Music theory is universal to all Western instruments. However, even though chords, scales, intervals, and other musical concepts are constructed the same for all instruments, you’ll undoubtedly want something that is specifically designed for guitar.
The best theoretical books for guitar will always impart the knowledge you need while also demonstrating how these ideas can be applied particularly to the fretboard. In this article we will discuss these books in more detail.
Does Music Theory Hinder Musical Creativity?
Even without knowledge of theory, someone can learn how to play the guitar and yet excel in their field. It’s never too late to start learning music theory, in my opinion, and it can only benefit you.
Sure i hear people say that music theory can hinder your musical creativity. But, this only happens when you’re in the early days of learning music theory. Mainly, because you’re studying and not playing or writing original music.
Overall, music theory will expand your horizons.
Imagine that you hear a sound/style that you want to incorporate into one of your songs. How do you replicate this sound into your music without music theory… Music theory can really help with this.
Don’t Rely On Music Theory
So, yes as discussed above, music theory can really help you but at the same time you don’t want to become too reliant on it. For example, you can learn a simple scale and using your creative genius you can expand on this and create something amazing just from something really simple.
The trap people usually fall into is that they will learn hundreds of scales but they struggle to create something melodic and musical. You need to first learn the concept and then you need to learn how to apply it through either trial and error, or just experiment over different backing tracks and chord progressions.
Theory is used as a guide mainly to achieve voicings and styles but it’s through your intuition of applying the theory where you will become a better guitarist.
…Now, with that out of the way, let me discuss some of the music theory books
1. The CAGED System for Guitar: A Fretboard Mastery Method for Lead and Solo Guitarists
So, the CAGED system is the most powerful tool in any guitarists arsenal. This is because you don’t need to remember the complex scale constructions for each key. All you need to do is remember simple patterns.
This is why my number 1 recommendation is this book. To get a feel for what the CAGED System is you can also read my blog where i go into alot of the music theory behind this.
In short, you will master the fretboard using the CAGED system. This includes scales, modes, chords, arpeggios. This is most ideal for people like me that just want to play in any key and understand the correct notes to hit.
You’ll learn how to use the CAGED method to unlock your guitar fretboard and get over the fretboard “roadblocks” that keep the majority of guitar players from ever completely mastering the guitar neck in this method book (which also includes demonstration videos and backing tracks). You will learn how to apply the CAGED method to the four most important guitar scales that every guitarist should know: the minor pentatonic, major pentatonic, major scale, and natural minor scale, as well as arpeggio shapes for the major7, dominant7, minor7, and minor7b5. I’ll also show you how to apply what you’ve learned to master other crucial guitar scales including the blues scale, minor6 pentatonic, and the Dorian, Lydian, and Mixolydian modes.
To aid with the development of your guitar solos and soloing vocabulary, the CAGED System for Guitar provides you with 40 sample guitar licks and video demonstrations. Additionally, you will receive detailed practise plans, guitar exercises, and “speed learning” methods to help you learn the fretboard in a fraction of the time it takes most other guitarists.
You’ll learn the following in The CAGED System for Guitar:
Use these five CAGED chord shapes to organise and, at last, comprehend your guitar fretboard. For a strong fretboard foundation, learn how to memorise these fast and simply using “speed learning” strategies, circle of fifths drills, and “visualisation” tactics.
How to “construct” scale forms and patterns based on CAGED chord shapes for unwavering proficiency and assurance on the fretboard! By using this technique, you may finally play guitar freely by finding a form for every scale, in any key, wherever on the fretboard!
There are 40 sample CAGED licks that show you how to progress from playing scale shapes to playing savage licks and solos all over the fretboard. You can expand your soloing vocabulary and begin using each of the CAGED scale shapes like a pro with the help of these licks, which demonstrate the tastiest bends, double-stops, and scale runs (practice is required!).
