Guitar tabs are also known as tab or tablature. Regardless of the name it is all the same stuff.
Guitar tabs consist of a series of horizontal lines, which forms a staff. Each line represents one of the strings on the instrument, so tabs have a six-line staff. Those new to tablature may initially be confused by the order in which the strings are written; instead of the top line of the tablature representing the top string of the guitar (thickest), the top line of tablature actually represents the bottom (thinnest) string of the guitar. So instead of tablature being a mirror image of your guitar neck, it’s actually an "upside-down" image.
The lines of the tabs are labeled with letters on the left representing the string names, with a lower-case "e" for the high E string. Tab lines may be numbered 1-6 instead, representing standard string numbering, where "1" is the high E string, "2" is the B string, etc.
Numbers are written on the lines also, where each number represents a fret on the instrument. For instance, a number 3 written on the top line of the staff indicates that the player should press down at the third fret on the high E (thinnest) string (instead of the low E string, which is the thickest string). Number 0 represents an open string. Various lines, arrows and other symbols are used to denote bends, hammer-ons, trills, Pull-offs, slides, etc.
While tab shows itself as being beneficial for many musicians, it also has it’s disadvantages. Tablature is instrument-specific; which means that only a guitarist can read guitar tab. Also, since tab notation effectively gives instructions on how to play notes rather than information on how the notes will sound, it can be very difficult to get a feel of the music simply by studying the page without playing it through. Another limitation of tab is the lack of accurate information on rhythm and timing.
Generally speaking, guitar tabs are commonly used in popular and rock music due to its ease of use, and can make playing significantly easier for the musician that already knows how a song is played, and those who have not yet learned how to play chords! And as more and more new guitar players show little to no interest in taking the time to learning chords – which is extremely beneficial – tabs are becoming a popular alternative.
Here are a number of other useful topical links related to guitars:
If you are looking for a list of tabs sites, this guitar tabs page on our site has a listing of some of the more popular tablature sites for guitar.