Best Beginner Guitar Books
My vote for best cover!
My vote for the best cover!

Learning to play the guitar from beginner guitar books is still huge in 2024, despite the availability of the more modern form of learning guitar, online video tutorial sites.

Thousands of "learn guitar books" (both acoustic and electric) are sold daily, so it is safe to say they are here to stay.

For this reason, I thought I would buy, read, review, and compare a couple of these books and see how they perform.

The ones I ordered were not random. They were chosen from the top seller lists of online bookstores.

This means these sought-after books should be the best beginner guitar books out there...

Or the ones with the best marketing anyway πŸ˜‰

As a guitar teacher of 25+ years and a tech junkie, and I prefer to steer people towards online lessons. I'll add some recommendations for these below the guitar books.

Most popular beginner guitar books in 2024

Now the moment you've been waiting for, here are my reviews of the top guitar learning books.

I will give you my recommendations on which ones I think are best afterward.

Guitar Exercises for Beginners: 10x Your Guitar Skills in 10 Minutes a Day - Guitar Head

One of the biggest challenges newbie guitar players are tasked with is practicing independently. The problem is that they don't know what & how to practice, so they end up doodling around, playing things they already know, or just not practicing enough.

This is why I like the Guitar Exercises for Beginners book. It answers this problem and guides beginners in the right direction.

Guitar Exercises For Beginners Book Cover Guitarhead

The book presents 100 exercises all beginner guitar players need to work on to advance their guitar technique. The exercises start from the early beginner level and increase in difficulty naturally, just as a beginner player gets better, day-by-day. The author does a good job in explaining the right and wrong ways to practice, and how long each exercise should be carried out.

Each exercise is available as an audio file on theguitarhead.com, so you can hear what you are supposed to play. I think this is very important for learning music and is a must-have feature of any serious guitar book in 2024.

This exercise book has very good reviews on Amazon. It has a 4.5 star average rating from the 2,900+ people that rated it. 88% of customers gave it 4 or 5 stars.

I recommend this book as a complimentary daily exercise book to keep your practice sessions regular and efficient as you learn to play. It is about 140 pages long, and by the end of it, you will have a solid grasp of the basics of playing guitar.

Here are a few pages from the paperback version of this book:

Guitar for Dummies - Mark Phillips and Jon Chappell

The 4th edition of Guitar for Dummies (released fresh for 2016) is an almost 400-page monster that will surely have you lighting your guitar aflame before finishing the book πŸ™‚

Guitar For Dummies Cover

With this new edition, they scrapped the DVD from the previous version, and introduced online video and audio clips, as a supplement to the book's teachings. They didn't take it overboard though, with just 85 videos and 95 audio tracks, but at least it's a step in the right direction. You can't learn music by just reading about it, you need audible tools.

Reading through the Guitar for Dummies book, it is apparent that unlike the Teach Yourself to Play Guitar book above, this one is not meant solely for beginners. It has lots of info and theory, that would be useful for the intermediate-level guitarist. Beyond teaching the basics, this book goes into the particulars of different genres as well.

It has 79 customer ratings at the time of this review, averaging a score of 4.3 stars. The previous 3rd edition had way more ratings, with the score being about the same and having 79% 4 and 5-star reviews from customers. All in all, if you want to stick with learning from a guitar book, this would be my recommendation.

Here are a few pages from this book as well:

Teach Yourself to Play Guitar: A Quick and Easy Introduction for Beginners

This paperback is the best-selling learn guitar book on Amazon.com, selling for just below $6 at the moment. It does not include a CD or any form of multimedia.

It is a very short book of only 47 pages, and it covers the very basics of what you would need to learn to start playing guitar. Sort of like a hit-and-run guitar primer.

Teach Yourself To Play Guitar Cover

You could say that the book does what it promises, presenting the beginner guitarist with an introduction to the guitar. It is aimed at complete beginners and stops at the beginner level. It does not include any even remotely complex theoretical lessons.

The book has plenty of diagrams, which will be helpful to beginners. I won't go into detail on the exact contents of the book, you can see that in the table of contents in the picture gallery below.

The reviews by other readers are generally positive, with 78% of readers giving it 4 or 5 stars, amassing over 15,000 reviews during the 20+ years it's been published.

After reading through Teach Yourself to Play Guitar, I think that if you give a guitar as a gift to someone, this might be an OK book to accompany that. If you wanted to spend a bit more, or are looking for a book for yourself, I would go with the 2nd book reviewed above, the Guitar for Dummies book. It has online video and audio demos, after all, hearing what you should be playing helps when learning music... πŸ˜‰

Here are a few pages from this book:

Hal Leonard Guitar Method - Will Schmid and Greg Koch

This was published by Hal Leonard in 2003, and is actually a series of 3 books, each around 50 pages. It comes with a code giving access to online audio files, which you can refer to during the chapters. This series of books costs around $23 in total right now.

