10 BEST Guitar Theory Books – What You Need to Know!

Learning guitar theory is hard. There are so many different books and courses, but none of them seem to be perfect for every player. Most guitar theory books are either too basic or too advanced for most people.

You need a book that’s easy to read, has clear explanations, covers all the basics, explains in-depth techniques and helps you improve your playing fast! 

The BEST Guitar Theory Books are exactly what you’ve been looking for. They’ll help you understand the basics easily and quickly with our step-by-step approach. Plus they’re perfect for any skill level from beginner to advanced players. 

Each  of these selections will include pages of carefully designed material that will get your playing at it’s best as soon as possible!

Best Guitar Theory Books 

We have selected the top 10 books on guitar theory that we feel will give you the foundation you need to make the needed progress. 

These reviews will cover everything from beginner basics like learning your first chords, scales, and how to read tabs & music notation through intermediate concepts such as chord construction, modes, arpeggios, fingerstyle patterns and much more. 

Best Overall

We selected two books for our best overall. 

The Guitar Handbook

The guitar handbook is a player’s manual that illustrates all the genres of music, from rock and blues to jazz and folk.

The book also includes an expanded lesson section with many more full-color photos than the original, profiles current masters, and encompasses 10 years of technological change in recording and amplification.

The Guitar handbook is a new and expanded edition of the popular instruction manual for all styles, from rock to jazz. 

With lots of awesome photos  along with text that explains and demonstrates everything you need to know about guitars, this updated version includes many technological advances in recording, amplification, and other advancements in guitar playing. 

Along with an instructional section for beginners, it also provides reviews of current model guitars as well as famous players such as Check Berry, Charlie Christian, Bo Diddley, and B.B. King. 

Topics are clearly outlined which makes it easy to follow. From beginners, rhythm guitarists, melodic, harmonic, and advanced….this book has it all!!

Pros

Pros:

  • Clear and easy-to-follow. 
  • Discusses music theory and it’s application to the guitar. 
  • Ideal for all levels of guitarists. 
  • Dives into the history of the guitar. 

Cons

Cons:

  • Editorial errors. 
  • Some beginners may find it too advanced. 

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Guitar Fretboard Fluency: The Creative Guide to Mastering The Guitar

Guitar Fretboard Fluency provides a method for developing ‘guitar fluency’ on the fretboard. Studying this book will give you sequential patterns, interval skips, triads and arpeggios that turn scales into useful melodic tools for soloing. 

Get intimately acquainted with the guitar neck using examples in every key of western music. 

Guitar Fretboard Fluency is a comprehensive study course focused on building your musical ears as well as excellent technique and creative solos.

This book is also a  creative and visual way of learning how to play guitar. Melodic milestones, interval concepts and pattern exercises lay the groundwork for improvisation as all-new approaches to note reading emerge from your ears and brain instead of your fingers. 

These crucial first steps will empower you with ways to create fresh, new sounds on acoustic or electric guitar that are full of personality.

This book is more on the expensive side compared to other books. However, for all the information that is packed into these pages, it is well worth it. 

Pros

Pros:

  • Helps with the development of new musical ideas. 
  • Become confident with scales and modes. 
  • Over 100 plus audio examples. 
  • Trains ears and brain to be in charge of your fingers.  

Cons

Cons: 

  • More expensive compared to other theory books. 
  • Exercises are introduced but students will need to complete them. 

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Best For Beginner

Below are our picks for the best books for beginners. If you are a beginner guitarist and would like to see even more options check out our article on Best Guitar Books for Beginners right here: Guitar Books for Beginners.  

Guitar Exercises for Beginners: 10x Your Guitar Skills in 10 Minutes a Day (Guitar Exercises Mastery)

Your success playing guitar early on will rely on the muscle memory you can build in your fingers. This book does just that and all it takes is 10 minutes a day. 

This book emphasizes on finger exercises which will leave you feeling the burn. This easy to follow book helps you sort through and figure out what to practice and when to practice your guitar exercises.

The pictures display a great visual tool that will make learning easy and fun. The art of practice is an important aspect that the book focuses on so you can become a technical and accomplished guitar player.  

Some additional topics the book covers are guitar tablature, melodies and chords, rhythm with time signatures, scales, and more.

This guitar book also includes some bonuses. If you follow the link provided in the book and sign up for the email list, you will receive three bonuses. 

Pros

Pros:

  • Easy and fun to understand format.
  • Exercises for all areas of guitar playing. 
  • Learn a variety of chords. 
  • 10 minutes a day can 10x your guitar skills.

Cons

Cons:

  • Some exercises may be advanced for a beginner. 
  • Must understand to read tablature. 

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Beatles Fake Book

The Beatles Fake Book makes our lists for a few reasons. The first reason is because this is the first book that I learned to play guitar from when I was younger. The second reason is because The Beatles were so talented with their songwriting that by learning their songs, it can help advance your guitar playing and knowledge quickly. 

For those unfamiliar with what a Fake Book is, it’s basically a simple version of the sheet music for a song. It contains the melody, lyrics, and chords changes over the appropriate beats.

