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How to Read Tabs for the Bass Guitar

Learn how to read tabs for the bass guitar from musician John Sutton in this online guitar lesson from Howcast.


Bass guitar tabs are an easier way to read notation because they just give you the fret number where the note is that you're going to play. Unlike normal musical notation, tabs are just numbers on 4 lines. The 4 lines represent the 4 strings of the electric bass. In the example shown, there's a number 1 on the lowest line. That simply means that you play the first fret on the lowest string. In typical musical notation they tell you which notes to play, but they don't necessarily tell you which finger you use or what fret to play it on. So tablature is unique because it tells you exactly which fret to play it on; potentially the easiest fingering. The thing that's typically missing from tablature is rests and rhythms. So it still helps to be able to read musical notation, to be able to read the rhythms, to be able to read rests. You can see from the example shown there are rests in the musical notation listed above it but when it comes to actually playing the tablature, they only have the notes you're going to play listed. So that's the basis for understanding bass tablature.

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