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There is little doubt that “I taught myself how to play the guitar” is an extremely cool thing to say at parties, but if you’re going to use this line to impress someone at the next social gathering you attend, you’ll need to make sure your strumming skills are semi-decent. One way to do that: get yourself a good beginner’s guitar book.
What Are the Best Beginner Guitar Books?
The best guitar books help you get started on actually playing right off the bat without slogging through hours of descriptions about guitars. Without another human beside you to correct your fingering in real time, you’ll need a book with exceptionally clear instructions that takes lessons step-by-step. Especially helpful are books with accompanying video, which at least gives you an example to compare yourself to. Here’s what else to look for.
Author: Maybe this is obvious, but look for books from respected music educators, musicians, and lesson book authors who have broad industry support and plenty of teaching (and playing) experience.
Method: Take into account how the lessons are structured, and if they’re designed for absolute beginners who have no idea what they’re doing or for immediate learners. Learning proper technique takes time, and a good guitar book will take this into account. We like guitar books that include accompanying video you can follow along with, as well as a few basics of music theory and music reading.
Songs: Assuming you’ve already mastered the “Smoke on the Water” riff, we look for books that include an expansive song list with satisfying-to-play jams that you can start strumming after a few lessons.
1. Guitar Book for Adult Beginners
This book is all about laying the groundwork, which is a huge point in the plus column for us. As much as we don’t like to get weighed down with too much info right off the bat, we like that this book starts by giving you a good foundation to work with, breaking down the basics of guitars, chords, technique, and other handy info. It also includes “secrets to guitar success,” which point out other helpful resources and tips — like listening to music outside your comfort zone.
Once the fundamentals are achieved, lessons build as they progress, giving you solid foundational guitar skills and knowledge that can be applied broadly as a guitar player and musician. People find these lessons easy to follow, with clear diagrams and — best of all — accompanying instructional videos.
2. Acoustic Guitar Primer Book for Beginners
This book also provides a pretty comprehensive course in guitar playing, starting with beginning concepts like the parts of the guitar, proper playing position, strumming, and reading guitar tabs. It also includes a complete chord chart, an hour of video, and music written in both standard music notation and the tablature method — a type of music notation common in guitar playing that notes fingering placement on the instrument instead of musical pitches.
We really like the 18 songs included in this book’s beginner method, which are demonstrated at three speeds — helpful for practicing. People find the lessons straightforward and the instructor, Bert Casey, pleasant in the instructional videos.
3. Teach Yourself to Play Guitar
This is the book we’d recommend to the less-reading-more-strumming crowd, who want the satisfaction of playing something tangible right away. While it does include lessons on the fundamentals of theory and technique, it does not go quite as deep as some of the other manuals.
If you’re new not just to guitar but to music in general, this is a good option. Lessons get straight to the point, and teach in the tablature method mentioned before, which eliminates the need for music reading altogether. Once you’ve gotten more comfortable with your playing, the book also offers supplementary information on reading music and music theory if you’d like to build on your skills later on.