When learning to play guitar, there are various methods you can use to do this. For some of us, and I include myself here, books are helpful. It was the main method I used to learn, that, and playing with other people. It’s just easier for me to process info like that.
Learning to play guitar using a book or variety of books is certainly a viable way to learn. A lot of people also enjoy that they can work at their own pace which is great if you can’t make it to lessons.
But with all the books out there, which is the best book to learn guitar? Let’s check it out.
Learning to Play Guitar Using a book
A lot of people go to guitar lessons. And sure, having someone guide you while you learn and spot your mistakes is a huge help. But you can learn to play guitar without a teacher.
While I wouldn’t recommend using only a book, you can go really far just using a book. I honestly believe that you need to get out there and play with others too. It can be daunting for those who are more shy or lack the self-confidence, but push yourself to do this once you can play at least the simple things.
You can ease into it by doing a few online guitar lessons too. Just to get used to seeing another human play, albeit on a screen.
If you’re finding it tough and want to throw into the towel, just remember, your ability to learn has nothing to do with talent, although it will take you some of the way. You can learn to play guitar, without any innate ability. It’s about who puts in the work. If you’re still struggling, there is no harm in going to a guitar teacher.
But using a book will let you work at your own pace. I think you’ll be surprised how quickly you can learn how to play guitar, especially once those calluses form and it stops hurting.
And don’t let the bit of pain you experience put you off. It’s worth it!
The Best Book to Learn Guitar
Let me first start by saying, I don’t quite believe that there is one single best book for learning guitar. First of all, if you’re going to have a book that covers from beginner to advanced guitar playing, well, that’s going to be one humungous fat book. Nothing wrong with that, but generally you’ll find books covering specific stages, not all in one.
Secondly, you may find one author’s style of teaching doesn’t work as well for you as another author’s style. But this second point is unlikely to be an issue. You’ll be able to learn from diagrams and from whatever is written.
But if I were to recommend one book only to get you started, it would be:
Guitar All-in-One For Dummies: Book + Online Video and Audio Instruction
If you just want to work with the book, you can, but you have access to the online videos and audio lessons and examples if you want. This book is actually six books in one:
- Guitar For Dummies
- Guitar Theory For Dummies
- Guitar Exercises For Dummies
- Rock Guitar For Dummies
- Blues Guitar For Dummies
- Classical Guitar For Dummies
As you can see it covers guitar basics, theory, exercises, and three different genres. All these skills will be transferable to other genres. So if you’re more of a jazz or reggae person, don’t worry too much about that. You just need to learn the chords and/or strumming styles for other genres, something that becomes a lot easier once you have the hang of the basics.
You will learn:
- How to choose a guitar and take care of it
- Chords (open, power, and barre chords)
- Scales (via the CAGED system)
- How to read and play tabs
- How to read sheet music for guitar
- Music theory
- Rhythm techniques
- Lead guitar
- How to play along to riffs
- Musical examples so you can learn how to play in the three genres mentioned
- Exercises for dexterity and quicker chord changes
And it’s not just the absolute basics. Barre chords, for example, are considered intermediate. It will take you from the beginner stuff to the more complicated stuff in a logical way. My advice is to master the beginner stuff, or whatever level you’re on, before moving on to more challenging things.
This book will take you quite far and price-wise, it’s affordable, especially considering the wealth of information it contains.
It’s written by guitarists that are pretty well-known in the industry. So you know these guys have first-hand knowledge when it comes to the skills you need and a good way to learn them. Here they are:
Jon Chappell has a master’s degree in music composition, plays various different styles of guitar, and was the editor-in-chief of Guitar Magazine. He’s also a prolific author. His books cover various playing guitar in various genres, sheet music, music theory, and recording at home and in studio.
Mark Phillips has worked as a guitarist, arranger, author (spanning across guitar and banjo in various genres), and teacher at various points in his career that spans over 30 years. He went as far as getting a doctorate in music theory.
Desi Serna has over 10000 hours of guitar playing experience and an online platform where he provides private guitar lessons. It doesn’t hurt that Rolling Stone also has him named as music theory expert.
Harold “Hal” Edstrom, Everett “Leonard” Edstrom, and Roger Busdicker form the Hal Leonard Corporation. These musicians run one of the largest music publishing and distribution companies.
This book comes as a paperback book.
Other Books You May Find Helpful
Guitar Aerobics- For Those Who Want a New Exercise Every Day
If you’re like me, doing the same thing day in and day out is lame. If anything can make me stop jamming, it’s monotony. Well this book covers 52 weeks with a new exercise every day. The exercises span multiple genres, including rock, metal, jazz, folk, country, and funk. You’ll practice techniques like sweep picking, string bending, string skipping, alternate picking, arpeggios, legato, and rhythm guitar playing.
