Best jazz guitar books

Best Jazz Guitar Books - Buyer's Guide

The world of jazz guitar books can be a daunting and overwhelming experience for the beginning guitarist. There are literally thousands of books on jazz guitar, many with similar content and information.

Some books are better suited to learning chords, while others are designed to enhance reading skills, still others are meant to teach improvisation concepts. Some books attempt to cover all of these bases. Some of the most useful are collections of transcribed solos and etudes.

Fortunately for you, I have been studying jazz guitar for 15 years and have practiced and taught from many of the best jazz guitar books available on the market.

Whether your focus is developing a strong sense of rhythm, building your improvisational skills, mastering a wide range of chord voicings, progressions, and substitutions, or understanding the theory that ties all of it together, you can use this list of the best jazz guitar books to help guide your path!

1 - Chord Chemistry by Ted Green

Ted Greene’s Chord Chemistry is something of a rite of passage for jazz guitarists. Greene’s intense understanding and mastery of harmony and chords on the guitar fretboard, coupled with his extensive and exhaustive documentation of his discoveries will provide you with a lifetime of knowledge to digest.

Chord Chemistry is one of those guitar books you will always want on your shelf to revisit when you are needing some fresh inspiration. You are guaranteed to find a new chord voicing you have never considered!

However, the sheer amount of information presented in this book can be a little overwhelming. It is best to work through it slowly. Grab one new chord shape, process it and learn a few ways to apply it. Otherwise, the sheer amount of information will force you to forget!

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2 - The Advancing Guitarist by Mick Goodrick

The advancing guitarits by Mick Goodrick is an excellent book if you are interested in breaking open and understanding the fretboard on a deeper level. This book is not for the faint of heart, but it is not too difficult to work through if you give it the proper time and attention.

This book covers many topics related to voice-leading, scales patterns, harmonics, and guitar technique. It is a great choice if you are an intermediate guitarist with some knowledge of music theory and you are looking to enhance and develop your skills to a new level.

You will learn to understand to fretboard horizontally and diagonally as well as vertically.

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3 - Creative Chordal Harmony For Guitar By Mick Goodrick

Another fascinating book by Mick Goodrick is Creative Chordal Harmony for Guitar: Using Generic Modality Compression. This book builds off some of the chord concepts from The Advancing Guitarist and develops them into a unique and interesting system for chords on the guitar.

This is an advanced book that is only presented in standard notation without tablature, so you need to know how to read music to really absorb the information. But, if you can make it through, you will develop an interesting and contemporary chord sound.

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4 - Fundamentals of the Guitar by Miles Okazaki

Without a doubt, Fundamentals of the Guitar by Miles Okazaki is the most fascinating guitar book I have ever read. This book is the best and I recommend you buy it right now. It will blow your mind.

The book is divided into two sections, Pitch and Rhythm. Okazaki dissects nearly every possible way to play pitches on the guitar, beginning with a great discussion of the standard tuning system followed by the harmonic series and an encyclopedia of every three note voicing.

The Rhythm section is equally fascinating. It includes a section of drum rudiments notated as picking patterns, several interesting rhythmic etudes and practice pieces, and a great section of polyrhythms. I practice out of this book every single day and I suggest you do as well!

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5 - Rhythms Complete by Dr Charles Colin and Bugs Bower

While not a book dedicated exclusively to the guitar, Rhythms Complete by Dr. Charles Colin and Bugs Bower is one of the best method books for learning to read complex and syncopated rhythms. The book follows a progressive method, and by the end, you will be able to successfully sight read the sort of highly syncopated rhythms common in bebop and beyond.

The ability to sight read melodies and chords in jazz music is a highly prized skill. It is also one that guitarists are known to lack. Rhythms Complete by Dr. Charles Colin and Bugs Bower will get your reading chops up to par. I have been through the book numerous times myself and with my students and can confidently say that you would benefit greatly from reading this book.

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6 - Melodic Rhythms for Guitar by William Leavitt

Melodic Rhythms for Guitar by William Leavitt is another excellent method book for developing fluid reading skills on the guitar. A staple of guitar programs in college and university level jazz departments, this book is a standard way to study rhythm and reading for guitarists.

You will be doing yourself a favor if you read through this book. Although it is definitely not the most interesting or fun music, it will help you quickly achieve the goal of developing your sight reading abilities.

The book includes single note and harmonized studies and a number of duets as well. It is worth your time to practice through this book. If you are already a decent reader, you should make it through without too much trouble! Pick up a guitar specifically for jazz music and this book, and you'll be on the right track to becoming a jazz guitarist!

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7 - Daily Exercises in the Melodic Minor & Harmonic Minor Modes by Barry Galbraith

Barry Galbraith’s Daily Exercises in the Melodic Minor & Harmonic Minor Modes is another classic rite of passage for many jazz guitarists. Barry Galbraith was a professional guitarist and educator active from 1940 until about 1960. He was an active studio musician and performed with a number of jazz legends including Miles Davis and Gil Evans.

