Best Guitar Books for Beginners – Take Your Playing to the Next Level

Learning to play a musical instrument is one of the best ways to enrich one’s personality and character. The guitar, as an iconic instrument emblematic of the western pop culture and music, is the most popular option.

However, very few people other than professional musicians and music teachers and students can afford to dedicate a significant amount of time to playing music. Many working adults can’t even manage to play consistently throughout the week due to overly demanding professional and private schedules.

Enter guitar books, a working guitarist’s best friend. They’re affordable and easy to carry around and can use any time of the day or night.

7 of My Favorite Guitar Books

A guitar book made for beginner players should offer substantial knowledge in bite-sized chunks that are easy to digest. Hal Leonard Guitar Method, Complete Edition focuses on absolute beginners and takes them to the intermediate level in small and well-thought-out steps.

The Complete Edition is actually three books in one, or three volumes bound together in spiral binding. The course starts out nice and slow, with every little detail thoroughly explained. A multitude of useful illustrations and chord diagrams is also included.

The strongest point of this awesome beginner book is the wealth of music tracks to which the students can jam and practice what they’ve learned. The tracks are divided into three CDs, one to each book. Students can unlock the CDs via codes included with the book.


Many beginner guitar players come with zero or very little prior knowledge of music theory or ability to read sheet music. That’s where Teach Yourself to Play Guitar comes in. This neat and easy-to-follow book is there for players who can’t yet read standard notation.

Teach Yourself to Play Guitar is designed for absolute beginners with a DIY mindset. The book offers solid coverage of the basics of folk, classical, rock, country, and blues, packing all the lessons into 48 pages. The included demonstration photos and chord diagrams will facilitate the learning process even further.

This book was designed with both electric and acoustic guitar players in mind. Unlike the majority of its modern counterparts, Teach Yourself to Play Guitar doesn’t feature any sort of multimedia or interactive supplements.


Knowing the fretboard by heart and where each note is positioned can open up a whole new world of musical possibilities to the guitar player. It gives them more freedom and makes them less dependent on fixed scale positions and “boxes”.

Guitar Fretboard: Memorize the Fretboard in Less Than 24 Hours is a guitar book every beginner should take up after they’ve learned the basics. The curriculum consists of over 30 exercises carefully designed to make the process as easy and fast as possible. While it might take you more than 24 hours to learn the positions of every C, G, and F# on the fretboard, it will pay off in spades in the long run.

The book is richly illustrated and replete with useful diagrams, tips, and tricks on how to quickly recall the name of each note. The physical copy is around 60 pages long, the electronic version is available as well.


Many guitar players who are into rock and metal pick up the guitar with dreams to shred like Zakk Wylde, Synyster Gates, or Joe Satriani. Others idolize neo-classic guitar heroes featured on the cult Shrapnel Records albums from the 80s and 90s, like Yngwie Malmsteen or Paul Gilbert.

Guitar Aerobics by Troy Nelson deals with the most common mistake of novice and lower intermediate-level players fascinated by virtuosos – skipping the basics of advanced techniques and jumping straight to the flashiest solo licks from their favorite songs.

The book has 365 exercises divided into 52 weekly chapters, covering everything from country and blues to jazz, funk, rock, and metal. The included exercises are designed to offer the players an insight into the nuts and bolts of advanced techniques, as well as improve dexterity and stamina. Covered techniques include alternate picking, sweep picking, arpeggios, legato, various types of string bends, and rhythm guitar.


As with any other instrument, learning the basics thoroughly and regular practice are two of the biggest components in becoming a skillful player. Guitar All-In-One for Dummies goes over all the necessary guitar basics. It is written in an easily digestible manner with well-designed lessons.

The book is actually composed of six books – Guitar for Dummies, Classical Guitar for Dummies, Guitar Theory for Dummies, Blues Guitar for Dummies, Guitar Exercises for Dummies, and Rock Guitar for Dummies. Each book covers a specific section so, according to your affinities, you might find yourself focusing more on one or two sections/books than the others.

The book also includes audio tracks and video lessons by experienced teachers, as well as a wealth of online resources. While the book doesn’t go far into the music theory or any of the genres, it does offer a solid base for further independent ventures into said fields.


