Guitar Command reveals the best jazz guitar books available in the stores today.
Not everyone has the time or money for professional jazz guitar tuition. Others may not have a suitable tutor near them, or may simply prefer to teach themselves, learning at their own pace.
If you wish to learn jazz guitar without a teacher, a jazz guitar method book may be the answer. However, there is a bewildering array of jazz guitar books on sale today. Their quality is variable; while there are many excellent titles available, an equal number are poor – let down either by their presentation or by the actual quality of information they contain.
While a quick skim through the reviews on online stores can provide an idea as to a book's value, the sheer number of jazz guitar books can mean that the real treasures may go undiscovered.
For this reason we have compiled a list of the best jazz guitar books, as recommended by experienced jazz guitarists and teachers.
Best Jazz Guitar Books
So, what are the best jazz guitar books available to buy? In no particular order, here are the books we recommend if you wish to teach yourself jazz guitar.
A Modern Method for Guitar (Vols. 1-3 Complete) - William Leavitt
The first book in the list is not specifically a jazz guitar book. However, A Modern Method For Guitar does provide a complete course for learning modern plectrum guitar styles. All of the information in this book is applicable to playing jazz. It will also help you to develop your sight reading and fingerboard knowledge to a high standard.
Recommended for providing an excellent grounding in all forms of modern guitar playing. A Modern Method For Guitar is used as the basic text for the Berklee College of Music guitar program.
Jazz Guitar Method Complete - Jody Fisher
Jazz Guitar Method Complete is a compilation of four books written by Jody Fisher. Each are well regarded, and together they provide a complete course in jazz guitar playing. Unlike some jazz guitar books, the music is presented complete with TAB. This is a good collection for beginner jazz guitarists, as it explains the basics before progressing to more advanced concepts.
The four books are available separately, but the complete method works out cheaper, making it a good choice for dedicated learners.
If you're only going to get one jazz guitar method, this is the one we'd recommend.
Jazz Solos For Guitar - Les Wise
Jazz Solos For Guitar contains a number of demonstration solos, which are notated and analyzed. The solos are played over typical jazz progressions, which allows you to apply the concepts to jazz standards. Each example concentrates on a particular facet of jazz guitar, including scale playing, arpeggio playing, jazz blues, substitutions and chord soloing.
This book is written in a clear and engaging style, and is a good choice for reasonably advanced rock and blues guitarists who want to jump in at the deep end. Not a book for beginners – although TAB is provided, the concepts discussed go well beyond the basics. You're expected to know basic jazz chord shapes, as they are not provided.
A reasonably priced book, and because of its concise explanations and valuable content, Jazz Solos For Guitar is one of the best jazz guitar books available.
Advancing Guitarist - Mick Goodrick
Mick Goodrick's Advancing Guitarist is a book that always appears in best jazz guitar books lists, and for good reason. It contains a large amount of usable information, and more importantly provides a springboard for further exploration. It is not a book for beginner guitarists, and demands a lot of the reader. This is a book which will either inspire you or frustrate you! The examples do not include TAB.
Complete Course In Jazz Guitar (Books 1 & 2) - Mickey Baker
This book was written in 1955, and the fact that Mickey Baker's Complete Course In Jazz Guitar is still in print today is testament to its quality. There is no TAB, and again, this is not a book for the complete beginner.
Like many of the best jazz guitar books, you'll get out of it what you put in. Book 2 continues from Book 1, and working through both volumes will provide you with a very good basis for developing your jazz skills.
Other Good Jazz Guitar Books
Arpeggio Studies On Jazz Standards – Mimi Fox
As you would expect from the title, Arpeggio Studies On Jazz Standards concentrates on arpeggio playing. There are a number of studies provided, all based on real jazz standards. This is a very good supplementary book to one of the complete methods.
Pentatonic Khancepts - Steve Kahn
In Pentatonic Kahncepts, Steve Kahn provides ways of using pentatonic scales in a jazz setting. This book provides plenty of usable concepts and ideas that will inspire your lead playing.
Non-Guitar Jazz Books
The Jazz Theory Book - Mark Levine
The Jazz Theory Book is comprehensive volume that covers virtually every aspect of jazz theory. This is an ideal book to supplement a guitar method. Used in universities around the world, The Jazz Theory Book is not for a beginner. This is a book that you will be able to turn to throughout your jazz career.
How To Play Bebop, Vols. 1-3 - David Baker
The three books in the How To Play Bebop series provide a detailed method for playing bebop. The first book provides information on bebop scales and how to use them. Book 2 elaborates on the information in book one, providing numerous examples of bebop lines. Book three provides some useful ideas on learning songs.
These books are written for all musicians, not just guitarists, and TAB is therefore not provided.
Best Jazz Guitar Books Conclusion
Any of the books listed above will give you a good understanding of the rudiments of jazz guitar. Remember, however, that buying the book is one thing; having the discipline to work through it thoroughly is another.
With such a wealth of information at your fingertips, it is always a temptation to rush through without taking everything in. You should try setting a certain amount of time aside each day to learn, rather than just play jazz guitar.
You should also be listening to jazz music and attempting to play along with and analyse the solos. If you set your mind to it, using any one of these books could help you to become the next Pat Martino.
Over To You
We would really like to know if you have any further suggestions. Are there any glaring omissions in our list? Have you taught yourself to play jazz guitar using any of these books? Let us know in the comments below!