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I cannot count the number of times I have picked up the guitar with the intentions to teach myself only to commit for about a month and set it aside for the next time I convince myself I should try to learn how to play again. It’s not only guitar I’ve done this with. It’s also happened with bass, violin, ukulele, and more. I blame my ADHD. Nonetheless, we’re still stuck in what is quickly becoming a forever plague, and new hobbies are becoming a must to distract us from the climbing numbers and the lack of support from the government. Guitar is a good hobby for that, and it’ll be a nice party trick later on as well. Whenever I pick the instrument back up, I always go for the self-taught route with guitar books for beginners, mainly due to the background I already have in music and the fact that I get much less motivated to do something when I have to constantly go back over information I already know (I know how to read music, thank you. I don’t need to relearn the note names.) So here I’ve collected the more popular and actually useful guitar books for beginners for both adults and kids.
Disclaimer: despite guitars, as an instrument, having roots in Hispanic cultures and most of the music today having its roots in cultures of color (especially Black cultures), most guitar books for beginners are put out by a company like Hal Leonard. Or, when they’re actually written by an individual, the authors tend to be overwhelmingly white until you get to more specialized books focusing on different styles like jazz or blues. Unfortunately, this list represents that disparity.
Essential Elements For Guitar Book 1 by Will Schmid and Bob Morris
This is the book you would have been handed in just about every guitar class you took in middle school, high school, or after if you signed up for guitar classes at a music store. This is a guitar method book, with a number of popular songs in different styles to use as learning tools. It also comes with access to audio files that you can download or stream, and everything is broken down in an easy to understand way that matches the criteria of the National Standards for Music Education. If you’re just starting out, this is absolutely a book you want on your shelf.
Teach Yourself VISUALLY Guitar by Charles Kim
If you’re a visual learner, this is the beginner’s guitar book for you. It shows you how to read tablature, basic lead sheets, do multiple techniques, and how to deal with suspensions, bass runs, hammer-ons, and barre chords in multiple styles of music. However, it still comes with a CD to use when practicing so you can hear what you’re supposed to sound like when you play a note or chord, even when you’re tuning your guitar. It’s a great starter’s book, especially since it doesn’t jump around when it comes to lessons — it makes sure that you know everything for a technique or note before moving onto the next.
Guitar All-In-One For Dummies by Mark Phillips, Desi Serna, John Chappell, et al
This is your basic “______ for Dummies” book, except this one actually has seven books built into one, written by multiple experts in guitar and music theory, answering every question you could have. It helps you figure out how to pick out the right guitar for you, how to take proper care of it, and like most other beginner’s guitar books, how to play a variety of different music styles. Even if this isn’t your first go-around with the guitar, this is a pretty nice book to have, just to keep your bases covered. It doesn’t hurt that it comes with audio and video files to assist with your practicing.
Alfred’s Kid’s Guitar Course 1 by Ron Manus
Learning an instrument as a kid is hard. All you really want to do is learn cool songs to play but everyone wants you to focus and learn basic techniques that can be really dull to learn. Fortunately, this beginner’s guitar book has a solve for that. Kids using this book will start learning songs immediately from three different teachers: a jazzy cat, a dog who loves the classics, and a blues playing gator. It even comes with audio for your little beginner that you can stream or download.
Teach Yourself to Play Guitar by David Brewster
If you have absolutely no background in music in any way, as in you’ve never picked up sheet music in your life and wouldn’t even know how to begin when it comes to reading it, it’s okay. This book is for you. It starts you at the very beginnings, with the most basic of basics, because everyone has to start somewhere. It shows you how to read tab, how beat notations work in relation to rhythm, and how to actually be your own teacher. Full of plenty of diagrams and illustrations and as little text as possible, this book is the perfect buy for someone just entering the music field.
Guitar Exercises for Beginners by Guitar Head
This is more a supplementary book than some of the others on this list, this book teaches you more how to practice efficiently rather than just how to play the guitar. It’s like what an old band teacher of mine used to say: “practice doesn’t make perfect; PERFECT practice makes perfect.” Basically, if you’re practicing it wrong and don’t fix it, it’s only ever going to stay wrong. This book solves that. It just asks for ten minutes a day, has tons of exercises for you to choose from, and will teach you the ten most popular chord progressions used by nearly every musician out there. An important part of practice, for anything, is having structure, and this book provides that.
If this is just beginning to scratch the itch of a new fascination (or in some cases hyperfixation) for music, you can check out our list of 50 must-read music books, or if you got a little one (or middle school one) just starting out music classes and want to foster their appreciation for the art, we have a list of music books for younger readers.