There’s a certain romanticism attached to teaching yourself the guitar. The history of the instrument is filled with many legendary self-taught guitar players, and it is certainly very rewarding to learn things for yourself.
However, there is no need to get to caught up in the narrative – there are also many legendary guitar players who learned from books as well. One of the best ways to learn the guitar is through books. There are some fantastic and very useful guitar playing books out there, and below you’ll find just ten of them.
- 1 The Guitar Handbook
- 2 Joe Satriani – Guitar Secrets
- 3 Beginner’s Guitar Lessons: The Essential Guide
- 4 Guitar All-In-One For Dummies, Book + Online Video & Audio Instruction
- 5 Guitar by Richard Chapman
- 6 The New Complete Guitarist: The All-Visual Approach to Learning the Guitar
- 7 How to Play Guitar Phase 1 Book by Ernie Ball
- 8 Guitar Chords: Easy-to-Use, Easy-to-Carry, One Chord on Every Page
- 9 Hal Leonard Guitar Method, Complete Edition: Books 1, 2 and 3
- 10 Music Theory for Guitarists: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask
- 11 Conclusion
The Guitar Handbook
This book has been constantly in print since 1992, with new and revised editions coming out every other year. As a comprehensive guide it features colorful photos, guitar reviews as well as excellently plotted lessons for both beginner and advanced players. Written by the late, great Ralph Denyer, guitarist and singer of the band Blonde on Blonde, it has remained a firm favorite of guitarists the world over.
Joe Satriani – Guitar Secrets
Joe Satriani is something of a legend among guitarists. Very much a virtuoso he is well known for his grueling lessons, boasting none other than Kirk Hammett as a student. For many years he wrote a column for Guitar for the Practicing Musician, all of which are collected in this book, along with access to an online audio section where you can learn to shred like the ‘Satch’.
Beginner’s Guitar Lessons: The Essential Guide
This book is designed specifically for the beginner. This book really does strip it down to essential techniques. Much the book is spent giving excellent tips which will help you avoid bad habits, exemplifying correct ways to strum, finger pick, and read guitar tablature.
If you’re looking to get into fret-tapping or sweep-picking straight away, this is probably not the book for you. But if you want to practice properly this book is a must-have.
Guitar All-In-One For Dummies, Book + Online Video & Audio Instruction
The ‘Dummies’ series has become a much cherished institution in many fields of learning, and this book is no exception. This edition combines a whopping seven books into one, including: Guitar 101, Sounds and Techniques, Getting to Know Guitar Theory, Rock Guitar, Blues Guitar, Classical Guitar, and Exercises and Practices. This book is designed to take you from a novice right the way through to virtuoso!
Guitar by Richard Chapman
Richard Chapman has been at the forefront of the guitar world for well over 25 years, lauded as an expert on all things guitar and guitar playing by people such as Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney. This book covers not only guitar playing techniques, chords and scales, but also some of the history behind the instrument and the techniques of famous guitarists.
The New Complete Guitarist: The All-Visual Approach to Learning the Guitar
Another book from the inimitable Richard Chapman, The Complete Guitarist was the first published by Dorling Kindersley in 1993. This book goes into a little more depth than his later offerings, and is one of the best selling guitar books of all time. This edition, published ten years later retains the useful visual aspect of the original, making it easier to understand techniques and methods of playing.
How to Play Guitar Phase 1 Book by Ernie Ball
Sometimes all an aspiring guitarist needs is a simple guide to chords and notes. How to Play Guitar Phase 1 produced by string manufacturers Ernie Ball is just that. There are two sections to it: the white pages, which show you where to find notes on the guitar, and the yellow pages which show you chord formations. There some extra notes on technique and chord progressions, but it puts conciseness ahead of anything else and fits right into your gig bag.
Guitar Chords: Easy-to-Use, Easy-to-Carry, One Chord on Every Page
Continuing this theme of concise useful manuals, Guitar Chords by session musician and flamenco guitarist Jake Jackson is found in music shops across the world. Chords are the foundation for any budding guitarist and this little book has them all. 360 chord shapes are shown in big, colorful print on each page, making it an ideal reference book for the beginner, and will take through basic majors and minors through to the more intricate augmented and diminished chords.
Hal Leonard Guitar Method, Complete Edition: Books 1, 2 and 3
Founded in 1947, the Hal Leonard Company has been producing the best music books for decades. This is a compendium of all three Guitar Method books revised and updated in 2003. Based on the knowledge of a team of professionals experienced guitar teachers it contains everything needed to take you from your first chords and tuning to moveable scales, Travis picking and chord construction. It also contains downloadable or streamable content to play along to as you learn.
Music Theory for Guitarists: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask
Written by Tom Kolb, a guitar teacher at the world famous Musicians Institute, this book compiles Tom’s extensive knowledge of music theory and its relation to guitar technique. Though the words ‘music theory’ may sound daunting to new players, Tom’s skillful exposition of how you can unlock the secrets of guitar are quite straightforward, and is written with beginners in mind. The book grants you access to the Hal Leonard database of audio which helps you learn not only scales and chords, but modes and ear training as well.
There are a vast amount of resources to learn guitar these days, and all of the above are perfectly useful in their own way. As a once beginner guitarist myself, I found both the Guitar Handbook and Richard Chapman’s Complete Guitarist invaluable. But equally, these days, I also find Jake Jackson’s Guitar Chords a good reference. Ultimately, a beginner guitarist will find the best book to learn guitar is the one that suits their learning style.