No book can tell you everything there is to know about playing acoustic guitar. However, there are several valuable resources that do a thorough job. One recommendation on this list of the best acoustic guitar method books is Wiley’s Guitar All-In-One for Dummies.
It can take you from newbie to pro, but only if you use it and put in many practice hours. In fact, you should play as often as you can. If you plan to put in the practice hours but prefer not to read a large book, this list contains alternative recommendations for you, too.
Why You Should Trust This List of the Best Acoustic Guitar Method Books
Many musicians teach themselves to play using acoustic guitar books. To build this list, it involved reading everything available in the local public library system, probably enough to form a 10-foot stack. Careful research went into resources online, including other books that were not available in the library. Of course, the best acoustic guitar method books only play a supporting part in learning to play guitar. The truth is, you also learn to play guitar by practice.
To learn to play the guitar, you must practice a lot, almost every day. Some days you may only manage to find 15 minutes for practicing guitar, but every little bit helps. But some days you should practice for hours, broken up into two or three large chunks of practice time. By practicing guitar regularly, you’ll be able to play almost any song or technique you want to play. But it doesn’t end there. You should continue both playing and learning guitar for the rest of your life. Because, no matter how good you are, you can always improve.
While some books for beginners are so basic they offer nothing and bore anyone who already possesses minimal beginner skills, for Dummies books are helpful and interesting for musicians of all levels.
The Top Pick: Guitar All-In-One For Dummies
While some books for beginners are so basic they offer nothing and bore anyone who already possesses minimal beginner skills, for Dummies books are helpful and interesting for musicians of all levels.
What to Look for in the Best Acoustic Guitar Method Books
Obviously, the best acoustic guitar methods books are from authors who know what they are doing. And equally, you want that person to be able to explain everything to you clearly, so you can follow. There are books by seasoned performers and accomplished musicians, as well as by experienced teachers who have taught thousands of folks how to play guitar. All these books come in varying degrees of clarity and comprehensiveness.
If you are looking for a comprehensive, one-book-to-cover-it-all type of program, be aware that there are many available that are not worth your time or money. While there are some good, complete program books out there, these usually cover some areas with little depth. The truth is, there is no one book that will teach you everything about how to play guitar. It is better to use a variety of books you carefully choose to cover different areas and perspectives regarding guitar playing.
How to Develop a More Rounded Playing Style
Reading what many people recommend and practicing their different exercises will allow you to develop a more rounded playing style. Some books focus on a particular style of guitar, like the blues, rock, folk or classical. Some are for absolute beginners and cover only the bare minimum basics. Others are for improving or building on basic skills, so some understanding and experience are necessary before beginning these programs.
There are books that focus on strumming and rhythm, workbooks for flat-picking, finger style or lead techniques. Other books lead you through many different skills while playing new songs. Depending on your existing knowledge of musical theory, you may also need more general knowledge from the acoustic guitar instruction books you choose.
Plenty of guitar books touch on various aspects of theory. But if you want to make music instead of only playing songs other people have written, you’ll need a full understanding of music theory. You can also use instruction books to learn to read music if you don’t already know how. Or you may choose songbooks with guitar music notated solely in the tab. Using such a book is easier to read and quicker to learn than standard musical notation.
Do You Need a Teacher to Learn to Play Guitar?
Many guitarists teach themselves to play using books. Many have never had a formal teacher outside of the many guitar book authors. Other more experienced guitarists can teach you some tricks, too. With a well-written book from a skilled teacher, you can learn everything you need to know.
However, you could read every book out there about playing guitar and not be able to play at all. You learn to play guitar by playing guitar. But the best acoustic guitar method books can help you learn to play a lot faster. Most suggest appropriate exercises and explain various techniques, so you know what to do. But you will learn by practicing these techniques, not by reading about them.
How to Make Sure You Get the Proper Feedback
The biggest advantage to having a teacher is feedback. When learning on your own from books, you need to pay careful attention to the instructions to develop the right form. If you start out playing sloppily, you will build bad habits that may be hard to break later. The main way to pay careful attention to your form and technique is to use your ears.
