Tablatures (or Tabs, for short) and chord diagrams have become the most popular way to write music for the guitar and most stringed instruments.
They are way simpler to read than standard notation and they let you see exactly where to place your fingers.
Diagrams are more suited to show static fingerings for both chords and scales and since they are a visual representation of the fret board they are very useful to memorize and compare different shapes.
Tabs, on the other hand, are used for 'dynamic' material, exercises and full songs.
Let's take a look at a chord diagram and learn how to read it.
Here is the kind of diagram I will use throughout the site:
Roman numbers on top show the fret numbers
A 0 before the strings means it's an open string, an X means that it must not be played
Dots represent fretted strings and an optional number shows the left hand finger to use: 1 index, 2 middle, 3 ring and 4 pinky.
1st string is on top
6th string at the bottom.
So it's like looking down at a guitar when it's lying in your lap. In this case we have an A Major chord at the second fret. 6th string is silent, 5th and 1st strings are 'open' and must be played. We're gonna use our index finger on the 4th string, second fret, then the middle finger on the 3rd, second fret and finally the ring finger on the 2nd string, second fret.
Here is another example of chord diagram you may find on a printed score:
It's the same A major chord but it's smaller and tilted 90 degrees clockwise but it contains all the information you need in a compact format and it's mostly used to represent chords on scores with only melody and lyrics, very popular.
And finally, here's the same chord and position in tablature:
As in a diagram, every line is a string, with the 6th at the bottom and the 1st at the top but in this case we have numbers that represent the frets you must use: 0 means an open string while silent strings are left empty.
But Tabs can give us much more information than a diagram, we can learn a complete song with almost any playing nuance just by reading good tab: in this respect, a Tab is much better than ordinary notation for guitar but when we combine them we get the best of both worlds.