On a whim a few weeks ago, I decided to check whether NetFlix had guitar instructional videos. True to the notion of The Long Tail, they do. It’s a great way to see a number of people try to teach a number of styles.
While my ratio of playing guitar vs. buying books about playing the guitar has definitely improved towards the former, I do occasionally buy a book if it fills in gaps in either what I know now or hope to learn. I’ve added four (4) new books to my evolving guitar reading list and I’ve marked them as such below. I’ve put the books in roughly the order I think you should read them, though your opinion may be different.
- The Guitar Handbook by Ralph Denyer
This is the master bible: a lot of information about guitars and music theory and even information on how to fix things when they break.
- NEW Basic Blues Guitar by Darryl Winston
This short, inexpensive book won’t tell you everything you need to know, but its direct style will give you a better understanding of some of the basic techniques used in the blues.
- NEW Practical Pentatonics by Askold Buk
This focuses on the pentatonic scale without a lot of the other theory and technique that a more general book might introduce. Since the pentatonics lie underneath much of rock and blues, it’s a good way of going deep without going too wide. That is, you will learn one thing well, instead of many things … not so well.
- NEW Music Reading for Guitar: The Complete Method by David Oakes
This is a systematic way of learning both how to read music and how to play music on the guitar. Overall, this is very useful though I have noticed that there are some inadvertent forward references: sometimes you need to know something that is discussed in detail a few pages after it is first used. I still recommend it though.
- Blues You Can Use by John Ganapes
This is the best book I have found about learning to play the blues, and there are three follow-on books to augment your education.
- How to Write Songs on Guitar: A Guitar-Playing and Songwriting Course
Even if you don’t plan to write songs, this book is an excellent introduction to basic music theory and how all those songs you listen to were constructed. You’ll become a much more attentive listener and also better understand why some things just sound right, or perhaps familiar.
- The Dictionary of Strum & Picking Patterns by Fred Sokolow
This book is worth it only for the CD, though it is a great book. As you listen to the CD you’ll recognize parts of hundreds of songs you have heard, and that helps give the new player hope. It might be hard to find, but grab it if you see it.
- NEW The Song Writing Sourcebook by Rikky Rooksby
Very deep reference guide for putting chords together to create songs, with examples. Some of the material in How to Write Songs on Guitar: A Guitar-Playing and Songwriting Course was taken from this, so get this second book if you want to expand what you know about harmony or just need ideas for writing songs.