Melodic Movement
Adam Roth m.m., g.c.f.p.

Guitar Tabs—Overview

The most important thing to keep in mind when searching for guitar tabs is to find a book that features the *exact* transcriptions of the recorded songs. Look for key phrases like “Play-it-Like-it-Is”, “Authentic Transcription TAB” or “Original Recorded Version”.

Do NOT buy a book that has the phrase “Piano/Vocal/Guitar.” These are arranged for piano and vocalist, and only contain guitar chords, not actual riffs, licks, and solos. They are often in the wrong key and not what a guitar student is looking for.

For example, here is a Bon Jovi book of original transcriptions, and here is a piano/vocal/guitar version. Just check the key phrases I mentioned above and you should do fine.

Play Along

One of the best kinds of books are those that come with a CD of accompaniment tracks. They feature good sounding recordings of songs, one with guitar and one without. This way a student can play along with the recording, filling in the missing guitar part themselves. The most popular and extensive is the Hal Leonard play-along series. Some examples are here, and you can see a complete list of the collection here.

Signature Licks

Also outstanding is the Hal Leonard “Signature Licks” series. These also come with recorded examples and play-along tracks. However, they do not feature complete transcriptions of songs; rather, they feature excerpts of songs and text that describe the styles, scales, and techniques that the excerpts demonstrate. These books are good for intermediate players who are looking for more in-depth analysis of their favorite artists. Examples are here.

Artist and Style Collections

For the most part, when purchasing guitar tabs, you’ll be buying books for $15-$25, rather than single songs, which are $4 or $5 each. Some books will feature the music of one artist, often matching an album song for song (they also can come as collections of greatest hits). For example, this is a collection matching Metallica’s Master of Puppets album.Other books follow a particular style or time period. For instance, this is an example of grunge music, and this a collection of 60’s and 70’s Soul.

Guitar Magazines

Most guitar magazines feature transcriptions, and they’re generally very good. My favorite guitar magazine for this purpose is Guitar World. Each issue has 4-5 songs in it, and a year’s subscription is about 15 bucks. It’s a great value. Please note, however, that this magazine can feature explicit language, as they feature interviews with rock stars and articles about the sometimes salty history of rock music. I would not buy it for a child under 13.