I've seen some guitar tabs where the strings are E B G D A E from bottom to top, but in the others they are in the opposite direction, E A D G B E from bottom to top. Why? Are there two ways of writing guitar tab?

  • I'm sorry, but your question is unclear. Is it possible to add an example of what you mean (adding actual tabs with examples of what you mean)? Are you playing classical or pop or...? Are you strumming or picking? – Tim H Sep 29 '15 at 12:17
  • Because of an answer below: Is this a question about notation? – Tim H Sep 29 '15 at 12:20
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    @TimH It's definitely a notation question. Anyone who has looked at guitar tab without help for the first time would have this question, so it's a clear question for guitarists who read tab. – Todd Wilcox Sep 29 '15 at 13:00
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    Ok, If that's his question I'll retract my closing vote – Tim H Sep 29 '15 at 13:50
  • @TimH I also edited the heck out of it. Any vote to close based on the original question is certainly understandable. – Todd Wilcox Sep 29 '15 at 18:20

I can't say I've seen any other tabs than ones that are formatted like this;







Have you got any examples of the other way you've seen?

As far as I'm aware, the way I've mentioned above is the correct way of laying out tab.

  • look at this :the guitar player is first playing 3 fret on the six string – philosophy Sep 29 '15 at 12:28
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    @philosophy If you've seen tab done a different way, then I would say that tab is wrong or confusing. The lowest note on the guitar should always be on the lowest line of tab. – Todd Wilcox Sep 29 '15 at 13:04

Unless someone is choosing to deviate from the norm and do it "wrong" - all tab is written the same way. It is a little confusing at first until you get used to it.

In tablature, each line represents one of the strings on the instrument and the number is which fret the indicated note is played on for the string the number is on. One thing that you might find helpful to know as you learn to read tab, is that the line at the bottom (reading from the top of the page) represents the string on your instrument that is closest to your head and the line at the top represents the string closest to your feet. I know it seems backwards but when you look down at your guitar strings, you are sort of seeing them upside down.

Here is a simple exercise that might help you grasp this idea more easily. Take a sheet of tab and place it on a table in front of you. Now sit down at the table in front of the tab with your guitar, and hold it as if you are about to play. Now, take the sheet of tab by the bottom of the page and lift the bottom of the page up (tilt it up from the bottom) so that you are now reading the tab sort of upside down like you are looking at your guitar strings.

Another way to visualize this, is to lay your instrument on the table in front of you with the head stock to the left and body to the right (assuming you are right handed). Now lay the sheet of tab on top of the body of your instrument in a manner so that you can read it. Now the orientation of the strings matches the orientation of the tab with regards to which line represents which string. The string on the instrument that is closest to you will now correspond with the line on the tab that is closest to you. Until you get used to it, you may literally find it helpful to hold the tab upside down to read it so you see the lines of tab the way you see the strings they represent.

Good luck!


When it comes to reading Tab, it seems as if everyone is talking about looking at their guitar, on their lap, or whatever. We are 'looking' at the TAB. As we should be.

Looking at the TAB, (or Standard Notation) helps us to get a 'feel' for the fretboard. Looking back and forth sucks, as it' is so easy to loose your place within the written music.

TAB is really just a "picture" of the guitar. (if there are 6 strings, there are 6 lines, 7 string guitars have 7 lines...etc) Standard musical notation is a 'graph' of high and low notes (frequencies).

My thought on the subject is that TAB is upside down. It should have the low E on the top. That is the way the guitar is. When you watch a guitarist play, where is their low E? On top, of course. When you look at TAB, it is as if you are 'watching someone play'. That is how it should be. TAB is a "picture" of the guitar. (moving through time)

I am a guitar teacher, and EVERY beginner that looks at TAB the first time, assumes the Low E is the top line. That alone, says volumes.

Either way, we adapt! Thanks, Bob

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    Weird - every beginner I have taught gets it right first time. The E at the bottom is the lowest note and you see it the same way you see the neck of your guitar. – Doktor Mayhem Mar 21 '17 at 10:26

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