Best Guitar Books for Beginners

What Is The Best Guitar Book For  Beginners?

You may have tried to pick up playing from YouTube videos or chord diagram websites and that probably frustrated you. The problem is, it’s very difficult to learn everything you need to without a complete resource. In this article, we take a look at the best guitar books for beginners and give you a complete guide on what to look for in a simple, straightforward manner.

Young woman reading a guitar book
Books can be one of the best ways to learn guitar

Guitar Books – a Buyers Guide for Beginners

Any tool that can help you learn guitar playing and guitar theory quicker has value. This buyer’s guide first explains:

  • What makes a complete teaching book important to learning guitar
  • The advantages and benefits of using one
  • How to pick the best book for you

Every person learns in a different way. The best book for you won’t be the same book that works best for your sister or neighbor.

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Are books Really Best for beginners?

In my experience as a guitar player – yes! In my experience teaching friends – yes! An introductory book helps. When you first purchase a guitar and a few picks, it is frustrating if you cannot immediately play. So many people talk about how easy it is to play guitar. Yes, you can watch a few YouTube videos and pick up a few things. You can bookmark some websites that offer chord diagrams, scales, lesson and guitar care basics. You could also purchase a single, comprehensive book that organizes all of the information into one simple to understand resource.

Why?

A good guitar book for beginners covers the most important things to learn. It teaches them in the order it makes the most sense to learn them. It is made for students just starting out. It teaches the basics in a way that won’t overwhelm the reader. This helps you learn faster because it puts the information in suitable chunks.

A single author writes the book (usually), so you get everything explained in the same understandable manner. You’ll have a reference you can take with you anywhere. You can practice and play guitar anywhere you go. Your cell phone probably won’t have service in a campground, but you can take a book and your guitar with you and not miss any practice time.

How to choose the best guitar book for beginners

You need to figure out how you learn best. This refers to how you best process information. This could include:

  • Hearing it
  • Watching it
  • Reading it
  • Doing it

Some students need a teacher to show them each chord and strumming pattern. It helps them to have a human to correct and coach them. Reading a book helps them learn. It reinforces the hands on lesson. Those who learn best by hearing it need to hear somebody speak the instructions. A book on tape or book with a CD or DVD of the instructions helps these aural learners comprehend and retain the information better. Visual learners need to watch somebody play and instruct. They learn best by viewing instructional videos to reinforce the written instruction. A book with a DVD helps them. Others learn best by reading the information. They understand diagrams and process written information best.

What to look for in a beginner guitar book

Avoid the temptation to purchase a complicated tome that covers everything. Why? Because your first book should get you started. It should make it easy to begin playing guitar. It should make it simple to care for your instrument. It needs to offer simple instructions for how to take care of the guitar. A comprehensive source might help you as your grow as a musician but buying it as a first learning book can overwhelm the new guitarist.

The best guitar books for beginners cover the basics in a logical order. They introduce the guitarist to the following:

  • the various parts of a guitar,
  • notes,
  • scales,
  • chords,
  • strumming patterns,
  • guitar care like cleaning the guitar,
  • changing strings,
  • provide instruction on how to play a few simple songs,
  • recommend future instruction books or websites.

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The Best Guitar Books for Beginners – Reviews

The Guitar All-in-One For Dummies set actually provides eight books in one volume. You get complete coverage of both acoustic and electric guitar. It’s designed for hands-on instruction and covers multiple genres. It includes tips to make playing easier. This also includes complex music pieces to accommodate musical growth. It also covers musical composition.

The For Dummies series has a reputation as a complete source. This book set measures up. It provides information on topics from the different parts of a guitar, guitar shopping, stringing, tuning, basic playing skills, playing chords, left- and right-hand techniques, plus playing melodies. It teaches the reader in many styles using an accomplished guitarist and famous riffs as examples. Examples include Chuck Berry, Keith Richards and The Edge. It covers barre chords, rhythm and lead techniques, blues progressions and how to combine arpeggios and melody. You’ll also learn major and minor scales and complete chord exercises that help you develop your skills.

One of its books covers the history of classical guitar. You’ll also learn blues progressions and blues history. Another of the eight books teaches how to write songs and music, including various song forms, modes and composing with chords. This eight volume set is chock full of practice exercises and teaches standard music notation plus tablature. Learning both means you’ll learn to read music and lead sheets. That is a necessity if you want to study formally or perform as a professional musician. It includes a CD with more than 90 songs to play along to for practice in various genres. It also provides chord progressions, scale patterns and riffs.

Pros

  • Extremely comprehensive
  • Covers lead and rhythm guitar lessons
  • Provides bonus materials on CD

Cons

  • Could be a bit overwhelming

The Beginner’s Guitar Method Compilation also bundles multiple volumes into one book. It contains three best-selling beginner guitar books. It divides the topics covered into:

  • a book on chords
  • a book on chord progressions
  • a book on playing lead guitar

The focus of this three volume set assumes you want to play lead guitar rather than rhythm or bass guitar. It devotes a lot of pages to master bends, picking, legato, slide guitar and musical composition. The set also focuses heavily on essential chords, chord progressions, strumming patterns, picking, soloing and other technique. It covers music theory, too. You get more than 400 audio files so you can listen to what a chord or song should sound like. You can also play along with them to learn how to play with another instrument. This includes 20 backing tracks to provide accompaniment while learning to play and practicing guitar.

