Master Chords Quickly With The Best Guitar Books (2023)

best guitar chord book
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With over 20 years of experience teaching aspiring guitar players, I know firsthand the frustration of not having the right resources. As both an instructor and trained musician, I’ve read countless chord books to determine which provides the clearest guidance for mastering both basic and advanced guitar chords.

In this article, I draw from my expertise as a guitar teacher to save you time by highlighting the top guitar chord books for both beginners looking to play their first song and experienced guitarists working to expand their musical knowledge.

I evaluate each book’s effectiveness by assessing the quality of the guitar chord diagrams, the usefulness of the theory explanations, and the scope covered—from open chords to complex jazz voicings. 

You’ll discover the top seven chord books I recommend because they provide comprehensive, accurate guidance to help any guitar player unlock their potential on the fretboard.

List of 7 Best Guitar Chord Books

  1. The First 100 Chords For Guitar
  2. Picture Chord Encyclopedia: Photos & Diagrams 
  3. Chord Chemistry by Ted Greene
  4. Rhythm Guitar: Essential Concepts Series
  5. The Chord Factory: Build Your Own Guitar Chord Dictionary
  6. The Guitar Grimoire: Chords And Voicings
  7. Joe Pass Guitar Chords

Top Two Recommendations: Editor’s Choice

Out of the six chord books reviewed, I especially recommend “The First 100 Chords For Guitar” for beginners looking to build solid muscle memory and practice techniques. With detailed chord diagrams and a proven routine, it teaches essential chords and good habits.

For advanced guitarists wanting to expand their harmonic knowledge, “Chord Chemistry” delivers an endless supply of inventive jazz voicings from a legendary guitarist. This classic reference book will inspire experienced players to explore new progressions and take their musicianship to the next level.

Both of these highly effective chord books provide comprehensive guidance to help guitarists at any level master the fretboard.

Complete Review of Top 7 Chord Books for Guitar

If you’re looking for the best chord books (for an acoustic or electric guitar player) that will help you learn faster, we have the perfect list for you. From beginners to experts, these books will help you acquire the knowledge and skills needed to play guitar like a pro in no time.

1. The First 100 Chords For Guitar

The First 100 Chords for Guitar: How to Learn and Play

  • Discover how to play every essential chord on guitar
  • Understand how chords work together
  • Build chord progressions and master strumming
  • Understand chord theory and construction

  • Author: Joseph Alexander
  • Publisher: Fundamental Changes
  • Print Length: 83 Pages
  • Formats: Paperback & Kindle
  • Suitable For: Entry Level/Beginner

As its practical title implies, this book was written as the ultimate reference book focused specifically on beginner guitar chords. This approachable guide for beginners is more than merely a collection of useful, easy-to-read chord diagrams.

This comprehensive book goes beyond basic chord memorization to encourage a true understanding of how chords are built and applied—providing a solid foundation in chord theory.

From fundamental chord construction to more advanced concepts like chord progressions and substitution, strumming patterns, and chord theory; it covers everything a beginning guitarist needs.

With clear explanations, over 100 full-color fretboard diagrams, and many helpful practice tips, this indispensable chord book for beginners is the best way for novice guitarists to establish strong technical skills and musical knowledge.

Every chapter of this book ends with a review exercise to help you incorporate the new chords you’ve learned into progressions.

It also comes with downloadable, listenable audio examples and three backing tracks, this practical guide over-delivers value – making it a must-have reference that all beginning guitarists should own.


2. Picture Chord EncyclopediaPhotos & Diagrams For Over 2600 Chords

Picture Chord Encyclopedia: Photos & Diagrams

  • The most comprehensive guitar chord resource
  • For all playing styles and levels
  • Features five easy-to-play voicings of 44 chord qualities
  • Clearly illustrated chord frame

  • Creator: Hal Leonard Corp. 
  • Publisher: Hal Leonard Corp.
  • Print Length: 274 Pages
  • Formats: Paperback & Kindle
  • Suitable For: All Level

Hal Leonard’s Picture Chord Encyclopedia, a complete guitar chord book covering 2,640 chords, is perhaps the best no-nonsense guitarist’s chord book on the market today. This reference book covers barre chords, open chords, movable chord shapes, partial chords, and broken set forms.

This volume begins with a section on how best to use the book, and there are also sections covering how to build chords and choose the most suitable voicings to match musical concepts.

The guitar book features not only easy-to-read chord frames of every chord with detailed diagrams but also actual photos of each chord being fingered.

There is also a strumming pattern for each chord and the photos are in color, so you can see which string is being fingered where. Inside this user-friendly book by Hal Leonard, You’ll find basic guitar chords for beginners, how to choose the best voicing, chord construction, etc.