This book features every song by The Beatles ever recorded. Each song will display the tempo style along with the chords and their charts above the sheet music where the changes would occur. This is not in tablature so you will just be seeing the music notes on the songs. 

This book really assists with your chord knowledge beyond the standard chords. The Beatles used lots of seventh chords and diminished chords which is great for your own individual playing. 

If you play the acoustic guitar or the electric, this book is perfect. With the Beatles expansive catalog you will really get a great insight to all the different chords used.  

Pros

Pros:

  • Features all 174 Beatles songs.
  • Displayed in an easy-to-follow format. 
  • Learn classic songs by the Fab Four.
  • Great for practicing and following along with the actual recordings. 

Cons

Cons: 

  • Doesn’t feature barre chords. 
  • The use of a Capo is not indicated in the book.

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Best Intermediate 

Here are our choices for the best theory books for those past the point of beginner and into the intermediate category. 

Music Theory for Guitarists: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask

Guitarists of all levels will find a wealth of practical music knowledge in this special book with online audio access. 

Veteran guitarist and author Tom Kolb dispels the mysteries of music theory using plain and simple terms and diagrams. 

The accompanying recordings provide 94 tracks, scales, modes, chords, ear training exercises– everything you need to create the perfect guitar experience for yourself!

The answers to all your questions about music theory are here, at last! Guitarists of all levels will find a wealth of practical music knowledge in this book with online audio access. 

Pros

Pros:

  • Major, Minor, and Pentatonic scale training neck diagrams. 
  • Tables featuring 39 chord types. 
  • Quizzes to test your knowledge and progress. 

Cons

Cons: 

  • Not for beginners. 
  • Accessing audio may cause frustration. 

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Guitar Theory: Straight Talking Music Theory for Guitarists

As the title says, this cuts through a lot of the fluff and gets right down to business. 

This book will show you how to make sense of the fundamentals; the stuff that matters. This assists with that bridge from beginner to intermediate. 

Things like knowing what a chord is and why it belongs to a particular key, understanding how modes are formed and where they come from, picking up some basic music theory as well as a few scales for soloing over chords. 

Each chapter sets out an area or technique in guitar playing followed by easy-to-follow explanations and exercises designed to get your hands on all this important knowledge for yourself.

Understanding what scales and chords are all about will give you a better vocabulary to decode music, develop your ear for the sounds around you, and ultimately play guitar in new ways. 

Music Theory For Guitarists offers clear, straight-talking explanations on these topics:

  • Forming major scales 
  • How intervals work 
  • Chords and keys 
  • The Roman numeral system

Pros

Pros:

  • In depth theory to progress your playing.
  • Features audio downloads. 
  • No nonsense with emphasis on actual guitar playing. 
  • Takes the frustration out of learning. 

Cons

Cons:

  • Heavy use of scale diagrams. 
  • Need to already have a foundation of theory.

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Best Advanced 

Now we will get into the more advanced books on guitar theory. Below are our top two choices that will expand on your foundation and move you beyond the intermediate level. 

Advanced Rhythmic Concepts for Guitar

Advanced Rhythmic Concepts for Guitar is a comprehensive guide to understanding advanced rhythmic concepts. 

Author Jan Rivera has quite the resume. He studied as the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA and holds a degree in music education. 

Metric Modulations, Polyrhythms, “Ratio” Polyrhythms, Polyrhythm Divisions/Polyrhythms and Intrinsic/Extrinsic polymeters are all explained in detailed lessons that will give you the tools needed to successfully execute these ever-changing rhythms. 

The wide variety of exercises included throughout this book range from easy patterns to very challenging. 

Whether you’re an acoustic or electric guitarist who wants to become a confident player with great ears or explore rhythms in Western Music that go far beyond standard rock and pop tunes; this book can help you achieve all your goals!

Pros

Pros:

  • Applicable to all instruments not just guitar. 
  • Clear, thorough, and methodical. 
  • Perfect for those wanting an in-depth study in polyrhythms and metric modulation. 
  • Easy-to-follow concepts with clear applications. 

Cons

Cons: 

  • Can be hard to follow based on current skill level.

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The Praxis System Guitar Compendium

Author Howard Robert was a top Jazz guitarist in the 1960s. He was also a top session musician who played guitar themes on such shows as The Munster’s, The Brady Bunch, Batman, Andy Griffith, Lost in Space, and Mission Impossible.  

This is the first instructional book of its kind, taking a strikingly different and refreshing approach to learning guitar, carefully designed to guarantee efficient practice with rewarding results. 

Whether your playing falls under one of the more traditional styles, or whether you’re a composer and arranger or exploring new musical regions and establishing your own musical direction, this book could be a good choice.

They will assume you can read musical notation and are at the intermediate level for your playing ability. That is one of the reasons why it’s in our “advanced” picks. 

The Praxis system really helps you select the path you want to go down as opposed to the traditional and standard way of learning the guitar.

This book is a great point of reference for all guitarists looking to improve every and any aspect of their playing.  

Pros

Pros:

  • Designed for efficient practice and results. 
  • Choose the exact subject you want. 
  • Clear visuals and diagrams. 
  • Well organized in structure. 

