, I’ll teach you how to read music using only treble and bass clefs! If you're already familiar with these, then you’re one step ahead.
Learn the chord chart
The first thing you will need to do is learn the guitar chords for your song! This can be done in one of two ways: by learning the root, or by learning the chord chart.
To start with, know that there are eight positions in music where a note can go. These include the treble clef (think piano), bass clef (bass) and five different types of staff (guitar, violin, cello, harp and double bongos). Each position has its own unique set of notes that it contains.
With the exception of the bass position, every position begins with an open string which then gets fingered as part of a chord. For instance, the third position has a A string under the index finger, a G string next to it, and a D string under the middle finger. When these three strings are all pressed down together, they form a major second interval, which is what the chord name comes from.
The chord chart lists the names of each position along with the notes within that position so you can look up which chord a position contributes to.
Practice playing along with the chord chart
Chords are one of the most fundamental parts of guitar music. Learning how to play chords is an essential skill for any guitarist!
There are several different types of chords that you can learn how to play, but our best advice is to start by learning some basic open position chords. These are typically your first or second position chords that use no finger placement as opposed to other positions like barre (where we press onto the next note with our index fingers) and root position (one where we use our index fingers to hit the notes).
Practice playing these chords out slowly until you feel comfortable with them. Once you do then move on to easier shapes such as major, minor, and seventh chords. It’s very common to find beginner musicians struggling with their third chords (A-major, G-minor, etc.) because they cannot figure out what fingering to use.
Learn the lyrics
Even if you are very familiar with the song, it is still important to know how the music sets up for each verse or chorus. By learning the lyrics, you will be able to start playing the guitar tab more easily!
There are many great resources available free of cost and online communities that can help you do this. Many people have YouTube videos that feature them singing along as they play through the songs so that you can learn from that too!
By doing this, you will quickly be able to pick up the basics of reading music tabs.
Learn the melody
The second way to play an x chord is by learning the main scale note of the chord along with the root position of the chord. In this case, the main scale tone is A so you would need to know what the A major chord is as well as how to play the A natural third (x) which makes one whole step down from the A tonic or A at the end of a phrase.
This method can also be applied to any key. Simply learn the notes of the corresponding major scale for that key! For example, in the above diagram, the G major scale has notes G, A, B, C, D, E, F so you would have to know what the G major chord is as well as how to play each individual pitch within the chord.
Practice times are very important when developing your guitar skills. When starting out, it is common to struggle finding the right rhythm and music structure for playing chords. This will not change until you practice them frequently.
Learn the bass line
The next part of this lesson will be a little bit different than what you’ve seen so far. We’re going to start off by learning an easy bass line, which is known as the open position bass note. This can be practiced anywhere – even in your own home! - and is very important for guitarists to know.
After we have mastered that, we will move onto another chord structure called the x-position (also referred to as the extended or dragx). In these chords, the third scale degree, or highest string, becomes the new base note instead of the second.
Now, some musicians may call this “extending” the root, but it really doesn't matter how you say it! What matters is that once again, the highest string has been selected as our base. To play this chord, simply place your third finger on the first fret, then press down on the barre with your index finger while lifting the top string up until only one nail sticks out.
Then, pull back on the top string slightly and drop the middle finger onto the neck to create a smooth transition into the bass note, which now sits right on the first fret.
Learn how to read guitar tabs
The next step in learning how to play x on a string is knowing how to read guitar tab. Tab reading is when you know what notes are being played but not necessarily how they are connected together into a song.
Guitar music is often organized by chords, which are built of three or more notes that sound good together. For example, the chord that goes “do-re-mi” (the first note is an octave higher than the second, and both are one tone lower than the third), is called a major chord. Most songs use at least one major chord somewhere in their structure.
When playing a piece with lyrics, it is helpful to be able to recognize which chords contain the lyrics so that you can connect them correctly. Some guitars have buttons or markings for specific chords so that you do not need to look down while playing!
Knowing how to read guitar tabs will also help you make your rhythm more consistent. When there are no words to reference, you may pick any random spot in the song and start counting off beats, making the timing slightly different every time. This effect is very undesirable if you want to learn how to play x on the guitar quickly!
Luckily, most musicians usually organize their songs by the same chord patterns, which makes it easier to identify the appropriate place to stop.
Use a recording of the song to learn it by ear
Many people have made a career off playing songs you already know by sight, or at least by music theory. If you’re looking to advance your guitar skills, this is the best way to go about it!
Playing by ear means just listening to the song and then figuring out how to play it yourself as you hear it.
Most musicians start with basic music theory first (such as learning the notes in a scale or what chords make up a song), but some people feel that music theory is overly academic and difficult to apply in real life.
Using recordings can help you get the basics of playing a song by ear. A studio professional will usually leave enough time for you to figure out the song yourself before mastering it, since they pay attention to such things.
A person doing this is Paul Gilbert – he has recorded many lessons under his name focused on how to play x on a guitar tab.
Use a digital notepad to practice taking notes
The most efficient way to learn how to play any song is by learning the chords first and then figuring out what fingers to use for each chord. Once you have those down, you can move onto practicing your bass line or vocal lines and putting together music theory like scales and modes.
But there’s a big problem with this approach! Most people start by trying to figure out which strings of guitar go with which chords, but many get stuck because there are so many guitars made these days that it can be hard to know which string configuration goes with which chord.
That’s where tab comes in! Tab is just a musical notation form that tells you which strings match which chords. By using tabs, you no longer need to worry about which strings go with which chords- you can focus more on playing songs!
There are two main types of tabs: one uses natural position fingering (also called finger placement) and the other uses alternate positions. Both work well and both are very common.
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