While most instruments make do with a single form of notation, we guitarists have to contend with two. Firstly there is the traditional music notation, with treble clefs and a host of crotchets, quavers and the like. Then there’s the tablature, showing strings and frets.
Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Traditional notation is great for learning the geography of your guitar – knowing where all the Cs are, for example, and how scales work – but it can be difficult to read it at speed. TAB, on the other hand, is easily read and converted to the actual notes on your guitar, but playing by frets alone can hinder your progress of learning which notes are which.
Thankfully, most of the music out there uses both forms of notation, with the treble written directly above the TAB, as in the image above. But this isn’t always the case, and the time will come when you find yourself confronted with only one, so it’s important to prepare yourself by knowing how to read both.
One way to go about this is to cover one or other type of notation in a piece of music, forcing yourself to rely on only the traditional or TAB notation. Alternatively get hold of examples of music that present only one type. Classical guitar music is written in traditional notation only, as is violin music (the lowest note being G below middle-C). There are also books with TAB only, such as Hal Leonards Guitar TAB Method.
Below is a PDF of a few simple songs, using only open strings and the first 3 frets. I have written them out on one page in TAB and the other in traditional notation. Feel free to download it to help practice each type.
If you want more help with your traditional or TAB notation, or in learning the guitar in general, I offer beginner guitar lessons in acoustic and electric rhythm guitar. If you’d like a free trial lesson, please do contact me here.