Hal Leonard Guitar Method Cover

I would recommend this book to younger students (under 20). It is ultra simplistic, which can be nice in some instances, but a bit boring in others.

It also has an overwhelming amount of sheet music in it. These music sheets allow you to practice what is being taught in the given chapter, which is nice, but going through the books, I felt a lot was left unexplained. This was probably a result of them trying to simplify things as much as possible, but this actually leaves holes in the padawan guitarist's knowledge.

Another 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 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 music notation, this will be the way to go for you.

The lesson curriculum is not really my style, but all teachers vary. It focuses too soon on too much theory, and I believe in getting my students playing and having fun, thereby develop a love for the instrument quickly, rather than indulging in theoretical studies.

This book has really good reviews, with a whopping 91% of them 4 or 5 stars. Wow!

Here are a few pages from the Hal Leonard book:

Beginner Guitar Lessons Book 1 - Peter Vogl

This 55 page beginner book was published in 2021, and includes access to online video lessons that were recorded in the 2010s, so they aren't high quality. I think the concept here was to create a book based on an existing video course, and re-market it as a book for beginners.

Beinner Guitar Lessons Book Cover Peter Vogl

The information contained in this book is good, but very brief. It makes much more sense with the video lessons, which you can access here. I don't really see why the book exists as a stand-alone product, since the videos carry the value of this package.

It reached a lot of chords and strumming, and very briefly touches on scales at the end.

Here are some example pages from this book.

Guitar Aerobics - Troy Nelson

Guitar Aerobics was first published in 2007. It is a unique kind of guitar book, as it gives you 1 exercise to carry out every single day of the year. The exercises start out with basic drills and progress into harder licks.

Guitar Aerobics Cover Troy Nelson

What kind of exercises can you expect? Each day of the week, you get a different type of exercise to keep things varied and interesting: Monday: Alternate picking, Tuesday: String skipping, Wednesday: String bending, Thursday: Arpeggios, Friday: Sweep picking, Saturday: Legato, Sunday: Rhythm.

This book isn't specifically for beginner guitar players, as it isn't a coursebook. Nevertheless, it makes for a great supplementary book to a beginner's guitar studies.

The exercises in Guitar Aerobics start out with beginner drills, and progress to harder and harder licks after a few hundred days πŸ™‚ Yes, a few hundred days. Remember, the book provides 1 exercise a day. It pushed your limits each and every day in baby steps, and after 365 days, you will definitely be a better guitar player than you are today.

You have to spend time with each exercise though, you can't just rush through things. You won't be able to play all of the exercises up to speed on day 1, so you should revisit them repeatedly until you get them perfected.

The book urges you to use the metronome and increase your BPM as you can.

I like the concept behind this guitar book because it forces the student to pick up the guitar every day. The only way to progress at the guitar is to practice regularly, and by its nature, this 1 exercise per day book sets out to do just that.

The book has an audio file for each exercise and backing tracks to play along with. These can be accessed through the Hal Leonard publishing company's website.

Customer reviews of this book are overwhelmingly positive, with an average 4.2-star rating after hundreds of reviews.

If you're interested in seeing a few pages of the Guitar Aerobics book, here you go:

Music Theory for Guitarists - Tom Kolb

If you've been learning to play guitar for a while, you will have undoubtedly heard references to music theory bits that you didn't understand.

This is a book meant to fill these holes in your knowledge. The full title is Music Theory for Guitarists: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask, by the way, it was originally published in 2005.

Music Theory Tom Kolb

Learning music theory is not important for beginner guitarists, but after reaching an intermediate level, learning about music theory really helps in putting it all together. It covers pretty much everything a guitarist needs to know with respect to music theory.

The book starts out with the fretboard, key signatures, intervals, and continues on to teach about scales, chords construction, key centers. Towards the end, it teaches modes and modal harmony, chord substitution, and reharmonization as well.

What I really liked about the book is that it has quizzes to get you to test your knowledge. Also, there are about 100 audio tracks demonstrating what is being taught, which is very important in learning music.

After garnering hundreds of reviews, it scores an average of 4.3 stars, which is impressive from a book about theory. Other books covering the subject don't score so high since music theory is sometimes presented in a boring tone.

If you think you are ready to dive into the world of guitar theory, here are a few pages from Music Theory for Guitarists:

Books that have fallen off the top list

I update this article regularly, and there are a few books that used to be on this list, but are not anymore. It can generally be said that books published a long time ago, which are not updated, tend to fall out of favor.

