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Which book to help you learn to play guitar is best? 

Learning guitar is an exciting journey, but it isn’t easy. With the internet, it’s become simpler than ever to find lessons and information, but a physical guitar book remains one of the very best resources available. Not only is it an effective way to learn guitar, but it’s also an effective tool to return to for reference or inspiration. 

When it comes to books to learn guitar, The Hal Leonard Guitar Method is one of the most revered and respected books in the guitar world. It’s geared toward turning people into professional musicians, and it comes with tons of lessons made for guitarists playing any genre. 

What to know before you buy a book to help you learn to play guitar

Learning style: book vs. video 

The world of learning has changed considerably since the dawn of the internet. Now there are free YouTube lessons and websites out there dedicated to teaching guitar. Some people, especially young learners, might naturally gravitate toward using videos instead of books. However, even the best online lessons still come with reading material and supplemental information. 

It’s worth thinking about what role the book will play in your guitar journey. Is it your primary learning tool, is it a reference piece or is it something you’re looking to throw into a cauldron of learning materials? 

You’ll probably need more than a book to learn 

A lot of people won’t go from no guitar to Jimi Hendrix with a single book. Books are a solid place to start and they’re great to have on hand, but don’t be afraid to use the internet to reinforce what you learn in your book. Learning is a dynamic process, and it isn’t worth pigeonholing yourself into one learning style.

Guitar books make super reference pieces 

Even if you don’t want to learn from a book, they’re still helpful to have on hand. Sometimes it’s easier to just flip open a book to find a certain chord shape or remember a bit of theory you forgot. Books are essential tools that shouldn’t be ignored, and they can even make for fun reading material when you’re bored or waiting for an appointment. 

What to look for in a quality book to help you learn to play guitar

Tablature vs. musical notation 

There’s an endless debate over whether guitarists should learn tablature or music notation. Tablature is much easier to read and tailor-made for string instruments like guitar and bass. However, it doesn’t really teach you the tempo of the song, and musical notation is considered more professional. 

Musical notation is harder to learn, but it will be effective when transferring instruments or playing with other people. There is no right or wrong answer, and it could very well be worth learning both, but a lot of new guitarists will find tablature much more beginner-friendly. 

Emphasis on theory 

Music theory is a scary word, especially to people just picking up a guitar. It doesn’t have to be, though, and it’s definitely important to learn at least some theory. Some books go for a more fun, simplistic approach that really caters to new guitarists, while other books can get quite information-dense. Your preference depends on your personal goals, but make sure you’re enjoying and understanding the book. There’s no reason to deep-dive into theory at the beginning if it deters you from even picking up the instrument. 


Some books are specifically made for beginners, which is beneficial for new guitarists. However, you’ll probably outgrow this book relatively quickly. Other books might assume you know basic skills like how to hold a pick, how to play chords in the open position or that you know how to change your guitar strings. Check out the table of contents to get a good idea of what the book expects you to know before starting. 

Best books to help you learn to play guitar FAQ

Do I need a different book for acoustic and electric guitar? 

A. You can play all the same stuff on an acoustic and electric guitar, but there are certain skills that are specific to one. For example, finger picking is heavily associated with the acoustic guitar, while playing rock is more commonly done on an electric guitar. However, you need to learn the same fundamentals regardless of whether you play acoustic or electric. 

Are books good for self-taught guitarists? 

A. Taking lessons is an excellent way to learn guitar for a multitude of reasons, but some people choose to learn on their own. These players benefit from using a varied set of resources, including books. 

What are the best books to help you learn to play guitar?

Top book to help you learn to play guitar 

Hal Leonard Guitar Method

Hal Leonard Guitar Method

What you need to know: This highly respected guitar book is truly made to turn a guitarist into a talented musician by using methods from around the world. 

What you’ll love: This book will challenge you to become a better player who also knows music theory. Learn how to play songs, understand chords and learn practical skills like finger picking. 

What you should consider: This book does not use tablature and forces readers to learn musical notation. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top book to help you learn to play guitar for the money

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

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

What you need to know: This book is made for beginner guitarists and lays down the fundamentals with easy explanations, chord charts and songs. 

What you’ll love: This is very simple to read and focuses on actual playing rather than overloading you with information. There are chord charts you can use for reference. You’ll learn to play your favorite songs in no time. 

What you should consider: This book won’t be very effective for intermediate and advanced players. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

The Guitar Handbook: A Unique Source Book for the Guitar Player 

The Guitar Handbook: A Unique Source Book for the Guitar Player 

What you need to know: This is one of the best guitar sources available, and it contains all the information needed to understand music theory, play well and understand some of the best guitarists of all time. 

What you’ll love: This book is all in color. It’s loaded with information that will progress with you on your guitar journey. Learn different styles and music theory with a guitar legend. It’s a great reference book to have on the shelf. 

What you should consider: This book will be hard to start with for absolute beginners. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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