How To Write Tabs For Guitar

How To Write Tabs For Guitar

Have you ever wanted to share your favorite guitar tunes with friends but didn’t know how to write them down? Writing guitar tabs is like drawing a map for your fingers on the guitar.

To write tabs for guitar, transcribe the melody by assigning fret numbers to the appropriate strings in the tab format and include symbols to indicate specific playing techniques.

In this article, we’re going to learn how to create these maps so you can share any song you play. Get ready to become a guitar tab expert and spread the music!

How To Write Tabs For Guitar – Write Down the Melody

Transcribing the Notes Played

Transcribing the notes played on a guitar into tabs involves careful listening and identifying each note. Start by listening to the melody (or playing it) several times, focusing on one note at a time. Use a guitar to find and match the note being played or pay close attention to what you are playing.

Once identified, write the fret number on the appropriate string line in the tablature. It’s helpful to break the song into smaller sections and work on one part at a time. Remember, patience is key – it might take several takes to get each note right.

Communicating How to Play the Notes

When writing tabs, it’s important to communicate not just what notes to play, but how to play them. Indicate hand positions and finger movements clearly. For instance, denote which finger should press which fret, especially in complex chords or fast passages.

Utilize symbols like ‘h’ for hammer-ons, ‘p’ for pull-offs, or ‘/’ for slides, to guide the guitarist on the technique required. This level of detail helps in replicating the exact style and feel of the song.

Adding Timing and Strum Patterns

Integrating timing into guitar tabs can be challenging, as standard tablature doesn’t show rhythm. To convey timing, use text annotations or combine tabs with standard musical notation.

For strumming patterns, indicate the direction of the strum using arrows or symbols. Upward and downward arrows can represent upstrokes and downstrokes. For more complex rhythms, consider writing a brief note about the strumming pattern or the timing above the tab.


In guitar tablature, several common symbols are used to convey musical techniques. For example, ‘h’ stands for hammer-on, where you play a note and then hammer onto a higher note without plucking again. ‘p’ is for pull-off, the opposite of a hammer-on.

A slide is indicated by ‘/’, sliding from one fret to another. Bends are denoted by ‘b’, and muted notes are shown with an ‘x’. Understanding these symbols is crucial as they provide specific instructions on how to play a piece, adding expression and style to the music.

Tab Tips

When creating guitar tabs, clarity is key. Use a consistent layout and ensure that your tab is easy to read at a glance. Avoid overcrowding the tab with too much information; only include necessary details.

A common mistake is not aligning numbers properly under each string, which can make the tab hard to follow. Also, be sure to indicate the tuning if it’s different from standard tuning. Remember, a good tab should make learning the piece as straightforward as possible.

3 Exercises

  • Transcribing a Simple Melody: Choose a simple melody or riff you’re familiar with and try to transcribe it into a tab. Play the melody slowly on your guitar, identify each note, and write it down. This exercise helps in developing listening skills and understanding note placement on the fretboard.
  • Incorporating Techniques: Take a basic chord progression and write a tab incorporating different playing techniques like hammer-ons, pull-offs, or slides. Practice playing and modifying it, focusing on the accuracy of the techniques.
  • Creating Rhythmic Patterns: Choose a strumming pattern and try to tab it out, using arrows or symbols to indicate strum direction. This exercise is beneficial for understanding how to convey rhythm in tabs, which is often a challenge.


How do you make guitar tab notes?

Creating guitar tab notes starts with identifying the notes played on each string and assigning them a corresponding fret number. Listen to the melody and find each note on the guitar.

Write the fret number on the appropriate string line in the tab. For chords, place the fret numbers of each played string vertically aligned. Use symbols like ‘h’ for hammer-ons or ‘p’ for pull-offs to indicate specific techniques. Consistency and accuracy are key in making effective tab notes.

How are tabs written?

Tabs are written using six horizontal lines representing the six strings of the guitar, with the top line denoting the highest-pitched string (high E) and the bottom the lowest-pitched (low E). Numbers on these lines represent frets: ‘0’ for an open string, ‘1’ for the first fret, and so on. Tabs often include symbols for techniques like bends, slides, and vibrato. Ensure clarity and simplicity in your tab for ease of reading and playing.

How do you read guitar notation?

Reading guitar notation requires understanding how the tab corresponds to the guitar. Each line represents a string, and the number on the line corresponds to the fret number. To read it, start from left to right, playing the notes as they appear. For beginners, start with simple melodies and practice regularly. Familiarize yourself with common symbols and their meanings to play more complex pieces accurately.

How do you write guitar notes for a song?

To write guitar notes for a song, first determine the melody or chord progression. Listen to the song and identify the notes and chords being played. Translate these onto tablature, writing down the corresponding fret numbers on the correct strings.

Incorporate rhythm and timing indications if possible. For complex songs, break them down into sections and work on each part individually.

Can AI make guitar tabs?

AI can assist in making guitar tabs, but it’s not without limitations. AI-powered tools can analyze audio tracks and generate tablature, but they may not always capture nuances and detailed playing techniques.

Human review and correction are often necessary to ensure accuracy. However, AI tools are continually improving and can be useful for quickly transcribing simple melodies or chords.

What is the famous 4 chord progression?

The famous four-chord progression, often used in countless pop and rock songs, is I-V-vi-IV. In the key of C, this would be C-G-Am-F. These chords can be played in any order, and they create a harmonious, pleasing sound sequence.

This progression is popular due to its versatility and ability to evoke a wide range of emotions, making it a staple in songwriting.

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