Make sure that every note or chord you play sounds clear. For example, make sure you aren’t deadening or muffling strings using the wrong hand technique. Guitar instruction books that also include a CD with track selections for the exercises are good choices. This way you can hear exactly how each exercise should sound. And you can practice until you are able to recreate these sounds clearly on your own.
How to Get the Most from Any Acoustic Guitar Instruction Book
You learn to play guitar by playing and practicing. Whichever books you choose, don’t sit reading them while your guitar languishes in the corner. For every technique the book touches on or explains, get it under your fingers on your guitar. People learn best by doing, and nowhere is this truer than when learning to play guitar.
Even the best acoustic guitar method books are a waste if you don’t do the exercises or play the songs. Get the most for your money and improve your playing and progress by following the program and practicing the pieces. Rather than ordering a pile of books and feeling overwhelmed, start with one book and work through it. Soon you’ll be hungry for more.
Playing guitar is a lifetime pursuit. Practice every day if you can and choose quality books by qualified authors. By learning and growing your skills this way, you can rapidly advance in knowledge and skills.
After hours of testing and research, here's the final competition.
|includes content from six different guitar books in the For Dummies series, along with audio tracks and video instruction||$27.32|
|relies on musical examples and exercises rather than long paragraphs full of explanations||Check on Amazon|
|easy to understand book begins with the basics and lets you advance at your own pace||$14.21|
|Includes old favorite standard song selections, but adds 45 great riffs and songs from popular artists||Check on Amazon|
|an excellent buy, will provide a quality education for guitarists||$16.99|
|focuses on rhythm with tons of killer tips to improve your performance and technique||$14.99|
|offers a good look at the musical modes, which is not fully explained in many books||$17.57|
|Includes helpful audio downloads for the example songs and exercises||$24.99|
|starts with traditional and bluegrass standards and methods, and move into rock in Book 2||$16.03|
|Watch and Learn series of instruction||$15.95|
|a newer edition of a longtime favorite||$29.99|
|great resource for the advanced beginner||$17.33|
|good introduction for absolute beginners||$29.99|
|a wealth of information on all aspects of acoustic guitar, written by virtuoso players and experienced teachers||$24.99|
|combines the Ultimate Beginner's Series Basics, Acoustic Rock, and Finger-picking books, adds a 4-hour instructional DVD||$29.99|
|will increase your strength, stamina, and skills, and lead you through a ton of techniques and musical styles||$17.99|
Our Recommendation: Guitar All-In-One For Dummies
Of all the guitar instruction books, one stood out head and shoulders above the rest as a clear favorite. Guitar All-in-One For Dummies is the top choice for the best acoustic guitar method book to learn to play the guitar well. This volume includes the contents of six different guitar books in the For Dummies series. It also comes with audio tracks and video instruction, so this book is the best bang for your buck.
The For Dummies Series is an impressive publisher, and their music instruction books are excellent choices for learning music. Some books for beginners are so basic they offer nothing and bore anyone who already possesses minimal beginner skills. However, For Dummies books are helpful and interesting for musicians of all levels.
You can begin with these books starting with no knowledge, as they clearly explain the basics. But For Dummies books also offer a complete, well-rounded knowledge. This book is the top choice due to its depth and reach. This book is the complete package. It includes Guitar for Dummies, Guitar Theory for Dummies, Guitar Exercises for Dummies, Rock Guitar for Dummies, Blues Guitar for Dummies and Classical Guitar for Dummies.
A Complete Course for Under $30
All of these are helpful books in one volume, so they are a complete course. And, at less than $30, this book is an unbelievable value. They also include audio files for all the exercises and instructional videos, too. The only possible con against the For Dummies books is that there aren’t any color photo illustrations. This means highly visual folks may prefer more richly illustrated volumes.
