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How To Make Guitar Tabs

The most common way to make your own guitar tabs is to use ascii tabs. These can give us a fairly decent visual representation using plain text. One of the biggest drawbacks of text based tabs is that it's difficult to include timing information. This can be done but it's not so important because most of the time we are using the guitar tabs just to show quick examples. Trying to put all of the information into an ascii tab makes it cluttered and hard to read. When detail is important, a far better option is to use one of the guitar tab creators such as powertab or guitar pro.

The first thing to do when making your own tab is to draw a blank bar representing all six strings. For this we use the string name followed by the pipe character, a row of hyphens and then end with the pipe again. If you are not sure where the pipe is on the keyboard you should find it to the left of 'z' while holding the shift key. The amount of hyphens you need will depend on the complexity what you are notating. If I'm just using quarter and eight notes then I would use sixteen hyphens as this will keep it clean and easy to read. Also it is critical that you use a mono spaced font such as courier otherwise you we up with a real mess.

Start with the thinnest E string like this.

E |----------------|

And now we repeat this for the other five strings and create our empty bar.

E |----------------|
B |----------------|
G |----------------|
D |----------------|
A |----------------|
E |----------------|

We can now go back over it and replace the hyphens with the fret numbers. Next is an example of a G major scale. I could easily write this scale all into one bar and ignore timing but if I want it to be eighth notes like the in this example then I can at least try to give it some kind of visual representation of the note duration. If it's easy to do then I do it but as it starts getting more complicated then I will pay less attention to keeping the spaces even.

E |----------------|----------2-3-5-|
B |----------------|------3-5-------|
G |----------------|2-4-5-----------|
D |----------2-4-5-|----------------|
A |----2-3-5-------|----------------|
E |3-5-------------|----------------|

This covers the basics of making guitar tabs. There seems to be no consistent method for displaying the use various guitar techniques. The most common of these would be the slide, bend, hammer on and pull off. The example below shows these four techniques in use.

E |---------------------------|
B |---------------------------|
G |3b5----3/5----3h5----5p3---|
D |---------------------------|
A |---------------------------|
E |---------------------------|

From left to right they are as follows.

  1. Bend on the third fret up to the pitch of the fifth
  2. Slide from the 3rd fret to the fifth
  3. Hammer on from the 3rd fret to the fifth
  4. Pull off from the 5th fret to the 3rd

There is one more very important thing to know. How to post these on the web. Most of the time when posting tabs on an internet page or in a forum, you cannot specify a font and in those cases where you can, it's not a good idea to anyway because you will never know what font the reader will have installed on their computer. To get around this there is a simple way to tell the browser or forum to display something in any monospaced font.

Most popular forums will be using BBcode and you can insert your tab between the [code] [/code] tags. For websites using html you can encase the tab inside the <pre> </pre> tags, for example..

[code]
E |----------------|
B |----------------|
G |----------------|
D |----------------|
A |----------------|
E |----------------|
[/code]

<pre>
E |----------------|
B |----------------|
G |----------------|
D |----------------|
A |----------------|
E |----------------|
</pre>