Beginner Guitar Lessons:

Diagrams or Tabs?

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As I said, I will use a lot of Diagrams in the site, not only for chords but also for scales and other stuff: their main advantage is that they give a great visual reference for shapes and fingerings.

This is how a pentatonic scale would look in a diagram form:

A Pentatonic Minor Scale


You can clearly see the shape of the scale and I can even highlight the root and octaves but you have no information about the sequence in which you should play all the notes and it's OK because you just need to memorize it and maybe play it up and down, but if I wanted to teach you an exercise based on this scale, a Tab would be much more useful.

Here's what the same A minor Pentatonic scale would look like in Tab:

It's harder to fathom the shape of the scale but you can see that I want you to play it from the lowest to the highest note.

The next example is a little exercise on the pentatonic scale:

It would be extremely hard to explain this with a diagram even though, if you memorized the shape of the scale from it, it may be easier to remember the exercise, where the fingers should go: visualization can help memory a lot and in the site I will combine the two methods.


But a Tab can tell us much more: the vertical line between the last two numbers is a Bar line. A Bar is a time unit that is used in Notation and the sum of the value or duration of the notes (and pauses) within it must be equal to the time signature: one bar of 4/4 must contain 4 quarter notes or 8 eighth notes or 16 sixteenth notes or any combination that gives a total of 4/4 (we'll go deeper into it in the notation section).

Tabs can show the value of the notes in two ways: we can add note stems below the numbers that indicate the value of each note so you know that all the notes in the exercise have the same length and you must fit 16 of them in each bar ( or, if you prefer, 4 notes every beat of a metronome set in quarters).

The other option is to add a notation system above the Tab with the notes and values: the advantage of this method is that the Tab is 'cleaner' and we can add other performance symbols without cluttering up the tab and that we can easily read the notes without having to calculate them from fret positions.

On the next page we're going to discover the most common performance symbols that can show us exactly how a Tab must be played.