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I'm very new to guitar and I'm practicing beginner stuff, I press the appropriate fret with the numbered finger, 1 for index and 3 for ring.

Also I play in fret hand position 1 with index on first fret, the 5 in the second measure confuses me. Do I shift finger 3 my ring finger down 2 frets on the A string and then shift back up to fret hand position 1? Or can we use any finger for the shift?

  • Do you mean that in the first bar you use your ring finger for both the F and the E on the fourth and fifth string? Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 15:18
  • I think it is more comfortable to use open string 4 Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 15:19
  • @WillemvanRumpt It is, therefore, a comment, not an answer Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 17:18
  • @WillemvanRumpt That could be a good answer if you can elaborate it a bit more Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 17:58
  • I don't think the sheet music suggests an "arpeggiated chord," if one were to finger a barre F-minor (at fret one) and then a Gm-7 (at fret 3), the fingering would take care of itself. The answers are spot on though: it depends on the context whether this way of doing it makes sense. For guitar tabs it sometimes helps to demystify the choices by thinking of a chord form.
    – Yorik
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 20:05

5 Answers 5


The numbers in TAB are not finger numbers they are fret numbers. If you are not shifting positions and you have one finger over each of 4 consecutive frets in the lowest position then it makes sense to say first fret is the index finger but that won't work in general. In standard music notation they indicate left hand fingering by placing the finger number (1, 2, 3, 4) = (index, middle, ring, pinky) right next to the note. A string number is indicated by a number in a circle. Given just the TAB numbers and nothing else you can use any finger you want, as long as it makes sense and is easy to play.

Based on the pattern I'd shift up so that the first finger is on the 3rd fret and use ring for the 5 while baring the 3rd fret with the index finger. However you could stretch and play the 5 with your pinky. It would be inconsistent with the TAB to play the 5 as an open string. Even if that makes sense. TAB is usually trying to replicate not only notes in a song but the playing style of a guitarist. So if this is a song and you want to imitate the style of playing you would want to figure out how to play it as written. If it's a basic technical exercise then again you may want to figure out what the intent of the exercise is and stick to it. Did this TAB come from a book, or Guitar for the Practicing Musician or some other source with instructions? That may help clarify it.


I was just about to get into a whole can of worms after reading the first couple of replies, but I see someone finally answered you correctly. In tablature, the numbers are not suggested fingerings, they are the fret number on the indicated string. The lowest line of tab is the low E string and the top line is the high E string. Tab is really for us lazies or know-nothings who can't read music. There's much more info embedded in real sheet music (such as the length or duration of the note). But if you're an ignoramus like me, tab is a life saver. If you only had tab though, and weren't familiar with the piece, you'd be hard pressed to come up with anything close to the original. By the way, if the numbers are stacked on top of each other in a straight line going down, that is a chord. (I imagine if you were looking at tab for Eruption you would have figured this all out for yourself. Doubt you'd be looking for your 15th finger!)


Given that the next note is a G on the bottom string, and you played the first G with 3, then yes, pinky wins!

However - tab often tries to be helpful, and tell the reader where to play each note, but you must always remember that there are several different places to play each note, unlike a piano, where every note has its own personal key, and that's it.

Bearing that in mind, that D note could be played as an open 4th string. And also, a heck of a lot of tabs are posted by folk still wet behind the ears, and all they do is write where they play it - often not an optimum place at all, and sometimes inaccurate! It may even be that the tab writer believes that what he's (and /or she's!) written is spot on, in blissful ignorance.

That second bar, in a different view than the one ggcg takes, could be played pulling off to the open D, and hammering back on to the F. I would defy a lot of listeners to tell the difference! Just another 'interpretation'...


For measure 1 play 1st finger for F on sixth string, 3rd finger for C on fifth string, 4th finger for F on fourth string. This is fingering for a power chord. Then move whole hand barring the third fret with the 1st finger and using 3rd finger for the D not on fifth string.


The numbers denote frets, not fingers. If you can grab a chord and leave the left hand in place while you play the strings one by one, rather than shift the hand between every two tones, that's often the easiest way. Tabs like this are even very often meant to call for a chord where the already-plucked strings should be let ring on. I don't know what song this is, but it looks to me like it's likely the case here too.

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