What is the Best Guitar Theory Book in 2019?

Though there isn’t a difficult learning curve for beginners, reaching an advanced level on guitar can be intimidating. Many people claim that music theory books are the way to go, but it’s often difficult to know where to start! In this article, I’ll be letting you know what to look for so you know how to find the best guitar theory book.

Our Top 5 guitar theory books

Unlock the fretboard and solve the mysteries of music by learning guitar theory

Reviews of the best guitar theory books

This is an incredibly thorough book that gives you a lot of information to learn from. Regardless of your skill level, you’ll be able to find something in this book for you!

A benefit that I love about this book is that it includes both types of notation. This means that you don’t have to worry about deciding between learning tabs or staff notation. 

In fact, the sheet music included uses both notation methods at the same time. This is an incredibly helpful practice that encourages players to switch between the two methods.

Another highlight of this book is that it includes very helpful diagrams to teach theory. For example, a diagram of diatonic seventh chords makes it easy for musicians to know what the chords are and how to apply them.

A downside of this book, though, is the inefficiency of the included audio files. They don’t work on every device (difficult to use via the Kindle App on phones and PCs), but this isn’t a problem for those using a hard copy. The book also requires you to put in a good amount of time to grasp all of the concepts mentioned, making it difficult to pick up quickly.

Pros

  • Uses both notation methods
  • Helpful charts
  • Something for all difficulty levels

Cons

  • Audio files for Kindle version do not work on all devices
  • Not as intuitive as other books

If you want a book that is completely balanced while also being thorough, this is the book for you. Guitar Theory for Dummies provides guitarists of all levels with an easily approachable method.

With concepts such as the CAGED chord system and playing by numbers, players will find this book easy to understand.

For players who are more on the advanced side of intermediate, there are also challenging exercises included in the book that force you to apply what you’ve learned.

On top of all of this, there is also a good variety of scales included with this book. This book also uses both notation systems to make the experience more fluid. What is very helpful about this book is that it doesn’t teach you theory alongside guitar playing, but rather encourages you to learn theory through guitar playing. This makes it an intuitive process, allowing you to pick up concepts quickly.

This book also contains many examples from pop music to make playing guitar with theory easier than ever! This brings with it a downside, though. If the examples included aren’t the music you’re interested in, you might not find them useful.

Pros

  • Intuitive ways of learning
  • Uses both notation methods
  • Pop music examples

Cons

  • Pop music examples are limited

If you want to apply your theory knowledge directly to performance, you’ll love this book. By including professionally-recorded backing tracks, this book allows you to jump directly into the action and play along seamlessly. 

The book also comes with audio examples for each topic in the book! This makes it easy for you to hear ideas as you learn about them.

Something that this book excels at is giving you solid methods for getting yourself out of writer’s block. There is also a “cheat sheet” included to help you learn how to solo efficiently, giving you a variety of different methods to choose from. There is also extensive information on how to navigate different modes, providing licks you can use to make them easier.

It’s important to note, though, that this book is mainly recommended for those wanting to apply theory directly to their playing. If you’re somebody who would rather learn the materials and apply them yourself, this might not be the book for you. This book is best for those who prefer to learn by doing, a style that definitely isn’t for everyone.

Pros

  • Plenty of included examples
  • Useful methods to apply concepts
  • “Cheat sheet” included for solo methods

Cons

  • Method mainly focused on performance 

This is a truly incredible book for those who are interested in classic rock music. By using this book, you can directly apply theory to popular music of the last 50 years!

Fretboard Theory mainly focuses on fret notation, so that’s worth knowing if you want to learn staff notation as well. However, if you want to do more than just analyze your favorite rock music, but understand it as well,  this is the book for you.

Something I appreciate about Fretboard Theory is that it includes different methods for acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and bass, allowing you to explore every aspect of the music you want to play. It also encourages you to look beyond the rock examples so you can also apply what you learn into making your own original music.

As a book focused on linking theory to classic rock, Fretboard Theory is mainly a good choice for those who are interested in that type of music. However, with over 100 songs to learn theory from, there’s a good chance that you’ll find something for you.

Fretboard Theory also assumes that you’re an intermediate guitarist, making it an inaccessible book for true beginners. For those at the skill level, though, it’s a worthwhile investment as it covers all the key elements of scales, chords, progressions, modes, song application and plenty more.· 

Pros

  • Includes over 100 classic rock songs to analyze
  • Gives you ways to apply methods to writing your own music
  • Apply theory to acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and bass!

