I first picked up the guitar at age 12 thanks to a simple guitar chord book.
Since my sister had begun learning the guitar at that time, I had access to both her guitar and learning resources.
When I discovered how much easier the guitar was than the violin (which was the instrument I was learning at the time), it wasn’t long before I was playing the guitar more than the violin.
I mention this story because a guitar book opened up the world of guitar for me.
And even though a wealth of free resources exist online these days, learning guitar from books is still a great way to learn.
Books provide a methodical, step-by-step, self-taught approach that you lack when learning songs or one-off tutorials online.
So what are the 10 best guitar books to help you learn guitar?
- The Hal Leonard Guitar Method, Complete Edition for total beginners
- The Complete Guide to Playing Blues Guitar, Compilation for guitarists looking to branch out into the blues genre
- Acoustic Guitar Slide Basics for those who want to learn slide guitar, a sub-genre in rock, blues, and other genres
- The Complete Country Guitar Method, Compilation for guitarists who want to learn country and bluegrass guitar methods
- Flamenco Guitar Method Volumes 1 and 2 for those interested in learning flamenco guitar
- The Jazz Guitar Chord Compilation for guitarists who want to add jazz guitar concepts to their repertoire
- Beginner Rock Guitar Lessons for those who want to learn rock guitar (and who focus on playing the electric guitar)
- The Complete Book of Alternate Tunings for guitarists looking to get into alternate tunings for the their guitar.
- The Big Book of Partial Capos for those interested in learning about the world of partial capos and imitating alternate tunings without retuning your guitar.
- Fretboard Theory for intermediate to advanced guitarists looking to improve their knowledge of guitar music theory.
These books can help you no matter what background you come from our what genre you’re interested in.
I’ll discuss this and more in the sections below.
1. The Hal Leonard Guitar Method Book for Beginners
The Hal Leonard Guitar Method Book is one of the most highly rated educational guitar books on Amazon with thousands of guitarists proclaiming its effectiveness.
This book walks you through how to:
- read music
- play chords, songs, and scales
- experiment with different styles and genres
- finger pick, improvise, play with a slide, and more
If you’re curious, you can take a look at the table of contents on Amazon as well as selected portions of the book to get a sense for what you’re purchasing and if it’s the right fit for your skill level.
This book is an excellent introduction to countless paths you can take with the guitar.
If you feel comfortable with the concepts in this book, you’re ready to take a deeper dive into any of the genre-specific books above.
I checked out this book from my local library and found it helpful in filling in some holes in my basic guitar knowledge.
2. The Complete Guide to Playing Blues Guitar
As mentioned above, you can take a deeper dive into any genre that interests you after getting a taste of it in The Hal Leonard Guitar Method Book for Beginners.
If the genre that piques your interest is blues, then The Complete Guide to Playing Blues Guitar is the perfect book for you to learn from next.
This 3 book compilation walks you through:
- how to play rhythm blues guitar
- how to play blues solos
- and how to take your solos beyond the basics
Check out the video above to get a sense for the blues style and what you can learn to do with the genre.
3. Learning to Play Slide Guitar with Acoustic Guitar Slide Basics
I wanted to discuss slide guitar right after blues guitar because the slide is so often a component of blues guitar.
The author, David Hamburger, scales up the difficulty level for the reader so each chapter builds on the previous.
He discusses open tunings, how to use your fingers properly, and does so through practical examples with songs.
The author doesn’t quite cover the extent of alternate tunings available for the slide guitarist.
But I actually cover them in more depth in my post here about alternate tunings for slide guitarists.
Check out the video above to get a sense for what you can do with the slide.
4. Learning Country Guitar with The Complete Country Guitar Method
Country music is often polarizing.
If you love it, then The Complete Country Guitar Method is the perfect guitar manual for you.
The author walks you through:
- rhythm guitar, chords, licks,
- soloing, scales, picking patterns,
- and how to play 100 country licks from various artists
Even if country isn’t your favorite, there’s still so much you can learn from the genre and incorporate stylistically into other genres.