These books are:

  • How to Play the Guitar by Roger Evans - This book was first published in the 1990s and used to be one of the most popular learn guitar books. It does not include a CD or any form of multimedia, which is a major turnoff. It also has way too much text and not enough graphics. I do not recommend this book at all.
  • Teach Yourself Visually by Charles Kim - This book was one of the better, but not so well known ones out there. It was sort of like the Guitar for Dummies book, touching on just about everything guitar-related, from basic chords and techniques, all the way to how to purchase an amp. However, it came with a CD, and was not updated since its 2007 date of publishing.

What should be covered by a guitar book for beginners?

During my 15+ years of teaching private students, I've developed a very specific program that I teach to people who are new to the guitar.

I've found through trial and error that this works in familiarizing my students thoroughly with the guitar and keeps them motivated at the same time.

If you are a beginner, here are the subjects you should be looking for when choosing a guitar book:

  1. General guitar anatomy (acoustic vs electric, parts of the guitar, strings, tuning)
  2. Holding the guitar properly
  3. First simple 3-string chords and simple strumming
  4. Simple yet popular songs to strum
  5. Simple melodies of famous songs on 2 strings, then 4 strings, then 6 strings
  6. Full beginner chords (A, Am, C, D, E, Em, F, G)
  7. Chord changing through learning songs
  8. Keys & why specific chords sound good in a chord progression
  9. More songs

Additionally, there are a few things I focus on with my students:

  • Emphasis on learning real songs as soon as possible
  • Sprinkling in light guitar music theory when applicable
  • Practicing rhythm and timing

So this is the subject matter that should be covered by a book written for beginner guitarists.

If a beginner book doesn't cover these subjects, then it will leave gaps in your knowledge, or not offer enough motivation to keep on practicing.

If the book has more subjects, that's great, it means that it was written not just for beginners, but more advanced guitarists as well.

If you are looking for a guitar teaching book aimed at children, the ones on this list will not do. Here is a good post on guitar books for kids though: https://guitareuroshop.com/lesson-reviews/guitar-books-for-kids/

My conclusion after reading these books

In conclusion, after reviewing the most popular beginner guitar books on the internet, I still think the book should be a supplement to learning guitar, with the primary learning tool being video lessons.

The world has evolved, and there are better, easier, beginner-friendly methods nowadays, which are much more suitable for learning music. After all, music is an audible art, you need to hear it. And seeing the teacher's hands move along the guitar is nice as well πŸ˜‰

Of course, you will have to read at some points of your guitar studies (ie.: guitar theory, modal studies, etc.), but that's not beginner stuff anymore. That's why it's nice to have a book as well, to be able to read up on the details of something you're interested in.

I recommend the Guitar for Dummies book for this since it contains valuable information.

As a complementary book, Guitar Exercises for Beginners is a good daily exercise book that pairs well with an online guitar course or private lessons.

Also, the Guitar Aerobics book can be useful similarly to intermediate players.

If you want me to make a video review of these guitar books as well, let me know in the comments section below.

Recommended video lessons

Sample video lesson screenshot from TheGuitarLesson.com

Before buying a guitar book, I wholeheartedly recommend you look at some video guitar lessons first. It makes things so much easier than learning from books.

The 2 biggest sites offering high-quality, well-structured video guitar courses are:

  1. GuitarTricks >>
  2. TheGuitarLesson.com >>

Check them out if you get a chance!

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25 Comments

  1. Just dropped in to say that I’ve tried a few of these guitar books mentioned in the article, and honestly, the Guitar for Dummies is my favorite. It’s massive but breaks things down so a beginner like me doesn’t get overwhelmed. Those 400 pages are packed with info that’s actually easy to digest. Love the humor in it too. But it won’t teach you guitar from 0, it’s more of a reading reference guide book for me.

  2. For last two years I have been following Alfred’s Adult all in one piano course ( lesson, theory , technique ) and I am very much accustomed to it and I like it most. The book is written by Respected Willard A. Palmer, Morton Manus and Amanda Vick Letcho. Now I’m learning guitar for last two months, so is there any lesson theory technical book for Guitar from the same authors and the same Alfred Publication ?

  3. Hi,
    I had just finished signing up for guitar.com. I am a 54-year-old disabled Miner of 22 years, so I thought I would try to take up playing the guitar once again like I did when I was a kid. I forgot a lot about it through the years as life moved on, but now all I have is time. I came across your website and thought why not give it a try. so anything you suggest I will try once twice if I like it lol
    thank you

  4. I want to learn jazz guitar, and I’m an absolute beginner. Is there a beginner book for jazz guitar? Every jazz guitar book I’ve found already assumes I’m an intermediate-level player or better. Thank you.

    1. Hi Joel, the reason you won’t find any Jazz guitar books for beginners is because jazz is an advanced guitar genre. Beginners would not be able to play it. To start learning jazz, you need to be at an intermediate level already.

