If you want to learn a song on guitar, you have two basic options.
The first option is to buy a guitar transcription book. In most cases, you can expect accurate guitar tablature in these books.
The other option is to find the song’s transcription on a website or app. If you look in the right places you can find transcriptions that are just as good (or sometimes better) than what you would find in a book.
In this guide, I will go through the best free Guitar TAB websites available in 2022 and how to find accurate Guitar TABs from these sites.
If you don’t know what Guitar TAB is or how to read it, read this Ultimate Guide on How to Read Guitar TAB to learn everything you need to know. Learn how to read Bass TAB here.
Some of these websites also list transcriptions using Standard Notation, so if you know how to read music you can still use these sites.
Here is a quick list of the best free Guitar TAB websites:
- Ultimate Guitar. This site has the largest collection of Guitar TABs and a useful community rating system
- Songsterr. This has the easiest website to use with a clean and simple design
- YouTube. Many YouTubers are uploading play-along videos that display TAB and Standard Notation
- GuitarTabs.CC. This is an old site that is still highly active today with text-based TABs.
Let’s review and go through each website and look at how to find accurate Guitar TABs.
Note: I am not affiliated in any way with any of these sites.
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Ultimate-Guitar.com is my personal favorite website to find accurate Guitar TAB. It has a staggering number of TABs and your best bet when trying to find obscure songs.
What makes this a great guitar TAB website is that there are different formats of transcriptions available. I’ll go through each format to explain what each one is and when to use them.
This website is community-based, which leads to good and bad points. It’s good because it means there is a massive range of transcriptions available. The bad aspect is that many of the transcriptions aren’t accurate. So you need to learn to identify accurate transcriptions.
As you can see from the below screenshot of the homepage (late 2019), there is a lot of different areas and content available.
The site contains a lot of articles, lessons, and a big forum in addition to TABs. These other sections may be handy if you’re learning guitar or want to keep up with music news.
The lessons and articles vary in quality as they are also created from the community. Some articles are well written and contain useful insights, ideas, and explanations of different techniques and concepts. Other articles I’ve read contained flat-out bad advice. So it’s important to keep an eye on the ratings and comments for different articles.
The ‘Top 100’ TABs section is a good way to find ideas of popular songs to learn or you can search by genres or decades.
Finding Accurate Guitar TABs on Ultimate-Guitar.com
Let’s say you want to learn to play Hotel California by the Eagles.
First, you need to search for the song name in the top search box:
You’ll see that as soon as you start typing, the search box suggests relevant songs.
You will be given a list of search results for the song. Depending on how popular the song is, you may a lot of different versions for the same song as shown below:
Having all of these different versions can be confusing for beginners trying to find an accurate version.
The first thing to consider is the type of transcription you want to find. Across the top, you will see options for ‘Chords’, ‘Tab’, ‘Guitar’, ‘Power’ and a few others.
Types of Transcriptions on Ultimate Guitar
Here is a quick overview of all the types of transcriptions you will find on Ultimate Guitar:
Official/Pro: from what I can tell, UG basically takes the top reviewed Guitar Pro file and hides it behind a paywall. I don’t have a paid membership so I can’t check to see if the transcriptions have been improved in any way or whether they’re just a copy/paste.
The fact that there is a ‘Pro’ version for every song that has a Guitar Pro version suggests to me that they’re merely copy/pastes.
Chords: this is a simplified chords and lyrics sheet for songs that are mainly chord-based. Great for acoustic guitarists wanting to learn strumming songs. If you only need to know what the chords are and you can figure out the strumming yourself, this might be all that you need.
Here is what the Chords version looks like of this song:
As you can see, it isn’t a Guitar TAB. The Chords version shows you the chords and when to play them with the lyrics.
Note: If you don’t know how to read chord diagrams, check out this Ultimate Guide to Reading Chord Diagrams. The guide explains everything you need to know to read guitar chord diagrams, including how to use a capo with the diagrams and other helpful tips. It also includes a PDF you can download with common chord shapes.
You can select any of the chord names to bring up a chord diagram. This is handy if you’re still learning your chord shapes, but keep in mind that there are many variations for any chord so the one they suggest may not be the chord shape used in the song. If you play a chord and it doesn’t sound quite right, it may be that the chord type is right, but the chord shape used in the song is different (eg: barre chord instead of open chord).
Chord and lyric sheets are handy for simple songs that focus on strumming chords, but a full transcription will be more useful for most songs.
Tab: this is the old text-based Guitar TAB version that used to be the only type of TAB you would find online.
