Parent article: Best Guitar Learning Apps
Almost every guitar lesson website provides some form of tablature, also known as "guitar tabs." Whether it's used as supplemental content to a video or is the primary focus of the website, tabs are a big part of the guitar lesson world. But which website has the best tabs or tab resources?
This can be a hard question to answer because tabs are usually add-on resources and not the main point of a guitar lesson website's membership.
In this article, we'll look at websites that provide just tabs as well as those that combine them with video lessons.
Understanding Guitar Tabs Better
If we look at tabs on there own, we can simplify all tab resources down into two categories:
- Open source guitar tabs
- Premium guitar tabs
Open source guitar tabs would include sites like Ultimate Guitar where content is mostly user-submitted and shown in a Courier plain-text font. Premium guitar tabs are the way Songsterr displays them, in a Guitar Pro-style format with proper timing and musical notation.
Generally, we prefer that websites display premium guitar tabs, with proper notation and timing. Though we'll include websites in our answer with both.
In case you were wondering, we won't be recommending Tab Crawler.
Difference Between Tab Sites and Lesson Sites
We should solidify the distinction between sites that are primarily for collecting and displaying tabs and sites that produce video guitar lessons with tabs as a side-car feature. Since the question is specifically related to guitar lesson websites, we'll avoiding getting deep into sites like Songsterr and Ultimate Guitar which are almost exclusively tab-focused.
If you're interested in them, I've written extensive reviews on both, covering their premium memberships:
For the rest of our answer, we'll focus on lesson websites that provide tabs with their video lessons.
Choosing Guitar Lessons that Suit You (quiz)
The Paid Sites
Most of the top paid guitar lesson sites provide guitar tabs in various forms. The four most consistent content producers in this space include:
- Active Melody
- Guitar Tricks
Between the three sites, guitar tabs will be displayed with applicable video lessons for things like songs, exercises, scales, and chord diagrams. They're usually presented via the following types of media:
- Downloadable PDFs
- Guitar Pro files (.gpx files)
- Article copy
- Soundslice embeds
Soundslice is one of my favorite tab recommendations and of the sites mentioned above, TrueFire and Active Melody are the only ones that use it. That alone makes them both good option for those who rely heavily on tabs and/or sheet music.
Both JamPlay and Guitar Tricks are also solid in the tab department, offering full notation tab sheets for almost all their content.
Here are some free trial links if you want to checkout those sites:
Full Online Guitar Lesson Buying Guide
Want to checkout our full list of online guitar lesson recommendations and ratings? Browse the complete guide here:
What about free options?
Based on our research, there aren't many guitar lesson websites that are free and also provide tablature. Justin Sandercoe's site - Justinguitar - provides a lot of diagrams and some tabs when it's applicable, but more they seem to be conspicuously missing from his site.
While it doesn't mean you can't find some sites that provide lessons with guitar tabs, they seem to be far more rare, perhaps since the added time investment of producing tab sheets is harder than just producing a video.
For whatever the reason may be, guitar tabs seem to be a distinct feature of the paid guitar lesson roster.
The Best Overall Tab Options
Out of all the resources we've mentioned, which ones are the absolute best?
Keep in mind, different websites will work for different people, so it's hard for me to pick a default "best" option. Yet, if I had to pick a few winners, here's how I would break it down:
- Best website with only guitar tabs that's completely free: Songsterr
- Best website with tabs and lessons with a paid account: TrueFire or Active Melody
For those who want to focus on tabs, we'd recommend some combination of these three programs. TrueFire also has a really large library of free content, so you could start the process by looking around there. Songsterr is completely open source so you can access that without even logging in.
Conclusion and my Last Two Cents
I often advise people to separate there tab and lesson resources.
While some of them can cross paths - like we see with TrueFire and Active Melody - they're generally more effective as separate entities. For example, you might have great song lessons from a website like JamPlay or Justinguitar which can then be supplemented by tabs from Songsterr.
Now, of course you wouldn't get tabs that match up with all the lessons you're learning, but if you're watching a lesson that's effectively demonstrated (perhaps even with tabs on-screen) do you really need tabs as supplemental content?
If you absolutely want the combination of great lessons and great tabs, go with TrueFire or Active Melody.
Otherwise, we'd say mix and match programs/websites.
Do you have questions about the guitar lesson websites or tab resources I've listed here? If so, feel free to drop me a line in the comments section below and I'll respond there.