Im trying to learn Pure imagination on guitar following the tabs. Im going well, but I realised that when I see the fret board numbering with words above them like Fmaj7, Am and C, following the fret numbers does not sound right.

If I look up Fmaj7 and play that, it fits the song, but the frets on the tabs sound completely wrong. Why is this?

  • 2
    What exactly sounds wrong? The fret numbers in the tab you've shown are exactly the notes in the named chords. Unless the guitar is out of tune and you're checking the chords on a different instrument, they should be the same. – luser droog Nov 16 at 7:34
  • Are you using standard tuning? If you're in, say, drop D, your chords are going to sound weird – user45266 Nov 18 at 4:54
  • One big thing that I will point out is that tablature that you find on the internet, as opposed to purchased from an official publication that has an editor, is very, very, very frequently wrong and often times incomplete. The fact that any random person can post tab and no one reviews it before it's posted means that there is no vetting. A whole lot of people viewing tabs don't have a keen enough ear to know if it's right or wrong/wouldn't notice small issues. So always second guess tabs and trust your ears. – Basstickler Nov 19 at 17:34

Those 'words' are actually chord names. Most songs will have a chord or two that fit with the bar they're next to.

In this case, Fmaj7 tells that the full chord is F major 7th, which cotains the notes F A C and E. The tab shows exactly that - F on the fat E string, and ACE on the top three strings. That couldn't be clearer or more accurate!

The 'Am' word means A minor, consisting of A C and E. Exactly what the top three strings produce from the tab. The 'C' that follows is also accurate with two c notes, a G and an E.

It may be that the tab is inaccurate as far as following the actual song as it's recorded on the track. That happens all too frequently! But as far as the tab and the chord symbols go, they're exactly together.

  • 1
    That's an interesting F chord - g b and f..! I certainly leave C F (and G) chords for a good few weeks. E A and B7 are all in the same plane, and have common notes. – Tim Nov 16 at 10:36
  • TAB's don't have to be accurate when they are meant as starters for beginners. I often taught the children just to play only the strings 1-3 changing the index finger form fret 1 of the e and the b string: C ( g,c,e) and an F (g,b,f). So they were able from the 1st lesson to sing and accompany a children song with tonic and dominant. – Albrecht Hügli Nov 16 at 10:40
  • yes, Tim, E7 and A7 played with 2 fingers are the best starters, indeed! – Albrecht Hügli Nov 16 at 10:42
  • @Tim An F chords with g b and f would be an Fsus2 5- – Michel Keijzers Nov 16 at 13:09
  • @MichelKeijzers - more likely Fsus2b5, although that would need Cb, not B. I'd rather go for G7(no5). – Tim Nov 16 at 15:27

There are 3 different ways of Guitar-chord notation and reading:

  1. staff of 5 lines like almost all other instruments

  2. Chord-TAB (as you are showing here) they are used for finger picking and more differentiated accompaniments e.g. bass licks.

  3. Chord diagram: mostly used for lyrics and added chords - what you're calling "words"

    (from the chord-diagrams (patterns) you can also play a differentiated accompaniment when you have some experience of finger picking or bass passing notes.)

Why are there words that appear on guitar tabs?

As you know the chord TAB shows the 6 strings and the numbers indicate in which fret they are "hold" by the fingers of the left hand.

The terms C, Am Fmaj7 etc. are the names of the guitar-chords that are played in the chord TAB and the chord diagrams are just another representation of what we are doing when we want to play a chord:

Chord diagrams:

The strings are shown vertically, the chord-names ("words") are written on the top and at the bottom are notated the fingers that have to work on the specific strings.

enter image description here

If you turn one of these patterns 90° to the left you will recognize that they're resembling to what you have learnt by reading the chord-TAB. But instead of the numbers the diagram shows where (in which fret) you have to put your fingers and the numbers on the right side of the rotated diagram indicate which finger you must use.)

enter image description here

So the example of Am means a-minor (A-C-E) shows we have from string 6 to 1:

E (open)

A (open)

D (2nd fret= E) -> finger 2

G (2nd fret= A) -> finger 3

B (1st fret= C) -> finger 1

E (open)

You will recognice the similarity with the 2nd chord named Am in your TAB: notice that the bass tones are not played there.

Now you should be able to derive all the other chords and write your self the corresponding TABs from the chord diagrams and vice versa.

Edit: I think the fingering of A major (2nd diagram) has a typo. I've never seen A = 213! we better use 123. That's why I poste another list of diagrams where you can compare also "your" Fmaj7. It is exactly like Tim has described.

You'll find 100reds of lists looking up: Guitar chords (images).

enter image description here

  • 1
    The 'x' means not played. So your example of the Am chord isn't exactly right - it shows no note played on bottom (fat) E. And fingering for open A, I use 234, often with index (1) on 3rd string 1st fret. It's quite tight for a lot of folks, so 234 is smaller than 123! – Tim Nov 16 at 10:11
  • I always play A 345 as it is a good practice to play barré chords later. Btw. you can always take the fingering you like - that seems most comfortable to you. And yes, x means this string is not played, but most amateurs play it too schrumming on their guitar, and the E (6) can be used as a changing 4th in the bass for picking accompaniment. Those examples were not meant to explain the whole diagram theory - this would lead too far - they are just posted to show the analogy to the TABs. I think the chord patterns have been explained enough here and also the meaning of an 'x`. – Albrecht Hügli Nov 16 at 10:24
  • Yes, I meant I play with middle, ring and pinky, just as I would when barring an A shape chord - except then, I usually use only ring across strings 2 3 and 4. Not sure numbering fingers on fretting hand would include thumb as no.1. Except when playing Jimi style! – Tim Nov 16 at 10:32
  • I think it's world wide use 1234 for the longer fingers, when I meant to notate the thumb I wrote a d (for "Daumen"). We can agree with the "students" any sign or abbreviation that we want ;) – Albrecht Hügli Nov 16 at 10:37

Fmaj7 looks pretty ok to me regarding its notes once you realize that you are supposed to retain the already fingered notes (0 on the A string, 2 on the D string) while playing the rest.

The authoritive information is in the tablature. The chord symbols above for one thing indicate the basic harmony one should be hearing (so they can be used for prompting on an instrument like the piano), for another they are often helpful for sightreading in that they give you information about the kind of pattern the fingers have to be placed in, particularly if the notes don't arrive all at once.

For example, people have different preferences about which fingers to use for chords like Em or Am and when this chord is the pattern one arrives in and there is freedom of choice, not prescribing the exact fingering will make it easier to choose your preferred pattern.

That does not mean that the actual combination of strings and frets will be as found in a typical chord table, in particular not when playing in higher positions. Authoritive is what is written in the tablature itself. But I'd be surprised if you'd not, over time, find those chord symbols helpful for faster orientation in new stuff you learn.

They are even comparatively frequent for scores spelt out in notes: the chords are quite easier to recognize in those, but it tends to help if you are going to improvise additional material to see the harmonic framework.

But that's something for the future...

  • Where does it say retain the two previous notes? They're in the bar before, and there's no indication. O.k., they could both belong to Fmaj7, but probably don't. – Tim Nov 16 at 15:31

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