Galbraith’s book is a collection of exercises in the melodic and harmonic minor modes. The book covers all seven modes of each scale in all twelve keys. It is a great book to work through and will expand your technique in numerous and beneficial ways. He has a number of other similar exercise books in the series, all of which are worth checking out!

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8 - 42 Studies for Violin by Rodolphe Kreutzer

An effective way to develop as a guitarist is to learn and absorb everything you can about what other instruments play. This will help you break out of many of the common pattern clichés that guitarists develop. 42 Studies for Violin by Rodolphe Kreutzer is a bit of a secret method for guitarists. I sought out a copy of the Kreutzer book after I heard the famous jazz guitarist Mike Stern talk about it.

It is a wonderful book for developing strong and fluid technique. I highly recommend practicing through this book and I hope it would encourage you to research other method books for violin, cello, flute, saxophone and trumpet. Each of those books can function as great reading practice as well as technique practice!

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9 - The Omnibook in C by Charlie Parker, edited by Jamey Aebersold

The Charlie Parker Omnibook is a collection of transcribed solos from the pioneering alto-saxophonist Charlie Parker. Parker, along with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Thelonius Monk, and drummer Max Roach among others were the innovators behind bebop in the 1940s. If you want a grasp of the language of bebop, you will find it by reading the Omnibook.

Make sure you get the edition for C instruments, or else it will sound wrong when you play with the recording. Which you should definitely do! There are a number of other “omnibooks” out now for John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Miles Davis, and Joe Pass. They are all also worth checking out.

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10 - Joe Pass Guitar Style by Joe Pass

Joe Pass has a number of method books that are all worth exploring. This one is called Joe Pass Guitar Style and is a great starting place to get into Pass’s rich and fascinating guitar playing. Joe Pass Guitar Style has sections on both melodic and chordal playing, coverings chord substitutions and embellishments and is full of interesting ideas.

Joe Pass was an important guitarist in the history of jazz and this book is an excellent way to gain a grasp of many useful techniques and concepts and is a functional method for developing a strong chord vocabulary on the guitar.

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11 - Intervallic Designs for the Guitar by Joe Diorio

Intervallic Designs for the Guitar by Joe Diorio is a lesser known but incredibly awesome book for modern jazz guitar sounds. Diorio has a unique, contemporary approach to constructing ideas for improvisation on the guitar and this book promises to stretch your fingers as well as your mind.

If you are interested in developing a more intervallic approach to jazz guitar improvisation, this is a book you should definitely check out! Diorio’s method allows you to “break out” of conventional scale-chord relationships in improvisation. The patterns in this book fit inside many different harmonies. They are also designed to sound great outside of chords too.

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12 - Speed Picking by Frank Gambale

Frank Gambale’s Speed Picking is required reading if you want to develop your picking technique. Gambale is the master of sweep picking and this book details his approach and technique. It is full of exercises and useful explanations of his technique for arpeggios, sequences, and speed picking.

Gambale is a jazz fusion guitar virtuoso who I don’t think has truly received the credit he is due. Check out this book and Gambale’s recordings and you will see why!

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13 - Douze Etudes by Heitor Villa-Lobos

Douze etudes for solo guitar is a lesser known collection of some of the most interesting classical guitar music. I stumbled upon this book at the library one day, only later to see it on the shelf of famous virtuoso guitarist Julian Lage.

These etudes are difficult and not for the beginner. They require patience and some dedication to unlock. But, once you break through, the rewards are well worth it. These etudes include interesting uses of arpeggios, open strings, intervals, and harmonics and will help enhance your skills as a fretboard master!

Practicing classical guitar music like this with a pick is an excellent way to develop your hybrid picking skills, an essential technique for jazz guitar!

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14 - Lute Suites for Guitar by J.S Bach

Again, not technically a “jazz” guitar book, the Lute Suites for Guitar is an excellent book that many jazz guitarists use to increase their chord playing abilities. The Lute Suites are great study in voice-leading and chord playing.

By studying this book, you will gain a greater awareness and mastery of harmony on the fretboard. You will develop an ability to play multiple moving melodies, instead of relying solely on learned chord shapes. It is a great daily practice for technique as well. You will not regret reading The Lute Suites!

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15 - Pat Metheny Guitar Exercises - Warmup Exercises for Guitar by Pat Metheny

Pat Metheny is one of the most iconic and legendary guitarists in jazz history. This collection of etudes is essentially transcriptions of his warm-up exercises. It is more on the advanced side and well worth it to play if you like Pat Metheny and want to absorb some of his style.

I have played through this book a few times over the years and still find new and interesting ideas in it. It is great for building multiple techniques and visual recognition on the fretboard. It is also an excellent reading practice.

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16 - Linear Expressions by Pat Martino

An interesting and occasionally enigmatic book, Linear Expressions is a method for improvisation from the phenomenal guitarist Pat Martino. Martino is a legend in the universe of jazz guitar, but this book is lesser known. It is well worth the time to study if you enjoy Pat Martino’s fluid and virtuosic improvisations!

The book mainly describes Martino’s approach to transform all chords, regardless of their quality, into minor chords. He claims this method allows you to focus less on theory and more on melody while playing through many different chord changes.