3. Chord Chemistry

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Alfred Ted Greene Chord Chemistry

  • The classic guitar chord reference book
  • A harmonic treasure chest filled with exciting ideas
  • Designed to inspire creativity
  • Full of different chords and shapes

  • Author: Ted Greene  
  • Publisher: Alfred Music
  • Print Length: 112 Pages
  • Formats: Paperback & Kindle
  • Written For: Mid to High Level

A seminal publication in guitar chord books, Ted Greene’s Chord Chemistry was first published in 1971. Throughout its many printings, it has enlightened generations of aspiring and practicing guitarists and, to this day, remains a mainstay among the best books for learning guitar chords.

Though there’s certainly a lot of helpful information for beginner guitarists, this guitar book is more appropriate for intermediate and advanced-level players.

This chord book covers right-handed technique, the major scale, chord formulas and families, moving voices, chord melodies, blues progressions, ear training, and more, making it a treasure trove of guitar and music theory.

In addition to the many clear and concise fingerboard diagrams, Chord Chemistry also features a number of useful photos and illustrations. Chord Chemistry is a real classic among guitar books and a must-have for every serious student of the instrument.

If you are looking to broaden your understanding of how chords are built and applied, it is one of the best books for guitar chords on the market. Although the book is a kind of harmony reference book and guide geared towards jazz guitar players, it’s still a great chord sourcebook for any guitarist.


4. Rhythm Guitar: Essential Concepts Series

Rhythm Guitar: Essential Concepts Series

  • A comprehensive source for learning rhythm guitar
  • It covers chords with standard notation and tab
  • Includes access to 85 online audio tracks
  • The audio files include tempo adjustment and looping features

  • Author: Bruce Buckingham & Eric Paschal
  • Publisher: Musicians Institute Press
  • Print Length: 144 Pages
  • Formats: Paperback 
  • Written For: Rhythm Guitarist

The next entry on our list has a more narrowed focus than the others. As its name suggests, Hal Leonard’s Rhythm Guitar: Essential Concepts Series approaches chords and the basics of music theory with an eye toward shaping solid rhythm guitar players.

With sections on strumming, flat-picking, chord progressions, and arpeggiation, this chord book is a must-have for aspiring rhythm players of all genres.

Just because this book focuses on becoming a better rhythm guitarist doesn’t mean it isn’t also a valuable chord encyclopedia; it’s filled with useful information for beginner and intermediate guitarists.

It covers chord theory and all varieties of chords, including major/minor/diminished, sixth, seventh, and ninth chords/ add2 and add9 chords/diminished 7th chord resolutions.


5. The Chord Factory: Build Your Own Guitar Chord Dictionary

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The Chord Factory: Build Your Own Guitar Chord Dictionary

  • The Chord Factory is for all levels and styles
  • Provides the essential “architecture” of chords
  • Encourages readers to build their own chord dictionary
  • Innovative approach to learning guitar chords

  • Author: Jon Damian
  • Publisher: Berklee Press
  • Print Length: 192 Pages
  • Formats: Paperback & Sheet Music
  • Written For: All Level

I recommend The Chord Factory as another one of my preferred chord books for guitar. 

Though advertised as suitable for guitarists from all levels from beginner to advanced–and there is plenty of great content for beginners–intermediate and advanced players will benefit most from this in-depth exploration of chord theory and practice.

An introduction covering such fundamentals as chord-building language, music notation, chord symbol language, and interval language serves as an excellent foundation for beginning guitarists and the perfect refresher for those more advanced.

From there, it dives deep, examining, in detail, all manner of guitar chords. Monads, diads, triads, four-part chords, adding tensions, and slash chords are all broken down and examined in detail, making this comprehensive volume essential for serious guitarists.


6. The Guitar Grimoire: Chords And Voicings

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The Guitar Grimoire - Chords and Voicings Book

  • A complete reference manual
  • Every guitar chord in every key
  • Includes Polychords, Chord substitutions, Inversions, Movable voicings, etc.
  • Makes you a more creative rhythm player

  • Author: Adam Kadmon
  • Publisher: Carl Fischer Music Distributor
  • Print Length: 220 Pages
  • Formats: Paperback 
  • Written For: Mid to High Level

Every chord in every key and mode is featured in our next entry, making it an invaluable reference resource. Chords And Voicings, from The Guitar Grimoire series, is more than simply 220 pages featuring thousands of chord diagrams and charts; it’s a college-level guitar course designed to be easy to understand.

There’s a lot of information packed into this relatively small book, and despite its accessibility, it’s likely to be a bit overwhelming to the beginning guitarist. Intermediate and advanced players, though, are sure to find the book an invaluable tool.

The book is a standout among the best books on guitar chords as it provides interval maps in all twelve keys for every chord and comes with a scale-compatibility chart.

With lessons on chord families, chord progression, inversions, and slash chords, this book is essential for those who want to understand chords and voicings on a deeper level.

The Guitar Grimoire: Chords And Voicings is one of the most comprehensive books on guitar chords available, and its benefits go far beyond mere reference guidance.


