15 Best Guitar Books for Beginners

You’ve decided to learn how to play guitar. Maybe you’re doing it to pursue your dreams of rock stardom or maybe you just want to have a new hobby. Strum a few chords by the campfire or melt faces at the local all-ages hardcore show. For those about to rock, we salute you with the best guitar books for beginners.

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Teach Yourself Guitar

No matter the reason you're learning to play, welcome to the club. There are a lot of us.

The fact that there are a lot of us belies a truth about learning guitar: It's kind of frustrating. Unless you're moving to guitar from some other kind of musical training, there's a lot to adjust to right out of the gate. While a piano can sound reasonably good if you simply press a key, playing that same note on a guitar requires you to hold both hands the right way, situate the guitar properly, and make sense out of holding a pick.

Most people take lessons, but you'll be at the mercy and pace of your teacher, with little room for your own interpretation. These days, there are apps and online lessons which have their advantages, certainly. They also come with monthly fees, though these will likely be cheaper than a live local instructor.

Teaching yourself guitar, especially from books, allows you to move at your own pace, absorbing the material as it makes the most sense to you. Other people and players have their own style and agenda, and it can also be somewhat embarrassing to make those early mistakes in front of others.

Combining the teachings of multiple books on how to play guitar will give you a well-rounded idea of a few different approaches. Sometimes the writing and organization alone can cause something to click for you, so while the flow of one book might be better, the information in another could be more detailed. One might be best for fast starts and one might be better for forcing yourself out of ruts later on. We've selected a good mix to help cover those gaps.

Do Guitar Learning Books Work?

The most common route for absolute beginners will likely be a good, old fashioned guitar instruction book. We've all seen at least one of these kicking around. They tend to have a guitar and some interesting 80s-inspired graphics emblazoned on the front. The typical format is either an encyclopedia of scales and chords (indeed, some on this list follow that formula), or a series of songs broken down into digestible theory tidbits often accompanied by an ancient information vessel known as a Compact Disc.

While they may be on the dry side, these books are convenient because they're always available for reference. In an online class or an app, you might have to go digging through files or lessons to find that one scrap of information that was helpful. You also have to be on your phone or at your computer. For some people, the old way is still the best way.

Before you begin, it's important to understand that a book can't teach you guitar completely. They're great as references and serve as a fine starting point, but soon enough, you need to take what you've learned and try to integrate it into a performative craft alongside other musicians.

If you find yourself getting stuck, take the exercise you're on to a jam with like-minded musicians who can help you work practically with the material. At the very least, set a backing track and learn how to time those new skills. So much of playing is about feel, which is a magical combination of timing and groove that only exists in the moment.

Oh, and one final note before you dive in: BUY. A. TUNER. This is strictly non-negotiable. Nothing will make any sense if you don't start listening for the pitch relationships, which will be difficult to do if you're out of tune. For help choosing one, check out our best guitar and instrument tuners here.

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