But, you can’t beat video for helpful illustration for visual learners, and these videos are clear and helpful. Although this book contains instructions for the guitar in general, rather than specifically for acoustic guitar, you won’t find something as helpful. You don’t have to read the short selections about amps and other things more relevant to electric guitar.
But, this kind of information is what every guitar player should know, whether you play plugged in or not. Guitar All-in-One for Dummies is the total package with six books, audio files and video instruction, too. You can’t buy a more helpful single book. That’s why Guitar All-In-One for Dummies is the best single book for learning guitar.
Runner Up: Hal Leonard Acoustic Guitar Lesson Set
The next choice on this list of the best acoustic guitar method books is a clear favorite. For anyone who prefers not to read a large book, but still wants to learn guitar, try Hal Leonard books. These individual music instruction books by Hal Leonard are short and sweet. They rely on musical examples and exercises rather than long paragraphs full of explanations.
This means that you can quickly and easily work your way through an entire book, adding skills, and yet still be hungry for more. You need a few of these books to get a thorough guitar playing education. To get three volumes in one, buy the Complete Edition of the Hal Leonard Guitar Method and the Hal Leonard Acoustic Guitar Lesson Set. The Hal Leonard Acoustic Lesson Pack is a boxed set of four books and one DVD.
It includes a guitar chord chart, guitar scales chart, guitar theory, and acoustic guitar method book. The Acoustic Guitar Method book is not a complete program, but rather a songbook supplement to the Hal Leonard Guitar Method Complete course. That course includes old favorite standards for the song selections, but this book adds 45 great riffs and songs from popular artists.
It includes pieces from James Taylor, Eric Clapton, the Beatles, the Indigo Girls and John Cougar Mellencamp. This songbook supplement will add more variety to your beginner’s song repertoire. This book also includes some lesson material and helpful tips for playing the songs. And the DVD they include adds fun and additional help for learning these songs and riffs.
Other Products to Consider
This book and audio CD set is another excellent value at around $15. It is a lie-flat, plastic spiral bound book that includes volumes 1, 2 and 3 of the classic Hal Leonard Guitar Method books. This clear and easy to understand book begins with the basics and lets you advance at your own pace. The instructions are clear and well-presented, so you will progress quickly.
It includes audio CDs with tracks for the exercises, so you can make sure you play each piece properly. This set includes instruction on how to read music and gets you doing so immediately. But it also presents songs and exercises in the easier to read tablature beginning in book 2. It’s a straightforward, easy program that makes inexperienced players feel accomplished quickly.
Few books focus as strongly on melody and single notes as early as this book, so beginners learn full songs quickly. This book is a great choice for beginner guitarists and for those who want to spend time practicing rather than reading a lot of background guitar information.
Guitar for Absolute Beginners and Guitar for Near Beginners by Daniel Emery
These two books are the instruction manual and texts for students at the New York City Guitar School. But as the best acoustic guitar method books, they are something different. These are at the top of the list because they are an excellent buy. And they provide a quality education for guitarists.
Even if you choose another option from this list, pick these up as they cover areas and include perspectives untouched in other books. As a complete beginner and advanced beginner course, they cover everything in an interesting, logical progression. Entertaining yet informative with fun song selections, this pair are the top picks. Start with the first book if you are a guitar playing beginner.
Daniel Emery will guide you through easy, effective lessons. He’ll also teach you to play in his enjoyable, characteristically funny and encouraging tone. Pick up the second book in the series if you can already play open chords and simple songs. The second book focuses on rhythm with tons of killer tips to improve your performance and technique.
The Complete Method by instructor Greg Horne is a great value. It belongs on this list of the best acoustic guitar method books because it is a compilation of several books. And they have priced each with the same price point as this all-in-one volume. For approximately $25, you’ll get the full texts from Horne’s three books in the Complete Acoustic Guitar Method series.
They include Beginning Acoustic Guitar, Intermediate Acoustic Guitar and Mastering Acoustic Guitar. It also includes an MP3 CD with all the tracks. This book does go into detail and teaches how to read music as well as tab. It also covers many aspects of guitar theory. It also includes many musical styles.
