Tabs Vs. Chords

By Steven Harkins ; Updated September 15, 2017
Tablature (tabs) is a simplified method of musical notation used by guitar players

Guitar chord charts and tablature (tabs) both help you to learn and play the guitar. Tablature is a simplified way of notating music for fretted instruments, showing the player where to place his fingers on the fretboard. Chord charts are another form of shorthand musical notation, but they simply list (by name) the chords used to play the song.

Tablature Features

The tablature system utilizes a six-line grid in which each line represents a guitar string from top to bottom. A number written on each line is an instruction to play a specific fret. The advantage of tablature is that it tells the guitar player exactly where to play notes on the fretboard so the player doesn't have to read and interpret musical staff notation (which is much more difficult).

Chord Chart Features

Chords charts are a system used for musical notation. Less detailed than tablature, chord charts provide a basic guide to the harmonic structure (chord progression) of a song. If you spend time practicing specific chords and then learn songs that utilize those chords, then chord charts can help you to play songs much more quickly than practicing with tablature.

Tablature Benefits

The main benefit of tablature is that you can play your favourite songs in perfect detail by reading the tablature for each song. Websites like Ultimate Guitar.com have lists of songs where you can look up your favorite and find specific instructions on how to play it.

Chord Chart Benefits

The A, D and E chords can be used to play simple arrangements of songs like "Wild Thing", "Knocking on Heaven's Door" and "Hey Joe". Simply learning a set of guitar chords can allow guitar players to play many different songs, whereas using tablature means that each song needs to be learned individually.

Tablature Controversy

According to "The Register", the Music Publishers' Association (MPA) and the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA) have shut down several websites or forced them to remove tablature by using threats of copyright lawsuits.

About the Author

Steven Harkins writing career began in 2004 working on the aviation trade magazine "DARA News." His writing can be found on the pages of the University of Stirling's newspaper "Brig". Harkins currently writes online at Spinwatch, Spinprofiles, Pulse and Indymedia. He joined "Demand Studios as a writer in 2010 and holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in politics and journalism studies.