9 Of The Best Guitar Theory Books (2020 Guide)

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Here Are Some Of The Best Guitar Theory Books To Help You Learn To Play Like a Pro!

Looking for some of the best guitar theory books? Now sure which one to buy? You’re not alone in your quest. Learning musical theory to go along with your guitar playing is a really, really good idea. Knowing the fundamentals of music can undoubtedly make you a better guitarist – no matter whether you are a beginner or whether you are intermediate and looking to up your guitar skills.

The problem for most guitarists – myself included with acoustic – was that learning music theory can seem boring and unimportant. I had music theory training but not enough to make a true impact on my guitar playing. Years later, it’s something I have looped back to focus on because I hit a plateau in my playing abilities (and not for lack of practice). You, however, can avoid this problem by making theory learning a priority.

Guitar books on music theory are a great way to learn. With so many great books on musical theory for guitarists, it can be hard to choose the right one for your skill level and learning style. So, our guide breaks down some of the best guitar music theory books out there today! From “Guitar Theory for Dummies” to guitar theory books on specific aspects of theory, let’s get you the best music theory book for guitar.

The 9 Best Guitar Theory Books

If you just want to get started searching for the best guitar theory books, you can find them below. Many of these are considered by some to be the best book to learn guitar music theory – and that would be accurate. The authors of these tried and tested guitar theory books are players and musicians that know their craft.

Honestly, I wish I had picked up one of these books years ago. I already had some pretty good music knowledge from taking music (playing and theory) all through high school. However, it would have be so helpful for me to translate that musical theory knowledge – chords, scales, keys – to my acoustic guitar. In any case, it’s never too late to learn! Here’s a shortlist of the best guitar music theory books.

Music Theory for Guitarists: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask (Guitar Method)

Last update on 2020-10-23 at 23:35

If you’re searching for the best book to learn guitar theory, this may be it. “Guitar Method” might be a bit older but it holds its ground as a solid foundational guitar music theory book. In fact, many argue that it’s the best music theory book for guitar.

Not only does Guitar Method, published by Hal Leonard Music Corporation, cover basic theory, but it also covers specific aspects of how music theory applies to your guitar – like on the fretboard and more.

This is because the author – Tom Kolb – is a seasoned guitarist and the book comes with accompanying audio tracks that you can access online. This makes it easy – and a tad more interesting – to dive into music theory as it is related to the guitar and to also hear the theory come to life for your ears. Guitar Method also comes in paperback and on Kindle so you can choose the format that works best for you!

The Practical Guide to Modern Music Theory for Guitarists

Last update on 2020-10-23 at 23:35

Another great book for learning music theory for guitar is The Practical Guide to Modern Music Theory for Guitarists. This guitar theory book is authored by Joseph Alexander – a 20-year veteran of the guitar space. He’s published over 100 books on various topics of advanced guitar theory and guitar techniques.

This book takes the approach where you complete loads of exercises as you move through different topics. You’ll get to play around with scales as well as constructing chords, learning about arpeggios, harmonies, and the art (and theory) behind soloing!

This theory book also comes with loads of bonuses like a cheat sheet for soloing and audio tracks to download. Another great selling point of the Practical Guide is that it’s available for Kindle. This is great for guitarists who want to take their learning on the go.

Guitar Fretboard: Memorize The Fretboard In Less Than 24 Hours: 35+ Tips And Exercises

Last update on 2020-10-23 at 23:35

Even though this guitar book is all about the guitar fretboard, you can still learn a great deal about music theory as it applies to the guitar! “Guitar Fretboard” is a top book in the category because the author chooses to hone in on a specific area of music theory. That said, guitarists still get a decent overview of theory through the simplified learning process in the book.

Learning about the fretboard is a great idea for any guitarists because it can help one’s playing in a number of ways: from allowing to build chords and memorize scales to getting better at soloing, writing harmonies, and more. The author is Guitar Head, a trusted resource for detailed guitar theory books and guides on playing techniques.

Guitar Theory For Dummies

Last update on 2020-10-23 at 23:35

If you’re wondering where to start when it comes to guitar theory, why not start off with the dummies?! “Guitar Music Theory for Dummies” is a classic book from the reputable brand. They’ve produced one of the best books on music theory as it relates to guitarists.

This theory book might be a good place to start if you are completely new to music theory. Those searching for music theory books for beginners would have a good time starting off with the basics and working their way up through lessons on improv (soloing), pentatonic scales, and much more.

The author is guitarist Desi Serna who is renowned by Rolling Stone Magazine as a theory expert. He’s also authored numerous books in the field of music theory as it related to guitar so you’re in good hands! Music Theory for Dummies also comes with additional audio and video content which you can access online – and it is available for Kindle!

Vaideology: Basic Music Theory for Guitar Players

Last update on 2020-10-23 at 23:35

Music theory for guitar players is such an important aspect of development. So, if you’re looking to get acquainted with basic guitar theory, then this might be the guitar theory book for you!

