This is a list of the best guitar books currently available. It features books covering a range of styles and subjects, written both for beginners and for more experienced players. Many of these books are considered to be classics in their field.
We’ve included the best guitar books on beginning guitar, music theory, jazz guitar, sight-reading and lead playing.
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Best Beginner Guitar Books
These books will help the beginner guitarist get up and running with the instrument. Many thousands of guitarists all around the world have started their playing careers using these books.
Hal Leonard Guitar Method Book & CD (or book without CD)
The Hal Leonard Guitar Method book is a perennial favorite among teachers and pupils alike. Starting with the very basics, such as how to hold a guitar and the parts of a guitar, this book will soon have you playing simple melodies and chords.
The book also shows you the basics of reading music.
The example melodies are traditional rather than modern, but this is by no means a bad thing.
If you work through this book, either with a tutor or by yourself, then you will have gained a thorough grounding in the basics of guitar playing. A very good place to start.
There are two more books in the series, each containing progressively more complex material. A complete edition containing all three books is also available. This is a cheaper option if you plan on working through the whole series. However, if you’re starting out and just want to make some music, Book 1 is all you need.
Hal Leonard Complete Edition
The complete edition includes all three Hal Leonard Guitar Method books (plus CDs) in one spiral-bound volume. It is extremely good value, being only slightly more expensive than just one of the single volumes. The complete edition will take keen beginners through the basics and beyond. Highly recommended.
Best Books For Learning How To Read Music On Guitar
Being able to read music, while not absolutely essential for enjoying the guitar, is an extremely useful skill to have. If you are serious about progressing as a guitarist, then at some point you will need to master the skill.
The Hal Leonard books above (and most other ‘learn guitar’ books) will give you a good grounding in music reading. However, if you want to further your skills, then a book dedicated to the subject will take you to the next level.
Music Reading for Guitar (The Complete Method) by David Oakes
Published by the Musician’s Institute, Music Reading For Guitar provides a complete music reading course for guitarists.
Starting with the basics, and progressing to advanced concepts, this book is suitable for rock / pop guitarists of all styles.
One shortcoming of this book is that it concentrates on single-note playing. This means that fingerstyle and classical guitarists may want to look elsewhere. However, the majority of rock guitarists won’t find this a problem.
Reading music and sight reading are an integral part of learning classical guitar. The kind of music that you will be reading will also be different to that played by rock and pop guitarists. Most classical guitar method books (see below) cover music reading.
Guitar Reading Workbook by Barrett Tagliarino
Another book that covers basic to advanced sight reading is the Guitar Reading Workbook by Barrett Tagliarino. This book also highlights the importance of writing, as well as reading, music.
Like Music Reading For Guitar, this book is aimed more at electric / rock guitarists than classical and fingerstyle players.
Best Jazz Guitar Lessons Books
We’ve previously recommended several excellent jazz guitar books in this article: Best Jazz Guitar Books. One of our favorites from the previous article is included below.
Jazz Guitar Complete Edition by Jody Fisher
One of the best jazz guitar method books currently available is Jody Fisher’s excellent Jazz Guitar (Complete Edition).
The three books that make up this volume are also available individually, but we recommend that you buy the complete edition as it is the closest to a ‘teach yourself jazz guitar’ course we have found.
Jazz Guitar (Complete Edition) provides a complete jazz guitar course, starting from the basics and progressing to complex concepts. Though not suitable for absolute beginners, if you are a rock / pop / blues guitarist wishing to learn jazz guitar, then this book should be top of your list.
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Best Advanced Guitar Lesson Books
If you are an experienced guitarist wishing to further advance your skills, or perhaps to branch out in a new musical direction, then an advanced guitar book is often the best way to go. We’ve included titles which we think will provide useful information for experienced players.
Speed Mechanics for Lead Guitar by Troy Stetina
Speed Mechanics for Lead Guitar by Troy Stetina provides exercises for improving your picking technique and speed. This book is mainly aimed at rock / metal guitarists, but will also be suitable for jazz and country players wishing to improve their picking technique.
Definitely worth a look if you want to improve your technique and are willing to put the hours / work in.
Modern Chord Progressions: Jazz & Classical Voicings for Guitar by Ted Greene
Ted Green’s book, Modern Chord Progressions: Jazz & Classical Voicings provides a huge number of ways of playing common jazz chord progressions. As with other Ted Greene books, this is not for the faint-hearted: you’ll need to be determined and prepared to work hard to gain the maximum benefit. However, this book, together with Greene’s (in)famous Chord Chemistry, and Solo Lead books will provide you with a lifetime’s worth of jazz inspiration.
Best Classical Guitar Lessons Books
Classical guitar technique differs significantly from that of other styles. If you wish to learn classical guitar, then there is no substitute for getting one-to-one lessons from a qualified tutor. However, if you want the flexibility of self-tuition, then there are several great books that will provide an excellent introduction to classical technique.
Progressive Classical Guitar Method: For Beginner to Intermediate Students by Jason Waldron
A thorough book that provides a complete classical guitar course. Contains exercises and tuition that will enable you to play many famous classical guitar favorites.
Pumping Nylon: The Classical Guitarist’s Technique Handbook by Scott Tennant
Pumping Nylon is a well-respected book on classical / Spanish guitar technique. It combines exercises (including those by Tarrega and Giuliani) and famous pieces to provide a complete classical guitar method. It is also available in a book / DVD / CD pack.
Best Music Theory Books For Guitar
Even guitarists who have been playing for a number of years can find themselves at a loss when trying to explain how music works. There are many great music theory books available, below we give our recommendations.
Music Theory for Guitarists: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask by Tom Kolb
Music Theory for Guitarists: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask introduces music theory specifically for guitarists. It explains intervals, chord construction and diatonic harmony and other valuable concepts.
Tonal Harmony by Stefan Kostka & Dorothy Payne
Tonal Harmony is an extremely comprehensive book on all aspects of music harmony. A standard text for many music university courses, it is also suitable, albeit with a bit of hard work, for self-study. Tonal Harmony is more suited to those wishing to learn classical music theory, but rock and jazz musicians will also find plenty of useable information.
The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine (Author)
The Jazz Theory Book is a comprehensive volume that covers all aspects of jazz theory. A much respected work, this book is on the reading list for many leading jazz courses. If you’re serious about learning jazz, this is one book you should have on your bookshelf!
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books about the guitar. Most are of the ‘teach yourself guitar’ variety, but there are also informative books about the instrument and its players.
Compiling a list of the best guitar books is never going to be easy, and these suggestions are our personal opinions only! We’ll also be adding to this list whenever we come across a book that we consider to be worthy of inclusion.
We have included method books for beginners and for more advanced players in a number of styles.
Although taking lessons with a guitar teacher is often considered the best way to progress, with focus and determination self-study is an equally valid method. Learning with books offers flexibility and is less expensive.
If you agree or disagree with our suggested best guitar books, or have alternative choices that we haven’t included, please let us know in the comments below!
Best Guitar Books: Conclusion
We hope that you have enjoyed reading about our favorite guitar books.
If you have a personal favorite book that we haven’t mentioned, or any other comments or suggestions, then please let us know in the comments below.