As a former country music hater, I’ve grown to love it thanks to my wife.
I have a lot respect for the countless excellent musicians contributing to the genre.
5. Learning Flamenco Guitar with The Flamenco Guitar Method Volumes
Flamenco is a beautiful and versatile genre of guitar.
It’s also barely discussed in The Hal Leonard Guitar Method Book so the Flamenco Guitar Method Volumes are a great place to start if you’re interested in this genre.
The author shares the fundamentals along with practice songs and a DVD to help you follow along.
Check out the video above to see one of my favorite artists incorporating the flamenco style into their unique sound.
6. Learning Jazz Guitar with The Jazz Guitar Chord Compilation
Jazz is another genre that is often polarizing.
But even if it’s not your favorite, you can’t deny the amazing talent many jazz artists have.
If you’re interested in jazz guitar and want to learn more than the cursory information about it in the Hal Leonard Guitar Method book, The Jazz Guitar Chord Compilation is a fantastic place to begin your education.
This book is much more than chord charts and actually contains three volumes which cover:
- basic theory
- chord types
- how to solo
- and more.
The author sets out to make this book as practical as possible.
This is a book you want to own if you are at all interested in jazz guitar.
7. Learning Rock Guitar
No guitar book list would be complete without one about rock guitar.
And Beginner Rock Guitar Lessons is a great starting place to learn about rock guitar.
The author walks you through the total basics from setting up and tuning your guitar to tutorials about rock , blues rock, rhythm, and lead guitar.
This book is more basic and a good alternative starting place to the Hal Leonard Guitar Method if you’re looking for something less comprehensive and more rock guitar focused.
8. Learning All about Alternate Tunings
If you’ve ever come across a song in an alternate tuning, you know you can produce some amazing sounds from the guitar when you experiment with other tunings.
If you’re not sure if you’ve heard a song in an alternate tuning, check out the video above of a cover artist playing one of my favorite songs in an alternate tuning, Bron Yr Aur by Led Zeppelin.
The Complete Book of Alternate Tunings will give you a comprehensive overview of the sort of alternate tunings available to the guitarist, popular songs in those tunings, and how to make chords in those tunings.
It’s an excellent resource for those looking to produce a different type of sound from their guitar.
9. Learning How to Use Partial Capos
Partial capos allow you to mimic alternate tunings without retuning your guitar.
They also allow you to make chords that aren’t possible in alternate tunings (because you can play some notes above and below partial capos).
Imitating alternate tunings with partial capos isn’t necessarily better than an alternate tuning.
In fact, using partial capos has some drawbacks compared to tuning your guitar differently.
Partial capos can shorten the amount of fret board you have to work with and don’t always work if you’re looking to play slide guitar.
Nevertheless, partial capos certainly have benefits and knowing how to use them is an underrated skill in the world of guitar.
There’s no better guide than The Big Book of Partial Capos to help you learn all about them.
You can get a better sense for what’s possible with partial capos in the video above.
And if you want to get a better sense for partial capos, check out my post about them.
10. Learning Theory With Fretboard Theory
Music theory is often one of the least appealing aspects of learning an instrument, especially for beginners.
However, it’s also one of the most helpful aspects of learning a musical instrument.
You can think of music theory as the set of principles underlying why certain notes sound good together (kind of like the rules of grammar for speaking a language).
I don’t think it’s the best idea for new student guitarists to start their education by learning theory, just like I don’t think it’s a good idea for new language students to start learning from a boring grammar textbook.
Instead, I think it’s a much better idea for new student guitarists to start learning songs they want to play.
Once you get some quick wins with the guitar and validate that you are in it for the long-haul, then it’s a good idea to start brushing up on your music theory.
Fretboard Theory is a great place to start your music theory education.
Although it certainly has concepts in it covered in other books in this list, the author approaches these concepts largely from a genre-neutral position.
He also covers music theory concepts not covered in other books in this list (particular in volume 2) and covers them in great depth.
If you want to take your guitar education to the next level as an intermediate guitarist, this book is for you.