Chords vs Tabs: Should I Learn Chords or Tabs?

There are various aspects of guitar playing, and sometimes new guitar players tend to get confused. With various terminologies of guitar learning, they can’t decide what to learn. Many guitar players who just started playing ask this question often – should I learn chords or tabs?

As a beginner, you should learn basic chord shapes first. This will help you to work your way around the fretboard. Once you master some fundamental chords and their shapes, you can start to explore tabs, and you will find it a lot easier than before.

Let’s dive into some more facts about chords and tabs that will definitley interest you. We’ll also show you how chords and tabs differ.

What Are Chords?

Let’s just go with a simplified answer for the sake of ease.

Chords are multiple musical notes played together at once. Notes played in different sequences create a melody, which a singer sings.

This melody can be backed up by additional notes, which are known as chords. These chords are played to accompany the melody and the vocals to stay in tune.

If you’re a novice guitar player who just started to do finger exercises or picking up little music pieces, it’s time you start exploring chords and memorize their shapes on the guitar’s fretboard.

This way, you can play songs on your guitar and sing while playing.

Learning Chords of Any Song

There are some easy chords you should learn at first when you are learning to pick up songs. These chords will help you create a sense of music that you can imply later on.

Moreover, learning the chords will get you familiarised with scales which will help you create music in the long run.

But there are some limitations in learning just the chords. Chords can only give you a foundation or the backing you need to play a song. You may want to know precisely how the guitarist played and play exactly like it was played on the record. Playing the chords can’t fully cover that experience.

Chord Charts

Chord charts are simply a list of chords given on a paper which shows the exact placements of the notes in the frets.

If you search online for a song’s chords, you will see the chords are paired with the lyrics and mapped out on top of the lines whenever there’s a chord change. You may see other annotations like inversions of chords, or syncopations, or alternative chords in the chord chart.

Chord charts are given in the lesson books for songs, or online where most people will search for the chords and the key for a song.

What Are Guitar Tabs?

Guitar tabs, which are short for tablature, are a precise and accurate written presentation of a musical piece that the guitarist can read and know the notes and chords played sequentially.

Tabs can be found on guitar lesson books or online. It can put the music in papers to spread the knowledge to every musician.

Tabs have six lines drawn horizontally that represent the guitars’ six strings. On those lines, fret numbers are written, which correspond to the notes on various frets of each guitar’s strings.

Other symbols are used to give information about any unique way to play the notes like bends, slides, staccato, dead notes, etc. In the tablature, the time signatures and tempo are also given.

With all this information, new learners may get lost in the tablature. But you have to learn those at one point in time if you’re trying to play guitar seriously.

Why Are Guitar Tabs Important?

New guitar players get a bit nervous when hearing about guitar tabs. And when they first try to read some tabs, it’s pretty natural to get all kinds of confused. But to learn music properly, tabs are essential.

Chord charts will only give you brief information about the overall chords in a song, which is fine if you only need a glimpse to figure out. But for complicated pluckings, riffs, or solos, tabs are used for detailed understanding.

Learning Tabs Are More Accurate

The best thing about tabs is that they can store a music piece precisely like the actual player intended to play.

Say you like the guitar sections of a song and want to play the exact rhythms or licks on that song. You should check the guitar tabs for it and practice accordingly.

Also, if the song has a plucking and you can’t figure it out exactly, you should find its tabs and practice with it.

We will assume the tab is written correctly because wrong tablatures can be devastating and will leave you in the middle of nowhere in your learning curve.

Chords Vs. Tabs – Which On Should I Choose?

Though we’ve answered the question briefly in the first section, you might still be confused. So, we are going to leave it real simple and straight to the point here.

Learning songs from chord charts or by “chords” will make your lessons a little easier. This is especially true if you’re a guitar novice and badly want to play a song on guitar and impress the people around you. Many popular songs have simple chord progressions and are easy to pick up.

But if you desire to learn a plucking, or a solo, or the rhythm patterns precisely as the record, you should learn how to read tabs. Tabs have detailed information on the passage of music you are trying to learn, and if you want perfection, tabs are your best bet.

Bottom Line

We’ve talked a great deal about chord charts and tabs and how they represent a song’s backbones. Chords are more straightforward, but many songs aren’t. That’s when you must find the tabs and practice along with them.

Hopefully, you’ve gained some perspective on the question, “should I learn chords or tabs?”. Now, you must decide how you should practice guitar as there is no alternative to practicing if you wish to be good at guitar. All the best with your musical journey!

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