The 7 Best Guitar Music Theory Books for Guitarists (2022)

Every guitarist, amateur or professional, needs to dip their toes in the world of music theory to expand their musical horizons. While there are many online resources, music theory books are still one of the best ways to learn music theory and understand your guitar better.

Understanding just some of the basics of music theory will make you a better player as you learn why you play what you play. It will also help you grow as a musician and write your own music.

With each of these books, you will learn music theory from the perspective of a guitarist and then apply this knowledge to your fretboard using charts and/or diagrams. You will learn about different scales, harmony, musical forms, guitar chords, and more.

1. Music Theory for Guitarists: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask (Guitar Method)

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One of the greatest music publishers, Hal Leonard LLC, helped many musicians in the process of learning music theory in the simplest way possible. The company offers songbooks, theory books, software, sheet music, and many other products for musicians to grow.

With years of experience in teaching, the company released “Music Theory for Guitarists: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask (Guitar Method)”, a great guitar theory book for guitarists to learn and understand many concepts easily with simple terms and diagrams. The book is aimed at intermediate to advanced players, as some concepts would be too confusing for beginners.

Some of the covered topics in the book are intervals, scale construction, triads, and general harmony. All of them are explained in the simplest way possible and applied to the fretboard with diagrams.

The book consists of 106 pages and also has 94 online audio files available on the website for the readers to practice, along with the examples shown in the book. There are music examples, scales, modes, chords, and ear training on the files, which help you to understand many concepts in the book better. The book is available on paperback and kindle.

2. The Guitarist's Music Theory Book: The Most Useful Guitar Music Theory Book

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Another great resource for guitar music theory is “The Guitarist’s Music Theory Book: The Most Useful Guitar Music Theory Book” by Peter Vogl. It is the first guitar music theory book written by a guitarist for guitarists.

The book harmonizes academic and street-smart theories to make things practical but deep for guitarists to understand their instrument and how to play it better. Some of the covered topics are scales, chords, chord progressions, rhythms, intervals, as well as the Nashville Number System.

The book uses many diagrams and simple explanations, which makes the book easier to follow and understand. As it takes things from the very beginning, this book is great for beginners and intermediate players, but high-level guitarists who have the basics of music theory may not find much useful information in it.

3. The Practical Guide to Modern Music Theory for Guitarists: The complete guide to music theory from a guitarist's point of view

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Written by Joseph Alexander, who is famous for his many books on guitar music theory and techniques, this book is one of the best resources you can find to learn music theory for guitar. It is written for guitarists who have fundamentals of music theory to take their understanding to the next level.

In order to get the most from the book, you will need to know the basics already. So, I would not recommend this book to absolute beginners. It follows different exercises step by step, explaining the concept in detail.

There are many concepts explained in the book, with a heavy emphasis on scales, arpeggios, and harmony. It also shows some solos and how they are created to unlock the concepts behind the compositions. In 112 pages, you will learn most of what you need to compose a song, improvise on a scale, build chord progressions, and more.

Just like some other books on the list, this one also comes with some audio examples for you to practice with and hear what you have learned through the book.

4. Guitar Fretboard Workbook 2nd Edition

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As the name suggests, “Guitar Fretboard Workbook 2nd Edition” focuses on all you need to know about the fretboard. It explains in detail the fretboard structure, chord structures, modes, and relationships of chords in a straightforward manner.

The author takes complex ideas and turns them into easy-to-understand concepts to apply to your fingerboard. The author, Barret Tagliarino, is an experienced instructor who has been teaching in Hollywood since 1989, which is the reason for his admirable way of simplifying these concepts for guitarists.

The book follows the programs of the Musician Institute. So, it has a technical approach but in a straightforward way. You will learn about the notes on the fretboard, how they relate to each other, how to build chords and scales, increase your familiarity with the fretboard, and help you easily communicate with other musicians.

It uses many diagrams and shapes to make things easier to understand. Also, you do not have to know how to read sheet music to practice with the book. It is a great book for beginners as well as experienced guitarists and can be a great reference guide to refer to from time to time.

5. The Guitar Handbook: A Unique Source Book for the Guitar Player - Amateur or Professional, Acoustic or Electric, Rock, Blues, Jazz, or Folk

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The guitar handbook is a special guitar guide and one of the most complete guitar handbooks out there. Written by Ralph Denyer, the book explains everything in detail, from chords, scales, and guitar concepts to the history of the guitar, biographies of famous guitarists, and how guitars work and are made.

Through 256 pages, you will learn mostly everything you need to know about guitar. It will teach you different techniques for different styles of music, music theory for building chords and scales, progressions, composition skills, and more. It mainly focuses on rock, blues, folk, and jazz style playing and techniques which go hand in hand with musical theory.

The chapters and explanations are quite concise and straightforward for readers to get more motivated without feeling confused. Although the techniques taught in the book are more suited for at least intermediate-level players, it is a great reference guide for any guitarist out there.

6. Fretboard Theory

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Famous for his other books like “Guitar Theory For Dummies,” Desi Serna is considered an expert in music theory, and his book “Fretboard Theory” is a great guide to getting more familiar and deeper into the fretboard.

The book focuses on different styles like rock, blues, pop, folk, acoustic and more while explaining different concepts of guitar music theory and teaching how to play various popular songs.

You will learn about major scale and minor scale patterns for melodies, solos, and riffs, chord progressions, different modes like Ionian, Dorian, and Phrygian, different intervals, as well as chord tones and extensions along with different songs and techniques to apply to your guitar.

Learning how these theoretical approaches apply to popular songs gives you a great way of exploring and understanding your instrument.

Another plus is that the book comes with hours of online material, including audio lessons and examples, backing tracks to practice with, song lessons, and tabs. You can also purchase the 33-hour video series, which is the video lesson form of the book, from the author’s website.

7. The Guitar Grimoire: A Compendium of Formulas for Guitar Scales and Modes

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The Guitar Grimoire is a comprehensive chord, scales, and modes encyclopedia. Thanks to its thousands of diagrams, graphs, and charts, it is an amazing resource to refer to whenever you need to find chords or scales information.

This book might be ideal for you if you want to learn more about and practice scales and arpeggios. The explanations are quite easy to understand, and the structure is easy to follow. You can increase the range of your shredding, improvising, and overall creativity with the different techniques and scales shown in the book.

The Guitar Grimoire is suitable for most guitarists, from beginners to experienced players. As it is an encyclopedia-like book, it is a great handbook to have on your table.

Do you need Music Theory knowledge to learn to play the Guitar?

You do not need to learn music theory to play guitar as many guitarists play that way. However, music theory helps you understand why you play what you play, which is a great addition to your skills and overall playing capability. Music theory widens your musical perspective.

What are the benefits of learning Music Theory for Guitar?

When you learn music theory, you begin to understand how songs, melodies, and solos are composed, which gives you more depth in your playing. You also need it to improvise or compose solos, melodies, or entire songs. It helps you a lot when you are playing solo or with a band.

Summary

Music theory is quite important for any musician and helps guitarists to play better and more consciously. It is a great addition to your knowledge to get over yourself as a guitarist. Luckily, the best guitar theory books apply that knowledge and wisdom to the fretboard and strings for guitarists to take what they need from the large ocean of music theory.

Berk Öztuna is a handpan player, percussionist, and guitarist. He has been playing multiple instruments over the last 10 years. He started his music career as a guitarist, playing with several bands before putting his main focus into playing the handpan.

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