The 6 Second Summary:
For those looking to find the best book to learn guitar, the candidate suggested here for beginners is Belwin’s 21st Century Guitar Method. If you push yourself through the short book, you’ll know all the basics, from reading guitar tablature, to strumming chord progressions.
Properly used, you can graduate from a complete beginner to an intermediate within weeks. Afterwards, you can use your “101 certification” to ably apply your knowledge by learning songs and new concepts, whether it be improvisation or barre chords.
Finding “Point A”, so You Can Eventually Find “Point B”
As you learn the guitar, one junction along the path you might ask yourself about is, “what’s the best book to learn guitar”?
It’s mystifying because, firstly, you might be recommended books meant more for intermediates, or, secondly, you might choose guitar learning books with sub-optimal learning pathways.
What’s more is that, as a beginner at the bottom wrung, you’re at the mercy of those around and (more likely than not) above you, and — at this beginning time when your learning decisions are most impactful to your growth — you’re most ill-equipped to judge the right direction to effective and fast learning.
“Point A” can be Belwin’s Guitar Book
And yet, in this site’s humble opinion, there is a best book to learn guitar, and that’s the Belwin’s 21st Century Guitar Method #1. Almost twenty years ago, as a fresh 5th grader seated in the local guitar studio’s lesson room, my teacher, Kip, deftly pulled this book off the shelf without hesitation, and — for the next several weeks — walked me through it. I haven’t forgotten just how good this book really is for learning guitar.
What makes this the best book to learn guitar? First, it covers each of the “boring” yet vital bases, such as how to hold a pick, how to hold a guitar, reading tablature as well as musical notation, as well as tuning a guitar; second, and most importantly, it teaches by walking you through each string, one-by-one, then shows you chords, and finishes off by showing you all the important, basic chords in open position; finally, the book “graduates” you to a place where you can, at the very least, struggle through learning your favorite songs by deciphering what you find on Google.
A Concrete Foundation for Your Guitar Edifice
You’ll need to learn how to physically handle a guitar, as well as read some kind of notation, to progress on the instrument in the long run; without guidance on one of these foundational points, you’ll be left like a Porsche Carrera with a plastic toy wheel.
Quite frankly, it’s easy enough to pickup how to tune a guitar, and fairly intuitive how to play a guitar. In terms of these administrative details, probably the most important point is learning to read tablature, since you’ll most likely depend on tablature to learn songs for the years to come.
Fortunately, with each song you learn in this book, you’ll be able to read clear tablature, and as a bonus you’ll also get some knowledge of how traditional musical notation is read. No doubt, this is the more boring stuff you’ll want to “graduate” from as soon as possible, but to learn the guitar these aspects are just as crucial as they are boring!
A Straight-Line from A to B
The systematic, musical way this book teaches each string, alongside chords, is its beautiful hallmark. Its method is that it walks you through the notes of each string, such as the 1st string (which is the thinnest string) in “open position” (meaning the frets nearest to the headstock), then — most crucially — the book immediately shows you songs which incorporate those notes.
It sounds like an obvious system, yet many books and methods seem to drown one in dry, theoretical concepts; it can be quickly forgotten that music is the fundamental purpose of learning guitar. Fortunately, this book is wonderful at staying musical, which means it stays enjoyable; you get to learn songs right away which you can notch under your belt.
As you learn each string, sequentially, in this way, the book healthily peppers in chords (usually defined as 3 or more notes played simultaneously) to help harmonize what you’ve learned. With that being the case, you slowly can amass an understanding of single notes and chords, which is exactly what you need to become a solid guitarist.
Your Swiss-Army Knife to Unpack Songs
Finally, the book drives you towards “graduating” from an absolute beginner, to someone who can Google, “About A Girl chords,” and play it. In fact, at the end of the book, you’re given all the foundational open-position chords, and by then you’ll feel comfortable with the basic notes on all 6 string of the guitar.
Armed with that knowledge, you can even self-learn from there, Googling songs you’d like to learn, or using Youtube, since at least you’ve got your basic “certification” of Level 1 guitar playing.
All-In-All, You’ll Get the Job Done
For fast, effective learning, geared towards the absolute beginner, a strong contender for the best book to learn guitar is this book below, Belwin’s Guitar Method 1.
Should you choose to buy the book, please consider clicking this link below, as the earnings from the small commissions received is what powers this site. Know that, despite that fact, this is indeed my passionate recommendation. As I mentioned above, it’s the book with which I personally used to learn guitar, in fact I’ve got a copy beside me, and I also use it when I teach new brand new private guitar students.
By willing yourself through this book, you’ll understand basics such as tuning a guitar as well as reading tablature, the notes of each string, open-position chords, and the all-important tools to play real songs which you know and love.
Should I hire a teacher to help me through this book?
If you have the luxuries of time flexibility (to schedule physical meetings) and funds, then yes you should hire a guitar teacher to help you through this book. Since your teacher will help you with immediate feedback, goal accountability, and an ideal example, you’ll learn much faster and far more effectively.
For example, you might struggle to hold down one of the first chords you see in this book. Without a teacher, you might squander hours researching on Google and Youtube how to actually fret that chord, whereas a teacher could tell you within seconds several tips you can try (such as repositioning your elbow or wrist) to reach the chord. Or, you might simply be able to watch how your teacher plays it, two feet away, and emulate it properly in a way you couldn’t have if you were by yourself.
After finishing this book, what songs will I be able to play?
If you finish this book completely, without ignoring important sections, you’ll be able to play songs like Smells Like Teen Spirit or About A Girl, You Shook Me All Night Long, and many other classic and current songs. You’ll also be able to strum the chords for House of the Rising Sun and Hey Joe.
This is because you’ll have the ability to comfortably fret notes on each string up to about the 5th fret, and you’ll know the important, open-position chords.
Is this book for beginners or intermediates?
This book is for total beginners, or beginner-intermediates who never got around to learning the complete fundamentals of the guitar.
Are there other books worth researching or looking into?
Surely there are other books worth exploring when it comes to learning the guitar, such as Hal Leonard’s Guitar Method #1, but as the author of this article I’m simply not able to comment on them, since nearly all my experience with beginner guitar books is this Belwin’s book. Is it the very best book to learn guitar? That’s probably impossible to objectively say, but it undoubtedly does precisely the job you’ll want it to do, which is to give you a concrete foundation to develop as a guitarist for the years to come.