7. Joe Pass Guitar Chords: Learn the Sound of Modern Chords

Joe Pass Guitar Chords

  • Covers all the bases on chord forms and chord passages
  • Learn the sound of modern chords and chord progressions
  • You will play all basic and extended chord forms, solos and chord substitutions

  • Author: Joe Pass
  • Publisher: Alfred Music
  • Print Length: 24 Pages
  • Formats: Paperback & Kindle
  • Written For: Mid to High Level

As one of the most influential jazz musicians, Joe Pass provides invaluable guidance for guitarists looking to expand their jazz chord vocabulary in this must-have guitarist’s chord book.

While written for the intermediate to advanced player familiar with basic chord shapes and notation, it expertly demystifies the sounds and progressions integral to modern jazz.

Covering six essential chord types from major and minor to diminished and minor-seventh flat fifth, the book’s clear fretboard diagrams, musical examples, and notation accurately illustrate voicings and resolutions.

Joe Pass himself even offers practical tips on improvement within these pages. The chord melodies, substitutions, and solos are both challenging and gratifying—perfect for devoted practice.

Though it skimps on music theory explanations, forcing guitarists to supplement their knowledge elsewhere, the pure educational value cannot be overstated.

This makes it a fixture among many guitar teachers’ lists of favorite guitar books. Within these essential compilations of chords crucial to the jazz sound, guitarists will continually uncover new, inspiring chord ideas to integrate into their own playing styles.

For any committed student of jazz guitar looking to elevate their chordal mastery, this jazz theory book belongs on their shelf right alongside the classics by Joe Pass.


What Do You Need To Know Before You Buy A Guitar Chord Book?

Teach Yourself Visually Guitar
Visualizing Harmony: The Power of a Well-Designed Guitar Chord Book

There are several things to keep in mind when determining the best guitar chord book for your current needs. Being aware and honest with yourself about your skill level, knowledge of music theory, and guitar goals will help you choose the right chord book most suitable for you.

Most guitar chord books will suffice if all you’re looking for is a reference guide; the best chord books all contain more chord variations than you’ll likely ever need. What separates the best books from the rest of the pack, aside from their visual presentation, is how they approach and present chord and music theory.

Your short and long-term guitar goals should also factor into selecting a chord book. If your goal is to become a proficient rocker, you likely won’t need a chord book chock full of minor seventh and jazz chords.

On the other hand, if you’re aiming to play genres that incorporate a wider variety of chords or you want to compose music, you’ll want a book that provides a more in-depth study of chord-building and progressions.

Lots of guitarists, myself included, put off diving into music theory until we simply cannot progress further without it.

We can go quite a long way on our instruments with very little knowledge of theory, after all; often, it isn’t until we approach writing solos or composing music that a greater understanding of theory becomes indispensable.

How deeply you plan to immerse yourself in music and guitar theory is, perhaps, the most important factor in determining which book of guitar chords is best for you.

Related Article: If you are looking for a music theory book for guitar, we have an article on that topic. The article includes a list of the best music theory books for guitar, as well as a description of each book with related information.

Alternative Ways To Learn Guitar Chords

Chord books, of course, are not the only way to learn new chords or the basics of theory; there are also many websites and apps dedicated to helping developing guitarists understand chord fundamentals.

One such resource is all-guitar-chords.com, an interactive resource for guitarists of all skill levels and styles. A truly expansive and comprehensive tool, the site is broken into four sections: chords, scales, tools, and information.

An interactive virtual guitar neck clearly displays the chord or scale you choose, making this an excellent site for beginners and seasoned players.

The site offers a chord identifier function as well as a scale identifier, which makes this website a goldmine of information for those of us working to improve our soloing or songwriting skills.

There’s also a tool to help identify arpeggios of any key in all positions of the virtual guitar neck, with accompanying tab diagrams.

The tools section provides a metronome, an online tuner, and a circle of fifths. The information tab leads to a vast library of online guitar lessons for beginner, intermediate, and advanced guitarists. I just pinned the website to my favorites, in fact, and plan to use it myself.

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If you prefer video lessons, Justin Guitar is an excellent online guitar resource that offers free video lessons on a variety of topics including chord theory and chord construction.

There are also many excellent guitar learning apps that can help you learn chords in a fun and interactive way. Some of my favorites are TrueFire, Yousician, and Guitar Tricks.

For those who prefer a more practical approach, fretboard trainer applications such as Fretboard Warrior can be of great help. These apps test your knowledge of fretboard by asking you to identify chords, scale patterns, and intervals on the guitar neck.

By gradually increasing the level of difficulty as you progress, these applications not only allow you to quickly learn new chords but also retain what you have learned in the long run.

Whatever method you choose, there is no doubt that with a little effort and dedication, you will play these chords as a pro in no time!

About the Author

Music Teacher | + posts

Gustavo is a music teacher and classical guitar player from Brazil, currently residing in Dublin, Ireland. He holds a graduate degree in Classical Guitar Performance from the Federal University of Pelotas. In 2020, Gustavo successfully completed a Master's degree in Sound Engineering from the Academy of Sound in Ireland.

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