Why Tabs Are Better Than Music Sheets

There are two main ways to read notes for guitar songs: tablature and sheet music. For those of you who are able to play completely by ear, this post is negligible – move on.

For the rest of us, here’s the good news: Tablature doesn’t require a great deal of music-reading ability, and it shows you exactly where to put your fingers on the fretboard. With sheet music, in most cases, at best you will get some chord diagrams hovering above the staves; otherwise, you’re on your own. Furthermore, unless the sheet music is written specifically for guitar, you’re going to get the piano part and maybe a vocal melody. And if you’re just strumming a long to the jam, that’s fine. But you could just as easily do that from a song chart found on any number of tab and chord aggregators.

In other words, for beginning to intermediate guitar players, tablature is by far the best way to go. And honestly, some of us advanced guitar players really like tabs, too. I love ‘em. In my early days, I would study the tabs of every song featured in every guitar magazine whether I liked the song or not.

Now, just the idea of “notes” for guitar songs implies reading skills. Despite tab’s convenience as a low-context musical tool of instruction, you gotta know something about reading music. You need to know the difference between this:

Quarter notes.jpg

And this:


In the big picture, we’re all lazy. Blame Obama or blame evolution. Whatever. The point is, for most of human existence, resources were few and unreliable, so humanity was compelled to conserve energy as much as possible. Because it was so essential for our caveman ancestors to conserve energy, we evolved to expend minimal effort when we can get away it.


Tablature is a natural extension of our genetic heritage. If you can figure out how to wrangle the basic guitar tab, you will have little or no need for sheet music or sight-reading skills. Remember that the only reason we write things down is so we don’t forget them. The key to playing guitar is learning the music so thoroughly that you never need to reference a piece of paper. And that’s why tablature is so much more effective than reading sheet music. The notes don’t exist on the page, they exist in your mind, and your challenge is to get them to your fingertips. Tabs go a long, long way to making that a reality.

If learning songs on guitar is your goal, I recommend you to check out these courses:


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