As you will see later, these type of TABs are obsolete and have been replaced by interactive TABs. Many guitarists still use them out of habit.
The problem with text-based guitar TAB is that it doesn’t do a good job of explaining what the rhythm is for any note or chord. In the above screenshot, there’s no way to know how long to play each note before moving on to the next note. If you know the song you can probably figure out the rhythm, otherwise it becomes a guessing game.
Some text-based guitar TAB will include some information on rhythm under the staff. These files will usually include a legend to explain what the notation represents.
Guitar Pro: this is a downloadable format that you can use with Guitar Pro software (read my review of Guitar Pro 8 here).
I highly recommend learning songs in Guitar Pro as the software is an excellent way to practice and master songs. As I explain in my review, you’re able to use the software to loop sections, slow down the track, transpose it, or anything else.
Even if you don’t have Guitar Pro, the website lets you view and play the file as shown below:
As you can see, the above Guitar TAB is far more useful than the old text-based TAB version. While this way of accessing the file isn’t as flexible as opening it in Guitar Pro, it does give you a good range of controls such as the ability to loop sections, use a metronome, slow the file down, and more.
If you play around with Guitar Pro files on the UG website and find it useful, you may want to look at getting Guitar Pro.
Pro: for almost every song, you will see a ‘Pro’ version. Popular songs will also have an ‘Official’ version created by the UG staff. The Pro version is only available to UG’s paid members.
Power: Power TAB is an ancient program that used to be the best way to create and playback guitar TABs. You can still download the Power TAB Editor today but Guitar Pro 8 can easily open Power TAB files (.ptb format).
The UG website can load these files in the same way they load Guitar Pro files in an interactive player:
Keep in mind that this is a really old format so you’re not likely to see this format for more recent music. In the above screenshot, you can see that there is only one guitar track in the file. Unlike Guitar Pro files, you’re not going to see drum tracks.
Power TAB was a limited editor so it’s rare to see a Power TAB transcription with as much detail and accuracy as a Guitar Pro transcription.
Bass: as you might expect, these are text-based TABs for bass. They look and read the same as text-based guitar TABs and use the same notation.
If you want to learn a bass part for any song, I recommend loading the Guitar Pro file instead and look for the bass tracks. You’ll get the benefit of the interactive player with better rhythm notation.
Drums: these are text-based transcriptions for drums. Again, if you want to learn the drums to any song, load the Guitar Pro file instead. Being able to hear the transcription with proper rhythm notation is far more useful than these text-based transcriptions.
I’m not a good drummer, but I can easily read the drum parts in a Guitar Pro transcription. The above screenshot isn’t as straightforward in terms of timing.
Video: these are basically YouTube videos embedded on the UG website.
If you want to see a video tutorial for any song, search YouTube instead of trying to find a video on UG. You’ll see far more options for any song and it’s a better experience than viewing it on their website.
There were only three videos for Hotel California on the UG website while searching for “Hotel California guitar lesson” brought back countless videos on YouTube. The results were far better quality than the above video too.
Ukulele: there are a lot of ukulele players out there and many of them create these transcriptions for songs whether the song uses a ukulele or not.
Some of the transcriptions will be simple chord and lyrics sheets (like below) while others will include text-based TAB for ukulele.
If you find that you can’t find a ‘Chords’ version with the correct chords, check the ukulele versions. I’ve seen quite a few times where the ukulele versions were accurate while the guitar chords versions used incorrect chords.
As you can see from the above, there are many different types of TAB you will see on UG.
Once you decide what type of TAB you want (I recommend Guitar Pro in most cases), you can filter the results by clicking the option at the top of the page. Now take a look at the ratings for the different versions:
Because this is a popular song, there are multiple versions and separate transcriptions for an acoustic version and the solo.
The ideal result is a five-star rating with a lot of votes from the community.
Once you find a version you are happy with, you can either download the TAB or view it on the website.
- Massive range of transcriptions from a huge community
- Excellent 5-star rating system to help you find accurate TABs
- Multiple formats (eg: Guitar Pro files, text TABs, chord and lyrics sheets)
- Includes standard notation and rhythm notation on TAB formats
- Contains articles, lessons, and a forum in addition to TABs
- An app is available
- Lots of ads
- Cluttered website
- Many transcriptions are badly inaccurate
- Multiple versions of TABs for a song can be confusing for beginners
Overall, most guitarists will find Ultimate Guitar to be either their go-to guitar TAB website or the website they go to when Songsterr shows zero results for a song.
