Guitar Tabs vs Chords – The Differences

No matter how sad you may be, when you listen to some motivational music, you instantly feel uplifted. That is the power of music.

It makes you feel happy, positive, and hopeful. Not only listening to music but even learning to play a musical instrument has immense positive effects.

Though there are many instruments that you can practice playing, the one that is most popular is a guitar. When you play the guitar it looks very cool, stylish, and can leave a positive impact on anyone. Also, playing the guitar is considered good for your well-being and mental health.

Guitar indeed is a very popular instrument but what confuses most people are the terms chords and tabs. So, we shall now draw guitar tabs vs chords comparison so that you understand the differences between the two.

Understanding the Differences Between Guitar Chords and Tabs

Guitar tablature (tabs) and chord charts both help you in learning to play the guitar. Tabs basically are an easy means of notating music for fretted musical devices. It shows the players where they must place their fingers on the fretboard.

Chord charts are another type of shorthand musical notation. However, they only list the chords that are used to play a song.

Tab Features

The tab system makes use of a 6-line grid. In this, every line is representative of a guitar string, right from the top to the bottom. Each line has a number written and that is basically an instruction for playing a particular fret.

The first string is the thinnest one and the sixth is the thickest. Beginning from the sixth string, they are tuned E- A- D- G- B-e. There are also guitars with seven or more strings but they are more or less the same thing. The tabs though have additional lines.

The benefit of a tab is that it helps a guitar player understand where exactly on the fretboard he need to play the notes. Thus, the player will not have to read and understand the difficult musical staff notation.

Chord Features

Chord charts are used basically for musical notation. It is less detailed compared to tabs and proves to be a guide to a song’s harmonic structure.

If you practice playing particular chords for a while and then learn some songs, which will use those chords, it will prove beneficial. You will see that these chord charts will help you play the songs much faster than you would if you practiced with tabs.

Advantages of Chord Charts

You can use the E, D, and A chords to play easy song arrangements. Just after you learn to play a few guitar chords you will be able to play different types of songs without any difficulty. But, when you use tabs, you have to individually learn to play each of the songs.

Advantages of Tabs

Once you read the tablature of any song you will be able to play it with perfect precision. And, this is the biggest advantage of tabs. There are many websites that come with lists of songs. You just need to find your favorite among these, check the instructions, and you can go ahead and play it.

How Does a Tab and Chord Guide You?

Video: “How to Read Guitar TAB & Chord Boxes”

A tab tells you where you need to place your finger on the fretboard whereas a chord is just the name of a chord that will be played like D, E, or G.

When you play tabs, it creates the melody of a song and the song is thus more organized.

However, when you play chords you play some sound that generally accompanies a melody. So, you will not be recognizing the song while playing the chords.


Now that you have gone through this guitar tabs vs chords comparison, you surely do understand that both of them are crucial in helping you learn how to play the guitar. Both are different but both are important.

If you want to gain perfection in playing the guitar you have to give equal importance to both the tabs and chords. Learning one may be easier than the other but since you are interested in being perfect, you have to master both.

And once you do, you will never fail to impress. Be it just your friends, a small crowd, or a huge audience, everyone will always be thoroughly impressed by your guitar playing skills.

Juan Stansbury
Juan Stansbury

I'm Juan Stansbury, author and owner of Homerecordio – your ultimate destination for everything about homerecording. With hands-on experience, courses, workshops, and industry research, I offer tips on selecting the best equipment, and mixing and mastering your recordings to achieve professional-quality results at home. Join me on this journey to explore the world of homerecording and music production.

Home Recordio