Apart from offering guitar and music tuition in Colchester, Essex, I often get asked about what are the best guitar and music books that can aid in the process of learning the guitar and music theory. While there is no substitute for one on one private guitar, bass and music lessons, I also feel that a good book can really help guide you in the right direction. With that in mind, I have compiled a list of books in this article that I personally use as supplementary material in my guitar lessons. I have listed 7 books from my collection below; 3 aimed at beginner guitarists, 3 aimed at more intermediate to advanced guitarists and other musicians, and one aimed at both!
BEST GUITAR BOOKS FOR BEGINNERS – TOP 3
The Guitarist’s Way
The Guitarist’s Way has been a staple in my collection of teaching material for a number of years now, and with good reason. It is easy to read and understand, starting with the most basic concepts of playing the open strings in time, to fretting simple notes with your left hand. The Guitarist’s Way is written completely in standard notation, with no tablature at all in the book, making it an excellent method of learning to read music properly on the guitar. The progression through the books is very smooth and gradual, and the cartoon like illustrations make it an excellent book to teach children from. Although it is geared more towards classical guitar, I personally feel that anyone approaching the instrument from a beginner’s perspective can get a lot out of working their way through all four books in The Guitarist’s Way series.
- Click here to purchase The Guitarist’s Way Book 1
- Click here to purchase The Guitarist’s Way Book 2
- Click here to purchase The Guitarist’s Way Book 3
- Click here to purchase The Guitarist’s Way Book 4
The Guitar Handbook
Although it was first published in 1982, The Guitar Handbook still contains a lot of relevant information for guitarists of all abilities and styles. With a foreword from Police guitar legend Andy Summers, this book explains all aspect of the guitar, from basic technique, anatomy of the instrument, amplifiers, effects and anything else you can think of pertaining to guitar. Personally, I learnt a lot from the music theory section in the book, which is brilliantly explained by author Ralph Denyer. Although I had a basic understanding of theory before I read this book, it was The Guitar Handbook that really cemented my knowledge after reading through it, helping to completely demystify music theory for me. Although I have linked the first edition below, which is also the edition of the book that I own, there is also an updated version available online if you search.
Click Here to purchase The Guitar Handbook
Rockschool Acoustic Grade 1
In truth, I could have listed either of the Debut Rockschool books on electric or acoustic guitar, or the Grade 1 Electric edition, however it is the Grade 1 Acoustic book that I am most familiar with. Containing transcriptions of actual songs from across a broad range of styles and eras, I have had a lot of success teaching beginners the basics of guitar with at least 5 of the 6 pieces in this book, whether they are acoustic or electric players. Although some of the broken chords and scales in the back of the back are a little tricky, the songs listed should present enough of a challenge for any beginner to see improvement on the guitar early on, without being too difficult and off putting to anyone still in the early stages of guitar development. Whether or not you opt to take a graded exam, Rockschool Acoustic Guitar Grade 1 is still a good learning resource to any beginner guitarist.
Click here to purchase Rockschool Acoustic Guitar Grade 1.
BEST GUITAR & MUSIC BOOKS FOR ADVANCING PLAYERS
The Advancing Guitarist
While I teach many beginners on the guitar, I also specialise in teaching intermediate to advanced players who want to take their understanding of the instrument to the next level. Assisting me in that endeavour are the many concepts and techniques taught in “The Advancing Guitarist” by legendary guitar teacher Mick Goodrick, which I highly recommend to those with a good grounding in guitar looking to improve. Having implied his wisdom onto jazz fusion giants John Scofied and Mike Stern among others, Goodrick presents enough material in this book to cover a whole lifetime’s worth of study and practice. Goodrick’s playful, whimsical style of writing also makes for entertaining reading, and his complete mastery of the fretboard makes this book one that I ensure to revisit regularly in my own continuous guitar journey. No matter what style of music you play, you will learn enough from “The Advancing Guitarist” to keep you occupied for the rest of your guitar playing career.
Click here to purchase The Advancing Guitarist.
Jazz theory and harmony are notoriously difficult concepts to understand. Fortunately, “Jazzology” is here to help explain all things in advanced music theory. Although the 265 pages of this book may appear daunting at first, as long as you have a basic understanding of theory and harmony you will get a lot out of reading this book. Aimed at all musicians and not just guitarists, “Jazzology” contains a wealth of information on intervals, chords, cadences, modulations, reharmonisation and much more. Since I purchased this book over ten years ago, I have spent a large amount of time revisiting it chapter by chapter, ensuring it features prominently in my practice schedule. Even if you are a musician with no particular interest in jazz, you will still learn a lot from reading this book, as the advanced theory concepts can be applied to almost any musical style, and you can never have too much knowledge when it comes to music and music theory.
Click here to purchase Jazzology
Twentieth Century Harmony
One of the most influential music theory books ever written, Vincent Perisichetti’s classic “Twentieth Century Harmony” is a recent but welcome addition to my library of music books, despite being the oldest on the list with an original publication date of 1961. Although the concepts presented in the book are from a classical music perspective, I believe that, like the aforementioned “Jazzology”, the information contained within “Twentieth Century Harmony” can be applied to any form of popular music. Perhaps the most advanced book on this list, and definitely aimed at those with a very solid understanding theory, this book is ideal for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of advanced musical concepts. There is in depth and detailed information on intervals, scales, chords and chord extensions, polychords, embellishments and much more. A must for any musician looking to expand their harmonic horizons.
Click here to purchase Twentieth Century Harmony
BEST GUITAR BOOK FOR BEGINNER, INTERMEDIATE & ADVANCED
Fretboard Mastery Part 1 – Mastering Triads
I am a little biased, but I truly believe that the book I authored myself is up there with the best guitar books on the market! “Fretboard Mastery Part 1” is a complete guitar to fundamental guitar chords, showing 5 CAGED shapes for every major, minor, augmented, diminished, sus2 and sus4 chords in all 12 keys. Not only that, but it also displays a full 22 fret diagram listing all possible places these chords can be found all over the neck, as well as a 22 fret interval map for every chord type. At 266 pages long, “Fretboard Mastery” covers all 3 ability levels. If you are a beginner, then this is a fantastic reference guide for your first open and barre chords on the guitar. If you are an intermediate player or advanced player, then there will no doubt be some chords or areas of study that you have overlooked and it will help to fill in any gaps in your knowledge. There are also theory explanations for every chord type, as well as practice guides for every area of study.
Click here to purchase Fretboard Mastery Part 1.
I believe that there is something for guitarists and musicians of all abilities and styles on the above list. A good book on guitar playing or music theory should always supplement guitar lessons and music tuition, so ensure that you get lessons booked in with an experienced, highly qualified instructor in order to get the best out of your learning and understanding of whichever book you decide to purchase, particularly if you are a beginner on either guitar or music theory. I hope you enjoyed the above list, and that you enjoy any of the books you decide to purchase.