Songsterr.com‘s website and app are easy to use thanks to a clean and simple layout.
The big advantage of this website is the interactive TAB player. It is easy to use and the free version (a paid membership is available with extra features) should be enough for most guitarists.
The range of TABs isn’t as wide as Ultimate Guitar, but it does boast over 500,000 songs.
Many guitarists use Songsterr as their first option and search Ultimate Guitar if they don’t find the song here.
- Very easy to use website
- No ads on the website apart from one for Songster Plus
- TABs in an interactive format
- Includes rhythm notation on TAB format
- An app is available
- Limited range of songs
- No ratings for TAB accuracy
- Unable to download Guitar Pro files
Overall, Songsterr is a quick and easy way to find Guitar TABs, but don’t expect every TAB to be completely accurate. I often find Songsterr TABs are based on old versions of TABs found on Ultimate Guitar.
The chances are, you will find all of the Guitar TABs you will ever need on Ultimate Guitar or Songsterr. But YouTube is undoubtedly a massive resource when it comes to learning guitar and songs.
The big advantage of searching for guitar songs on YouTube is that you can see a guitarist perform the song up-close.
This is great for beginners who aren’t comfortable reading Guitar TAB. You’re able to watch guitarists perform covers of songs and see exactly where their fingers go.
Many YouTubers are also displaying the TAB on the screen along with their performance as shown below:
This can be an excellent way to learn a song as you can match up what you see in the Guitar TAB with what you see the guitarist play.
To find relevant videos, add “guitar TAB” to the end of your search.
For example, here are the results when I search for “Hotel California guitar tab” on YouTube:
Depending on how popular the song is, you may find multiple lessons and play-throughs for the song. As YouTube continues to grow, you will likely see more and more of videos with Guitar TABs.
- Being able to watch a guitarist perform the song is a big benefit
- Many videos show the Guitar TAB in sync with the performance
- Limited range of songs available with Guitar TAB
Overall, YouTube is a great supplementary resource to use when learning songs. Use Ultimate Guitar or Songsterr as your main source of Guitar TABs, then use YouTube to see how guitarists perform the songs.
You may find different fingering options or ways of performing parts by watching covers and video lessons.
GuitarTabs.CC is one of the oldest Guitar TAB websites that is still running today.
It’s an incredibly simple website to use with a very clean layout.
It has a large range of songs, but they’re all text-based as shown below:
This form of Guitar TAB is obsolete as newer interactive formats are easily available.
While many guitarists are still happy to use text-based Guitar TAB, if you are just starting out learning guitar, I highly recommend using a modern format such as the Guitar Pro format.
Modern formats contain far more information such as rhythm notation and standard notation and allow you to loop sections, slow them down, or hear them played back.
- Simple and clean website
- Large range of songs
- Uses obsolete text-based TAB format
- Does not include rhythm notation or standard notation
- No app available
There are many other websites like GuitarTabs.CC out there, but the chances are you will find everything you need on one of the bigger sites.
Alternatives to Free Guitar TAB Websites
Free Guitar TAB websites like the above options are a fantastic way to learn songs on the guitar. But there are alternatives you may want to consider.
Sheet Music Books
You can buy official or licensed sheet music books for many bands and artists. The main advantage of this option is that you usually get incredibly accurate transcriptions of the songs.
This means you don’t need to look through multiple versions on a website like Ultimate Guitar and compare them to find the one that is accurate.
While most sheet music books will be incredibly accurate, don’t assume that books are always better than the free transcriptions you can find online. Don’t assume that if it is in a book it is perfect. I am still annoyed by a licensed Steve Vai transcription book I purchased years ago that had horribly inaccurate transcriptions (clearly Steve Vai himself didn’t provide the transcriptions).
Paid Online TABs
The idea behind sites like Musicnotes.com is that all of the sheet music is licensed, so when you purchase some sheet music, the artist receives royalties (which they don’t from free websites).
In the below screenshot, you can see what a version of Hotel California looks like before buying it:
The big advantage of sites like this is that the transcriptions are highly accurate and contain proper tablature and standard notation. This is a huge improvement over text-based Guitar TAB you find on some free Guitar TAB websites.
The range of songs is quite limited compared to free sites, but if you like the idea of supporting the artists and want a high-quality transcription for a song, it’s a good place to check out.
It’s worth mentioning that perfect quality transcriptions aren’t guaranteed just because it is a paid site.
Find out how to read all forms of Guitar TAB in this complete guide with diagrams for all common symbols.
If you play bass, learn How to Read Bass TAB here.