The three volume set teaches short cut methods to learning chords. This works to jumpstart the young player. It offers blues, funk, jazz, pop and rock chord sequences. It skips classical guitar, a necessity if you plan to study formally. It does not cover learning to play in a logical fashion though. The BGMC skips certain important information like the parts of a guitar and guitar care.

Pros

  • Helps develop solo guitarists
  • Provides tons of bonus materials

Cons

  • Not a complete reference
  • Leaves out classical guitar

The focus of Learn Your Fretboard Essential Memorization is, not surprisingly, teaching the notes of the guitar fretboard. This makes it easier to play solos, build chords and generally navigate your instrument. Not the sexiest subject when learning guitar, but memorizing the notes of your fretboard is one of the most important skills for a beginner to acquire.

This is a great reference to help you do just that. It provides lessons so you can improve and learn to write music. It explains how to turn a musical idea into a written song. It also tells you how to express an idea on the actual guitar neck and the area of the fretboard to use. It comes with online bonus material including audio clips, backing tracks and downloads.

Pros

  • Essential for developing knowledge of the fretboard
  • Plenty of bonus material included

Cons

  • Focuses only on fretboard memorization
  • Doesn’t cover chords or scales

The Hal Leonard Guitar Method teaches the student the basics of playing acoustic or electrical guitar. The folks at Hal Leonard designed this to appropriately offer instruction to all ages of students. It includes the book, a full-color guitar chord poster, online bonus materials, a CD of audio practices and a DVD of lessons. The bonus materials include 48 audio tracks and 85 minutes of videos. It breaks lessons down in manageable 15 minute chunks. This lets the player quickly learn something new without overwhelming them with too much information.

This Hal Leonard book provides a gradual method of learning to read music and play guitar. The short lessons make it simple to repeat the prior lesson if you miss a few days of practice.

Pros

  • Very Comprehensive
  • Easy to understand
  • Short, easily digestible lessons
  • Tons of bonus audio and video materials

Cons

  • Focused on music theory only – doesn’t cover guitar care, songwriting etc

Guitar care and maintenance is an essential aspect of getting the most from your instrument in the short and longer term. Getting to know your guitar, and how to look after it from day one will be an investment that should pay off forever. Paying for a luthier or guitar tech to set your guitar up can cost hundreds of dollars a time, so this book should pay for itself in no time.

While you won’t learn to play guitar from the Guitar Player Repair Guide, it can help you maintain you guitar or bass. It comes with a DVD that provides videos of each guitar care and repair topic related to an acoustic or electric guitar, and even bass guitars. Inside, you’ll find detailed information on electronics, pickups and wiring diagrams plus information on acoustics.

The Repair Guide does have its downsides. The book does not clearly move from one topic to another, and some of the chapters rehash Guitar Player articles.

Pros

  • Clear explanation of guitar care
  • Helpful DVD included

Cons

  • Only covers maintenance and repair
  • Slightly disjointed in its organization

The Practical Guide to Modern Music Theory for Guitarists makes a great addition to any existing guitar library and provides a detailed introduction to the essentials of music theory. For anyone looking to really master their guitar, I find author Joseph Alexander one of the best teachers and have half a dozen of his books in my studio (including this one).

This book includes more than 200 exercises with accompanying downloadable audio files and professional backing clips to help you practice.  The book explains harmonization, major and minor scale construction, how to name chords, playing and designing chord progressions, chord qualities, modes and modulation. It includes a soloing cheat sheet.

The Practical Guide uses clear, concise writing to explain complicated concepts like how to build a chord in any key, diatonic scales, positions, and modes.

Pros

  • Helps develop soloing
  • Very detailed / In-depth
  • Clear, concise writing style is easy to follow

Cons

  • Focused only on theory
  • Not for quick learning

Beginner's Guitar Lessons: The Essential Guide

One of the better references for a brand new guitar student, Beginner’s Guitar Lessons: The Essential Guide, instructs you in the basics like:

  • how to hold and strum a guitar,
  • time signatures,
  • chord changes,
  • finger picking,
  • common new guitarist mistakes.

You’ll find clear chord diagrams, strumming techniques, strumming methods and bonus materials like 50 audio clips that you can play along with to learn group performance. It teaches chord progressions and finger picking patterns. The book covers reading guitar tablature (tab). It covers acoustic, electric and bass, including descending bass lines.

Players who learned using this book report it is easy to use. They say it is simple to stick with for continued learning. People who already play guitar report it helped them learn things they had missed. It does gloss over tuning, an important thing to learn early on as a player.

Pros

  • Comprehensive
  • Helpful to experienced guitarists as well as beginners

Cons

  • Minimal coverage of how to tune your guitar

Final Thoughts – The Best Guitar Book For A Beginner

From my many years of experience, I feel that Hal Leonard’s Guitar Method offers the best introduction to guitar. It proves easy to use by a guitarist of any level – It covers every topic a new guitarist needs, and you can return to it through the years to brush up on old skills. It is a reference found in most guitarist’s libraries, including mine. That is because one skill builds on another with guitar. Getting the basics down helps you learn the advanced ones. If you can only afford one book, the Hal Leonard should be the one you buy. You will probably still find yourself referencing it after you have played ten years.

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