How to generate countless fantastic lick and soloing ideas. To improve your soloing vocabulary, lick library, and soloing skills, use the strategies and practise methods outlined in the “Vocab Accelerator” chapter. Learn the precise fretboard exercises to employ and follow step-by-step practise routines to effectively incorporate everything demonstrated into your guitar playing style.
2. Music Theory for Guitarists: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask
The Hal Leonard is the producer of a wide range of music publications, particularly those that teach total novices how to play the guitar. Despite having a variety of authors for each type of book, they always provide high quality and have a solid reputation for assisting beginners in beginning their guitar journey.
This particular book on guitar theory was written by Tom Kolb, and although it wasn’t my first book on the topic or even a Hal Leonard resource, I read it and felt that it was a must-have for guitarists of all skill levels because of the author’s ability to succinctly and simply describe the principles.
The book I borrowed when I initially started studying music theory was extremely complicated and not written for guitarists. I didn’t learn any examples from the fretboard like you would in this book because it was more of a general music theory textbook for all instruments.
I believe that making newcomers to music theory understand these new concepts requires both readability and the availability of pertinent examples. Basically, you want a resource that teaches you the foundations you need to know, such scales and harmony, without being oppressive or too confusing to follow along with when you practise, as it’s normal for people to be intimidated by music theory at first.
Additionally, this book includes audio examples, as do the best theory books for guitar. To avoid the need to insert a disc, Hal Leonard posts their illustrations online rather than on a CD, allowing you to follow along with your book wherever you are.
3. The Guitarist’s Music Theory Book: The Most Useful Guitar Music Theory Book
This book on music theory is a great resource for beginners, but intermediate and advanced guitarists can also benefit from it. This is due to the fact that while the Hal Leonard book covers a lot of the same basic material, this theory book goes into further detail about a few issues.
The main example that comes to mind is that while both of these teach you how to make chords, particularly triads, Peter Vogl’s The Guitarist’s Music Theory Book expands on these concepts by describing more complicated harmonies and how to use them.
For a more advanced guitarist who wants to deepen their understanding of harmony, the information on reduced, augmented, and suspended chords as well as how to construct chords from the harmonic minor scale may not seem very useful to a beginning music theory student. Knowing this is extremely important if you’re interested in studying jazz theory in the future.
This book also includes online audio examples to help you study, as well as a section on ear training to improve your listening skills. I wholeheartedly endorse this one if you’re a real go-getter who intends to study music theory seriously and go beyond the fundamentals.
4. The Practical Guide to Modern Music Theory for Guitarists: The complete guide to music theory from a guitarist’s point of view
What makes The Practical Guide To Modern Music Theory For Guitarists stand out from the competition given that it contains everything you would expect from one of the top guitar theory books?
Not much, but because of the author’s communication style, I definitely recommend it. As I previously indicated, I believed that this was crucial when learning music theory from start. I admire Joseph Alexander’s approach to writing his book as well. He gives the example that although some people are knowledgeable about music theory, they are unable to apply it or explain it to others.
He compares it to how while everyone is aware of colours, if someone asked you to describe the colour “blue,” you wouldn’t be able to do so until you had it on your palette. Here, your tools are the vocabulary and theoretical ideas of music. In light of this, he provides you with sound techniques that let you efficiently and realistically apply what you are learning. If you want to perform the major scale and its modes against a chord progression, it is especially helpful to understand the contexts of these scales.
And finally, Joseph Alexander is quite approachable. He acknowledges that you might not comprehend something right away, but he allows you to email him so that he can try to help you if you are still having trouble. This, in my opinion, is quite cool, and it makes Joseph Alexander and his book stand out from the other guitar music theory books available.
To recap, the best guitar books on music theory that I’ve checked out were:
- Caged System
- Hal Leonard’s Music Theory For Guitarists by Tom Kolb
- The Guitarist’s Music Theory Book by Peter Vogl
- The Practical Guide To Modern Music Theory For Guitarists by Joseph Alexander
You can learn a lot about how music theory operates by choosing any one of these three, and I believe you will be doing your musical education a great service if you choose at least one of them.