The intermediate section goes into funk acoustic, modern Celtic, swing, New Orleans jazz, old-time country, bluegrass, Cajun and delta blues rhythm techniques. This book also offers a close look at the musical modes, which is not in many guitar playing books. It also goes into alternate tunings, offering many extra tips and playing advice.
Acoustic Guitar Method Complete Edition by David Hamburger
This is another of the best acoustic guitar method books that include three books in one. Choose this if you want to play Americana style music, such as folk and bluegrass. Hamburger does a beautiful job of explaining the rhythms, flatpicking and fingerpicking techniques. He includes Carter strumming and alternating bass, which you need to master the traditional styles of music.
This set includes helpful audio downloads for the example songs and exercises. David Hamburger has decades of experience playing professionally, teaching and writing guitar books. Hobbyists and professionals alike respect Hamburger for his unique method of guitar instruction and he shares it all in this book.
Acoustic Guitar Primer for Beginners and Acoustic Guitar Book 2 by Bert Casey
These acoustic guitar books start with traditional and bluegrass standards and methods. Then they move into rock in Book 2. Both manuals are the best acoustic guitar books for musicians. These two books are updated versions of classic bestselling guitar books.
These new editions include full-package instructions with two DVDs and three jam CDs between them. They come from the Watch and Learn series of instruction that author Bert Casey pioneers.
Among the best acoustic guitar method books, this book and DVD set is a popular choice for guitarists. It covers the basics and more, using rock, blues, country, heavy metal, jazz and folk. It teaches you to read both music and tab, using both in the song examples. This is a newer edition of a longtime favorite. Also, the new two-hour instructional DVD adds to the value of this step-by-step lesson book.
Total Acoustic Guitar, by Andrew DuBrock, is a helpful resource for the advanced beginner. Although it only touches on the basics, it includes an in-depth explanation of guitar playing techniques. It also has best practices for both rhythm and lead guitar. At well under $20, this book is for anyone with basic skills who want to take their playing to the next level.
This book by Damon Ferrante features 101 step-by-step lessons and a streaming video course. Guitar Adventures earned a place on this list of the best acoustic guitar method books because it is an introduction for beginners. This book also presents song examples in some styles not in many other books.
For example, they include rockabilly and gospel songs, as well as rock, folk, and bluegrass songs. This book is easy to follow, and the video lessons are helpful and clear. For less than $15, this program is perfect for beginners to start their guitar adventures.
The 100 Acoustic Lessons – Guitar Lessons Goldmine Series presents a hundred lessons on all aspects of acoustic guitar. It is well-rounded since a variety of virtuoso players and experienced teachers contributed to this book. So it is a goldmine with the wealth of information it presents. And, you don’t need to follow the lessons in order.
You can skip around to work on different techniques at your own speed and in your own order. The audio tracks are nice in that the tempo is variable. These options make it a wonderful addition to any guitarist’s library of the best acoustic guitar method books.
The Ultimate Beginner Series is another compilation of several books. It combines the Ultimate Beginner’s Series Basics, Acoustic Rock, and Finger-picking books. It also includes a four hour instructional DVD. For less than $30, this is a great deal for any aspiring acoustic guitarist.
This is one of the best acoustic guitar method books if you need to learn the basics. It also helps if you want to learn to play the blues. Lastly, this book is great if you just need simple exercises and guidance for finger style techniques.
Guitar Aerobics is a book every guitarist should add to their cart. This book is different than the others on this list of the best acoustic guitar method books. This is because it’s an exercise program rather than an instructional course. But you’ll learn plenty if you work through this year-long program of daily exercises.
It will increase your strength, stamina, and skills, and lead you through a ton of techniques and musical styles. It makes a great supplement to any other instruction book on this list.
These are the best acoustic guitar method books available today. If you want to learn to play guitar, any of these books will help you. Just remember to go through one book at a time, so you won’t feel overwhelmed by all the helpful information. And also make sure you practice, practice, practice every day.