Published by the legendary guitarist Steve Vai, the book benefits from his expertise in the field of music theory learning, technique mastery, and song writing. Overall, this is a packed book with loads to learn about. It takes a heavy approach to the “basics” of music theory as it relates to the guitar. That’s a good thing for those wanting to start from the beginning.

There are also a range of topics covered in this guitar book from chords, scales, and harmonics, to other topics not exactly “theory” like rhythm, writing music, and more. Another benefit to this book is that it comes in numerous versions – printed, Kindle, or on spiral-bound (meaning it can open and lay flat)!

The Guitar Handbook: A Unique Source Book for the Guitar Player

Last update on 2020-10-23 at 23:35

If you want a guitar book that starts from the ground up, The Guitar Handbook is for you. Written by Ralph Denyer, a former guitarist in a psychedelic rock band, this book covers much more than just musical theory as it applies to guitar.

From how a guitar is build to theory lessons and practical lessons beginner or advanced guitarists would benefit from, this guitar book is a “one-stop-shop” for aspiring guitarists. This book also covers many different guitar types and styles from acoustic guitar theory to music theory for blues, jazz, and even folk guitar players.

One downside is that The Guitar Handbook only comes in paperback – but it’s worth it for the physical copy since it’s like a guitar bible to be referred to again and again!

Guitar Theory: Straight Talking Music Theory for Guitarists

Guitar Theory: Straight Talking Music Theory for Guitarists
  • Nichols, Lee (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update on 2020-10-23 at 23:35

There’s no question what this book is about. “Straight Talking Music Theory” is all about the fundamentals of music theory (Circle of Fifths, scales, intervals, and more).

If you’re looking for the best guitar theory book, this might be the one for you due to its simplicity. It’s also one of the strongest examples on the list with regards to which one is the best guitar scales book (if you want to hone in on learning scales).

The author is Lee Nichols – a 30-year veteran of the music space who has played in numerous bands of various styles. This music theory and guitar book also comes with audio content you can access online. And it comes in a Kindle version for those wanting a digital copy!

Guitar Fretboard Workbook

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Guitar Fretboard Workbook
  • Pages: 82
  • Instrumentation: Guitar

Last update on 2020-10-23 at 23:35

As more of a hands’ on guide to music theory, the Guitar Fretboard Workbook is all about applying theory to the… you guessed it… fretboard! This goes for both electric and acoustic guitar – making this book easily the best guitar chord book that we have on this list.

The author is Barrett Tagliarino – a full-time music teacher and guitarist with decades of instructional experience and a number of other impressive projects and accolades to his name!

Available in paperback and on Kindle, this is another one of those specialized guitar theory books that can benefit you if you want to hone your skills. However, do keep in mind that you’ll get a bit of foundational music theory (to be able to understand modes and chords as they relate to the fretboard) but perhaps not enough like in other guitar theory books on this list!

The Circle of Fifths for Guitarists: Learn and Apply Music Theory for Guitar

Last update on 2020-10-23 at 23:35

Last – but certainly not least – is The Circle of Fifths for Guitarists. If you’re trying to decide what is the best guitar theory book – a book dedicated to applying the all-important Circle of Fifths might be for you! If you don’t know what the Circle of Fifths are when it comes to music, this might not be the theory book for you to start off with.

That said, Circle of Fifths for Guitarists does make it easy for someone with beginner knowledge to dive into the book since no previous theory knowledge is technically necessary.

However, it might be seen as an advanced music theory book. If you have some music theory knowledge and want to deep dive into the world of scales, keys, and modulation, this might be more of a book for you. Available in paperback and Kindle, this book also comes with supporting audio which you can access online.

The Circle of Fifths for Guitarists was published by Joseph Alexander – a two-decade guitarist we’ve already mentioned on this list! 

What Is A Guitar Theory Book And Why You Need One

A guitar theory book is a book that melds together both musical theory/knowledge and guitar knowledge. There are loads of guitar books out there about guitars, and there are lots of books that are just about musical theory (and they can go in-depth). However, the guitar theory books combine these two essential classes of knowledge specifically for guitarists.

A guitar theory book is an essential part of any serious guitarist’s toolkit. It’s a true statement to say that many guitarists don’t love to learn about music – they just want to play. This is fair – I was the same. If you consider a guitar theory book as important as a guitar capo from the first day you start learning guitar, you’ll likely get much more out of your early guitar experiences than if you didn’t have a theory book.

However, if you don’t have any music theory knowledge (and especially theory knowledge that relates to the guitar), then eventually you will reach a plateau in your learning. In fact, I would argue that you limit your abilities from the beginning if you are new to music and new to the guitar – and don’t take some time to learn about even the most basic of musical/guitar theory knowledge.

The Different Types of Guitar Theory Books

If you are serious about buying a guitar theory book, then you should know that there are a few different types of books. The good news is that guitar theory books work for both acoustic and electric guitarists.

