Converting a 6 string tab into a 3 string

In response to a question on the Forums, here's one way to convert 6 string tabs into 3 string, tuned to a dyad chord, also called 1-5-1, "power chord" or perfect fifth.  (For example, tuned GDG)

Before you start

  1. This is likely to do your head in until you get to the example, then it'll be easy
  2. Do the example with your guitar in your hands

Figure out the key of the original

Most songs start and finish on the tonic chord so if the first and last chords are E for example then it's safe to say that it's in E. If they don't go with the last chord.

That'll usually do it, if you're still not sure look for other chords in the song. I IV and V chords are common in most songs if you're not sure but think it might be in E, see if there are plenty of A and B chords (count the 4th and 5th up from E, starting again when you get to G)

Find the first note of the riff or melody on the 6 string tab.

Find a 6 string fretboard map online somewhere and get the name of that first note. Count up from your tonic (the name of the key) until you get that note so that you know what number it is. For example if we're in the key of E and the note is B you count up E F G A B and the number is 5

Figure out the rest of the notes on that string

The rest of the notes on that string will have the same relationship to that first one so just count up your frets. For example the first note in the original is on fret 2, the second is on fret 4 and the third on fret 5. Now you've found that the first note is a 5 and on the open position of the middle string, find the second note by adding 2 and the third note by adding another 1.

Repeat and rinse

Do the same thing for every string on the original tab.


Do this with simple songs to start with


6 string TAB


  1. The song is in the key of E, that's obvious from the chords
  2. The first note in the tab is a B which is the 5th note up from E
  3. The 5 on your 3 string is the open position middle string
  4. The next note is on the 4th fret, 2 up from the 2nd, so our next note is 2 up from the open middle string, on the 2nd fret
  5. The next note is on the 5th fret so ours is up one more from that on the 3rd fret.

Your tab looks like this


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Comment by Oscar Stern on April 15, 2023 at 1:51am

Well there a 4 string Cigar Box Guitars too, as well as 5, 6 & more string versions. My newest Cigar Box Guitar will be a 7 string Cigar Box Guitar in Russian Open G Tuning so anything you do on the top 4 strings can be done on the bottom 4 as well. The 4th string is what we call a Pivot String cause it allows you to change between Octaves really easily.

Comment by Scott Ross on July 8, 2016 at 3:00am

This should be renamed, "How To Transpose Any Guitar Tab Into The Key Of G", Then the Satisfaction riff would  be correct the way it's written above. Otherwise it would be correctly "converted" as shown below, except the low string is usually shown at the bottom of tab, so you would switch where the low G and high g strings are shown.

What's the difference, besides being able to use open strings more if everything is in G?

Well, first if you transpose the melody, you also have to transpose all of the chords by the same interval. (Not a problem for songs that are already in G.) Second, if you're playing and singing, your vocals will also have to be moved into the key of G. This may not be a problem if you are a solo artist, or a one man band. But if you're playing with a band or other musician who knows the song, I guarantee that the first note they hit on the riff will be a B, they'll be in album key the whole way. You're awesome minor third harmony part that you will play if you learn Satisfaction in the key of G will either be considered pure genius, or not. You decide.  :)

Comment by Edward Hardin on April 2, 2016 at 8:30am

Could someone please dumb this down? I'm confused

Comment by Kirk Bricker on March 1, 2016 at 12:48pm

The notes played on the 6 string tab above would be - B B B C# D D D C# B B

Wouldn't the tab for a 3 string CBG be?




Comment by RICK BEST on October 19, 2015 at 10:36am

I'm a pure beginner and don't understand that you changed the notes from the six string to play on the 3 string

Comment by Patrick Curley on February 17, 2015 at 8:49pm


Comment by Scruggy on February 17, 2015 at 11:09am

i presume you use the same system for four string also?

Comment by Scruggy on February 17, 2015 at 3:23am

youd be right with weird ass metal, jusdas preist breaking the law! i googled it there most say its in key of A

Comment by Patrick Curley on February 16, 2015 at 5:06pm

It's late in the day

G--0--2--3--0-2--3--0-2--3--|-------- 0----- --0---- 3--2--|
D-------------------------------- |--1--3-----1- 3----- 3
G --------------------------------|-------------------------------

That's top line on the top string, bottom line on the middle string.

Comment by Patrick Curley on February 16, 2015 at 4:55pm

Looks liek the tab formats the text which is why everything goes off after it, see if this works

A--0--2--3--0-2--3--0-2--3--|-------- 0----- --0---- 3--2--|
E--------------------------- |--1--3-----1- 3----- 3

As I was saying..... This is is a tricky one to get the key, all the notes are in C but it doesn't really look like it belongs there, looks like some weird-ass metal modal thing;)

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