Cons

Cons:

  • No tablature featured in this book. 

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Best Alternatives 

Now we would like to go over some alternative options. We selected two alternatives in the sense where one book is based on a popular series of books on virtually every subject on earth and the other is not for a guitar. 

Guitar Theory For Dummies

The “For Dummies” series goes all the way back to 1991. They have everything from Microsoft, Selling on Amazon, Magic, Dogs, Stock Investing, and Guitar Theory

Guitar Theory For Dummies is the ultimate beginner’s guide to understanding scales, chords, and arpeggios. Guitar players of any skill level will benefit from this accessible and engaging resource that offers more than just a solid review of guitar basics. 

The book gets creative with pentatonic and major scale patterns in an easy-to-follow tutorial style that can take your improvisational skills to the next level as well as equip you to compose your own music. Detailed audio tracks give readers access to demonstrations of most content covered in the text for quick reviews while video tutorials offer on screen instruction.

Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned pro with gigging and recording under your belt, this guide takes an inviting, engaging approach that makes it easy for everyone to look like they really know what they’re doing. 

From uncovering the secrets of scales and chords to improving improvisational skills to teaching composition techniques—this one-stop resource goes beyond basics. 

Pros

Pros:

  • Easy-to-read and follow. 
  • Comes with companion audio tracks. 
  • Details how to apply music theory to the guitar. 
  • Great for those just starting or already have a foundation. 

Cons

Cons: 

  • Audio website is not user friendly. 
  • Has some moments of being overstuffed with content. 

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Music Theory for the Bass Player

We couldn’t leave out our 4 stringed friend when discussing theory books. 

If you play the bass, you already have good ears for rhythms and music theory. This comprehensive book is specifically for bass players and can help you unlock a whole new world of melodic possibilities.

With 89 videos and more than 180 pages of great information, this is a great resource that is carefully thought out.  

If you have ever felt lost when it comes to bass music theory, fret no more. This guide will not only get your fingers foiling through scales effortlessly, but also provide insights into what’s happening inside those sounds you’ve been hearing since childhood! 

With mind-bending quizzes and persuasive learning approaches, Music Theory for the Bass Player provides everything you need to learn about this beguiling world—and it can even be learned without being able to read music at all.

Pros

Pros:

  • Starts with the build blocks of theory. 
  • Packed with easy-to-follow diagrams. 
  • Comes with 89 free videos. 
  • Well organized for those who enjoy structure. 

Cons

Cons: 

  • Has a textbook feel to it.
  • Some may feel the pace of the book is slow.  

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Buyers Guide 

We took a look at 10 really awesome books and discussed the details about what they can provide to you. 

Let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions in our buyer’s guide to help you make a better and more informed purchasing decision. 

Is guitar theory important?

Guitar theory is important. A person might be able to learn how to play a guitar without it, but without it they would never know what notes are needed for their favorite songs. 

Anybody can pick up the instrument with no knowledge of music or chords and slowly build upon their skills by learning the basics from the start.

There are some out there that feel that nobody should ever try to learn an instrument without knowing anything about playing that specific instrument first. 

Guitar theory provides those fundamentals in its many forms such as chord progressions, scales, intervals and more! 

Why is guitar theory so hard?

Music theory takes reading, studying, and comprehension for it to all come together. Guitar theory takes time to learn and time to have those “lightbulb” moments go off for concepts to click. 

Like anything else, the more you study and practice….the easier it will become. 

What is the easiest way to understand guitar theory?

The best way to understand guitar theory is by learning the basics. This covers scales, chords, and arpeggios. 

Once you know these then it will be easy for you to advance in your understanding of other more difficult aspects of music theory like playing melodies and solos on the fretboard.

And of course just a friendly reminder that: 

  • Scales are a set of notes that form a sequence or pattern which can be used in any key
  • Chords are two or three notes played at one time 
  • Arpeggios are different ways to play through each chord

Can you really learn guitar theory with a book?

The question is not whether you can learn guitar theory with a book, but rather which one. There are literally thousands of books on the subject and it will completely depend on your learning style as to what might work best for you from there.

The intent of this post was really to sort through all of those and break it down by skill level so you can see which one has the potential to be the best book for you. 

In conjunction with a book, watching videos and dedicated practicing will assist with everything coming full circle.  

What do I need to learn to fully master guitar theory?

Music theory is such a broad subject. No matter how much you know, there is something new you can learn each day. 

Learning the basics of music theory can be difficult because there are infinite possibilities for understanding it. There’s no one right way to approach the subject so you’ll have to figure out what works best for you and your musical goals.

Learning about music theory can seem like a daunting task when you start looking into how much depth it covers. 

You may not realize that there is no “right” way to learn about this subject because everyone learns something different depending on their own interests, strengths, and weaknesses. The only person who knows what will work best for YOU is YOU!

Conclusion 

We hope you enjoyed this article on some really awesome books that are available to guide you in your quest to start or expand your guitar theory knowledge. 

With some many options, it will be very overwhelming but we hope that we were able to make it a little easier for you. 

Thank you for your time and remember to HAVE FUN! 

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