Have you ever encountered someone who said, that “music theory is hard”? Or a person telling you that they are more of a “by-ear” type of a musician, and they don’t need to learn any theory? If only they get their hands on a Best Music Theory Book for guitar, their limiting beliefs will surely change.
Even the great Mozart who could very well be the most naturally gifted musician the world has ever known had to study theory and composition for many years.
People say that “ignorance is bliss”, or you can’t be hurt by something you don’t know. Tell that to people who live on the path of an approaching hurricane and see their reaction.
Just like in music, whether you want to learn how to play any musical instrument, your first step is to gather the right information to help you get started. Nowadays it’s easy to just search the internet and learn from so-called “experts”.
The problem with this is that oftentimes, these are people who just copy from one another and do not fully comprehend the concepts they are trying to teach. This can be harmful as learning the wrong information have its consequences. So it’s better not to take chances and get the correct knowledge from real experts from the start.
Top 7 Best Guitar Theory Book
- The Guitar Handbook: A Unique Source Book for the Guitar Player
- The Guitar Grimoire: A Compendium of Formulas for Guitar Scales and Modes
- The Practical Guide to Modern Music Theory for Guitarists
- Fundamentals of Guitar: A Workbook for Beginning, Intermediate or Advanced Students
- Music Theory for Guitarists: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know
- Guitar Fretboard Workbook 2nd Edition
- Fretboard Theory (Volume 1) Paperback
Best Guitar Learning Book Reviews
We have come up with the 7 best music theory books from well-known authors who know their craft. These are the best guitar books on the music theory for guitarists that took years to write and these books can help you whether you are a beginner or an advanced guitarist who wants to fine-tune your knowledge and skills.
1. The Guitar Handbook: A Unique Source Book for the Guitar Player
This Guitar Handbook is one of the best guitar theory books and the most complete handbook any guitarist can wish for. Ralph Denyer can explain chords, scales, and guitar concepts clearly and concisely. The illustrations are simple yet extremely helpful. This book encompasses 10 years of technological change in recording and amplification.
Some of the topics contained in the book are the following:
- History of the guitar
- Biographies of famous/influential guitarists
- How guitars are made/how they work
- Music theory and how it applies to guitar
- Basic skills
- Intermediate and advanced techniques for different music styles
This handbook shows the quickest way to reference guitar chords and scales. It doesn’t talk down to the reader it motivates them to extract as much information they can from this book to improve their guitar playing skills and knowledge.
We highly recommend this well-rounded book that touches on the different styles of guitar players, the construction or anatomy of guitars, etc. What most readers will appreciate is the “Playing Guitar” section, where tuning, technique, scales, chords, and so much more are comprehensively explained.
2. The Guitar Grimoire: A Compendium of Formulas for Guitar Scales and Modes (GUITARE)
The Guitar Grimoire is a manual that puts every scale on the tip of your fingers. This great book can be described as an encyclopedia that houses the most complete set of scales and modes and over 6000 different charts, diagrams, and graphs.
The Guitar Grimoire has well-thought-out explanatory text that is easy to understand. Many users report that this book is imperative if a guitarist wants to master arpeggios and scales. The varied and detailed work helps readers broaden their shredding and ranges. In fact, the vast extent of work makes this the only book people need to learn and perfect their shredding.
The Guitar Grimoire presents its theories in a well-thought-out and clean manner. The different scales and techniques this book shows can help a guitarist develop their creativity.
Also, despite this book not quite being for the grassroots level, many users have felt that mid to high-level beginners can benefit from this book too. After all, this book is aimed at being a knowledge repertoire that can bring new forms to the table for any guitarist.
3. The Practical Guide to Modern Music Theory for Guitarists: (Guitar theory book) 3rd Edition
Written by Joseph Alexander, a guitarist and expert tutor for over 20 years. His guitar instruction books have been published in four different languages and have sold over 350,000 copies worldwide critical acclaim.
This Practical Guide to Modern Music Theory for Guitarists explains how music works in a very clear and comprehensive way. From the difference between a minor and major scale, to how chords are built, common chord progressions and so much more.
Even those who have already ample knowledge about how music works are surprised how they get a new and fresh perspective of things that they already know.
The straightforward and very clear explanations on different subjects related to the principle of music make this a go-to book for any guitarists who are serious about improving their skills and knowledge.