      Don’t let this put you off though! Start out with the basics, and work your way up there. Nobody started out by knowing how to play, we were all beginners once.

  5. Do you have some recommendations for a supplemental book of beginner guitar songs? I have learned 3 chords via Jamplay, but they don’t have sheet music with words in their supplemental materials. Also, I have played the flute for 45 years, so am not new to music. πŸ™‚

    1. Hi there, actually Jamplay has the tabs to all of their lessons, you’ll find it on every lesson page. Or is that not what you are looking for?

  6. I am a beginner and based on your recommendation, I bought the Dummies book, and signed up for Guitartricks.com as well. This combo is turning out to be really effective for me, I haven’t been playing long but I can feel the progress with each passing day. The videos at Guitartricks are my main guide through this maze of learning, and the Guitar for Dummies is my go-to resource for reading about anything I want to find out. I’m sure doing a search on the internet would get me the same result, but the Dummies book is easier to hit up I think, and at least I’m sure it’s accurate.
    So basically the only reason I came back was to thank you for your recommendations, I really think I’m on the right course with these resources.

    1. Hi there,
      It’s good to hear that you found a guitar book-video combo that works well for you, keep it up, practice every day, and you will soon become a great guitarist.

  7. So…I’m violist and I teach violin and viola professionally. I know my music theory and I’m having a hell of a time transferring that knowledge to the guitar. I’ve tried the Hal Leonard book and like you said..it is ass-numbingly dull.

    I’ve decided to take on a friends daughter as my first guitar student (which would light a fire under my behind to learn to play this instrument I’ve invested in) and I was wondering if you had any suggestions on a book or series besides the Hal Leonard. Something Suzuki-esque book wise if possible.

  8. Thanks for sharing this article! I really want to play guitar but I can’t afford to subscribe to paid guitar lessons so I will buy those books instead (especially your recommended book ‘Guitar for Dummies’)

  9. I’m looking for the best book, for teaching yourself how to play more of a blues or bluegrass style. My boyfriend is trying to re-teach himself how to play from when he was a kid.

  10. Hi Tom,
    Is there a book you could recommend for an adult who already plays another instrument (violin/viola) but wants to learn guitar? It would be for my son who is 32 and expressed an interest in guitar recently. I have an acoustic guitar he could use but I thought I’d get him a beginning guitar book as a gift to go with it.
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Alice,
      If he knows his music theory well, than I would recommend the Hal Leonard Guitar Method book, that will get him playing guitar quickly. Otherwise, the Guitar for Dummies book.

      This will be interesting, I’ve never met anyone who transferred from the violin to the guitar. I would imagine it makes things easier, since that’s a stringed instrument as well, albeit very different. I played trumpet before guitar, but that wasn’t much help to me obviously πŸ™‚
      Good luck to him!

      1. Eddie Van Halen was an adept violin player as a youngster before taking up guitar – it can be a good switch!

  11. Hi, thanks for the article! I learned a lot from it.
    I don’t get one thing though: why do you recommend Hal Leonard Guitar Method for younger students? Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi, because it is very simplistic and straight forward in approach, without going into much detail. Younger students typically want to just play as much as possible, as quickly as possible.

  12. if your Students were able to learn from books only, thye probably didnt need you.. :p
    the best you can get – as a fact – is, when you can learn through reading, hearing, seeing & doing. The best way to learn in my opinion is definitively if i have a Book and a guy explaning me what it means and showing me how it works.

  13. Your pseudo reviews are just opinions from someone (you) who hasn’t read a single book of what you are reviewing, and hijacking any potential guitar student to your video lessons.

    With your biased & strong opinions (like books should be banned), you don’t seem to respect other students’ choice for alternative learning.

    Go ahead & call me a book worm or ban me & my books, but I can assure you that I have used all forms & methods of learning musical instruments including videos, and my favourite & fastest way of learning still remain books.

    I thank Roger Evans “How to play guitar” for his easy & intuitive written method, a good reason why he is a bestseller & outselling your hard-pushed videos. I can assure you, you will be a better teacher if you buy his book, and you will a top teacher if you read his other books such as “How to Read Music”, “How to play piano”, & ” How to play keyboards”. You will thank me for this advise and you will be a better asset to your potential students.
    All the best to you.

    1. Hi Frank,
      Your opinion is based on your own experience.

      My opinion is based on 10+ years of guitar teaching, and experience with hundreds of students both live, and online.

      I don’t write what I write lightly, and the above article is based on my experience with the majority of my students. Lots have tried to learn though books, and failed. You can’t learn music by reading about is.

  14. Thank you for share your knowledge. I can know many kind of effective tips from here. Thanks for the tutorial
    Thanks

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