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How to read tablature and chord diagrams for guitar

Purpose of the guide

Note: the examples played in the video are just played in order for you to get a better understanding of how tabuature works, you don't need to be able to play them at this point.

Chord diagrams

Definition of a chord: A sound of many tones played simultaneously (at the same time)

When you ahve a glance in any guitar chord book, there is a very high probability that you will see chord diagrams. They migh tlook messy and hard to understand - but really they are not.

It's usually easy to figure out without some Swedish guy writing a guide telling you how they work - but I figured "hey, let's be on the safe side" =).

To the right you see the chord diagram for E Major. Look at your guitar (at the head and the first three frets) and then the diagram – do you see the connection?


Maybe this will make it clearer:

As you have probably figured out the lines represent the strings of your guitar, thickest to the left and thinnest to the right. The black spots indicate where you are to put (fret) your fingers. If there is a “hollow spot” (a white spot with a black ring around it), that indicates that this string should not be fretted at all, but still played - it should be kept open. If there would have been an X instead of the circle this would mean that this string should not be played at all.

Look at this C major chord for instance. The X indicates that we only play the A, D, G, B and e strings

Usually these kind of diagrams, as you can see for the C major diagram, have numbers on the black dots. The nuimbers tell you what finger to put on which fret - and this is really helpful when you are a beginner. IN time you will be able to figure out yourself how to properly fret the chords, but for now you should always pay attention to what the diagrams tell you!



The numbers have the following meanings

1.Index finger
2. Middle finger
3. Ring finger
4. Pinky finger

I will use these types of diagrams for the first few lessons so that you get a hang of the fingerings. At the same time I will use simpler chord diagrams. You will need to know how they work as well so read on!

Oh and another thing - all that are presented in the course are available in the  chord collection

Simpler chord diagrams

For E major:
0 2 2 1 0 0

Notice that the numbers represent the fret number on the same strings in the same order as the proper diagrams (EADGBe)

A 0 means that the string should be open. An X means that it's not played at all.

like C major

The downer with these chords is that they will never show you the proper fingering - however as I tolod you this will come naturally in time.

This is how the chords will be presented in the first few lessons:

New chords

0 2 2 1 0 0





Beautiful, isn't it? Now we will move on to tablature


To read tablature is not difficult, and it basically follows the same principles as chord diagrams. It is, so to speak, the notation used for guitar sheet music on the Internet, and used by lazy people (including myself) who have not learned standard notation properly. The reason for why it is so popular is its simplicity and also that you don't need to know any musical theory to play from it. However a guitarist, as any musician, should always aim at learning theory.

The difference between tablature and previous chord diagrams is that the chord diagrams tell you what notes that are in a specific chord, whereas the tablature tells you what notes to be played after one another in a song (like regular notation does). A disadvantage is that you generally do not have any time measures in tablature, so in order to play something written in TAB, you have to listen to the composition (the song) as you look at the tablature. It is no big problem though, you will get used to it. Now to explain how it works.

Hold your guitar in front of you, as it is above on the pictures where I explained the chord diagrams. Now tilt it 90 degrees to the left and study the lines and letters below.


D-- 2----2------------------

Do you understand the connection? As usual the lines represent the strings – thinnest string at the top and thickest at the bottom. The number on the string describes what fret you should press down with your finger. You read tablature from left to right – this means that the further right you read the numbers, the further you have gotten into the song, time-wise. Below you see three tablature examples with an explaining video.

Figure 1; E and C, plain chords

--- E----C------------------->

D-- 2----2--------------------

If you understand what I have written above the chord E will be played first, then C. In other words the further right we go in the tablature, the further into the "song" we have come.

Note: When there is no number on a string in tablature, this means we do not pluck it! IN tablature an "X" means a "dead note".

Figure 2; chromatic ascent (climbing)

D-- --------------------------

Figure 3 – E major "full" arpeggio*


*Arpeggio basically means holding a chord and then playing each string individually in a specific order. In this example I chose to do a full arpeggio where each string was played individually of the chord E, starting at string E (thick) to e (thin) and then back to E (thick). This will be taught in the beginner's course

I hope this guide has brought you clarity as to how tablature and chord diagrams work. If you think this guide is not clear enough – let me know=).

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If you are following my beginner guitar course step by step, click here to move on to lesson 3

Good luck

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