Tips & Techniques

How to Recognize Chord Shapes within Guitar Tabs

Lesson #404

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

Hey friends! New lesson today where I share a must-know technique when it comes to reading guitar tabs. Specifically, I’m talking about “reading tabs backwards” – which is a way to easily identify the chord shapes implied within a tabbed riff. This is tremendously helpful, as it let you know how your left hand should be positioned (i.e. playing a specific chord shape) while your right hand tackles the picked or strum notes.

I wish I knew about this when I first started guitar. Back then, I would dive into reading guitar tabs head first, memorizing the exact fret numbers and string numbers shown in any tab – but the movement of my left hand was entirely chaotic and inefficient, always scrambling to get into place for the next note. My advice to my past self? Learn how to recognize the chord shapes inferred by any tab: and use that as a guide to how your left hand should be placed.

The end result is tabs & riffs that are easier to play, which is a huge win!

Special thanks to Patreon supporter Greg, who’s recent email turned me on to a riff I’d never learned before (the 5th example I show in this video) – and when tackling this riff, it sparked the idea of sharing this incredibly helpful technique. I hope you find it helpful in all of your playing!

Thanks again to all of you for the support, it makes these lessons possible. All the best!

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