Learning to play the guitar from beginner guitar books is still a huge fad, despite the availability of great multimedia guitar lessons on the Internet nowadays. Thousands of guitar lesson books are still being sold everyday, which is great since lots of people want to learn, but not so great for them, considering that there are more modern ways to teach yourself the guitar.
Either way, learn guitar books (both acoustic and electric) are here to stay with us just a bit longer, so I thought I would test and compare a couple of these books and see how they perform. The books I chose were not at random, but chosen from the top seller lists of online book stores, so these should be the best performing ones.
Keep in mind that I, as a guitar teacher of 10 years and technical junkie, am totally against people learning music from books, so my tests may be slightly biased. I believe that with the multimedia technologies of the 21st century, beginner video guitar lessons, or DVD courses are the best way of learning guitar from home, and are most advantageous from a pricing point of view as well.
But either way, here are my findings after reviewing the most popular guitar learning books:
I. How to Play the Guitar by Roger Evans
This paperback is the best selling learn guitar book on Amazon.com, selling for $8.63 at the moment. It does not include a CD or any form of multimedia.
Having a look at its table of contents, it seems to cover pretty much every details of what a guitar students will be looking for (how to buy a guitar, fundamental guitar techniques, music theory basics). It focuses on acoustic guitar, so those of you looking to learn the electric specifically, will need to keep on looking.
The structure of the written lessons looks good, it varies between guitar technical stuff and theory as you progress, meaning that you won’t get bored of any single topic, and you’ll have a chance to try out the theoretical bits one step at a time. What I do notice though is that it skips between topics very often, and advances at a rapid pace.
The written reviews are pretty positive as well. At the writing of this post, these are the ratings of 36 people:
- 24 voted 5 stars
- 7 voted 4 stars
- 3 voted 3 stars
- And 1 each for 2 and 1 stars
Reading the written reviews of this beginners guitar book, I get the impression that most people who wrote the reviews are not too far along in the book. Here is on of the most useful reviews:
…At the end of reading I knew a little bit about a lot of different guitar techniques, but I certainly didn’t feel like I knew everything I needed to play guitar well.
I would recommend spending the money on some lessons, when I finally broke down and started taking lessons, I learned more in a week then I did from reading the whole book…
II. Guitar for Dummies by Mark Phillips and Jon Chappell
The Guitar for Dummies book is a 408 page monster that will surely have you lighting your guitar aflame before finishing the book It costs around $30, and includes a supplementary CD/DVD.
The way the CD integrates into the teachings of the book is by the book referencing given tracks at given points. So lets say the book just described how to do a pull-off, it will give you a set of exercises which can be listened to on the CD. You can also block out the accompaniment on the CD track by selecting a specific stereo channel, which is pretty cool.
Beyond teaching the basics, this books goes into the particulars of different genres as well. This all is a step forward from just reading about music, but I still feel that video guitar lessons are still the best way to go.
The new 2nd edition of the book, which includes the CD and DVD combo is not available on Amazon, so I couldn’t find any real person opinions on this particular book.
All in all, if you want to stick to any given guitar book, this might have been my recommendation. But no, nobody will read through all 408 pages of it…
III. Hal Leonard Guitar Method by Will Schmid and Greg Koch
This is probably the most famous of all of the guitar learning books, and comes with a price tag of around $20. Like the Guitar for Dummies book, this also comes with 3 supplemental CDs which you can refer to during the chapters. I would recommend this book to younger students (under 20). It is ultra simplistic, which can be nice in some instances, but very boring in others. It has an overwhelming amount of sheet music in it, which you are supposed to practice through.
A big negative I found was that this book focuses more on traditional music notation, and places guitar tablature into the background. As a guitar teacher, I believe that tabs are the next best thing to sliced bread, since it makes learning soooo much easier for beginner guitarists. And since learning the guitar is hard, anything that makes it simpler is more than welcome. On the other hand, if you want to learn to read standard notation, this will be the way to go for you.
Also, the lesson curriculum is not really my style, but all teachers vary. It focuses too soon on too much theory, I believe in getting my students playing and having fun, thereby develop a love for the instrument quickly, rather than indulging in theoretical studies. So all in all, this guitar learning book is OK, but you’ll be better off watching my free basic video guitar tutorials.
On the other hand, the raving reviews on Amazon tell a different story. Out of 122 peoples votes at the time of this article, here are the results:
- 91 voted 5 stars
- 25 voted 4 stars
- 4 voted 3 stars
- No 2 stars
- 2 voted 1 stars
In conclusion, after reviewing the most popular beginner guitar books on the Internet, all I can say that learning music from books should be banned. There are much better, easier, beginner friendly methods nowadays, which are much more suitable for musical studies. Of course, you will have to read at some points of your guitar studies (ie.: guitar theory, modal studies, etc.), but thats not beginner stuff.
I believe the best way to learn the guitar is still with a personal guitar teacher, but considering the cost aspect of learning guitar as well, the most efficient way is through online video guitar lessons for beginners.