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    Will Ripley

    How To Read Guitar Tabs For Beginners

    Ok, so I love guitar tab but it’s kinda like sheet music for dummies. Or maybe we should call is sheet music for guitar players! haha, I guess I’m making fun of myself here!

    Tab or ‘tablature’ as it’s derived from, is a form of learning songs on the guitar using skills that we”ve had since grade school – LINES AND NUMBERS! furthermore, just like a book, we read tab left to right. So can ya handle the heat?


    So here is the trick for tab that will be the only confusing thing ever…We hold the guitar upside down to read it. Yup, that’s right!

    So notice the string names that I’ve listed there. Let’s note there are 6 strings on the guitar and I 6 lines there for you. Got that?

    Now we’ve got the biggest string and the smallest string, right? Well, both those resonate the frequency that represents an E note, so we call them both the E strings (although one obviously sounds higher than the other AKA an octave).

    ok, did you notice I have a capital E and a smaller case e? Yup, one is the big string and one is the small string.

    So, see what I mean when I say that when you’re playing guitar you have to flip the guitar upside down (so that the strings face you) in order for the tab on your screen/paper to line up with the appropriate big E and small e?

    Now, if you’re saying: “Will, you’re confusing me, I thought tab was supposed to be easy?” Well it is, you’re gonna love me for this! Trust me!

    Ok, the lines are handled. Now the numbers -

    The numbers represent what fret you play on the guitar. If this is beyond your comprehension – stop here, sign up for my mailing list or like my facebook page and I’ll send you a FREE video on all your technique you need to know with your left and right hand. This includes a run-down on the guitar, what the frets are are how to place your fingers into the frets.

    Ok, simply put, the numbers, the 1,2,3’s represent which fret you put your finger(s) on.


    e ———————-
    B ———————-
    G ———————-
    D ———————-
    A ———————-
    E —5——————

    If you put your finger on the 5th fret of the big E string, you nailed it! Nice work!

    ok what about now?

    e ———————-
    B ———————-
    G ———————-
    D ———————-
    A ————-3——-
    E —-5—5———5–

    Ok, big step here. We’ve got 4 separate notes here. Now remember read left to right, just like a book. The big thing here is to make the switch to the 3rd fret of the A string.

    Ok and the whole riff – SEVEN NATION ARMY BY THE WHITE STRIPES! (in the key of A)


    Did you stumble on 0? Just think of ‘zero’ as being O for open! So that would mean just play the A string but don’t fret anything on that string.

    Now what fingers are you using? That’s a trick question because this is the biggest thing that tab DOESN’T show you – it’s what finger to play. With a bit of experience you will learn what fingers work better and what order to put them in. Just remember this for now – use the fingers that allow you to play the notes in the easiest, and laziest way possible.

    Yup, I want you to be lazy! You want to use the fingers that require the least amount of work and allow your fingers to line up in the smoothest order.

    So let’s take this again, WITH the appropriate fingers (it’s the only way you’ll get this riff up to speed)

    how to read guitar tabulatures

    So, do you see now how nicely your fingers line up? You don’t have to move your hand around too much once you employ other fingers.

    Some other great riffs to learn on tab are:

    Nirvana – Come As You Are
    Heart – Crazy On You
    Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water (see if you can find the 1 string beginner version for this)
    Rage Against The Machine – Bulls on Parade
    Jimi Hendrix – Hey Joe (the riff! not the intro or the chords)
    Basslines: Another One Bites The Dust

    Anyways, there are countless. Just start searching on google like “come as your are tab”. Beware, that there is a lot of bad info on the internet, and tab is no exception!

    Happy tab hunting! If I can help you with a video-call lesson or one of my video products, be sure to let me know through my site! Or maybe you’re in Vancouver and I can set you up with one of my teachers there.

    Here to help. Keep on rippin it up!

    -Will Ripley

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    • CALL WILL AT 604-999-1953


    “Willy looks like a skinny white boy but plays like a 300 pound black man!!”

    “My life evolves around creating and performing genuine, powerful music. To help maintain a thriving musical community, I want to contribute to it through teaching and adding musical projects to make
    them the best they can be”
    ~ Will Ripley

    “When I met Will he asked me some of my goals and my response was to some day be able to play guitar like Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Six months later I found myself playing “Blue on Black” at Ripley’s Recital in front of my friends. Will is an extremely professional and talented teacher and guitar player. Each week I found myself with new material and knowledge that made learning guitar fresh and exciting. I’m taking the summer off and I already can’t wait to continue my lessons to take my guitar playing to the next level.”

    ~ Dan F

    “Will is a very knowledgeable guitarist and great teacher. His instruction has been crucial in my development as a guitar player. Thanks to Will I have significantly improved my understanding of musical theory and guitar techniques. I have also been motivated to keep practicing in order to become the best guitar player I can be.”

    ~ Curt P

    “As the father of Will’s youngest student (5 years old) it’s amazing to see the enthusiasm and desire my son is showing towards music because of will’s teaching style. He always wants to go, he has fun but I see the progress they make in each lesson both large and small, it’s a great learning environment. Thanks Will, your next test will be my younger daughter.”

    ~ Dirke

    “As a person that has taken music lessons and hated them, I think you’re an amazing teacher. Anthony loves music and has a new found love of the electric guitar.”

    ~ Lisa

    “Our son, William, has been taking guitar lessons from Will since Spring 2010. Will is a knowledgeable, creative and resourceful music teacher who thoroughly enjoys teaching children the guitar. We were lucky to have found him.”

    ~ Lana

    “I have wanted to learn to play guitar all my life, but never really had the guts to try until I was 27 years old. I was afraid I wouldn’t be any good but one day while searching through the Craigslist ads for guitar teachers I found a listing that just spoke to me, a total gem, and I felt I just had to give him a call. After just one phone call I had a really good feeling I had found the perfect lessons and I am so lucky that I found the listing for willripley.com. Will is an amazing and inspiring teacher who is incredibly gifted not only at playing guitar but at truly being able to teach others to be their best musically. He can really show you how to play anything in a way that is helpful and makes sense. After every lesson I feel so motived to get better and practice so I can be half as terrific a musician as Will. I have seen him perform live with his band and Will Ripley really is a rockstar. He makes learning something challenging really fun.”

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    ~ Gen T

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    He is very good with children and know how to motivate them. He makes the learning of music a Rock’ n Roll experience!”

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    “When our 11 year old daughter wanted to learn guitar I searched the web for someone who would and could provide a different approach to learning an instrument. In grade 4 she took up the violin at school, they learned the scales and every evening she practiced diligently creating a noise that sounded like she was sawing a cat in half. There was never any melody and she soon tired of the exercise and gave up. I often wondered what would have happened if she had been given an actual song to practice so that’s what I mean when I looked for a teacher that could provide her with a different approach to learning an instrument.”

    “Will’s web site looked like he was someone who stays in touch with current music trends. When I read is bio I found out he is active in the music scene and I was convinced he could provide us with the teaching techniques and style that would keep our daughter interested and engaged. Low and behold I was right! He taught my daughter bits and pieces of her favorite song from her favorite band. Now she’s learning techniques and the chords and loving it! Because she loves it, she’s sticking with it. Until we saw how much she loved the guitar Will was able to rent us one, yet another great option Will can provide.”

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