Category Archives: Books

Guitar book buying tips

At this time of ear people often browse local book stores looking for last minute Christmas gifts, and maybe a music-related book is a possibility. You might also be searching for a guitar book to complement your guitar practice, advance your skills, or expand your knowledge? Here are my eight tips for beginner and intermediate guitar books:

Beginner guitar books should:

  1. Cover multiple styles
  2. Introduce the basics, not go too in depth
  3. Describe various techniques without going into advanced details
  4. Show you how to use some simple theory e.g. counting beats

Advancing on introductory books, intermediate guitar books should also:

  1. Train your “guitar ears
  2. Include oral drills so you can sing as well as play guitar
  3. Go more in depth into theory behind guitar
  4. Coach you in sightreading

I’m reluctant to pitch certain books since peoples preferences vary a lot. What works for one person might be too casual a writing style, too anglicised, or not visual enough for another. But for what it’s worth I find Solo Guitar Playing to be an excellent introductory guitar book for beginners, even for those who might not yet know how to read music. I liked it so much I recently bought a fresh copy for myself! If you like that and want to continue learning classical guitar there is an intermediate version by the same author.

A black paperback textbook and two of my plectra on a wooden table
A suggested beginner’s guitar book.

What guitar books would you recommend?

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Resources to learn guitar

What’s the most effective way to learn guitar? Here are my top three tips.

  1. Little by little

    Often we start out with big dreams, we say things like “I want to be like Jimmy Hendrix”. This is great, but don’t make the mistake of expecting to achieve this overnight. Keep the goal in mind, but know that it will take work to get there. Plan how you’re going to get there in bitesize chunks.

  2. Little and often

    Make sure you’re always making progress by practicing daily, or as close to every day as you can. Half an hour each day is much better than a whole afternoon on a Saturday. If you’re finding something difficult try a little bit, then put down the instrument as pick it up tomorrow. If you achieve what you want to, revisit it and improve on it in your next practice.

  3. A little a lot

    Okay, my use of the word “little” fell down a bit here, but I had to repeat it because this point is about small, repetitive chunks. Once you can do something, say you’ve learnt a new scale, then by all means go away feeling happy, give yourself a small reward. Make sure you play it again soon, and repeatedly into the future. This will train your body and mind, getting the musical patterns into your muscle memory.

To avoid boredom when you’re revisiting things, try and mix it up a little. You could add in a solo improvisation, strum instead of pick (or vice versa), include a crescendo up to your favourite line, change the words in lines of a song, play an arpeggio instead of a scale, mix the verses of different songs, etc. What should you include in your guitar practices? Ideally a full body workout (kind of): This blog contains great ideas for range of things you should include in your practices.

Putting this into practice

If you’re new to guitar, forging a new habit with your playing, or just starting to plan your lessons this might all seem overwhelming. Firstly, break to job down into little chunks, and get experienced guidance. Ask your guitar teacher to help you plan your practices between lessons. Get your hands on good written material. Your local guitar shop might stock some recommended books, and you might also like to try these:

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