The Best Guitar Books in 2020
What is the best guitar book in 2020?
Growing as a musician becomes easier once you start practicing every day. Building a learning library of music books will help, too.
Instead of searching the Internet for useful sources, buy one of the best guitar books and get started on a daily path to developing as a guitarist and make 2020 the year that you really kickstarted your playing.
This buyer’s guide explains what to look for in a well-written instructional volume.
Our Top 5 guitar books
The Best Guitar Books - Reviews
The Hal Leonard Guitar Method covers playing both acoustics and electrics. It uses the Hal Leonard method used in teaching the instrument to all ages.
The complete edition gets its name because it combines the first three books in the Hal Leonard method. It comes spiral bound and includes three CDs. Its focuses on the beginning student.
Since it includes multiple books as one means, you can continue to use it as you grow as a musician. That’s why experienced musicians continue to turn to it when in need of a brush up lesson.
It breaks up its content into short lessons you can complete in 15 minutes. It teaches basic notation, tablature (tab) and chord diagrams. There are also finger exercises that help the guitarist develop dexterity.
- A complete reference
- Helps develop beginning and moderately experienced guitarists
- Includes accompanying CD
- Doesn’t cover maintenance or construction
Guitar Fretboard: Memorize The Fretboard In Less Than 24 Hours
As you grow as a guitarist, you need to learn all of the fretboard. Using Guitar Fretboard: Memorize The Fretboard In Less Than 24 Hours, you can learn the fretboard quickly. Guitar Fretboard teaches a memorization method to jumpstart your learning.
If you have a goal of working as a professional guitarist in a recording studio or a backing band or as a songwriter, you need this. It also gives you a tips section with more than 35 playing and learning tips, plus learning exercises.
It offers fretboard diagrams, flash cards and additional reference materials.Learning the notes of the keyboard helps you learn songs easier and lets you write songs.
Guitar Fretboard teaches how to turn a song idea into a song on paper and on the fretboard. While designed for beginners, a seasoned player can use this just as easily.
- Excellent reference for learning the notes of the fretboard
- Provides bonus materials
- Less helpful for absolute beginners
New guitarists want to start playing songs they know right away. Most beginner’s volumes still teach songs like “Row Row Row Your Boat” and other traditional folk songs. This turns off most beginners and they turn to the Internet for videos or online tab to learn rock songs.
Enter the book, Selections from Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time Guitar Classics Volume 2: Classic Rock to Modern Rock. It solves that problem. Part of Rolling Stone Magazine’s music method series, it provides simple tab for 67 of the most popular rock songs.
Each of the songs appeared in the magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” The simple arrangements let a new player quickly pick up classics like Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” and AC/DC’s “Back in Black.”
Punk fans can quickly pick up The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” or “I Wanna Be Sedated.” There’s something for everyone.
The tabs also include Bob Marley’s reggae “No Woman, No Cry” and the Eric Clapton classic “Layla.”
It sometimes oversimplifies though. For instance, rather than provide tab for the guitar solo in Guns and Roses’ staple “Sweet Child O’Mine,” it tells the guitarist to “ad lib with E minor pentatonic scale.” This leaves the guitarist hanging since if you wanted to ad lib, or make it up as you go, you probably would not have purchased a book.
- Simple arrangements
- Helps beginning guitarists build a decent repertoire quickly
- Only covers chords and rhythm parts
You’ll find Guitar Aerobics: A 52-Week, One-Lick-Per-Day Workout Program for Developing, Improving and Maintaining Guitar Technique designed for mid-level or experienced guitarists. It is great if you want to increase your knowledge and quickly learn new solo parts.
You get the book and online audio files to supplement the written tab. The former editor of Guitar One magazine wrote it. It contains 52 lessons – one per week. It covers most major genres of music including blues, country, funk, jazz, metal and rock. It only skips classical.
You’ll learn alternate picking, arpeggios, hammer-ons and pull-offs, legato, rhythm and lead, string bends, string skipping and sweep picking. Its exercises help you improve hand dexterity and playing speed. Its online audio files provide 365 exercise licks and play-along files.
You can slow down or speed up the files using eight different metronome settings. Each exercise builds on the previous one so you cannot skip around. You also should you skip days. It works for the dedicated guitarist who schedules daily practice time and sticks to it.
- Top quality exercises help develop technique
- Bonus materials included
- Some players reported having trouble accessing the online files
- More useful for more advanced players
Once you know you’re serious about playing, you should pick up a comprehensive chord reference. Guitar: The First 100 Chords for Guitar: How to Learn and Play Guitar Chords: The Complete Beginner Guitar Method tops the list of essential chord books.
It provides more than just chord diagrams. It helps you master chord theory. Its first two chapters are a summary of the author’s book, “Beginner’s Guitar Lessons.” It moves into new territory beginning with chapter three.
