How to read short notated guitar chords

Have you seen chords refereed to by something like this X32010? Or maybe you have seen tabs with numbers you don’t understand. In neither case this is something especially hard and you will soon grasp it by keep reading this text that explains it all.

Ok, so you have been seen something like 320003 or XX0323. These are notations that sometimes are used and the examples are G major and D major chords.

Or maybe have you seen a tab looking something like this:

tab notation of A chord

It’s kind of the same thing. If you take out the numbers from the tab and put them in horizontal order, you get 03330. This way to write lacks information though, since it is just five numbers, but as we know the guitar has six strings. So to transcribe the tab into notation it should be X0333X. An empty line in a tab is the same as X in a diagram, which both indicates that a string is not to be played.

Maybe you starting to figure out what X0333X stands for now? The answer is the A major chord.

A chord

So to explain in detail … The six figures (the letter X or numbers) are numbers of frets for the six strings. The first number is the lowest (thickiest) string and than the orders following the strings to the highest (the thinnest).

So the example X02210 should be read:
X – the 6th string shouldn’t be played.
0 – the 5th string should be played open.
2 – the 4th string should be played on the second fret.
2 – the 3rd string should be played on the second fret.
1 – the 2nd string should be played on the first fret.
0 – the 1st string should be played open.

In other words, X02210 is short notation for the A minor chord in open position.

So why use short notation and make people (before reading this confused). It can save a lot of time and also paper space on tabs when diagram above the tab lines can be left out. Especially if you play often an stumble upon chord, it’s very handy to write and down fast by a few numbers instead for start making a diagram. In addition, this knowledge helps you if you want to write your own tabs.

See all articles about guitar.

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