View Full Version : Book recommendations?

03-25-2003, 05:39 AM
Hey everyone, I know that there are quite a few threads about what to practice and all, but I was wondering if there were any good book recommendations out there. I've been playing for about 1 3/4 years, but I haven't learned theory. The last couple months I've been searching around the internet and learning about intervals, scale and chord construction, etc. but I wanted to get a couple books that would help develop this more precisely. I've looked at The Modern Method for Guitar 1,2,3 but 1)I would like to avoid reading music if possible and 2) the songs (at least in the beginning pages)looked technically simple - I would like something a little more challenging :D I'm also looking for a good technique book that would help improve chops with string-skipping, wide intervals, etc. Thanks a lot!!

Doug McMullen
03-25-2003, 12:47 PM
The best book I've found for starting in theory is "Harmony and Theory" by Keith Wyatt and Carl Shroeder, published by Hal Leonard.

1/2 the book is about standard notation and 1/2 the book is about 'harmony' (the relationships of chords to scales, chord substitutions, etc.). In my opinion the book is clear, concise, and does a nice job of heading off some common misunderstandings before they arise.

There are other bigger more comprehensive books (Mark Levine's Jazz Theory is huge and good) but Harmony and Theory is IMO a really great overview.

1)I would like to avoid reading music if possible

Ummmm, why not avoid all kinds of unnecessary effort and just not play an instrument ? :p

Reading standard notation is not nearly so hard as it seems at first, and it can teach you a great deal about music and about your instrument. You don't have to learn it of course. Plenty of excellent musicians spend some or all of their careers without knowing standard notation. But, honestly, if you do bother with it, you won't regret it. I've never met anyone who said, "jeez, I read music really well, and I regret it... what a waste of time."

The mistake (at least I think it's a mistake) that guitarists make is they think they're supposed to be able to read like an expert sight-reading pianist. Piano has its technical challenges, to be sure, but it is a very reading friendly instrument. Guitar is not. Becoming an expert reader on guitar requires a commitment of blood sweat and tears that just isn't necessary for most guitarists. But reading music well enough that you can, say, pick out the single note melody of a 32 bar standard in a fake book is an acheivable and IMO useful and desireable goal.

good luck, have fun


03-25-2003, 02:00 PM
I thought exactly the same thing a few years ago when I first went through those books. I had been playing for over 10 years, and then there I was playing the most basic stuff at very slow tempos. However, because of the fact that I already had pretty good technique, I was able to go through it a lot faster than a beginner student, and believe me, the pieces in the book get harder as you go along, and depending on how fast you get through the book, it doesn't take too long.

To tell the truth, I don't use sight reading much at all, however, the thing I found the most beneficial about learning how to sight read (I am still learning), was the fact that you are forced to play without looking at your hands on the guitar neck, and that means your hands get more "fretboard smart".

03-25-2003, 03:58 PM
We talked abotu the sight-reading thing in an older thread. There are some things I consider very useful when it comes to being able to sight-read:

- Better communication with other musicians. Not necessarily with other guitarists, but... at one of those trade-shows, either the NAMM or the Messe, I saw Jim Kelly jam live with a sax-player. Jim had quickly written down the head of the song, and they both played the melody unisono, reading it off the paper.
This often is way better than showing someone the melody on your instrument, kinda forcing him to memorize it.

- It sometimes help to better visualize music-theory... stacked thirds etc. If you look at examples in notation, you can kinda SEE the system of that...

- It might help you to be part of different musical projects... if you wanna get a job playing guitar in a musical, you most likely will have to be able to read. I did have to sight-read when I was hired to play guitar in a musical.
And Andy, the drummer of my band, is part of two different musicals, and has to sight-read both of them. Sure, most of the stuff will be memorized rather soon, but he says it helps a lot to have the notes in front of him...
Same goes for working with an orchestra, soundtracks... A few weeks ago, I played some promo-show for a music school, and we didnīt have much time to practise. The bandleader handed me the keyboard notes of the song, and I was able to derive the chords from that ( for me to play ).

- You can walk into a music store, grab notation for any instrument ( piano, violin... ) and play it, or maybe even guess what it sounds like by looking at it. IMHO; thatīs a pretty cool thing.

- One other thing... before I found Powertab, I very much preferred notation rather than TAB. Because, in those internet TABs ( you know, ASCII-based ) or programs like guitar Pro, there are no rhythm indicators in the TAB. So, if you canīt read note values / lengths, you have to know the melody before you play it.
Look at the TAB in my signature... thereīs no indication regarding whether those are sixteenths, sixtuplets, eight notes.

Sorry for rambling, and again, we had a big discussion about sight-reading last year.

IMHO, itīs not vital for playing the instrument, but if you consider those points I stated above, it might be a good idea to work on your sight-reading skills if you wanna be a bit more serious about it

03-25-2003, 09:13 PM
Hey all, thanks for all the replies. Yeah, I can see how being able to read competently could be very beneficial, but at this stage since I don't have much free time I think that I would rather just focus more on direct application of the theory to guitar itself. :p

Doug: Harmony and Theory sounds like pretty much what I'm looking for in terms of the theory aspect. Are there any other recommendations for perhaps more chops-building types of books?