Not only are these things you can incorporate into your playing to make it sound awesome, but it will improve dexterity and accuracy in both hands. Best of all, if you follow the book, you’ll regularly learn new things and practice the techniques you learn in different ways to keep it fresh.With regular practice, whether you choose to improvise or play existing songs, you’ll have the skills to do it well.
The author, Troy Nelson has an associate’s degree in occupational music and has worked for the Hal Leonard Music Publications library, and was editor-in-chief at the magazine Guitar One. This is just one of the books under his name.
It’s a book that has exercises from beginner level to more advanced stuff, so you can challenge yourself too. Plus it covers some music theory too. And as per Troy Nelson, he constructed these exercises in way that they don’t sound like warm up exercises.
Choose from the Kindle version or the paperback or spiral spine version.
Vaideolology- Basic Music Theory for Guitarists- Great for Learning Music Theory
I’m always going to recommend that you learn a little bit of music theory. It may seem like the boring part of music, unnecessary even. But it will really broaden your musical horizons. Why not learn from one of the best guitarists out there, Steve Vai. On our list of the 100 best guitar albums, Passion and Warfare has the number 11 spot.
This book has basic music theory that includes scales, rhythm, notes on the guitar, reading music, key signatures, harmonics, modes, etc, specifically on the guitar. He also includes a practice guide, so if you feel overwhelmed by where to start and structuring your practice sessions, this will help you out. Also, the pictures will appeal to those who love art too as well as those who need instruction.
It’s available on Kindle or as a paperback book.
A Modern Method for Guitar: Complete Set 1, 2, 3- Best for Those into Classical Guitar
If you’re into classical guitar and studying at Berklee is a dream of yours, well, this book uses the modern methods in the Berklee School of Music Guitar Program. You get the complete set of volumes, 1, 2, and 3 in one book. In it, you’ll learn melody, harmony, and rhythm via solos, duets, and exercises.
You’re not just going to learn the basics here, but really get what you need to advance your skills using the William Leavitt guitar which is used at Berklee. Best bit of advice I can give you here is to go at your own pace. You may also want to look up explanations or tutorials on Youtube if you don’t understand something. This book may require some basic music theory and guitar knowledge if you want to follow it as is.
This book comes as a paperback book.
Creative Guitar 1: Cutting Edge Techniques- For Those Ready for More Advanced Techniques
This book, along with Creative Guitar 2: Advanced Techniques and Creative Guitar 3: Recording Effects, is aimed at guitarists who may be stuck in a bit of a rut and just need new fresh techniques. Specifically guitarists who play rock.
Creative Guitar 1 specifically covers pentatonic patterns, minor arpeggios, solos, licks, and various exercises. The content becomes more challenging as you go on. The book comes with a CD that has backing tracks on for you to let your creativity loose as well as examples of author Guthrie Govan playing.
Speaking of the author, you’re in good hands with Guthrie Govan. He has played guitar for most of his life and his skills span various genre He’s a guitar teacher, plays in a few different bands and writes for the magazine, Guitar Techniques.
This book comes as a paperback book.
Fretboard Logic SE: Special Edition Volume 1 and 2- For Those Who Want to Understand the Guitar and Learn to Play in an Unconventional Way
This book may have been written a few decades ago, but the info is still every bit as relevant. It doesn’t only cover things like chords, scales, arpeggios and notes. It also delves into why’s and how’s of the way the fretboard is organized and the unique tuning system of the guitar.
If you’re one of those people who learn better when they understand some of the “mysteries” involved, this book is for you. You’ll gain a greater understanding of the guitar which will be to your advantage as you learn various techniques. The only limit will be the bounds of your creativity… and your motivation to practice of course.
The author, Bill Edwards is a guitarist, pianist, guitar teacher, and music store owner. He learned to play the guitar predominantly by ear, and how he has been so successful at that is by understanding the design of the guitar. He has passed that knowledge onto students and has given the world a different way of learning to play guitar. Definitely a book to check out if you find conventional learning methods don’t work for you.
This book comes as a paperback book.
The Advancing Guitarist- For Learning How to Improvise and Play in Different Situations
You’re going to need some music background, particularly in music theory, to really get the best out of this book. So if you know the basics, this could be a meaty book to sink your teeth into so to speak. You’ll be challenged, not just by learning how to improvise (it doesn’t come naturally to everyone) or playing in various situations.
You’ll also be going deeper into chords, harmony, modes, overtone influences, and how to be self-critical (again, not something that comes naturally to everyone). And just in case you need to brush up on your skills, basic fretboard mechanics.
The author, Mick Goodrick is a jazz guitarist who is also a teacher, most notably at the Berklee School. He has also played with some big names in jazz such as Gary Burton, Wolfgang Muthspiel, and Julian Lage.
You can purchase the paperback or Kindle version of the book or just get the sheet music.