Joseph Alexander is a prolific author having written 30 guitar guides. He breaks down each concept in an easy-to-understand example that some readers have learned to appreciate. He emphasizes that the guitar theory enhances one’s playing and listening to music, which adds to new ideas and promotes creativity in a fun way.
4. Fundamentals of Guitar: A Workbook for Beginning, Intermediate or Advanced Students
The book ‘Fundamentals of Guitar’ is targeted at players of any skill level. Author Miles Okazaki has compiled this book in a way that would be friendly to both a beginner who is just starting out or a more experienced player who wants to broaden their skillset.
The book is written in as much plain English as possible in order to avoid jargon and become a convoluted feeling for newer guitarists. Okazaki has also included many illustrations that help the reader to better understand the theories.
Okazaki has taken an inclusive approach that would inspire guitarists into practicing for longer hours. The writer himself deems the book as one that shows the reader what they ‘should do’ rather than what they ‘could do’.
However, despite Okazaki’s efforts at being beginner-friendly, this book is often labeled as a compilation over anything else. Many readers have reported that the rather scrambled nature of the book makes it so that users need to have at least some idea about the guitar.
It is not the pickup and learns for scratch kind of book. The best use of this book is to learn a new theory from it- Okazaki has done a great job of separately explaining each theory- and discover newer forms of playing through your own creativity.
5. Music Theory for Guitarists: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask by Tom Kolb
Hal Leonard LLC is one of the largest music publishing companies that publish sheet music, songbooks, software, and other related resources for teaching and learning music. Hal Leonard’s Guitar Method is based on years of teaching and includes some best guitar teaching ideas.
Hal Leonard’s Music Theory for Guitarists by Tom Kolb unveils the secrecy of music theory using simple terms and diagrams. This guitar method book is also geared toward intermediate and higher-level players.
Though the publisher claims that the Hal Leonard Guitar Method book is designed for anyone just learning to play guitar but in this case, an absolute beginner guitarist may find it a bit complex and may not be able to keep up so prior knowledge of music should help.
Knowing how music is put together and why it sounds the way it does is just one of the mysteries that is unraveled in this book. Scale construction, intervals, triads, and more are all explained in a clear and concise way that the reader will appreciate.
Many “lightbulb” moments will come to you and you’ll wonder why you haven’t thought of it that way before. If you are not a guitarist and play another musical instrument, this could be the quickest way to transfer your existing knowledge to a guitar.
This is the book to have if you are aspiring to become a real musician. Tom Kolb did a great job of stuffing great information in these 104 pages of unadulterated knowledge in music theory for guitarists. Using plain and simple terms and easy-to-understand diagrams, learning guitar is guaranteed if you will put in the work.
Also, Hal Leonard grants you access to 94 audio files kept in their site library so you can practice along with the examples every best guitar books provide.
6. Guitar Fretboard Workbook 2nd Edition
A very thorough book that fully explains the music concept in a straightforward manner. The focus is on the fretboard where the notes are and how they relate to each other. It covers everything one needs for a rock-solid foundation.
This book will help you grasp the full essence of the guitar and allow you to communicate with other musicians regardless of their instrument.
Guitar Fretboard Workbook deals with music theory and does a commendable job of explaining it well. This is another go-to book that you use bit by bit when you need to go back to old material and refresh your knowledge. It’s a book that you keep handy ready to be referenced at any time.
Breaking down a complex subject and then turning it into an easy-to-understand concept is one of the admirable skills of the author. It’s no surprise as Barrett Tagliarino has been a Musicians Institute instructor in Hollywood since 1989, and was Rock Department Head at Hohner Musikschule in Vienna, Austria. He has honed his teaching skills and applied them to this book.
7. Fretboard Theory (Volume 1) Paperback
Rolling stone magazine hailed guitarist Desi Serna as a “music-theory expert”. He is also the author of the popular “Guitar Theory For Dummies” and “Guitar Rhythm and Technique For Dummies”. This book as the title suggests, focuses on the guitar fretboard and emphasis popular songs.
Fretboard Theory is a guitar theory book that will teach you how to play in the style of pop, rock, acoustic, blues, and many more. It boasts of being the only guitar theory book for guitar in the world that includes important details to hundreds of popular songs.
