Beginner Guitar Tabs: Pop/Rock Songs for Learning Tab and Technique

beginnerguitartabsThe guitar has a rich cultural history as a folk instrument. It is designed, laid out, and tuned to fit the human hand nicely, making it simple for most anyone to pick up and play basic chords and melodies without too much trouble.

So it makes sense that you can learn to play well without a working knowledge of Western musical concepts.

Now, in the internet age, when information is shared so easily, guitarists keep up an easy-going, intuitive approach to learning songs by sharing tablature, or tab for short. Reading tab on forums, websites, and blogs, players can quickly and easily figure out the songs they love and add them to their repertoire to perform for others.

So in short, if you are new to the guitar, you can use tab to start right away to learn your favorite songs and improve your guitar skills. This introductory guide will briefly explain how to read tablature for brand new players and then get into some tabs for pop/rock songs that will help build your techniques.  If you are also looking for a resource to learn the basics, you can take an online course in beginning guitar.

A Quick Introduction to Tab

Guitar tab, an alternative musical notation system, makes it easy to learn your favorite songs without first having to learn to read musical notes well. By representing finger placement on the strings and frets, tab is simple to understand almost immediately.

Even if this is the first time you are looking at tablature, you might get the concept right away, but if you need a quick primer, here are three basic components you’ll want to understand:

1. The dotted lines represent the strings on the guitar.  Looking at a tab diagram, the bottom line represents the low E string and the top line represents the High E string. Typically, the note name for the open string is written out at the left of the chart.

2. The numbers on the tab diagram indicate the number of the fret you will want to play. For chords, the numbers will be stacked in a column, indicating that you play all notes at the same time. Otherwise, notes will progress from left to right. And if you see an X, instead of a number, that means you will mute the string and pluck or strum it.

3. Guitar tab includes some additional, specialized symbols, indicating how notes and chords should be played. Usually, a key is included to define these. You will start to easily recognize what these mean as you learn songs.

You should understand that, on its own, tab leaves something to be desired when it comes to essential musical elements, such as rhythm and dynamics. Stand-alone tabs may include some general elements to indicate the song’s rhythm and time signature, such as spaces for rests or vertical lines indicating measures. But largely, they rely on the player’s knowing the song by ear. Otherwise, they can act as a supplement to written music, standing in for written musical notes, while a musician will still apply other musical concepts.

If you would like to get a good start on understanding music, you might consider a course designed to teach you basic musical concepts as you are learning guitar.

Now, on to the tabs…

The Ramones – Blitzkrieg Bop

A basic building block of so much guitar music, especially in rock, is the power chord (or fifth chord). Using only the root and fifth of a scale, the chord sounds nice and powerful coming from a loud amplifier.

Especially early in the Ramones career, iconic guitar player Johnny Ramone was convinced that you really didn’t need anything but these basic chords to make great rock music, and he rarely used anything else. So, why not learn this technique from the master with the Ramones classic, Blitzkrieg Bop.

The rhythm guitar in Blitzkrieg bop uses a straight, fast eighth note pattern, with occasional rests to accentuate a chord. Those rests have been reflected in the tab, with extra space between the notes.

The song is in 4/4 time signature at about 170 – 200 BPM depending on which recording you are going by.

Intro/Verse

(fig. 1) repeat 3 times

A5                            D5 E5
E|--------------------------|------------------------
B|--------------------------|------------------------
G|--------------------------|--7----7--9----9--9--9--
D|--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--|--7----7--9----9--9--9--
A|--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--|--5----5--7----7--7--7--
E|--5--5--5--5--5--5--5--5--|------------------------

(fig. 2) Played each seventh and eighth measure of each verse

A5             D5          A5
E|------------------------|--------------------------
B|------------------------|--------------------------
G|-------------7----7--7--|--------------------------
D|--7----7--7--7----7--7--|--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--
A|--7----7--7--5----5--5--|--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--
E|--5----5--5-------------|--5--5--5--5--5--5--5--5--

Chorus

D5                           D5
E|--------------------------|-------------------------
B|--------------------------|-------------------------
G|--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--|--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7-
D|--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--|--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7-
A|--5--5--5--5--5--5--5--5--|--5--5--5--5--5--5--5--5-
E|--------------------------|-------------------------
A5                          D5       A5
E|-------------------------|-------------------------
B|-------------------------|-------------------------
G|-------------------------|--7----7-----------------
D|--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7-|--7----7--7----7--7--7---
A|--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7-|--5----5--7----7--7--7---
E|--5--5--5--5--5--5--5--5-|----------5----5--5--5---
D5                           D5
E|-------------------------|-------------------------
B|-------------------------|-------------------------
G|--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7-|--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7-
D|--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7-|--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7-
A|--5--5--5--5--5--5--5--5-|--5--5--5--5--5--5--5--5-
E|-------------------------|-------------------------
B5                          D5        E5
E|-------------------------|-------------------------
B|-------------------------|-------------------------
G|-------------------------|--7--7--7--9----9--9--9--
D|--9--9--9--9--9--9--9--9-|--7--7--7--9----9--9--9--
A|--9--9--9--9--9--9--9--9-|--5--5--5--7----7--7--7--
E|--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7-|-------------------------

Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah

Switching up the pace (a lot), let’s take a look at another great song that will help you work on another technique: arpeggios.

