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This blog post is about reading tablatures while playing the guitar. We will also look at what are measures or bars and in the end, we will be using tablatures to play a popular tune.

Tablature (or tabulature, or tab for short) is a form of musical notation indicating instrument fingering rather than musical pitches. It is a simple way of reading and writing music for guitar. However, tablatures do not provide information about timing of the piece, but are a great way to get started on the guitar.

To start with, we should always remember that in a guitar fretboard, the top most string is the 1st string (the thinnest one), and the bottom most string is the 6th string (the thickest one).

Guitar Fretboard

Now let's look at how the guitar tabs are read. For example, we write a number (2) on the 1st string of the guitar. This indicates that we need to play the 2nd fret of the 1st string.

Play 2nd fret, 1st string

Next, there's another number (1) written on the 2nd string of the guitar. This indicates, we need to play the 1st fret of the 2nd string.

Play 1st fret, 2nd string

Play 1st string open (suspended)

One important thing we should always keep in mind while reading tablatures is, the numbers written on the strings are always read from left to right. In the above example, the strings will be played in the sequence: 2nd FRET, 1st STRING - 1st FRET, 2nd STRING - 1st STRING OPEN

Tabs are always read Left-Right

Now let's understand the concept of Bars or Measures.

Every piece of music, whether big or small, is divided into measures (or bars) and a bar line is used to divide music into these measures, thus breaking up the musical paragraph into smaller, measurable groups of notes. Each measure has EQUAL number of beats. It can be 3 beats, or 4 beats, or 6 beats - most commonly 4 beats. Whatever the number of beats per measure is, we count that number during the song.

Measures and Barlines

Let us now look at the tablatures of one of the most popular tunes "Happy Birthday". To watch the video, click on the link given above. The tabs of the melody are:

PHRASE 1 - "Happy Birthday To You" PHRASE 2 - "Happy Birthday To You" PHRASE 3 - "Happy Birthday Dear X" PHRASE 4 - "Happy Birthday To You"

Measures and Bar Lines of "Happy Birthday" tune

Do keep checking out the blog page for more such content on Beginner Guitar Learning series. Know more about Music With Rahul Sharma by clicking on our official Youtube channel

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