Learning a musical instrument is some of the most fun you can have. It unleashes creativity and strengthens your mind.
Some of the most popular instruments for any budding musician to pick up are the guitar and bass. These influential instruments are the key to many of your favorite songs. When you first start out you try hard to emulate your guitar and bass heroes, but everyone needs to begin somewhere.
Tabs are the perfect way to learn and practice your favorite songs. Take their help to mimic your musical heroes in no time. The easy-to-read format means that those of us unfamiliar with sheet music even have a place to start.
In the days before the internet, you would have needed to learn a song by ear or buy the official tab book. Fortunately, there are now a number of great music learning sites that hold the key to thousands of songs, all at the click of a button.
Ultimate Guitar is one of the most comprehensive guitar resources of the internet. It covers news, reviews, lessons, and even supports a vibrant community across on their forum. This commitment to the art form has paid off.
Since 1998 they have amassed over 10 million registered users, who have submitted over 1.1 million guitar and bass tabs. The Fresh Tabs and Top 100 sections of the site mean that you can always find something new to play.
Despite releasing an Android mobile app, the UI hasn’t modernized over the years, so the site feels a little dated. Functionally it is still fully operational and is one of the largest collections of tabs anywhere on the internet.
If you are passionate about all things guitar and bass, then this will easily become one of your favorites.
Since opening its doors in 2004, 911Tabs has served as a hub for guitarists and bassists across the globe. It slightly bends the definition of tab website though as it doesn’t host any of its own tabs. Instead, the creators of the site invite you to think of 911Tabs as “like Google, but smaller and more accurate” for tabs only.
True to their word, type in any artist or song title into the search bar and you’ll be returned with a comprehensive list of every tab that 911Tabs can find on the internet.
There’s even a “Users who played this also played…” suggestion box to the right of the results page. Users are also able to rate the tabs they find, which helps the best tabs to surface to the top of the search results. As its a gateway to other websites, 911Tabs doesn’t actually display the tabs. Instead, the host website loads within 911Tabs, which continues to display their own banner and menu.
To date 911Tabs has indexed over 4 million tabs, so you can be almost guaranteed to find what you were looking for.
Many of the tab websites were set up in the early 2000s, and it shows. Unlike their Web 1.0 contemporaries, Jellynote is one of the most modern tab websites out there. The interface is clean, free of adverts, and responsive on all devices.
Instead of launching multiple windows to get the tab you are looking for, it’s all displayed by song. This allows you to use the drop down menu to toggle between instruments and parts. Even more uniquely, they even have their own mobile app for both Android and iOS.
Jellynote does have one disadvantage from the Web 1.0 sites: it’s not free. Jellynote offers a daily 15-minute grace period for you to use their service. If you need more than that then you’ll need to sign up for their premium offering which costs $9.99/month. This may be too steep for many casual users.
However, if you find yourself in regular need of high quality tabs, then it would be worth the investment.
Guitaretab is one of the more barebones tab websites still operating. Just like Ultimate Guitar, it design harks back to an earlier age. Despite this, the website does exactly as it says: provides you with instant access to over 200,000 tabs.
The front page lists the top 10 rated songs, and ten latest tab updates. The only other way to navigate the site is either select a letter for the artist, or use the search box at the top right.
There is a tab rating system in place, but it seems as though most visitors don’t participate as the majority will only have up to five ratings. The tab page is visually similar to Ultimate Guitar, with a section on the left even encouraging you to purchase Ultimate Guitar’s tab software.
While its library of tabs is more limited than some of its competitors, Guitaretab is an great no-frills resource to add to your arsenal.
Songsterr’s minimalist website keeps things clean and modern. This means that you can focus on the tab without any clutter or ads getting in the way. Songsterr is a collaborative tab website. Instead of maintaining a database of multiple versions of the same song, there is one tab per song.
Any user can edit the tab, but the community can always revert any changes. In effect, Songsterr is the Wikipedia of tab websites.
Songsterr is free to use, although they do have a paid plan that unlocks additional features like support for printing, loop, and tempo control. The paid plan also unlocks both the Android and iOS apps, which allow for on-the-go playback of over 500,000 tabs.
The funds raised through the paid plan are used to pay artist royalties so that the tabs are never removed following DMCA requests.
And One More Thing…
As with many things on the internet, YouTube is home to a great collection of free play through videos for you to play along to while reading the tab. This is great if you want to learn one part of a multi-layered song, isolating the relevant MIDI track.
Sure, not everything will be available on YouTube. However, channels like Tab Sheet Music have a wide selection of tabs from popular music to video game and movie soundtracks.
Tabs are sometimes referred to as a beginner’s tool, perfect for starting off on your journey. One day you may feel like you want to move onto something else, maybe even take up expert tuition. In our increasingly mobile world, you can even choose to use free apps to help you learn.
However, don’t feel that you have to leave tabs behind. After ten years of playing guitar, I still use tabs on a regular basis. Sometimes you just feel like ordering a takeout, rather than cooking from scratch, and that’s okay too.
And when you’re ready to start recording, make sure you have one of these best USB interfaces for musicians.