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Play Guitar Better No Matter How You Read Music With TuxGuitar

Ryan Dube 31-05-2012

sheet music guitarAbout a year ago, I started taking guitar lessons. It was actually just on a whim, because my daughter was taking piano lessons, and I wanted something to do while I was waiting for her. Since it was a husband and wife business, while the wife taught my daughter piano, the husband taught me how to play guitar.


I took lessons for about 5 or 6 months I think, and then schedules changed and I had to quit, but I never lost my affection for playing the guitar. The instructor said that I was a natural – but I’m sure he tells that to all of his students. I did pick up all of the most common chords pretty fast, and I learned a bunch of really cool songs that I could play, so long as the chords were printed on the song sheets.

I’m not the only one either. We’ve got lots of guitar fans at MUO, like Tim and his list of documentaries 6 Free Music Documentaries For Fans Of The Guitar [Stuff to Watch] This week’s Stuff to Watch doubles up as a Stuff to Listen To in the form of six carefully chosen documentaries exploring the music, lives and talent behind some of the world’s most famous live... Read More for guitar fans, or Laurence’s free tools to learn guitar playing Essential FREE Tools to Learn Guitar Playing Online Read More from a few years back. The web has lots of resources for guitar players.

TuxGuitar Has Everything Guitar Players Need

So, let me just say that taking guitar lessons and learning chords was nice, because I learned the “correct” way to read the music and play along. The problem is that so many guitar players learned on their own, and make use of this “tablature” method of printing sheet music for guitar. I’ve honestly never understood how it works, because I just didn’t learn guitar that way – but apparently many, many guitar players out there make use of guitar tabs.

There’s nothing wrong with that, it just makes it very hard for me to make use of music that these people have created and published online. It also makes it hard for them to play regular music written without guitar tabs.  Luckily, TuxGuitar has a little bit for everyone.

sheet music guitar


All it takes is a single look at that list of menu icons and you can see just how functional this software is. As a quick rundown of the main window, the very top is where you will select whatever function you want, like selecting note type, inserting a chord, setting tempo, etc. Next down is where the musical score is displayed. This area will contain all of the notes and the guitar chords right above it.

Underneath the notes, is an area that will contain the tablature. The cool part is that you have the option of replacing the tablature display with a graphical display of actual guitar frets with dots over the string and fret.

guitar tabs

When you click on the chord editor icon, the chord editor tool pops up. This tool lets you select every single thing about the chord that you want to insert into your song.


guitar tabs

Whether you’re writing your own song or trying to recreate the notes from an existing song, this is a very cool little tool that can help you do it. When you select a chord you want to use, you’ll see all of the variation sin tablature format at the bottom of the tool. Click on those and you’ll hear a sample “strum” with that chord. This lets you choose the best chord for you purposes by selecting the perfect one by ear.

guitar tabs

This is what it looks like when you add a chord to your song sheet. Depending on which note type you have selected in your menu, that note will be placed on the appropriate lines, and of course the tablature representation of that chord will be displayed just below. Best of all (for me anyway), the name of the chord itself appears just above that point in the song sheet.


guitar chords

And of course, you can include the guitar fret graphic on the bottom and see exactly where you need to place your fingers to play the song. That is a feature that I haven’t seen in any other guitar-playing software that I’ve ever seen. It’s very cool.

Here’s what one of my finished songs looks like. I started off with a chord and then a fairly slow and boring tune at just a single tempo. Not very exciting. Kind of goofy actually. You can see the 4-count in red numbers at the top.

guitar chords


If you’re writing your own song, then of course you’ll probably want to include lyrics. TuxGuitar lets you do that too! Just click on the Lyrics icon and type in whatever poem you’ve written that you want to apply to the song notes. The software does a pretty good job of laying out the lyrics with the beat and tempo in mind.

guitar chords

When you’re done with  your musical creation, and want to share your new song with all of your friends that are also guitar fans, all you have to do is click on the file menu, click Export, and then choose from the list of output formats. Those include Ascii, Midi and even PDF.

sheet music guitar

As though all of the above wasn’t enough to make guitar players excited, the software also includes a neat little tool that helps you tune your guitar. How it works is it displays a line with the chords laid out. When you pluck your guitar string (make sure your microphone is turned on and set high), you’ll see the blue line glide over to that area of the chord graph. If it isn’t on the chord that you expected, then your guitar is out of tune.

Play Guitar Better No Matter How You Read Music With TuxGuitar tuxguitar10

Keep plucking and adjusting the string until the blue indicator lines up perfectly with the correct chord. It couldn’t be any simpler, and it saves you from having to buy an electronic guitar tuner.

Are you a guitar fan? Does TuxGuitar do everything that you’ve always wanted in a guitar software? Share your own thoughts in the comments section below.

Image Credit:Playing Guitar Via Shutterstock

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  1. Suman Mitra
    August 1, 2012 at 5:58 am

    great app thanks ..

  2. Alex Olariu
    July 31, 2012 at 12:51 am


  3. Jimmy Arcade
    July 17, 2012 at 4:34 am

    Looks like a great app. I'll have to check this out!

  4. raymond mcnatt
    June 3, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Maybe now I can get my Guitar and start learning to play it. It has been the closet since 1986.

    • Ryan Dube
      June 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm

      Time to get that baby out of there, dust it off and start rocking! :-)

  5. Kelvin Zhang
    June 1, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    This should be very useful, seeing as I just got into playing the guitar.

    • Ryan Dube
      June 12, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      Definitely. If you're just getting started this will really come in handy. I wish that I'd had it when I first started learning and was trying to put together different songs to play.

  6. Stalin Wesley
    June 1, 2012 at 5:08 am

    Very Cool Online Tool For guitar Fans

    Thanks MUO

  7. Kev Quirk
    June 1, 2012 at 12:07 am

    Looks great. I hope there is a Linux version....judging by the name, I guess there probably will be. I'll be putting this on my computer for sure!

    • Ryan Dube
      June 1, 2012 at 12:51 am

      Hi Kev - I've only found a Windows Installer (the Sourceforge link). I don't think there's a Linux version.

      • David Commini
        June 1, 2012 at 4:24 am

        when I clicked the link for the site the first thing I saw was the download link for the tarball (tuxguitar-1.2-linux-x86.tar.gz) and right next to that in the section called" Additional Project Details" under "Platform(s) Available" is Windows, Mac and Linux

        • Ryan Dube
          June 1, 2012 at 10:39 am

          Awesome - thank you David!

        • David Commini
          June 7, 2012 at 8:02 pm

          np, i enjoy helping when i can.

    • Marlon
      June 3, 2012 at 2:46 am

      You could install it through your package manager, that's what I did

  8. Marlon
    May 31, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    I use this when I make the songs for the game Frets On Fire. It helps me put the notes in the right place at the right time. I wish it opened .gpx files, though. But it's a great software

    • Ryan Dube
      June 12, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      Cool - never considere using it for a game, that's creative!