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Guitar tabs are useful to those who wish to learn to play songs quickly. At first, reading them feels like trying to read a foreign language, but with an explanation of their symbols and a little practice, you can quickly become fluent.

The word "tab" is short for "tablature." Tablature is a way of writing music that shows you where to place your fingers on a guitar. This differs from other forms of written music that tell you what notes to play rather than how to play them.

Tabs consist of lines and numbers. The lines represent the strings of a guitar: E, A, D, G, B and E (in standard tuning). The strings are pictured in order, but their positioning in a tab can cause confusion. The bottom line "E" of a tab refers to the thickest and lowest-sounding string on the guitar, which is at the top of the instrument when it is played. If you have a tab on paper, you can flip the paper upside down with the ink facing away from you and hold it up to your guitar. This would match the actual guitar strings with their corresponding reference in the tab.

Numbers in tabs indicate what fret to put your finger on. If there is a number 2 on the bottom line "E," for example, the tab is instructing you to place a finger on the second fret of the low E string on the guitar.

How numbers are placed on the lines in relation to one another is important in guitar tablature. If numbers are placed directly below or above one another in a straight line, it means that the notes should be played at the same time. Placing your fingers on the frets of numerous strings and strumming them together means playing a chord. If the numbers are scattered among the lines and not in a line, then they should be played one after the other as single notes.

You can find many guitar tabs online for specific songs, guitar scales and learning exercises. There are also many printed books that feature learning exercises and songs from particular musicians and musical genres.