Guitar Tablature Chords

Playing chords is one of the things guitars do best.  There are several ways to show chords using tablature notation.  You should feel comfortable with any chord notations since it varies by preference.  Having a strong chord foundation and knowledge will help when reading chord charts.  You will also need to use your ear to determine the correct chord form in many situations.  Especially if the tab sheet only identifies the chord by name.  Below are 4 examples of how you might see the open A string chord represented on a sheet of tab.

Chord in Tab Notation

A chord may simply be written in tab notation.  Chords written this way are displayed by the fret number and string and each note is stacked on top of each other.  This tells you exactly which notes to play but reading the chord quickly can be challenging unless you are familiar with the chord shape written on the tab.

Chord in Tab

Chord by Name

A quicker way of reading chords is to simply write the name above the tab staff.  This makes reading the chord easy in realtime but you lack some clarity as to which chord you should play.  In this example, should I play the A open string chord or the A barre string chord on the 5th fret.  You will need to use your ear to determine the best match.

Chord by Name

Chord by Name and Diagram

Sometimes tab will show the chord diagram next to the chord name.  This takes the ambiguity out of which chord form to play but you need to be familiar with chord diagrams if you want to continue to read the music in realtime.

Chord by Diagram

Chords with Strum Markings

All of the previous example told you what chord to play but it didn't really tell you how to play it.  Chords written in tab notation can indicate strumming but it's kind of hard to tell how many times to strum or pick the chord when it's written over and over and over as tab notation.  Strumming can also be notated by hash marks or up and down arrows specifying the direction of your strum.  This example shows 4 hash marks which tells you to strum the chord 4 times for that measure.  Hash marks can also be subdivided into smaller rhythmic marks like eighth notes or sixteenth notes.

Chord Strumming