Free information is the best and worst thing about the internet — if you’re trying to learn a skill, such as playing the guitar, you can find countless Youtube videos that try to teach you guitar chords. However, it’s difficult for anyone to learn a musical instrument from scratch without progressive and structured teaching.
Guitar chord books are the perfect resource for a beginner looking to get started with the guitar on their own. Not only are they written specifically for beginners by credible and qualified teachers and music professionals, but they’re also simple to follow. You are hand-held from the absolute basics to a significant level of music mastery in these guitar lessons. With reference pictures, progressive chapters, you can learn guitar chords all on your own!
We’ve done our research to find the top 5 guitar chord books that are specifically written for beginners such as yourself. We’ll also help you choose the best guitar chord book for you, according to your skill level, preferences, and proficiency.
Our Top 5 Guitar Chord Books
- “The Ultimate Guitar Chord Chart” by Hal Leonard Corporation
- “Guitar Chord Bible” spiral-bound version by Phil Capone
- “Picture Chord Encyclopedia: Photos and Diagrams for Over 2,600 Guitar Chords” by Hal Leonard Corporation
- “Ultimate Guitar Chords, Scales and Arpeggios Handbook” by Damon Ferrante
- “Teach Yourself Visually Guitar” by Charles Kim
1. “The Ultimate Guitar Chord Chart” by Hal Leonard Coporation
This book features:
- All the most-common chords fit on eight total pages of charts.
- You can play all the chords in the top five frets, which is ideal for new players.
- The low price makes it highly affordable.
- When you open the book, it lays flat so that you can read it while playing guitar.
- It includes the keys A, A# and Bb, B, C, C# and Db, D, D# and Eb, F, F# and Gb, G, G# and Ab as well as traditional major and minor chords.
Cons: This book only displays guitar chords without giving any explanations about the specific techniques on how to play them. Additionally, serious students and aspiring professionals wouldn’t like it because it shows more “shortcut” ways to play chords rather than the formal ways that most teachers present chords. Please note that the e-book version can be difficult to read on Kindle devices due to formatting issues.
2. “Guitar Chord Bible” spiral-bound version by Phil Capone
This book features:
- More than 500 fully illustrated chords with photographs showing how to play them
- Compact size fits into most bags
- Tips on playing techniques and most commonly used chord sequences for songwriters
- Explanations of which note forms the “root” of each chord
Cons: This book isn’t the easiest for beginners to understand. It’s also primarily an intermediate book because it doesn’t have the major ninths or augmented and diminished versions of the chords. In terms of learning music theory, this book isn’t a complete guide but rather a short introduction to those core concepts.
3. “Picture Chord Encyclopedia: Photos and Diagrams for Over 2,600 Guitar Chords” by Hal Leonard Corporation
This book features:
- 12 different keys of chords, which makes a total of 2,640 guitar chords.
- Contains information about basic fingering practices and how to play barre chords, partial chords and other variations.
- Big pages with only two chords per page for easier reading.
- Standard music notations for each chord to help composers.
- Both photographs and fretboard charts are available to illustrate every chord.
Cons: Some guitar players wish the book was larger, i.e. more like 8.5 by 11 inches, so that it would be a little easier to see while practicing your guitar. it’s small, so sometimes the diagrams are hard to read while playing. For people who are just learning how to play their very first guitar, they may feel overwhelmed by all of the information in this book. Therefore, if you just want a quick-start chord chart with the easiest possible chords, then you might be better off with a chord-chart app.
4. “Ultimate Guitar Chords, Scales and Arpeggios Handbook” by Damon Ferrante
This book features:
- 15 free videos that you can play along with to learn how to improvise and sound more professional.
- More than 200 lessons to help you identify chords and understand how they work in a song.
- Major chords along with their matching scales, theory and arpeggios.
- Minor chords along with their corresponding scales, theory and arpeggios.
- Blues and pentatonic scales.
- Advanced concepts, chromatic scales and exotic scales.
Cons: If you just want a book with a list of chord diagrams, then you’re better off getting a more simple chord-diagram book. This isn’t the quickest reference guide, but rather it’s an in-depth reference to educate you further.
5. ‘Teach Yourself Visually Guitar’ by Charles Kim
Pros: Don’t let the title of the book throw you off! ‘Teach yourself visually guitar’ is a great resource for anyone starting out as a beginner learning guitar. Instead of relying upon ear music and muscle memory, this book focuses on music theory and music reading to help you master guitar chords right away.
This is a complete reference guide for someone looking to become a professional guitar player. You won’t have to invest in any other resources on music theory if you choose to buy this chord book.
