Guitar tabs are a form of musical notation that tell the player where to put his or her fingers on the guitar neck, rather than what note and pitch to play. Many believe that tabs are a new form of writing music, but in actuality tabs have been used for centuries. Many find that they are much easier to read than the standard form of musical notation.
Guitar tabs appear similar in some ways to other musical notation. A staff is drawn with six horizontal lines that represent the six strings of a guitar, with the top line being the high E string, and the bottom line the low E string. A number on one of the lines represents which fret should be held down to produce a typical note. For example, a three on the bottom line would indicate that the next note in the song is a G, played on the low E string.
Chords are represented on guitar tabs in much the same way as notes. The G power chord would be represented as a three on the top line of the staff (sixth string) with a five on the two lines directly below. Many tabs will also put the letter representation of the chord above the tablature to aid the reader in determining the chord.
Guitar techniques can also be easily written into guitar tabs. Usually each tab will have a key to explain the symbols. Slides are often represented with a forward slash between the two notes or chords. Hammer-ons, when in a book of guitar tablature, are often represented as an arc above and between two notes, with the pull off a reversed arc underneath them. A slide is often represented with a tilde symbol (~).
There is a veritable encyclopedia of free guitar tabs available online. Nearly every song ever written can be found somewhere on the Internet in tab form. At one point, many such sites were temporarily shut down due to possible copyright issues. The reasoning behind this is that many felt that by making guitar tabs free they were essentially violating the original artists right to reproduction of their original materials. Most of these sites have since become available again under the reasoning that the tabs are there merely to instruct people how to play their instrument and exist as educational tools only.