The Guitar Grimoire- For a Big Repertoire of Exercises
If you need ideas on exercises to improve your dexterity, speed, and accuracy, this book might be just what you need. In it you’ll find exercises that include chord runs, sequences using the major scale and minor pentatonic scale, pattern exercises, three coil exercises and four coil exercises.
Exercises like these can get you into solos eventually. That’s because all a solo or a riff is, is a sequence of notes out of a scale. Once you get your fingers used to different patterns, you’ll find it easier to move your fingers in a way that makes some awesome music.
While there isn’t much info about the author, Adam Kadmom, he has music out on Spotify and Youtube that you can have a listen to.
You can purchase the paperback version or just get the sheet music for the exercises.
Beyond Rhythm Guitar: Licks, Riffs & Fills- If You’re Stuck in the Rhythm Rut and Appreciate Rock and The Blues
A lot of us start out learning one specific side of guitar and then get trapped in that comfort zone. If you’re like me, it’s rhythm guitar. This book will help you branch out into the world of lead guitar so you can be a well-rounded guitarist. There is an emphasis on the blues and rock with this book, so if these are your favorite genres, it’s definitely a book I recommend.
The author is a musician, as is the editor. Simon Pratt, in addition to having written a number of books on guitar techniques, he has a diploma in music performance and guitar performance from The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance. Joseph Alexander is a composer and arranger with a range of books on music under his name too.
You can purchase the paperback or Kindle version.
Teach Yourself to Play Guitar: A Quick and Easy Introduction for Beginners- For Those Who Don’t Want to Read Music or Like Huge Amounts of Text
You don’t have to read music to become an amazing guitarist. Some of the best guitarists can’t read music. If you can read tabs and know chords and how to get the best tunes out of your guitar, you’re set. This book has a lot of pictures and tabs, and less text. Despite this, it’s still jam-packed with techniques and exercises that will take you a long way on your guitar journey.
David M. Brewster, the author, has been a guitar teacher for over two decades. He has multiple books published with some of the biggest music libraries, and also writes for Guitar Player and Premier Guitar. He’s also played with multiple bands including Cheap Trick, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Quiet Riot.
You can purchase this book as the Kindle version, a paperback, or a spiral spine book. Alternatively, just buy the sheet music for the exercises.
Beginner Gypsy Jazz Guitar- If You’re Into Gypsy Jazz
Gypsy jazz is pretty distinctive, so if you want to learn, get specific. This book teaches you to play rhythm, get the right tone, how to use augmented and diminished chords, how to play over dominant 7th chords, solos, licks, scales, etc. You’ll learn intros and endings and a variety of songs to add to your repertoire. Plus performance related things like how to get those nerves under control and how to memorize songs.
All this with relevant exercises to help you get better and it’s all particular to gypsy jazz. To say this book is thorough is an understatement. You also get bonuses like video lessons, audio examples, and access to a gypsy jazz Spotify playlist.
The author Robin Nolan is a well-known gypsy jazz guitarist as well as being an author and teacher. This book is also under the name of Joseph Alexander.
Get it in paperback or kindle format.
The CAGED System & 100 Licks for Blues Guitar- If You’re Into the Blues
The CAGED system has simplified guitar playing for many a guitarist. It teaches you to be able to play in any key easily, find various notes across the fretboard, and how to play solos, licks, and riffs in different voicings. It’s also a system that can be used across genres. In this book, you’ll learn to apply it to the blues. After learning the licks in this book, you’ll be able to make up your own using the CAGED scales.
This book is by Joseph Alexander and is available in Kindle or paperback format.
Guitar Fretboard: Memorize the Fretboard Within Less Than 24 Hours- Pretty Self Explanatory
Getting to know the fretboard seems like an impossible task, but it’s not the mountain you make it out to be. Plus, doing so will only make you a better guitarist. This book gives you tips and exercises to memorize the fretboard quickly and easily.
This book is written by Guitar Head, a group that has a number of books under their name to help guitarists learn guitar in a stress-free way. Get it in Kindle or paperback.
Hal Leonard Guitar Method: Complete Edition Books 1, 2, and 3- Good for Electric and Acoustic Guitar
There is a pretty popular guitar method brought to you by the Hal Leonard Corporation, the same authors that wrote the Guitar for Dummies book. In it, you will dive a little deeper into playing guitar along with some music theory that includes reading sheet music. With all three editions included, you’ll find plenty of info to get you going on your guitar playing journey, from the basics, to some more challenging things.
Buy it in Kindle or plastic comb book format.
Well there you have it, many options to choose from all across genres to skill levels. Work through the book you get for at least 15 minutes per day. Being as consistent as possible and putting time in to learn something new or to perfect what you’re currently learning is important.
Don’t rush. Make sure you work on accuracy and once you have it start increasing the speed. And be patient with yourself. Just have fun with it.