Guitar Tab Instructions

Most beginners guitar lessons recommend learning chords. I think it is much better to start by learning simple tunes as it gets your ears and fingers working quicker. You can get bogged down trying to grapple with chords. Learning simple tunes is also great exercise for improvers.


You will find it easier if you read the relevant Guitar Tab Instructions for the different groups of tunes before attempting the tunes. 


The first group of five tunes are titled Simple Familiar Melodies1. They are tunes that all will know. They have very basic rhythms, and are easy on the fingers. The second group of tunes Simple Familiar Melodies2 are a bit trickier rhythms and fingering.


If you can take in the instructions, have a go at the tunes in the suggested order, you will have all the info you need, and hopefully make quick progress.

Tune Up

Video Demos

Tab Legend (How To Read Tab)

Introductory tips

Instructions for Simple Familiar Melodies1 (tunes 1-5)

Some guitar tab is written on the lines, some is written between the gaps. Guitar tab at is written between the gaps.


Each gap denotes a string on your guitar. The strings start with the thinnest and highest string on your guitar which is the first string. Moving down to the sixth string on your guitar which is the thickest, lowest string.


So the highest gap on the page shows the thinnest string on your guitar. The lowest gap on the page is for the thickest string on your guitar. The numbers indicate the fret you are on. A zero shows that you play an open string.


The vertical lines indicate bar lines. Bars are just a way to divide the music. Unless otherwise indicated assume that there are four beats in each bar. In music a beat is a basic unit of time. You are aiming to play with a regular pulse of beats.

Notice each one of these notes has a line coming off it. This means it is a regular note so it lasts one beat. Other note lengths include a regular note in a box. This means the note will last for two beats. Then there's a regular note in a box with a dot. That lasts for three beats. Then there's just a note in a box, this lasts four beats.


If you see two notes the same joined together with a curved line, this is a tie. This is just one long note, you add the note lengths up.


01 Mary Had A Little Lamb

02 Twinkle Twinkle Little Star


03 You Are My Sunshine 


04 Oh When The Saints


05 She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain


Instructions for Simple Familiar Melodies2 (tunes 6-10)


A regular note with a tail lasts for half a beat. When there are two consecutive notes lasting half a beat the tails are joined together.


If you see two different notes joined together with a curved line this is called slur. Depending on if the pitch travels on or down a slur is either a hammer on, or a pull off. In which case you only make one strike of the string with your right hand. The second note is made by the left hand either striking down on the string for a hammer on, or the left hand plucking the string for a pull off.

Two vertical lines with dots indicates repeats. When the dots are to the right of the lines this shows the start of a repeated section. When the dots are to the left of the lines it shows you need to repeat at and this point and return to the start of the section. If there is no sign to indicate the start of a repeated section you go back to the beginning of the tune.       


Letters written in a box just indicates different section names. If a tune has the numbers three and four written at the start of the piece it means there are only three beats in the bar rather than four.


Simple Familiar Melodies2


06 Baa Baa Black Sheep


07 Row Row Your Boat


08 Skip To My Lou


09 The Drunken Sailor


10 Amazing Grace


Guitar Tab Instructions for all other tunes


A regular note with a dot lasts for a beat and a half.


If you see a diagonal line between notes this indicates a slide. To perform a slide do not you need to take your finger off the fret board, you just slide up or down.


Some times with repeats you will see 1st and 2nd endings. The first time through take the bars marked 1st. Then go back to the start of the repeated section. Then the next  time through omit these bars, and skip onto bars marked 2nd, and then continue onto the rest of the tune.


Popular Bluegrass Melodies


11 Buffalo Gals


12 Worried Man


13 Crawdad Hole


14 Go Tell Aunty Rhody


15 Old Joe Clarke


16 Red River Valley


17 Will The Circle Be Unbroken


18 Cotton Eye Joe

Easy Classical Melodies


19 Ode To Joy


20 Happy Farmer (The)


Guitar Tab In Alphabetical Order