The grid used for guitar tablature (tab).
Guitar tab example.
C chord in open position shown in tab.
Tablature is a system of indicating the music to be performed other than by notation (i.e., other than by the use of notes). Such a system might use figures, letters, and similar signs. Older instrumental music was often represented in tablature (e.g., the lute accompaniment to a song) and there are still some instances of tablature in music supplied for such instruments as ukuleles, zithers, ocarinas, and mandolins. Most commonly tablature, or tab, is used to indicate notes to be played on a guitar by the finger positions.
Modern guitar tablature uses a grid of six horizontal lines (unlike the five-line stave of conventional music notation), each representing a string on the guitar. In the diagram at top, the bass E string is shown at the bottom, with A, D, G, B, and E strings in ascending order. Fret positions are shown by numbers on the grid, as in the case of the melody line shown below.
Chords are represented by numbers in the same column. The example shown to the right shows a C chord in the open position.
The beauty of tab is that it's easy to understand and follow by any guitarist, without the need to learn to "read music." But that simplicity comes at a price. Most obviously, tab doesn't contain any rhythmic information, such as the length of each note and the time signature of the piece. That's why tab is often printed alongside standard notation, so the rhythmic and other information is there if needed.