This method is part of what makes Martino’s sound so iconic. If you enjoy his sound, you should definitely check out his book!

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17 - Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns by Nicolas Slonimisky

Nicolas Slonimsky’s Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns is another staple of the jazz guitarist’s bookshelf. This classic book is exactly what it claims to be: an exhaustive collection of just about every possible scale possible from two to twelve notes. You will uncover many interesting and unique sounds to practice by investigating this book. This book has also been cited as a source of inspiration by many famous jazz guitarists.

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18 - Effortless Mastery : Liberating the Master Musician Within by Kenny Werner

Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner is a book of exercises for musicians to help alleviate self-doubt, apprehension, and stress. This book helps to liberate your inner creativity that can be stifled by negativity and harsh self judgement.

All musicians suffer at one time or another from detrimental self-criticism, doubt or guilt. Oftentimes, it can be totally hindering in a performance and lead to a loss of connection to music. Werner’s book is a classic among professional musicians and will help you to access deeper connections to music and help you eliminate stage fright and self-doubt!

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19 - Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music by Derek Bailey

English guitarist Derek Bailey was one of the most unique and iconoclastic guitarists of the last century. An extremely enigmatic guitarist, Bailey was a pioneer of free improvisation on the guitar. His book, Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music is a survey of improvisation practice in many different styles of music including Indian Classical Music, baroque, rock, jazz, and organ music among others.

It is an interesting read to expand your concept of improvisation beyond jazz written by one of the guitar’s most important but under recognized masters. The book has been adapted into a BBC documentary which is worth watching for some musical examples of the concepts from the book!

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Other Jazz Guitar Books

PDF Methods With Audio Files

  • 40 Minor II V I Licks

    This guitar method is a printable PDF with tabs, diagrams, theory and audio files providing 40 minor II V I jazz licks.
  • 40 II V I Jazz Guitar Licks

    This pdf method for guitar contains 40 II V I jazz guitar lines with tab, standard notation, analysis, scale charts and audio files.
  • 50 II-V-I voicings

    This guitar method is a printable PDF eBook contains 50 exercises with audio files, analysis, tab & standard notation on how to play over II-V-I chord progressions using different kind of voicings.
  • II V I Bundle

    This package contains 3 PDF methods for jazz guitarists with tabs, audio files, analysis about the II V I progression.
  • 40 Mixolydian Jazz Guitar Lick

    This package contains a guitar method available as a PDF with tabs, audio files and theory providing 40 dominant jazz guitar lines for teachers and students.
  • 40 Minor Jazz Guitar Licks

    This printable guitar method in PDF format contains 40 easy minor jazz guitar lines based on the Dorian mode.
  • 40 Major Jazz Guitar Licks

    Printable PDF eBook method containing 40 major jazz guitar licks with tab, standard notation and audio files for beginners and intermediates.
  • Diatonic Licks Bundle

    This package contains 120 jazz guitar lines based on diatonic modes as Mixolydian, Dorian and Ionian. PDF format with tabs, audio files and analysis.
  • Guitar Walking Bass Lines NEW

    This jazz guitar method about walking bass lines and chords is available as a PDF files containing 35 exercises with tabs, analysis and audio files
  • 101 Dominant Arpeggio Patterns

    This printable PDF method provides 101 dominant arpeggio exercises with tab, theory and standard notation for the jazz, blues and rock guitarist.
  • 49 Essential Jazz Lines

    This printable eBook method in PDF format provides 49 jazz solo transcriptions of the greatest jazz musicians of all times with TABS, standard notation, audio files and analysis both for guitar teachers and students.
  • 11 Jazz Blues Studies

    This PDF method contains 11 guitar lessons with chord studies, tabs, standard notation, analysis & audio files about the main blues progressions used in jazz music.
  • 25 Altered Jazz Guitar Lines

    This PDF eBook method contains 25 altered jazz guitar licks with tabs, patterns, scale charts and audio files to master, apply and develop the altered scale.
  • 40 Blues Dominant patterns

    This printable method is available as a PDF file containing 40 easy dominant jazz-blues guitar lines with tabs, standard notation, analysis, audio files and scale charts.
  • Mastering Pentatonic Scales

    This jazz guitar method is an eBook available as a PDF with standard notation, guitar tabs, diagrams, analysis, audio files and backing tracks. You will find in this booklet 25 easy jazz guitar lines with theory using common and rare pentatonic scales.
  • 25 Soul Jazz Guitar Licks

    You will find here an eBook available in PDF containing 25 soul jazz and hard bop guitar licks in the style of Grant Green, Melvin Sparks, George Benson. These jazz lines come with tabs, standard notation, guitar neck diagrams, backing track for practice and 25 audio files for each riff.
  • 25 Diminished Patterns

    This eBook PDF with audio files contains 25 dominant diminished jazz guitar patterns using the half-whole diminished scale and diminished 7th arpeggios.
  • 6 Tritone substitution licks

    This Printable PDF eBook available for free download contains 6 easy jazz guitar licks with tabs/notation, youtube video link and analysis about the tritone substitution.

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