The First 100 Chords covers the 100 essential chords on the fretboard. It explains how chords work together and how to construct chord progressions. You’ll also read how to combine chords in songwriting and various strumming methods.
It also includes a helpful memorization method to help the beginning student learn chords. It also coaches the student on practice habits.
If you are self-taught, this volume can help fill in the gaps of not having a teacher. A teacher would normally coach you on practice habits. They would teach the tricks of chord combination.
The First 100 Chords also helps when songwriting. It is useful as an essential chord finder. Finally, like many other publications, it comes with bonus audio files. Use them with a metronome for best results.
- Solid reference for all the most useful chords
- Teaches music theory behind the chords
- Helpful for self-taught guitarists
- Exercises can be a little dry
Guitar Books – A Buyers Guide
Who might use guitar books?
Any person who wants to play could use an instruction book. If you want to play better an instruction book can help you master new techniques or theories.
If you want to become a tech, roadie or luthier, a person who makes guitars, you need to read books on those topics. You should also study under an established teacher or enroll in a formal education program.
YouTube user Redlight Blue made a video of his daily progress of his first week as a guitarist. This video provides a pretty accurate depiction of the average development of a new guitarist.
Do you really need a guitar book?
Books act as an important reference. They supplement class materials and allow the student to double check information.
You can’t replace the reference a good book offers since your music teacher would probably not appreciate a phone call at one am when you found time to practice. You can look it up though without disrupting anybody’s sleep.
Books provide a comprehensive reference that fully covers a topic. While a class you take may cover only one topic, reading a volume on the material lets you get ahead and study related material.
What are the advantages/benefits?
Learning new stuff probably tops the list of benefits. Tomes of music knowledge let you study at your own pace.
A class environment uses the averaged pace of the quickest and slowest learners. A book lets you set your own pace. You can also tailor learning to your needs.You read what you want, when you want.
They let you to look up stuff at your convenience. You can easily learn more about a topic you read about in a music magazine or heard about in an online video.
Books provide lots of information you probably would not get in a classroom. If you take a music class, it usually focuses on playing.
The teacher might include playing both acoustics and electrics or cover an introduction to various styles, like classical, jazz or blues. They won’t generally cover care or repair. Your teacher probably won’t show you how to change strings. Tuning usually gets covered in a single lesson with an old school tuning fork.
If it weren’t for books, you might not know that digital tuners exist or how to clean your instrument.
Things to look for in a guitar book
Look for a complete reference. This applies to your purchase whether you shop for a book that covers:
- an introduction to playing,
- a reference on instrument care,
- a reference on instrument construction.
The reference you buy should completely cover the topic. It should to present the information in an easy to understand format. The writer should explain things completely.
The topics should appear in a logical order. Look for an orderly table of contents and a complete index. These two items let you to scan the book’s contents to quickly find the information you need.Look at the references used by the author.
They should include well-known, accurate sources that relate to the topic matter. For this topic, this would include Guitar Player, Musician, Guitar Magazine, etc.
How to choose the best guitar book
The best guitar book for you depends on your learning style. If you learn best when taught a small amount of information each day, you need a book that breaks its coverage into short, extremely focused lessons. These might take 15 minutes or less per day to complete. That includes reading them and playing.
If you learn better reading a lot on a topic, then using it, you need a book that approaches topics like a textbook would. This would present the information in a chapter format with breakout boxes and important points highlighted. It contains a glossary.
Some people learn best by listening to a teacher or professor. They should look for a volume that includes a CD or online audio clips. These let you to listen to a riff before playing it and to practice playing along with another instrument.
Those who need to watch another person play a riff or chord should buy a book with a DVD included or online video clips. This lets you watch the teacher repeatedly to see how their hands are held and how they finger the fretboard.
What’s the best way to use a guitar instruction book?
This depends on you and your learning style and learning speed. Some students pick up an instrument quickly.
Those with long, slender fingers have an easier time reaching across the fretboard to properly finger chords. Some simply have an aptitude for playing the instrument.You might do best when you something new each day.
Others learn best when they practice one item for a week or so. The way that works for you to learn alone is the one that is right for you. This means that the best way to use a reference book is up to you.
You’ll probably use these references differently than your neighbor or best friend who is also learning to play.
Final Thoughts – The Best Guitar Books
The best guitar book for you depends on your goals as a guitarist. It also depends on where you are in your journey as a guitarist. No beginning guitarist should be without the Hal Leonard Guitar Method.
No advanced guitarist should go without Guitar Aerobics. If your goal is to become a professional guitarist or songwriter, you’ll need both the fretboard and chord essentials volumes.
Beginning students should pick up the Rolling Stone Magazine Greatest Songs Selection so you can quickly play real songs in your favorite genre.
If you can only buy one though, pick the Hal Leonard Complete Guitar Method. The learning method proves tried and true and many guitarists started with and stuck with that method. They’re still playing.