This classic ballad, originally composed by the legendary songwriter Leonard Cohen, has been covered many times. So there are plenty of recordings you can use to get a feel for the song. The most popular rendition, and a highly recommended recording, if you’re not already familiar, is the one by Jeff Buckley, from his Grace album.

This version of the tab is generalized, compared to the recorded versions. It uses straightforward arpeggios with root, the third, and the fifth notes of the scale (barring a few exceptions). You should be able to play along with any version of the song using this arrangement, and it lays the foundation nicely if you plan to sing along.  As you expand your understanding of the guitar and music in general, you can build on this rudimentary version to make more lush and interesting arrangements, if you like.

On a final note, arpeggiated guitar parts like this one are best played using fingerstyle technique.  If you haven’t got a feel for this playing style, you may want to work with an instructor to get it down.  You can have a lot of fun doing this in a finger pickin’ blues guitar course online.

This song is in a 6/8 time signature with a slow tempo.

Intro

C                      Am                   C                     Am
E|-----------0--------|-----------0--------|-----------0--------|-----------0--------
B|-----------1--------|-----------1--------|-----------1--------|-----------1--------
G|--------0-----0-----|--------2-----2-----|--------0-----0-----|--------2------2----D|--
---2--------------|-----2-------------|-----2--------------|-----2--------------
A|--3--------------2--|--0--------------2--|--3--------------2--|--0---------------2-
E|--------------------|--------------------|--------------------|--------------------

Verse

C                       Am                   C                     Am
E|-----------0---------|----------0---------|----------0---------|-----------0-------
B|-----------1---------|----------1---------|----------1---------|-----------1-------
G|--------0-----0------|--------2----2------|--------0----0------|--------2-----2----
D|-----2---------------|-----2--------------|-----2--------------|-----2-----------2-
A|--3--------------2---|--0--------------2--|--3-------------2---|--0----------------
E|---------------------|--------------------|--------------------|-------------------
F                      G                     C                     G
E|-----------1--------|---------1--------3--|-----------0--------|-------------------
B|--------1-----1-----|---------1--------3--|-----------1--------|-----------3-------
G|-----2-----------2--|------2--------4-----|--------0-----0-----|-----------0-------
D|--3-----------------|--3--------5---------|-----2-----------2--|--------0----------
A|--------------------|---------------------|--3-----------------|-----2-------------
E|--------------------|---------------------|--------------------|--3----------------
C                      F              G      Am                   F
E|-----------0--------|--------1--------3--|----------5---------|-----------1--------
B|-----------1--------|--------1--------3--|-------5-----5------|--------1-----1-----
G|--------0-----0-----|-----2---------4----|-----5-----------5--|-----2-----------2--
D|-----2-----------2--|--3---------5-------|--7-----------------|--3-----------------
A|--3-----------------|--------------------|--------------------|--------------------
E|--------------------|--------------------|--------------------|--------------------
G                       E7                     Am
E|------------3-------|-------------7--------|-----------5--------|------------------
B|--------3-----3-----|---------5-----5------|--------5-----5-----|------------------
G|-----4-----------4--|-----7-----------7----|-----5-----------5--|------------------
D|--5-----------------|--6-------------------|--7-----------------|--7---------------
A|--------------------|----------------------|--------------------|------------------
E|--------------------|----------------------|--------------------|------------------

Chorus

F A
E|-----------1--------|-----------1--------|-----------0--------|-----------0-------
B|--------1-----1-----|--------1-----1-----|-----------1--------|-----------1-------
G|-----2-----------2--|-----2-----------2--|--------2-----2-----|--------2-----2----
D|--3-----------------|--3-----------------|-----2-----------2--|-----2-----------2-
A|--------------------|--------------------|--0-----------------|--0----------------
E|--------------------|--------------------|--------------------|-------------------
F C G
E|-----------1--------|-----------1--------|-----------0--------|-------------------
B|--------1-----1-----|--------1-----1-----|-----------1--------|-----------3-------
G|-----2-----------2--|-----2-----------2--|--------0-----0-----|-----------0-------
D|--3-----------------|--3-----------------|-----2-----------2--|--------0----------
A|--------------------|--------------------|--3-----------------|-----2-------------
E|--------------------|--------------------|--------------------|--3----------------

The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army

If you are at all familiar with Jack White’s guitar playing, you will know that he likes to make things as difficult as possible. And his signature sound (often produced using a plastic guitar) should tell you it works for him.

In the original recording of the smash hit, Seven Nation Army, Jack gets a huge sound by detuning his guitar and using a slide, along with an octave coupling effect.  We’re not going to do any of that here. Instead, we will take an easier route to play the song’s riffs, and in doing so, you will learn a couple of important rock guitar techniques: namely, the moving power chord and the slide.