Depending on what part of musical theory you want to learn, you’ll either find a book that covers your specific music theory learning goals or you can just buy a “complete” musical theory book to give yourself the best foundation for learning theory and how it relates to your guitar.

Complete Music Theory Books for Guitar

These theory books for guitar are a “one-stop-shop” for all things related to music theory and how it relates to playing guitar. Books in this category generally cover notes (obviously), scales, chords, and modes, and may even throw in elements of ear training and mastering the fretboard. A good example of this type of guitar theory book is Music Theory for Guitarists: Hal Leonard Guitar Method by Tom Kolb.

Specialized Music Theory Books for Guitar

If you are looking to learn or understand something specific – like just playing scales, constructing guitar chords, or how music theory relates to the fretboard, then you can grab yourself a more detailed book that covers just that topic. There are a number of specialized books like this – one example being Guitar Fretboard: Memorize The Fretboard In Less Than 24 Hours by Guitar Head.

One thing to remember about guitar theory books in this category is that they may not offer readers basic music theory for guitarists. This is because they might assume the reader already has some music theory knowledge and is looking to dive deeper. So, if you are a beginner, check whether this kind of book is easy enough for you to just pick up and dive into.

3 Benefits Of Using A Guitar Theory Book

There are a number of benefits of using a great guitar theory book – especially if you are a beginner guitarist.

  1. You Learn the Right Way From the Start – Of course, one can argue that there is no “right” way to learn guitar. There are a number of styles, formats, and methods that work for different people. However, one thing that is more of a universally accepted concept is that learning music theory with guitar theory – right from the beginning of your guitar journey – can pay off huge as your years of playing rack up. Do not underestimate the importance of beginner guitar theory. Having musical theory knowledge is so important to progress as a guitar player. Making it part of your knowledge base from day one will only ever give you an advantage.
  2. You Have Something to Follow – Guitar theory books are great because the best ones are laid out logically for you to learn from. If you’ve ever wondered how to learn music theory for guitar, books make it easy for this reason. There is a reason why (good) theory books are authored by professional musicians: They know their craft, they know how to explain and teach their craft, and they know how someone might best learn their craft.
  3. You Learn At Your Own Pace – Likely the biggest benefit of having a guitar theory book is that you get to learn at a pace that is perfect for you. This is the best way to learn music theory for guitar. We all have other commitments and life can get hectic. With a guitar theory book, you can choose to plow through multiple pages/chapters at a time (as long as you are actually learning from what you are doing) or choose to go page by page each time you sit down. Make it work for your schedule and your interest level without the pressure of lessons that may expire or a guitar teacher you haven’t seen in weeks.

Things To Consider When Buying A Guitar Theory Book

Guitar theory books come in all different shapes and sizes – you can even get an electronic version if that suits your style. Here are a few buying tips to consider before you make your theory book purchase. Armed with these, you can find the book that works best for you at a price you love!

Target Audience

When looking for a book on music theory for guitarists, one thing to definitely keep in mind is your level of music theory knowledge and the intended audience of the book. It’s important to get a book that caters to your level of knowledge.

If you need theory basics because you have never learned music theory before, buy a guitar music theory book that covers the basics in detail. If you have advanced theory knowledge, aim for a book with chapters on “advanced theory” and other technical aspects of theory. There’s nothing worse than buying a guitar theory book and realizing it’s too easy or too hard for you!

Price

Obviously, the price of the guitar theory book can be an important buying factor, too. If you have a budget, don’t feel like you have to spend more to get quality. You may not end up needing a crazy expensive theory book for it to be useful. That said, most physical guitar theory books are not overly expensive and range between $10 and around $25 at the highest range.

Coil Binding

The binding of the book can be an important (and often forgotten) feature to any book. Without a good binding/spine, it can fall apart over time. When looking for a guitar theory book, try to get one with a coil binding (a round one).

These bindings usually allow the book to open and lay flat… making them much easier to read while you hold the guitar. You won’t have to hold it open and can place it on a table, bed, or even on the floor – and still be able to easily read without forcing the book open and damaging the book!

Book Size

The size of the guitar theory book can be important to some players. Bigger books have lots of great information – but can be hard to pack in a case/bag and transport around (if you are on-the-go with your guitar often).

Big books are great for staying at home where you learn to play. Smaller books might be smaller in size but to get in the same information they can be pretty fat – so keep that in mind if you are looking for a theory book of a specific size!

Kindle/Electronic Version

If you don’t want/need a physical guitar theory book, you might consider the Kindle version of the book. The electronic version of the guide doesn’t take up any space, can be viewed online/on Kindle easily, and generally costs less than a physical book does. One drawback, however, is that not all books offer Kindle version – so keep that in mind.

And there you have it – a rundown of the best guitar theory books out there! There are plenty of great guides to choose from. Just remember to think about your level of music theory knowledge and what you intend to get out of a theory book (chords, scales, overall theory, etc) and you’ll not go wrong!

As always, Happy Strumming,

-E