How to Learn Guitar by Numbers

By Contributing Writer
Learn Guitar by Numbers

Unlike other instruments, there are several ways to read music written for the guitar. One of the most popular systems used to write music for guitar is called Tab, a series of numbers that are written on each string that tells the player where to place her fingers. By learning to read Tab, one can learn songs and exercises written for guitar without ever having to read music.

Learn to decipher a Tab sheet. Each line on the Tab sheet corresponds to a string on the guitar. The lowest line on the Tab is the lowest string of the guitar, 6, and the highest line on the Tab is the highest string on the guitar, 1.

Play the open 6th string, which is indicated in the tap by a 0 on the lowest line of the Tab.

Play the other open strings, each indicated as a 0 on their corresponding lines of the Tab.

Place the left-hand index finger on the first fret of the 6th string and pluck it with the right hand. This note will be indicated as a 1 on the lowest line of the Tab.

Play the first fret on each of the other five strings. They will be indicated as a 1 on their corresponding lines in the Tab.

Learn to play the C major scale in open position. Use the left-hand ring finger to play notes on the 3rd fret, middle finger for notes on the 2nd and index finger for notes on the 1st. Play each note, one at a time, in sequential order until reaching the last note of the scale.

Learn to play the open position major chords. Place the left hand fingers on the notes indicated in the Tab to "finger" each chord. Using the right hand, strum all of the notes to sound each chord. There are several ways to "finger" each chord, so try using different left-hand finger combinations to find one that is comfortable.

Learn to play the open position minor chords. Follow the previous step to properly place the left-hand fingers on each chord.


Practicing for a short time everyday when first learning to play guitar can help build calluses that will make playing less painful on the fingertips. Taking private guitar lessons can greatly accelerate the learning process.


Never practice "through the pain." If experiencing pain in the hands or arms take a few minutes to stretch, and rest before returning to practice.