Guitar Notations

Photo by bennylin0724

I had been getting a lot of request in the form of comments asking how to read guitar notations that were alien to them. These were mostly beginners who had picked up guitar only a while ago and had decided to learn from the internet. So I thought to write a quick post explaining all the basic notations which will help you understand everything that is posted on this blog as well as all over the internet. If I forget something here and there, please let me know in the comments and I will update the post accordingly. So here we go…

Chord Representation

Chord Representation

Here at, I have adopted the following chord presentation style. I place the chords at its appropriate place surrounded by normal brackets ‘()’ and bolder than other text (song lyrics). The font-size is also relatively larger to make it more prominent. There is no single standard way of representing chords. Elsewhere on the internet, chords are mentioned in a separate line above the lyrics that it is referred to. Both represent chords only.

Need a quick reference to all the chords you would ever need to play? Check out Guitar Chords Chart. Bookmark it!

I had a question from some absolute beginners that they wanted the chord info in tabular format with dotted lines and numbers. What they actually meant were tabs/leads and not chords. Representing chords that way is cumbersome and a waste of space so I won’t be doing that. But tabs will always be represented that way. See below.

Tabs / Leads Representation

Tabs/Leads Representation

As you can see the above format is used for representing tabs/leads. The lines represent the strings and the numbers represent the frets. The topmost line is the thinnest string and bottom-most one… you guessed it, the thickest string. Move from left to right and play the frets mentioned as is. This representation has a flaw that it does not give any information about the delays between each plucking. You will have to judge that by yourself. If you are creating music, don’t use this type of notation.

Special Effects Notations

You will find below notations in more advanced songs but they are not at all complicated if practiced well. Here I will list the symbols used for various special effects. I have discussed these effects in detail here: Raise Your Guitaring Level By Mastering These Basic Effects.

Tab Representation of Special Effects


h – hammer on
p – pull off
b – bend string up
r – release bend (optional)
/ – slide up (to higher frets)
– slide down (to lower frets)
v – vibrato (sometimes written as ~)
t – right hand tap
x – mute the specific note by damping.

Pehla Nasha is one song where these notations are used extensively. You might think of avoiding these effects for easy guitar playing, but remember you will never sound great without these effects. They are the tools to better guitaring.

That should get you started if you are a complete newbie. To all my pro readers, if I missed something, then remind me in the comments and I will add it up.

If you are absolute beginner or have just started out then bookmark this page for easy reference.

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