One of the things that makes the guitar so fun and easy to learn is the prevalence of guitar tabs online. Tablature, or tabs, is a form of musical notation meant for fretted instruments like the guitar. Beginners can use easy acoustic guitar tabs to learn songs without needing to know how to read standard musical notation.
In this article, we’ll share tips on how to read tablature and provide several easy guitar tabs for popular songs, so you can start playing some new music today!
How to Read Guitar Tab Music
Before we dive into the songs and riffs, let’s start with an overview of tablature. Guitar tabs are written out as six lines with each line corresponding to a string on your guitar, e-B-G-D-A-E from the top down, as shown in the diagram below. Since there are two E strings in standard tuning, the higher-pitched string is written with a lowercase “e.”
Guitar tabs show you which note needs to be played on which string by placing a fret number on the corresponding line, but they do not tell you which finger to use or the timing of the piece. Since tablature gives you no information about the rhythm of the notes, it is not a good substitute for standard musical notation. It’s well worth it to learn how to read standard music notation along with tabs to get the full picture.
Read guitar tab music from left to right and use your ear to determine the timing of each note. You’ll have to listen to a recording of the song (if you don’t already know it by heart) to hear how it should be played. If you’re struggling with a tab, work with a guitar teacher for some extra help!
3 Easy Acoustic and Electric Guitar Tabs
Before playing the songs and riffs below, make sure your guitar is in tune. You can easily tune your guitar with an app on your smartphone. Here’s a guitar tuning tutorial that shows you how. You can play these tunes on either electric or acoustic guitar. While the thinner strings of the electric guitar are often easier to play, performing these easy guitar tabs on acoustic guitars will help your fingers build up strength!
Now, onto the tabs!
“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”
You can play a wide range of notes without sliding all over your guitar neck in the intergalactic anthem, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
For this tab, keep your left hand in what is known as “first position.” Your index finger will play all notes on the first fret, your middle finger plays all notes on the second fret, your ring finger plays the third fret, and your pinkie plays the fourth fret.
Keeping your left hand still and using this fingering will help you build better speed and coordination as you learn how to play the guitar.
“Three Blind Mice”
You can also play “Three Blind Mice” in the same position noted above. Here is the tab for this catchy nursery rhyme.
Knowing how to play “Happy Birthday” on the guitar always comes in handy! Try out this familiar tune using the tab below.
As you can see, “Happy Birthday” is a melody that can be played on just one string and is composed of four short phrases. The tricky part of this guitar tab is deciding on the right fingering.
We recommend starting with your index finger on the second fret, your pinkie on the fifth fret, and your ring finger on the fourth fret. You can play the first phrase with your left hand in this position.
To play the note on the seventh fret in the second phrase, you will need to slide your pinkie up to reach. You can then play the fifth fret with your middle finger.
In the third phrase, you will have to slide your pinkie up again to reach the ninth fret, and then slide back down to play the fourth fret with your ring finger and the second fret with your index finger.
For the final phrase, use your pinkie to play the tenth fret and your ring finger to play the ninth fret. Then, slide your hand down to play the fifth fret with your index finger and the seventh fret with your ring finger.
Following this guide to the fingering of this piece enables you to hit all the notes while making minimal movements with your hand up and down the neck of the guitar.
Easy Guitar Tabs for Popular Songs
A guitar riff is a short, catchy series of notes that is usually repeated a few times within a song. Riffs are typically simple to play and easily recognizable.
Rock and pop music are full of great riffs that you can learn to play quickly. Here are a few examples with easy electric guitar tabs!
“Smoke on the Water”
This popular guitar riff comes from Deep Purple’s classic song “Smoke on the Water.”
You’ll notice that you need to play two notes on the same fret at the same time in order to play this riff.
One easy way to accomplish this is to lay your index finger across multiple strings in a partial barre chord and only strum the G and D strings. Hold the partial barre shape with your left hand and move your hand from the third fret to the fifth and sixth frets as needed.
“Sunshine of Your Love”
This riff from Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” is also quick and easy to learn.
To use the proper fingering on this riff, start with your ring finger on the twelfth fret and your index finger on the tenth.
Now, this is a little bit tricky. When you play the first 10th fret note on your E string, slide your hand slightly up the neck to play the 10th fret with your ring finger. Now you can easily reach the 8th fret note that is coming up next.
You’ll notice that this riff calls for a bent string, as indicated by the “b” on the eighth fret of the A string. To bend this note, push the string up the neck of the guitar as you play. Bending a note creates a distinctive, bluesy tone.
“Satisfaction” – Guitar Riff Tabs
One of the most-loved riffs in rock and roll comes from the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” Check out the tab below:
You can play this awesome guitar riff all on one string! To practice the correct fingering and play with better speed, use your index finger to play the second fret, your ring finger on the fourth fret, and your pinkie on the fifth fret.
Free Electric Guitar Tabs for Beginners
Keep in mind as you browse guitar tabs that most of what you see online was submitted by other guitarists just like you. If a tab doesn’t sound quite right, somebody may have heard the song differently or made a mistake when transcribing it. Look for the tabs that have the highest reviews, and if it doesn’t sound right, trust your ear!
Also, realize that tabs are just a starting point when it comes to learning the guitar. Critical elements to the guitar such as rhythm, technique, and jamming with others are missing if you just stick to tabs alone. Think of them as a supplement to your guitar learning journey, rather than a comprehensive resource.
By far, the best way to learn guitar is through private lessons. Working hands-on with a professional guitar teacher will help you develop good playing and practicing habits for the long term. If a local teacher is not an option, online lessons can also be a great way to get your questions answered and learn new material. With the right teacher, you’ll have the support you need to reach your musical goals.
Check out the guitar teachers at TakeLessons to get started today!
Photo Credit: dustinphillips