This is an absolute must to add to any serious guitarist’s library. This is easily one of the most comprehensive guitar books that give a detailed explanation of the principle behind it. Desi Serna has a great way of explaining complex things in a simple and understandable and even relatable way.
This book is a steal and the hours of free online audio instruction and song learning videos are available to supplement the book. Also, free tabs and play-along backing tracks are available too through the instructions in the book.
What Are Some Guitar Theory Books for Beginners?
Though we have already listed the best music theory books for guitar, most of those books are effective only for intermediate or advanced level musicians. Absolute beginners who have no or very little prior music knowledge would be disappointed by following those books and eventually give up after a few days.
Here we are mentioning two best music theory books (written in different aspects) for beginners that will help them in learning basic theory.
1. How To Read Music In 30 Days: Music Theory for Beginners – With Exercises & Online Audio Files
If you want to learn how to read music notation and master fundamental music theory, this is a basic but appropriate music theory book for beginners like you. The book is divided into three sections: rhythm, pitch, and expression. It starts with the most basic stuff and gradually advances to more complex concepts.
The author has emphasized “How To Read Music” but overlooked the method to use that knowledge on actually playing guitar. However, readers can reach the author by email to get an answer to any query that arises from the book.
2. Ultimate Guitar Chords, Scales & Arpeggios Handbook For Beginners & Up
Damon Ferrante is a well-known guitar instructor and music professor who wrote this clear and comprehensive guitar handbook. It is one of the best guitar scale books that includes extensive lessons and exercises on different chords, scales, arpeggios, music theory, and fretboard theory.
The author has addressed fundamental knowledge like finger position, notes on the strings, etc., to explain every chord, scale, arpeggios, and other related guitar lessons. That is easy to grasp for beginners and very effective for applying that knowledge to actual guitar playing, regardless of skill level.
Now that we have listed some of the top music theory books for guitar, let’s answer some of the most asked questions regarding music and guitar theory.
What is Music Theory for Guitar?
According to Wikipedia, music theory is the study of the practices and possibilities of music. As a practical discipline, it encompasses wide-ranging topics from methods to concepts and much more.
Theory for guitar tackles scales and key signatures, intervals, triads, Pentatonic scales, modes, and modal harmony, chord/scale relationships, and many more.
It is frequently referenced in how musicians and composers play and create music. Many cultures dating as far back as Mesopotamia and ancient China produced theories for music through writings that have been documented, providing solid proof that it has existed for thousands of years.
How to Learn Music Theory for Guitar?
The best way to learn guitar music theory is through guitar books that have been written by authorities on the subject. The internet is an alternative source but the proliferation of unqualified “gurus” may only cause more harm than good.
Known experts in this field have spent years of research and actual application that they’ve consolidated and made into guides, handbooks, and best guitar theory books for beginners and advanced guitarists. These are invaluable resources that have helped so many beginners and even professional guitarists for years.
A systematic and comprehensive music concept guide made by true experts can never be surpassed by internet “gurus” who at best can only give piecemeal information. Worse, they can harm the style of guitar playing by providing false concepts and information.
Do You Need to Know or Learn Music Theory to Play the Guitar?
No, as there are guitarists who have learned to play guitar by self-taught or “by-ear” methods. However, one cannot argue that learning the principle of music is a great advantage for all regardless of their level of skills. As the saying goes “knowledge is power” and it is just the same in this area.
How does Music Theory Help a Guitar Player?
Learning music theory helps a guitarist by providing him the rationale behind all concepts about guitar playing. Knowing the right notes, chord progression, pentatonic scale, triads, modes, etc. will make him understand and appreciate music more than not knowing them.
Many players who shun theories initially, and then decided to learn it was thankful that they did. Most of them attribute the vast improvement in the way they approach their music once they’ve understood the concept which they initially thought unnecessary.
Great guitarists who never studied theory for guitars are the exception rather than the norm. It’s hard to argue that gaining extensive knowledge about a particular subject makes you an authority. Music is no exception.
Theory for guitar players gives them a distinct and obvious advantage over those who have no idea about how music is made. Some will say it’s unnecessary, or that it’s only a “waste of time”.
The reality is, some of those who don’t want to learn are intimidated by what they think is a complex matter. Only to find out later on that it’s not as complex after all once they open up their minds.