03-25-2003, 10:59 PM
Reading standard notation is not nearly so hard as it seems at first, and it can teach you a great deal about music and about your instrument. You don't have to learn it of course. Plenty of excellent musicians spend some or all of their careers without knowing standard notation. But, honestly, if you do bother with it, you won't regret it. I've never met anyone who said, "jeez, I read music really well, and I regret it... what a waste of time."

Learning any aspect of the instrument is probably not a waste of time, but I can relate a bit to Playmystrat's point. The issue with me is whether my practice time would best be spent learning to read music or on something else. I worked on Leavitt's book for a while, then I stopped. I am about to start again. I really want to learn music theory, and I'm sure the reading will be a big help. In addition, I've decided to start taking my guitar to work so I can play during lunch. That'll give me some extra practice time. Also that practice time will be without distractions since they have music practice rooms where I work (a university). I'm looking forward to starting that.

Doug McMullen
03-26-2003, 01:17 AM
Originally posted by Playmystrat
Are there any other recommendations for perhaps more chops-building types of books?

No books that I can attest to using personally.

My personal story with chops is this: I struggled horribly with my hands for many years ... when I finally overcame my physical difficulties with guitar it was through problem solving I did on my own. It was true self teaching come to think of it. I'm pretty proud of what I accomplished actually.

My own experience boils down to ... playing fluidly/fluently requires 'soft hands' -- a very light touch and very efficient small movements. These things can be trained.

Guitar is A LOT more fun when your hands behave (and aren't in pain).

Hopefully someone on ibreathe can recommend a good source.

Everything Jamey Andreas says about technique makes sense to me. I have NO IDEA if his book is any good. I don't own it and haven't read it.

Don't "practice till your fingers bleed." Don't worry about finger/hand strength (if anything try pressing less hard). DO develop lightness of touch, relaxation and finger independence.

Good luck,


03-26-2003, 09:24 PM
I teach a bit of beginner bass and I always insist on writing out the practice "Homework" in standard notation because it helps provide a visual representation of what's being taught. Also, for beginers, I think it really helps establish a relation between notes, chords, walks, etc. Now, I would also note that most of the things I rely on it for are much more important on bass where someone will look at you and say "Play in Dm," whereas guitarists are usually afforded a little more instruction.

03-27-2003, 02:30 PM
In no particular order:

-Terrifying Technique for guitar (The ultimate source for building chops) by Carl Culppeper.

Hal Leonard publishing, 64 pgs with CD, all in tab.

This book covers everything from alternate picking, sweep picking, legato, intervals, string skipping, different scales, arpeggio shapes, etc, etc. It has around 250 exercises covering pretty much any technique you can think of.


-Speed mechanics for lead guitar by Troy Stetina.

Hal Leonard publishing, 78 pgs with CD, all in tab.

This book, just like the one above, covers pretty much all the techniques for rock/metal lead guitar (sweep, alternate, legato, etc). Also, there are a few transcribed classical pieces.


-Building right hand technique by Bill Bay.

Mel Bay publishing, 130 pgs (no CD or tape), all in tab.

I found this book amazing. It consists of studies arranged from easiest to most difficult. A lot of the studies, are classical, but there are some Celtic influenced pieces. Most of these studies have been used by many classical guitarists, but here they are arranged for pick-style guitar. The studies cover almost any picking combination you will ever come across, from alternate, to sweeping, to cross picking, combination of techniques in the same piece, string skipping, etc, etc. The best thing about this book, is that you are developing your technique through playing real pieces of music, as opposed to just exercises, and the pieces go from easiest to most difficult, so the book is nicely laid out. My right hand technique improved a LOT since I started using this book. Not only my lead technique, but also my ability to play chord picking stuff (Al Di Meola style).

Try any of these books, or all three, and you won't regret it.

01-29-2004, 08:15 AM
hello, have anyone heard or use about this book "art of transcribing"? thx

01-29-2004, 04:33 PM
"Great Pianists on Piano Playing"


This book speaks to many things any instrumentalist would encounter and need to deal with on their path to mastery.

01-29-2004, 04:48 PM
I'll second the "Harmony and Theory" book. It's by the Musicians Institute press, and is worth every penny.

I also have a few books by Berklee, which I wasn't impressed with. It's pretty much just a bunch of old etudes of varying skill levels. I'm not much of a practicer when it comes to that stuff, I'm more of the person who likes to read about it in detail (similar to how Guni wrote the theory articles) with some examples thrown in to illustrate.

I rarely buy books anymore, this site really has everything i need and then tons more...

04-04-2018, 05:37 PM
I'm a guitarist and I worked with two books from Muse-Eek Publishing. The book isn't a lot of fun but it does teach you how to build every chord and where those chords are on the fretboard. Mr. Arnold also answers email, so that was a game changer for me. Sometimes I had a question and sometimes I just needed a sympathetic voice :) I think the main difference between these workbooks and other courses is you have to prove you know the information by filling in work sheets. About a 100 of them if I remember correctly. Answers are in the back of the book so you can proceed without a teacher.

01-01-2019, 11:47 PM
nice books