The guitar has the highest percentage of self-taught players of all musical instruments. Blues, country, rock, and metal guitar players are overwhelmingly DIY-oriented, with many of them never having paid for a single guitar lesson. The biggest flaw of this approach is that gaps and cracks in the knowledge are inevitable and sometimes hard to fill.

Music Theory for Guitarists by Tom Kolb is there for the struggling beginners looking to improve their understanding of scales, chord progressions, chord construction, and the dreaded modes. Covered areas also include chord construction, modal harmony, reharmonization, chord substitution, and more.

The book has a quiz after each major section for you to measure your progress and repeat lessons if needed. Also, you will get around 100 practice audio tracks that accompany the lessons.


Chords are among the essential elements of music, rightfully being the first thing novice guitar players face when they pick up the instrument. Regardless of what genre or style you want to play, you won’t be able to do so without at least knowing the basic major, minor, suspended, seventh, and diminished chords.

Guitar Chords by Jake Jackson is an easy-to-use reference guide of basic chords, made for guitarists of all levels. The book is laid out in a simple and clear manner, featuring one chord per page. Each chord illustration includes finger positions, the chord’s position on the fretboard, as well as alternative chord names and chord spelling.

All chords in the book are arranged according to the key they belong to, starting with the key of A and ending with the key of G. The book is spiral bound and printed on high-quality paper.


What is Being Covered

There are many guitar books for beginners offering wildly different approaches, what with each author having a different definition of what is beginner level and how beginners should be taught. Some authors focus more on the theoretical side of things, while others will make it a point to make things as easy and simple as possible.

Nevertheless, a good beginner book should start with the basics of guitar anatomy, how to hold a guitar, and what each hand does. After that, it should teach you the basic major and minor chords and strumming patterns. Easy melodies from famous songs should also be included.

Quality beginner books should have simple and clear illustrations, photos, and diagrams to make the learning process easier and faster. The inclusion of play-along audio or video tracks is a huge plus. Also, good beginner books will encourage you to learn to play songs as swiftly as possible and motivate you to play daily.

Lesson or Reference Books

After learning how to hold the guitar and play simple songs, it is time to move on to other areas and learn other things. There are two basic approaches here – lesson books and reference books. While some players like the comfort of lesson books, others prefer to work things out on their own and will only use reference books for quick tips and explanations.

While both approaches are ok, they also have their flaws. The former lacks the freedom of exploration, while the latter lacks structure and can easily cause dissatisfaction if the player takes on stuff that’s too complex before they’re ready. The best tactic is to use a combination of lesson and reference books, in an effort to retain the focus of structured learning and incorporate the freedom of exploration.

For the best results, you can also throw in some drill and exercise books that are appropriate for your skill level. With these, take your time with the exercises and revisit them periodically.

Supplements

Back in the days before the internet, guitar books relied solely on printed words, diagrams, and pictures to teach. The only supplements were printed tablatures or sheet music. There were virtually no interactive elements due to the limited technology.

However, with the rise of digital technology, guitar books have become far more interactive and have crossed over into the multi-media field. Some books still rely on the perennial methods, while the majority now offers accompanying audio tracks and video lessons along with printed tabs.

Advanced book courses also include memberships to exclusive online forums, interactive online video lessons, as well as downloadable contents. Some courses will allow you to manipulate the audio and video tracks, allowing you to change the playback speed and the key of the play-along track.

Additionally, some hybrid book/online courses come with access to one-on-one lessons, usually by upgrading your membership or purchasing additional lessons and course modules.

Conclusion

Picking a beginner’s guitar book might be somewhat hard and complicated due to an overwhelming selection of available options. However, the paramount criteria should be the quality of lessons, useful extras, and ease of use. Finally, playing and learning guitar should always be a joy, never a chore.

  • Updated April 17, 2019
Gavin Whitner
    Gavin Whitner
     

    A guitar player, songwriter, composer, and also the lead editor of MusicOomph, Gavin is one of the four musician friends behind this site. Outside of music, he's an avid sports fan and hardly misses anything from football (soccer) to F1.

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