At its core, the song is very simple, containing just one guitar phrase repeated over and over, changing only very briefly for a pre-chorus build-up. It’s in 4/4, with a moderate tempo.  Here are the parts:

Intro/Verse riff

E|------------------------|--------------
B|------------------------|--------------
G|------------------------|--------------
D|------------------------|--------------
A|--7------7--10---7---5--|--3--------2--
E|------------------------|--------------

Pre-Chorus

E|----------------------|-------------------------
B|----------------------|-------------------------
G|----------------------|-------------------------
D|--5--5--5--5--5--5--5-|-7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--
A|--5--5--5--5--5--5--5-|-7--7--7--7--7--7--7--7--
E|--3--3--3--3--3--3--3-|-5--5--5--5--5--5--5--5--

Chorus

(/) Slide Up (\) Slide down
E|-------------------------|--------------
B|-------------------------|--------------
G|--9------9-/-12---9---7--|--5--------4--
D|--9------9-/-12---9---7--|--5--------4--
A|--7------7-/-10---7---5--|--3--------2--
E|-------------------------|--------------
E|-------------------------|----------------
B|-------------------------|----------------
G|--9------9-/-12---9---7--|--5-/-7--5-\-4--
D|--9------9-/-12---9---7--|--5-/-7--5-\-4--
A|--7------7-/-10---7---5--|--3-/-5--3-\-2--
E|-------------------------|----------------

Diamond Head – Am I Evil? (intro solo)

Now let’s get a little tricky.

One technique used often in heavy rock and metal solos is the hammer-on.  Essentially, by tapping your finger on the fret, rather than picking the note, you can move through rapid fire notes easily. A nice example of the technique, chosen largely because it is played clearly and with no accompaniment, is the intro solo to Diamond Head’s Am I Evil?.

This short lick is a good exercise not only for developing this technique, but also for developing your strength in your pinky. This will be important if you want to grow as a strong lead guitar player. So, whether you are a big classic metal fan or not, you might benefit from getting in the spirit and working up to this solo.

Take it slowly at first, and focus on the technique. You might think it’s crazy to take on such a fast riff at the beginning level, but it’s easier to get under your fingers than you might think, and you’ll feel great when you do.

Think of the notes as series of three.  On each set, you want to pluck the open B string, hammer the second note with your index finger and then hammer the third with your pinky.

(h) hammer-on
E|--------------------------------------------------
B|-0h5h8-0h5h8-0h5h8-0h5h8-0h5h8-0h5h8-0h5h8-0h5h8--
G|--------------------------------------------------
D|--------------------------------------------------
A|--------------------------------------------------
E|--------------------------------------------------
E|--------------------------------------------------
B|-0h4h7-0h4h7-0h4h7-0h4h7-0h4h7-0h4h7-0h4h7-0h4h7--
G|--------------------------------------------------
D|--------------------------------------------------
A|--------------------------------------------------
E|--------------------------------------------------
E|---------------------------------------------------
B|-0h5h8-0h5h8-0h5h8-0h5h8-0h7h10-0h7h10-0h5h8-0h5h8-
G|---------------------------------------------------
D|---------------------------------------------------
A|---------------------------------------------------
E|---------------------------------------------------
E|-------------------------------------------------
B|-0h4h7-0h4h7-0h4h7-0h4h7-0h4h7-0h4h7-0h4h7-0h4h7-
G|-------------------------------------------------
D|-------------------------------------------------
A|-------------------------------------------------
E|-------------------------------------------------

Guns and Roses – Sweet Child O Mine (Intro riff)

One of the best things you can do for yourself in your lead guitar practice is work on skipping strings, building your muscle memory so that your fingers work in patterns that don’t initially seem intuitive to you.  This will help you create and perform interesting licks and melodies and express yourself on guitar in a more fulfilling way.

The intro riff to Sweet Child O Mine is instantly recognizable but, more than that, it is highly valuable as a practice riff to warm you up and get your fingers nice and nimble.

In fact, that is along the lines of what Slash intended when he wrote the riff. Initially, he created it for the purpose of a warm up exercise until the band caught on to the fact that it happened to be super cool!

So learning the intro riff to Sweet Child O Mine is a great way to put some style in to your practice. It will take you a little time before you get it up to the right tempo, but it’s a rewarding experience to be able to play it.

If you decide you want to work on more exercises like this to build up your chops, try an online guitar course that will help you develop a regular workout for your technique.

E|-------------15----14----|-------------15----14----|
B|----15-------------------|----15-------------------|
G|-------14-12----14----14-|-------14-12----14----14-|
D|-12----------------------|-12----------------------|
A|-------------------------|-------------------------|
E|-------------------------|-------------------------|
E|-------------15----14----|-------------15----14----|
B|----15-------------------|----15-------------------|
G|-------14-12----14----14-|-------14-12----14----14-|
D|-14----------------------|-14----------------------|
A|-------------------------|-------------------------|
E|-------------------------|-------------------------|

Outro

Hopefully, you find value in this short list of tabs to try out. It’s important to remember that playing guitar is about having fun. So, even if you are getting in to it hoping to build incredible chops and be the next virtuoso, don’t forget to dedicate some of your time to learning songs that you love and connecting with the music. Using simple tabs, it’s very easy to do.