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    Categories: Guitars

The Best Acoustic Guitar Method Books

While there is no one book that can tell you everything there is to know about playing acoustic guitar, there are several valuable resources that do a pretty thorough job. I recommend Wiley’s Guitar All-In-One for Dummies as being the best single resource and guitar instruction book.

It can take you from newbie to pro, but only if you use it and put in many practice hours, and play as often as you can. If you plan to put in the practice hours, but prefer not to read a fat book, we have an alternative recommendations for you, too.

Why You Should Trust Us

I taught myself to play the acoustic guitar using books. I read everything available in my county’s public library system, probably enough to form a ten-foot stack. I carefully researched every free resource that was available online. and ordered other books that were not available in the library.

Of course, the books only played a supporting part in my learning to play guitar. The truth is, one learns to play guitar by practice, and indeed I practiced a lot, most every day. Some days I only manage to find 5-15 minutes for practicing guitar, especially since I am learning other instruments, too.

Some days I practice for hours, broken up into 2 or 3 large chunks of practice time. I’ve been practicing guitar for about five years now, and by now I can play almost any song or technique I want to play.

I am still learning, and practicing, and I hope to continue both playing and learning guitar for the rest of my life. I know that no matter how good you are, you can always improve.

Top Pick: Guitar All-In-One For Dummies

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While some books written for beginners are so basic that they’d offer nothing for and bore anyone who already possesses minimal beginner skills, for Dummies books are helpful and interesting for musicians of all levels.

How to Choose Acoustic Guitar Instruction Books

Obviously you want a book written by someone who knows 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 written by seasoned performers and accomplished musicians, as well as by experienced teachers who have taught thousands or more folks how to play guitar. All of these authors’ books are written 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, carefully chosen to cover different areas and perspectives regarding guitar playing.

Reading what many folks have to say, and practicing their different exercises, will allow you to develop a more fully rounded playing style.

Some books focus on a particular style of guitar, whether that be the blues, rock, folk, or classical. Some are written for absolute beginners and cover only the bare minimum basics. Others are written for improving or building on basic skills, and some understanding and experience are expected of you before beginning these programs.

There are books that focus on strumming and rhythm, workbooks for flat-picking, finger style, or lead techniques, and other books that lead you through many different skills while playing new songs.

Depending on your existing knowledge of musical theory, you may also need this more general knowledge from the acoustic guitar instruction books that you choose.

Plenty of guitar books touch on various aspects of theory, but if you want to be able to make music as opposed to only playing songs written by other people, you want to be sure to have a full and complete understanding of all aspects 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 tab, which is easier to read and quicker to learn than standard musical notation.

Can You Learn to Play Acoustic from Books, or Do You Need a Teacher?

As I said, I taught myself to play using books. I’ve never had a formal teacher outside of the many authors whose books I have read, and the help of my friends—other more experienced guitarists have definitely shown me some tricks.

With a well-written book by a skilled teacher, you can learn everything you need to know, sort of: you could read every book ever written about playing guitar and not be able to play at all. You learn to play guitar by actually playing guitar.

A good instruction book can help you to play well a lot faster by suggesting the appropriate exercises and explaining techniques so that you understand what to do. But you will learn by actually practicing these techniques, not by reading about them.

The biggest advantage to having a teacher is feedback. When learning on your own from books, you need to pay careful attention to instructions to develop the right form. If you start out playing sloppily and practice this way, then you can get yourself into bad habits that may be hard to break later on.

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 and that you are not, for example, deadening, or muffling strings with improper hand technique.

Guitar instruction books that also include a CD with track selections for the included exercises are particularly 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 book or books you choose, don’t sit at your desk or lie in your bed reading them while your guitar languishes in the corner of your den.

For every technique touched on or explained, get it under your fingers on your guitar. We learn best by doing, and nowhere is this truer than in learning to play guitar.

An excellent and fat book filled with exercises, songs, and instruction is wasted when you don’t actually do the exercises and 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 and work through it; pretty soon you’ll be hungry for more.

Playing guitar is a lifetime pursuit. Easy does it, but practice, every day if you can, and choose quality books by qualified authors. Learning and growing your skills this way you can rapidly advance in knowledge and skills.

The Competition

After hours of testing and research, here's the final competition.

