Recommended reading for guitarists

These are some of the books I’ve enjoyed reading and learning from over the years. Each of them has been an education to me in some form or other; ranging from technical aspects of music to more general life skills. I highly recommend each of them.

If you want to give any of them a try you can click the book image to go through to the item listing on Amazon.

Songwriting secrets of The BeatlesThe Songwriting Secrets of The Beatles – Dominic Pedlar

This book is a pleasure to read. Beautifully written and covers a great deal of music theory with numerous examples from one of the greatest pop bands in history.


Tunesmith – Jimmy WebbTunesmith – Jimmy Webb

A fascinating insight into the process of songwriting by one of America’s great songwriters. Jimmy goes so far as to take the brave step of writing a song within the pages of the book.


How To Write Songs on Guitar – Rikki RooksbyHow To Write Songs on Guitar – Rikki Rooksby

Another excellent book that systematically covers a vast range of chord progressions, song structures, rhythms, and more, all with numerous examples throughout.


Songwriters on Songwriting – Paul Zollo

Songwriters on Songwriting – Paul Zollo

This is a collection of interviews conducted by Paul Zollo with more than fifty of some of the world’s best songwriters, including Bob Dylan, Donald Fagen, Mark Knopfler, Lenny Kravitz, Paul Simon, Frank Zappa, Brian Wilson and Michael Stipe.

Revolution in the Head - Ian MacDonald

Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties – Ian MacDonald

A seminal piece of musical journalism detailing how virtually every Beatles song was created and recorded.


Harmony and Voice Leading – Aldwell Schachter

Harmony and Voice Leading – Aldwell Schachter

A heavy weight study of everything in classical music from basic concepts of theory and harmony to advanced dissonance and chromaticism. It’s not cheap but has a colossal amount of information. Notation throughout.


AB Guide to Music Theory pt 1 & 2 – Eric Taylor

A good companion for anyone studying classical grades 1-8. Pt 1 deals with theory covered in grades 1-5, and pt 2 cover the higher grades. Notation is used throughout.

Twenty Studies for the Guitar

Twenty Studies for the Guitar

20 of classical guitarist Fernando Sor’s greatest studies, selected by Andres Segovia. The pieces range from about grade 6 standard to beyond grade 8. Notation only, not tab.


Bounce – Matthew Syed

Bounce – Matthew Syed

A fascinating look at Syed calls ‘the myth of talent and the power of practice’. Syed details numerous examples of supposed ‘natural talents’ (including Mozart) and shows how in each case it was hard work and practice that overwhelmingly contributed their achievements.


Modern Reading Text in 4/4 – Louis BellsonModern Reading Text in 4/4 – Louis Bellson

A book of nothing but rhythms. Beginning with the simplest of quarter and eighth note rhythms, Bellson gradually introduces subdivisions, triplets, ties and dotted notes. An excellent resource for developing your rhythm reading skills.


Reading Studies for Guitar - William G. LevittReading Studies for Guitar – William G. Levitt

Sight-reading again but the opposite of Louis Bellson’s book. This book deals almost exclusively with pitch, notes and positions on the fretboard with little rhythmic variation at all.


Effortless Mastery – Kenny WernerEffortless Mastery – Kenny Werner

A book that looks at the psychological side of performing music. Werner discusses the hang-ups and insecurities that get in the way, and provides meditative exercises to overcome them.


Bebop Licks for Guitar – Les Wise

Bebop Licks for Guitar – Les Wise

A dictionary of melodic jazz lines for just about every chord and progression that you could ever need.


The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook – Bobby Owsinski

The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook – Bobby Owsinski

A how-to of mixing covering everything from EQing and panning, to compression and delay. The book also includes enlightening interviews with several top sound engineers.


Broken Music - StingBroken Music – Sting

A very open and quite humble autobiography from Sting about his early life and attempts to make a living in the music industry.



Chronicles - Bob DylanChronicles – Bob Dylan

The first volume of Bob Dylan’s autobiography. A fascinating insight into the life of one of the world’s great songwriters.



Long Hard Road out of Hell – Brian Warner

This is the disarmingly frank autobiography of Brian Warner aka ‘Marilyn Manson’. Warner is intelligent, perceptive and hides nothing, from his school days right through to his meteoric rise to fame in the music industry.


The Mind Map Book - Tony Buzan

The Mind Map Book – Tony Buzan

Mind Maps are a fantastic method for organising and remembering information of any kind. Invented by Tony Buzan, I have found Mind Maps to be invaluable when planning projects; musical or otherwise.


Getting Things Done – David Allen

Getting Things Done – David Allen

Nothing to do with music, but an excellent resource for working more efficiently and effectively. Allen’s book is a comprehensive system of organising and dealing with all the ‘stuff’ in your life such as work, chores, emails, letters, events, meetings, information, and more. Although it takes time to implement Allen’s systems, this book really could change your life for the better.

If you have any suggestions for more recommended reading for guitarists I’d like to hear from you. Drop me an email or a tweet.

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photo credit: Martin Gommel via photopin cc