The author of the book, Charles Kim, happens to be a guitar teacher himself. He’s a part of the faculty in the Old Town School of Folk Music, which is the biggest and most reputed community college for music in the United States. It’s located in Chicago. Charles Kim doesn’t just teach guitar, he also teaches bass and music theory. Additionally, Charles Kim teaches songwriting! This incredible experience comes through in this chord book.
This reference guide has plenty of guitar exercises for beginners to learn music theory. Staying true to the title, the chord book uses a lot of visuals to get the point across. Expect to find plenty of pictures that clearly depict basic chords and more advanced chord theory as you’re on your way to guitar mastery.
The edition also comes with online audio to ensure that you’re following the basic chords correctly.
This book features:
- There are plenty of photos and graphics for extra clarity.
- A glossary of chords for easy reference at the end of the book.
- Included suggestions for practice routine.
- It starts at the basics.
- Also helps in reading tablature.
- Along with scales for lead/electric guitarists.
Cons: While it’s great that this book is accessible for everyone, especially beginners, it can also get a bit frustrating. That’s because the pace of learning in this guitar handbook can be quite slow and make it difficult to skim through if you’re catching on quickly. Each guitar chord is explained in a lot of detail, forcing you to ensure you have every guitar chord learned by the end of it!
If you’re not a total beginner and are trying to give this a second shot, you might find the slow pace in this guitar book a hindrance and would prefer a quick and easy introduction. Look for a guitar book that’s not so heavily focused on mastering the basics, so that you can move on to intermediate guitar exercises.
What You Need To Know Before You Buy A Guitar Chord Book
Reading our reviews on the best guitar chord books will definitely highlight the features of those books, but it won’t tell you which guitar book is the best for you. That’s because you’re a unique learner, and the key to finding the best guitar chord book is to understand your own preferences and requirements.
Let’s get into the different factors that you should take into consideration before you choose a guitar chord book. That way, you can make an informed decision and have the most comfortable and exciting learning experience.
Level of Proficiency
The term ‘beginner’ is still a relatively broad term. There’s a difference between someone who doesn’t know how to hold a guitar, and an adult trying to get back in touch with guitar chords after many years. They’re both beginners but will have completely different requirements in terms of the kind of learning they need.
Similarly, intermediate and advanced players will also benefit from a beginner’s book for reference but will need something more for a solid understanding. If you have a music-reading background but are still an adult beginner, we suggest that you opt for a guitar chord book with a slightly larger scope. This will help you skim through the basics and spend more time on advanced techniques.
Beginner chord books are also great for intermediate guitarists and advanced guitarists. This is because many musicians learned to play haphazardly and picked up a lot of chord progressions by ear! These musicians can later struggle because their foundations aren’t solid. If you are one such musician, then a beginner chord book can teach you chords that you never bothered to learn. This will undoubtedly strengthen your musical knowledge and help you gradually build upon your regular practice.
Beginner guitar chord books are a hands-on guide for all skill levels.
Everyone has a different learning style. Most of us are either visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners. Here’s a great resource to understand your learning style.
Most visual learners would assume that they learn best from an online video since it’s all visual, but guitar chord books are actually much better for visual learners. This is because these guitar chord books are generally full of clear pictures of the chords but also have the structure of a course to go along with.
Auditory learners can opt for a guitar chord book that has an audio track to go along with. Book #5 on our list, Teach Yourself Visually Guitar by Charles Kim is one such book. You can practice note reading while also listening to the sound of each chord being played to help with learning.
If you found out that you’re a kinesthetic learner, the general advice is to lean on your muscle memory. You can practice habits and read music while constantly using your guitar.
Genre of Music
It doesn’t matter too much which guitar you start learning on. You can always shift from regular guitar to modern guitar or even electric guitar as you get better with guitar theory. However, understanding which kinds of music you enjoy can greatly improve the learning process.
Learning guitar chords can be quite dry if you’re not constantly trying your hand at playing your favorite songs. Being able to perfectly play the chords to your favorite song is a great confidence booster and will help you keep going strong as you tackle the other music examples in guitar books.
That’s why we recommend that you get familiar with the kind of music you aim to play. This will give you a goal to work towards. Pro tip: once you’ve learned the chords, try playing along audio tracks to refine your technique.
Learning how to play the guitar and chord theory is supposed to be fun — not a chore. With our list of the best guitar chord books for beginners, we hope you found the perfect book to kickstart your music journey. You will probably encounter roadblocks along the way, but it will definitely be worth it in the end. Try to remember the reason why you decided to learn how to play the guitar in the first place, and you’ll never stop being motivated. Good luck!