What is the best free alternative to Guitar Pro? Is the answer TuxGuitar?

In this article, I’ll be discussing a piece of software that I consider to perhaps be the best free alternative to Guitar Pro. That alternative is TuxGuitar. For as long as I can remember, the application known as Guitar Pro has been the first name that comes to mind when I think of guitar TAB applications. There’s a very simple reason for this. The software is exceptionally good. It does everything that a guitarist could need from such a program and more. I honestly can’t put into words how valuable Guitar Pro has been for me over the years. Even the lessons here at Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat use TAB created in Guitar Pro.

 The problem that Guitar Pro has is that the company is pure evil. It seeks to make money from its customers. Guitar Pro is an example of capitalism at is worst.

The above statement is of course a joke but nevertheless, we live in a world now where people simply don’t want to pay for things. Musicians are cheap. That’s why you’re here and that’s why the first version of Guitar Pro that I got was pirated, despite the fact that the software boasts a very reasonable price for what you get. I don’t recall what it was at the time but at the time of writing, Guitar Pro costs around $80. That’s not per month, or per year. This is the total. Very reasonable indeed.

The best free alternative to Guitar Pro – It’s about getting the job done

best free alternative to guitar pro tuxguitar

My current version of Guitar Pro is naturally paid for but was my purchase a necessary one? There are often free alternative versions of applications out there now and they often do the job perfectly fine.

I can immediately think of 2 good examples of the above in action. OpenOffice has served as a free alternative to Microsoft Office for quite some time now and I’ve used it without any issues for around 10 years at this point. Another example is a piece of software called GIMP. This is an image editing / graphic design software that serves as a reasonable substitution for Photoshop. I use GIMP to create the thumbnails for this website. Are OpenOffice and GIMP as good as Microsoft Office and Photoshop? No. But they do what I need them to do with no issues. They get the job done.

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Below you’ll find info on what may be the best free alternative to Guitar Pro. I’m going to look at the software a little to find out if it serves as a good Guitar Pro alternative for those cheap b******* out there and for those who don’t have the money to purchase Guitar Pro just now. I aren’t looking for premium here. All I’m looking for decent TAB software that gets the job done. Is the below what OpenOffice is to Microsoft Office or what GIMP is to Photoshop? Let’s find out.

The best free alternative to Guitar Pro – Installing TuxGuitar

best free alternative to guitar pro tuxguitar logo

The installation of TuxGuitar went as smoothly as it possibly could have done. I found the file within seconds after conducting a basic Google search and the installation wizard was as simply as click next and finish.

There’s no tricks. Free means free and once the installation is complete, you’re good to go.

The best free alternative to Guitar Pro – What exactly is TuxGuitar

Here’s the blurb on TuxGuitar. “TuxGuitar is a full featured music composition tool that can be really helpful to musicians, whether they use their computer to produce music or not. It is a professional grade software that will allow you to create and listen to various tablature formats. All of its offered features and tools can be experienced free of charge”. The phrase Professional grade sets my expectations high. Does TuxGuitar live up to the claim?

First impressions

First impressions are good. The software opens rapidly and presents me with a clean and pleasant interface and a clear blank TAB sheet. The first thing I like to do when creating some TAB is set up my sheet. To my delight, with TuxGuitar, you can choose to display TAB and traditional music script or just one or the other. I know I find this useful so I’m sure others will too.  You can also create multiple tracks just like with Guitar Pro.

I began to hover over the icons across the top bar to see what their purpose was. The first one that caught my eye was the “open” button. At this point I wondered whether or not this software would open up Guitar Pro files. The answer is yes and no. I think it depends on the Guitar Pro file you’re opening and from my testing, TuxGuitar seems to support gp3, 4 and 5. Not gpx. Just something to consider if you’re thinking of making a switch.

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That last point aside, the first impressions are great. So far so good. Now let’s see what composing is like with TuxGuitar.


Next, a proper test. How does TuxGuitar handle me actually using it? To test this out, I loaded up a previous Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat lesson which was composed using Guitar Pro. I went for the Smells Like Teen Spirit TAB and Guitar Lesson by Nirvana because of its simple solo. To get a pass, TuxGuitar simply has to be able to handle this with zero issues.

I didn’t copy out the whole guitar solo because life is short but as you can see from the above image, I didn’t have any issues in recreating what I did with Guitar Pro. The bend system works exactly the same as Guitar Pro and although I didn’t use them, all of the expected features are there such as hammer ons, pulls offs and all that good stuff.

I screwed around a little testing out the features, creating random chord progressions, riffs, licks and scales and I ran into precisely zero issues. I’m very happy with the composing process in TuxGuitar. But that’s not the end of the story.

Composing made easier

TuxGuitar does something really cool. It populates the bar to make it complete as you’re working, and it does this with rests. This makes making sure your bars are populated correctly very easy. This works much better than Guitar Pro’s method of making the incomplete bar red. The rests show you how much space is left to fill and where that space is.

TuxGuitar is packed with features

I’ve already mentioned that the features that one would expect to be there are there. But on top of these features are more features that aren’t necessarily a deal breaker but are there, nevertheless.

The metronome that you can use in Guitar Pro is also a feature in TuxGuitar and TuxGuitar also boasts a neat little fretboard feature that shows you the notes on the fretboard as they’re played in the TAB. I don’t know if Guitar Pro has this, but I found it cool. You can add text to the TAB just like you can in Guitar Pro and there’s also a transpose tool and a big library of chords for you to use.

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I’m not going to list every feature. Just know that TuxGuitar has lots of them and they seem to match up to the features found in Guitar Pro. Perhaps the “professional grade” claim was correct.


This isn’t an issue for everyone, but I have to export the files so that I can screen shot them for the guitar lessons here. Just like Guitar Pro, you have several options for exporting your files. The only difference I picked up on was you had a PDF option instead of a PNG which may actually prove useful for some people.


As you can see, the title of this piece asks 2 questions. What is the best free alternative to Guitar Pro and is the answer to that question TuxGuitar? Well my answer is of course yes. This has been my first experience with TuxGuitar and I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised. TuxGuitar does everything that I need it to do and them some at a price of zero and it does it fast and intuitively.

I know that there are other options out there when it comes to the best free alternatives to Guitar Pro and after testing a few, I found that TuxGuitar works best for me.

Are the results as pretty as Guitar Pro? Some may argue they’re not, but the results are still clean and crisp. Nobody can dispute that. Composing feels slick and for that reason, I’ve decided to conduct further testing over the next few weeks by composing the Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat lessons using TuxGuitar instead of Guitar Pro and I must say, I’m looking forward to that process.

If you’re looking for the best free alternative to Guitar Pro, TuxGuitar is definitely a solid option and the superior one in my opinion. My advice is download it and give it a try. What have you got to lose?

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