Updated: April 2019
Books are one of the best deals on the entire planet when it comes to learning something new. Where else could you get years, decades, even centuries of knowledge for around $20?
When you buy a book, you're tapping into what makes that particular author tick and their years of experience, all without having to go through the hassle of "maybe" being able to talk to that person and ask them questions in person. The value of books is really apparent when it comes to learning guitar.
Like any other subject though, it pays to know what books are great to begin with, so you learn the best stuff first. I've collected a list of some of my favorite guitar books, from beginner to advanced. These books focus on not only making you a better guitar player, but a better musician overall.
Recently I shared 5 guitar exercises for warming up. A lot of the inspiration for warming up before playing came from reading the book Guitar Aerobics by Troy Nelson. The book has an exercise for each day of the week, for all 52 weeks of the year!
The exercises work on everything from alternate picking and string skipping, to sweep picking, bending and more. The book also comes with 2 CDs with the exercises and rhythm tracks. It makes it a lot more helpful to hear what these exercises sound like, especially if you're just starting out and trying to get a hang of some of these concepts.
If you take a little time out of your day before practicing and work on this book, I guarantee you'll be a better player by years end.
A Modern Method For Guitar - Volumes 1-3
Once you're done warming up, you should open up Berklee's Modern Method for Guitar by William Leavitt. If you've never heard of the Berklee School of Music in Boston yet, it's a very popular music school that has had students like Steve Vai, Dream Theater, John Mayer, and many more.
The Modern Method for Guitar can be purchased in individual volumes, but you can find the complete set for a decent price online. These books are great for working on your sight reading and for learning music theory on guitar.
Learning theory and how to sight read will really change your life. It's so beneficial when trying to learn an instrument, and can lead to many opportunities down the road. These books make it fun and easy to tackle something new every day.
If you're just starting out on the guitar, see how long you can stay away from tab (this book does not have any). Tab isn't a bad thing, but being able to play a sheet of music that's put in front of you, and knowing all the theory that goes behind it will help make you a better player.
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Fretboard Logic SE
Another great book whether your'e just starting out or want to get a new perspective on the instrument, is Fretboard Logic SE by Bill Edwards. I first heard of this book while listening to a lesson from Dave Weiner (of Guitopia and Steve Vai's band). This special edition of the book contains both volumes 1 and 2.
The book is one of the best resources for learning the CAGED system that I've ever encountered. It goes over why the guitar is tuned like it is, and explores the chords and scales behind the CAGED system.
You can get an entirely new perspective of the fretboard by starting from the C-A-G-E and D chords. This book can help create a roadmap for the guitar, where you'll be able to know each fret's note name - one of the most important things to learn when playing. If you're unsure about learning this system, do a search for the CAGED system on YouTube and see if it's something you'd be interested in.
The first pressing of this fantastic theory book for guitarists sold out! I was lucky enough to pick up a copy at a local music store, and have been devouring it ever since.
Whether you're a beginning guitarist, or are trying to fill in gaps in your music theory knowledge, you should give Vaideology a good look. Vai goes over everything from note recognition and constructing chords, to composing music and lots more. My favorite part of this book is how Vai balances Academic Study with Experiential study.
Once you learn the academic side, Vai presents lots of experiential examples to help put into practice, what you just learned. You can check out my full review here.
The Advancing Guitarist
If you're more of a do-it-yourself kind of learner, you should absolutely check out The Advancing Guitarist by Mick Goodrick.
Not only is Mick funny, but the book is extremely useful for learning theory, efficiency, technique, playing over chords and more. Similar to Creative Guitar (recommended below), Mick is all about having you put in the work to learn what he's laying out. While you'll spend more time learning this way, it'll pay off and at the same time, teach you a great way of learning.
This is the type of book you'll be coming back to over and over again. One, because you'll be becoming a greater guitar player by learning what Mick's teaching, and you'll also want to share in Mick's genuine passion and happiness for the guitar.
Creative Guitar - Cutting Edge Techniques Vol. 1
I'd be rich if I had a dollar for each time I mentioned one of my favorite players, Guthrie Govan on this site. He's also the author of a few great instructional books, including Creative Guitar Vol 1. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I first picked up this book, but I was pleasantly surprised.
The first part of this book shows why Guthrie is such a great player, and dives into his mindset when it comes to teaching and playing. I really believe you should go buy this book, so I don't want to give too much away, but he covers great topics like how to avoid guitar injuries, setting goals for yourself, thoughts on technique, tone and gear, and general tips on how to practice.
The second half of the book gets into exercises for finger independence, a phenomenally titled chapter called "Theory Without Tears", thoughts on chords, modes and lots more. This book also comes with a CD of examples and backing tracks.
An Improviser's OS
If you've been playing guitar for a while and want to up your improvisation game, you've got to wrap your brain around Wayne Krantz's An Improviser's OS. Wayne is a phenomenal jazz guitarist, and in this book, forces the player to really push their boundaries when it comes to improvising.
At the beginning of the book, Wayne gives you a set of "formulas", and then proceeds to show you how to use those formulas for the rest of the book. It's something that you'll have to attack in small bites, but can really take your soloing to another level if you'll stick with it.
Update: Want even more cool guitar book recommendations? Check out this follow up post that I did with 6 more books!
What books do you use to learn guitar?
These are some of my favorite guitar books I've used when I was first starting to play guitar - some of them I still use today! What books do you use to learn guitar? Let me know by reaching out on Twitter or Facebook.