InstrumentRatingCurrent Pricing
Guitar All-In-One For Dummies
includes content from six different guitar books in the For Dummies series, along with audio tracks and video instruction$24.84
Hal Leonard Acoustic Guitar Lesson Set
relies on musical examples and exercises rather than long paragraphs full of explanationsCheck on Amazon
Hal Leonard Guitar Method, Complete Edition
easy to understand book begins with the basics and lets you advance at your own pace$14.71
The Hal Leonard Acoustic Lesson Pack
Includes old favorite standard song selections, but adds 45 great riffs and songs from popular artistsCheck on Amazon
Guitar for Absolute Beginners
an excellent buy, will provide a quality education for guitarists$17.95
Guitar for Near Beginners
focuses on rhythm with tons of killer tips to improve your performance and technique$14.99
Complete Acoustic Guitar Method
offers a good look at the musical modes, which is not fully explained in many books$23.56
Acoustic Guitar Method, Complete Edition
Includes helpful audio downloads for the example songs and exercises$19.34
Acoustic Guitar Primer for Beginners
starts with traditional and bluegrass standards and methods, and move into rock in Book 2$16.30
Acoustic Guitar Book 2
Watch and Learn series of instructionCheck on Amazon
Alfred’s Teach Yourself to Play Guitar
a newer edition of a longtime favorite$28.46
Total Acoustic Guitar
great resource for the advanced beginner$15.35
Guitar Adventures
good introduction for absolute beginners$13.99
100 Acoustic Lessons
a wealth of information on all aspects of acoustic guitar, written by virtuoso players and experienced teachers$19.29
Ultimate Beginner Series
combines the Ultimate Beginner's Series Basics, Acoustic Rock, and Finger-picking books, adds a 4-hour instructional DVD$19.28
Guitar Aerobics
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

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Of all the guitar instruction books I read, one stood out head and shoulders above the rest as clear favorite. Guitar All-in-One For Dummies is my choice for the best book to buy to learn to play the guitar well.

This volume includes the contents from six different guitar books in the For Dummies series, along with audio tracks and video instruction. I have no doubt that this fat book is the best bang for your buck.

The For Dummies Series is an impressive publisher, and I choose their music instruction books across the board as being excellent choices for learning music.

While some books written for beginners are so basic that they’d offer nothing for and bore anyone who already possesses minimal beginner skills, for Dummies books are helpful and interesting for musicians of all levels.

You can begin with these books starting with no knowledge, as basics are fully explained, but For Dummies books delve beneath the surface and offer a complete and well rounded knowledge. I guess the point of the title of the series is that no one could be called a Dummy who has read a For Dummies book.

I recommend this book as being the best choice due to both its depth and also its reach. This book is, as they say, 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.

All of these are recommended and helpful books; collected into one volume, they are a complete course and, at less than $30, an unbelievable value.Audio files for all the exercises and instructional videos are included, too.

The only possible con that could be stated against the For Dummies books is that there aren’t color photo illustrations, and so highly visual folks might prefer more richly illustrated volumes. You can’t beat video for helpful illustration for visual learners, and these videos are clear and helpful.

Though this book is written as instruction for guitar in general, rather than specifically for acoustic guitar, you won’t find something as helpful as this book that focuses solely on acoustic guitar.

You don’t have to read the short selections about amps and other stuff more relevant to electric guitar. But honestly, this kind of info is good for every guitar player to know, whether you play plugged in or not.

Guitar All-in-One for Dummies is the total package, with 6 books, audio files, and video instruction, too. You can’t buy a more helpful single book, and that is why I recommend Guitar All-In-One for Dummies as hands down the best single book for learning guitar.

Runner Up: Hal Leonard Acoustic Guitar Lesson Set

Credit: Amazon.com

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My next choice is another clear favorite. For anyone who might prefer not to read a “fat book” but wants to buy good books for learning to play the guitar, I recommend Hal Leonard books. Individual music instruction books published 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 be hungry for more.

So you need a few of these to get a thorough education. My recommendation is to buy the Complete, 3-volumes-in-one 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 Guitar Chord Chart, Guitar Scales Chart, Guitar Theory, and Acoustic Guitar Method books.

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, John Cougar Mellencamp, and more. This songbook supplement will add more variety to your beginner’s song repertoire.

This book does include some lesson material and helpful tips for playing these songs, and the DVD included in this boxed set adds both more fun and additional help for learning these songs and riffs.

Other Products to Consider:

Hal Leonard Guitar Method, Complete Edition

Credit: Hal Leonard

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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 instruction is clear and well presented so with this book, you will find that you progress quickly.

It includes audio CDs with tracks for the exercises in all three books, so that you can be sure that 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 and fairly easy program which will make inexperienced players feel accomplished quickly. Few books focus as strongly on melody and single notes as early as this book does, and so beginners are able to learn full songs fairly early.

This book is a great choice for absolute beginner guitarists and for those who want to spend their learning time practicing, rather than reading a lot of background guitar info.

 

Guitar for Absolute Beginners, and Guitar for Near Beginners, by Daniel Emery.

Credit: Amazon.com

Credit: Amazon.com

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These books are the instruction manual/texts for students at New York City Guitar School, and they are something different. I have included these at the top of the list because these manuals are an excellent buy and will provide a quality education for guitarists.

