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Guitar Tab Reader

A Tool For Making Guitar Tab Notation Accessible


What is Guitar Tab Reader?

There is a type of musical notation for the guitar that is called tablature or tab for short. It consists of numbers and symbols that are displayed along a set of 6 lines of hyphens that represent the 6 strings of a guitar. Tablature depends on each character having the same fixed width so that notes on separate strings that should be played together can be shown in a single column.

Tab is a simple and efficient way of representing guitar music for people with adequate vision and reading skills. However, for people who are blind it is inaccessible even with a screen reader. It can also be difficult or impossible to use for people with visual impairments that rely on screen magnification. Finally, the way horizontal and vertical information is presented together can be difficult for people with some types of reading disabilities.

What Guitar Tab Reader does is translate guitar tablature into simple playing instructions in plain English. For example, it would display the tab snippet "-12-" on the second line of a group of tab lines as "B string fret 12." Notes that are played together are indicated as well as special instructions such as "bend up to fret 5 and "hammer on to fret 8.""

Tabs are frequently found in web sites that collect guitar tabs from many individual contributors. With just a single button click, Guitar Tab Reader can process a web page containing the tablature for an entire song or piece of music. Everything that is not tablature is discarded and the resulting output is organized as separate numbered lines of instructions with all measure markings preserved. This output can be copied to the system clipboard as simple text that can then be incorporated into documents and messages.

How to Use Guitar Tab Reader

  1. Navigate to a web page or text document that contains guitar tablature.
  2. Select the entire contents of the web page or document.
  3. Copy the selected text to the clipboard.
  4. Navigate to Guitar Tab Reader at
  5. Paste the copied text into the Tab Input text box.
  6. Click the Translate button. The playing instructions will display in the Output text box.
  7. Click the Copy button to copy the entire set of playing instructions in the Output text box to the system clipboard.
  8. Click the Clear button to remove the contents of the Tab Input and Output text boxes.

Try It Out

Here are links to several guitar tabs in different musical styles. You can use these with the instructions above to see Guitar Tab Reader in action. Each link opens in a new tab or window depending on your browser settings.


The tabs that are freely available on the Internet are created by many individuals and there is no universal standard for tablature notation. As a result you may at times have to do a little troubleshooting if the Guitar Tab Reader's playing instructions don't make sense. Here are some tips:

Tablature Legend

Here is how tablature symbols are translated into playing instructions.
Symbol Playing Instruction
1 and 2 digit numbers Play the string at the designated fret
v Vibrato
~ Vibrato
m Palm mute
x Mute string
t Tap
h Hammer On
p Pull Off
b Bend
pb Pre Bend
# h # p # Hammer On and Pull Off
# ^ # ^ # Hammer On and Pull Off
s Slide
/ Slide Up
\ Slide Down
r Release
r # Release to fret #
<#> Natural Harmonic
[#] Artificial Harmonic
tr Trill
* Repeat from beginning
(#) Ghost Note
} End of tab

Reporting Issues

If you encounter any problems please send an email to "glcalvert" at the Google mail domain ""