Cons

  • For intermediate guitarists and higher only
  • Isn’t that much fun or too intuitive if you don’t like the musical example

Learning theory isn’t always the most streamlined process. Typically theory is something that has to be incorporated into your playing slowly. However, if you want to find a method that will let you grasp concepts quickly and apply them to guitar playing, this book is for you.

The reason why this book is different from the rest is because it doesn’t really focus on theory-heavy subjects like other books. Instead, it teaches you how to play guitar quickly and efficiently by using theory! It also has many helpful exercises regarding how to work with melody and harmony.

Not only does it give you some pretty helpful exercises for playing guitar, but it also uses theory to help you build your intuition. It also accommodates for all experience levels, providing a simple approach that makes improving easy. Videos are also included so you can navigate exercises with ease.

Those who are interested in learning strict theory might not be interested in this book, as it is for players who want to get better at guitar while learning theory. That being said, the techniques utilized in this book are quite unique, making it a great product to include on this list!

Pros

  • Unique and effective methods
  • Apply concepts directly to guitar playing
  • Includes helpful videos
  • Works for all experience levels

Cons

  • Actually a little light on the guitar theory compared to other books I’ve reviewed

Your Buyer's Guide To Choosing The Best guitar Theory Book

Do you need a guitar theory book?

It’s no secret that familiarizing yourself with theory can help you understand music better. This doesn’t mean that you need to understand theory to play guitar well, though. A helpful way to picture it is to think about visual art. A painter may not need to know color theory to create art, but knowing which colors go well together is useful.

You can’t beat being able to learn theory in a proven, structured way. Music theory isn’t essential to playing guitar, but knowing it is a skill that isn’t detrimental to one’s playing. To summarize, yes, having a theory book can be beneficial for anyone.

Why are they Useful?

Using a theory book is a great way to know which chords pair well with others. It’s also helpful for navigating difficult key signatures and other concepts. Using theory books also allows you to familiarize yourself with scales. Scales are a key concept for anybody looking to build up true technical strength.

Are there any disadvantages?

No, actually. Theory books can only help you learn, making them not harmful to your guitar technique.

Who might use a guitar theory book?

One of the best aspects of theory books is that they each feature a unique approach. This makes any given book accessible to a player with any level of experience if you know what to look for. Regardless of the type of music you play, there is always a theory book related to your specific interests. There is also a wide variety of books available on the market so you can find what you need. If you don’t know what you want to focus on, getting a general theory book is a helpful first step.

Later on in this article, I’ll be taking a look at 5 of the most notable theory books so you can see which ones are relevant to you!

Things to look out for

One of the most important differences between theory books is music notation. There are benefits to both staff notation and tab notation, with each working well at times. Certain books might only teach you one of the remove methods, so it’s important to keep notation in mind.

Another difference between various theory books is the amount of material covered. For example, some books will cover a wide variety of theoretical concepts. These books might include scales, chord progerssions, and voice-leading. Other books take a more focused approach, like . These approaches are usually listed on the covers of the books, so pay attention to the cover.

Difficulty level is another aspect you’ll want to keep an eye out for when browsing theory books. This aspect is a bit easier to judge—if you’re a true beginner, you’ll want to get a book that starts with the basics. If you’re more experienced, you might want to find a book that goes in-depth about theory. The most important thing is that you find a book that can meet you where you are as a player.

What’s the best way to use a guitar theory book?

Learning theory won’t make you a good musician on its own. Like other aspects of guitar playing, you should use theory alongside a variety of different tools. Each element won’t solve your problems on their own, but it’s important to have a varied toolbox to choose from.

This is why it’s important to not only study a theory book , but also know when to use it. Stuck not knowing which song to match with another? Learning the circle of fifths can help you pair songs with matching key signatures.

Knowing music theory can also help with creative exercises. Are you somebody who often experiences writer’s block? Knowing certain progressions that sound good through theory can help you get out of it!

The most important thing to keep in mind when using a theory book is that it won’t give you the answers. This is because there aren’t any answers in music. You should always write what sounds good to you, but keep in mind that theory can make the process easier.

Final Thoughts on the Best Guitar Theory Books

At the end of the day, familiarizing yourself with theory can be a great way to improve your guitar playing. This is why finding the best guitar theory book is important for any players who want to become better at the instrument. However, having a book that is thorough and balanced can be a tricky line to navigate.

This is why the Guitar Theory for Dummies book is my top pick. By introducing players through an accessible method, the book offers players a well-rounded approach to theory. This also has a great deal of helpful information for improvisation! This makes it possible for musicians to improve their intuition alongside their understanding!

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