How to Convert Music to Tab

By Robert Samoraj ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Sheet music
  • Tab sheets
  • Tab conversion software

Converting music to tab can be done manually, if you learn how to read both sheet music and tablature, or it can be done using conversion software. Both methods are useful for guitar players, since tab notation represents fingering, chords, and notes on a guitar, which can be easier to read and use when actually playing a song on the guitar.

Learn what lines represent each note on a guitar tab. The bottom line is the top E string, and it goes down A, D, G, B, and e (being the thinnest, bottom string). This represents the way a guitarist sees the strings (from above). The numbers on each line represent finger positions on fret (a 3 on D would be a finger placed on the third fret on the D string). Progression of music moves left to right, and multiple numbers vertically represent chords.

Manually convert sheet music to tab. Use a pencil to place the correct notes or chords from the sheet music to the blank tab, and list the correct numberings, frets, strings, and positions on the tab notation. Write down rhythm, time signature, and music styling notes on the guitar tab. Since sheet music has more details, you need to make sure to write down the musical dynamics to avoid forgetting how to properly play the music.

Alternatively, you can use a software program that converts music to tab. Enter the notes from the sheet music into the program and convert the music into tab form.

Printed chords in tab form are switched sideways to show how they look on a guitar. Vertical lines are strings in this case, and vertical spaces are frets. Black spots show finger placements, and white spots show open strings, which are played but not held down.

Practice reading and playing the guitar tabs until you can sight them as easily as sheet music.


Learn to read guitar tabs and sheet music to help make manual conversion easier.


Tab conversion software can be unreliable, since the finger placements can differ from program to program, and among musicians.

About the Author

Robert Samoraj has been writing for over six years. His work has appeared in The Rockford Register Star, the Chicago Tribune and Collective Fallout. He holds a Bachelor of English degree from Roosevelt University.