Even if you choose another option from this list, I recommend picking these up as they cover areas and include perspectives not touched on in other books. A complete beginner and advanced beginner course, they cover everything extremely well and in an interesting and logical progression.

Entertaining and informative, and with fun song selections, this pair are top picks for sure. Start with the first book if you are indeed an absolute beginner, and Daniel Emery will guide you through easy, effective lessons and 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; this second book focuses on rhythm with tons of killer tips to improve your performance and technique.

Complete Acoustic Guitar Method: Complete Method

Credit: Alfred Music

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This Complete Method. by instructor Greg Horne, is another selection that is a great value as a compilation of several books that are each priced the same as this all-in-one volume.

For just around $25, this volume includes the full texts from Horne’s 3 books in the Complete Acoustic Guitar Method series: 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 teach how to read music as well as tab, and it covers many aspects of guitar theory. It covers a lot of musical styles; the intermediate section alone 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 good look at the musical modes, which is not fully explained in many books. It also goes into alternate tunings and offers a lot of extra tips and advice.

Acoustic Guitar Method, Complete Edition, by David Hamburger

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This is another selection that includes three books in one. Choose this if you enjoy and want to play Americana style music, such as folk and bluegrass.

Hamburger does a beautiful job of explaining the rhythms, flatpicking, and fingerpicking techniques, such as Carter strumming and alternating bass, which one needs to master to play these 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.

He is respected by hobbyists and professionals alike 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

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True acoustic instruction, these books start with traditional and bluegrass standards and methods, and move into rock in Book 2. Both of these come highly recommended.

These are updated versions of classic bestselling guitar books. These new editions are full-package instruction, with 2 DVDs and 3 jam CDs between them. From the Watch and Learn series of instruction, pioneered by author Bert Casey.

Alfred’s Teach Yourself to Play Guitar: Everything You Need to Know to Start Playing Guitar

Credit: Alfred Music

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This book and DVD set is a popular choice. It covers the basics and more, using rock, blues, country, heavy metal, jazz, and folk. It teaches you to read both music and tab, and uses both in the song examples.

This is a newer edition of a longtime favorite; the new, 2 hour instructional DVD adds to the value of this step-by-step lesson book.

Total Acoustic Guitar

Credit: Hal Leonard

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Total Acoustic Guitar, by Andrew DuBrock, is a great resource for the advanced beginner. This one only touches on the basics, but then it goes into depth explaining techniques and best practices for both rhythm and lead guitar.

At well under $20, this is a nice choice for anyone who already possesses basic skills but wants to take their playing to the next level.

Guitar Adventures

Credit: Amazon.com

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This book, by Damon Ferrante, features 101 Step-by-step lessons and a streaming video course. It’s a great introduction for absolute beginners. This book also presents song examples in some styles not included in many other books; there are Rockabilly and Gospel songs included here, for example, as well as Rock, Folk, and Bluegrass songs.

The keyword for these lessons is easy. This book is easy to follow and the video lessons are helpful and clear. For less than $15, this program is a good place for absolute beginners to start their guitar adventures, for sure.

100 Acoustic Lessons- Guitar Lessons Goldmine Series

Credit: Hal Leonard

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100 Acoustic Lessons- Guitar Lessons Goldmine Series presents one hundred lessons on all aspects of acoustic guitar, written by different virtuoso players and experienced teachers. This book really is a goldmine with the wealth of information it presents.

Lessons do not need to be followed in order; you can skip around to work on different techniques at your own speed and in your own order, if you like. The audio tracks are nice in that the tempo is variable. All these options make this book a wonderful addition to any guitarist’s library.

Ultimate Beginner Series, Acoustic Guitar Complete

Credit: Alfred Music

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Is another compilation of several books. This one combines the Ultimate Beginner’s Series Basics, Acoustic Rock, and Finger-picking books,and adds a four hour instructional DVD. For less than $30, this is a great deal for any aspiring acoustic guitarist.

If you need to learn the basics, want to play the blues, or are looking for simple exercises and guidance for finger style technique, this book is a good choice for you.

Guitar Aerobics

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is one you should definitely add to your cart. This book is different than the others listed here; 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. I would suggest buying this one as a supplement to any other instruction book on this list.

Sources

http://www.ebay.com/gds/Top-5-Books-to-Help-Learn-to-Play-the-Acoustic-Guitar-/10000000178630704/g.html
http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/36545.Best_How_to_Play_Guitar_Books

Penni :Hi! I'm Penni. I've been obsessed with playing and teaching music since I was 10 years old. I've had hundreds of students over the years who have at some point asked for my advice on what to buy to support their learning. When you buy certain products from some of the sites which we link to, Hear the Music Play receives a commission that supports our work.Here is an explanation of what we do and how to support our work.