Chords or tabs

As a beginner guitar player I was wondering if learning chords or tabs would be easier at first to learn songs

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Chords, no question in my mind.

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Welcome Ryan.

If you are followings Justin’s courses and Grade system, you may have noted he teaches chords A D & E first and then provides suggested songs (he has a few song lessons I believe) which contain those chords. Wash rinse repeat throughout the grades. Learning to read tabs is a subset lesson on this journey. He’s been doing this for a while, so guess that should answer your questions.

As I have often said, the objective is to learn how to play the guitar, then you can play any song. Learn by tab you will only know those songs. You play your money and take your chances.

Learn chords, then learn songs. Simples,



Hi Ryan @Mrkrinkle1348, welcome to the community! If you’re up for it, head over here to introduce yourself.

As a fellow beginner (just starting Grade 3), I’d suggest the answer is “both”. Justin will introduce you to both chord boxes (I’m guessing that’s what you mean by learning chords) and TAB through the lessons. For example: the Peter Gunn Theme in Grade 1 Module 2 is presented as a TAB. When I encounter a TAB with notation I don’t understand, I google it…doing that, I’ve got a fairly good grip (pun intended) on TABs without a lot of effort!

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In my experience, learning chords and using chord sheets is much more useful than tabs when you are a beginner.

Even better is the Justin Songs and Lessons app, which shows chords, chord fingerings, and lyrics…exactly synchronized with the backing tracks.

Also note that many crowd sourced “free” tabs and chord sheets (Ultimate Guitar, etc) are absolutely riddled with errors. You can waste a lot of time trying to learn from a bad tab.


To join the consensus here, concentrate on the chords.
Chords are at the centre of everything, whatever level you’re at, rhythm or lead.

Cheers, Shane


Chords! And when you start playing lead, you’ll still be playing chords in a different way.

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As someone once said: the difference between a lead guitar player and a rhythm guitar player is where they stand on the stage. A lead player spends 95% of the time playing rhythm.


You don’t need chords or tabs for songs. A song is something that is sung. So you only need to sing a cappella. For progressions on a guitar it will probably be best to use chords initially.


TAB has it’s place - but for a newbie… Chords!!!


Just to further flog the lifeless equine, the answer is almost certainly Chords, but also Both / And. You will need both and you will likely learn both naturally as you progress (certainly if you follow Justin). Up front, chords are just going to make song playing quicker and easy to you have a sense of success and enjoyment as you progress along the journey.

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