Whether you’re looking to teach yourself classical guitar on your own or you’re looking for some instructional material to supplement your guitar lessons with a teacher, finding a classical guitar method that works is easy! In this article, you will find some excellent classical guitar books that are designed for those who are interested in getting started and can provide you with the foundation you need as a beginner classical guitarist.
Table of Contents
- What The Best Classical Guitar Books Have In Common
- Sight-Reading Practice
- Technique Development
- Music Theory Fundamentals
- Musical Application
- Historical Background
- Christopher Parkening Guitar Method Vol. 1
- Solo Guitar Playing – Book 1 by Frederick Noad
- The Classical Guitar Companion by Christopher Berg
What The Best Classical Guitar Books Have In Common
Before going into detail about the individual classical guitar beginner method books that I can recommend, it’s important to get an idea of what you can expect inside these types of books and what makes them very useful for new players.
Developing the ability to sight-read is essential for all classical guitarists. Can you learn how to play without sight-reading skills? Sure, but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice and putting limitations on yourself. By learning how to sight-read, you open up many doors for yourself, and eventually, you will be able to play any piece of music put in front of you.
Many guitarists of all ages and experience levels seem to become easily overwhelmed at the thought of learning how to read music, but being a beginner is the best time to start doing so because classical guitar method books, like the ones covered here, typically start off very simple and you will be learning multiple skills along the way.
Basically, everything you read in a classical guitar book will be a sight-reading exercise, and naturally, you will get better at it over time, and you will become a fluent sight-reader just like all great classical guitarists.
One of the most critical aspects of being a successful guitarist is having a solid technique. Beginner books should have an emphasis on this since learning bad techniques will hinder your progress and keep you from getting better, and this can be a problem if an individual is entirely self-taught and has no guidance whatsoever.
In these books, you will learn about the different parts of the guitar, how to hold a guitar and maintain proper posture by using a footstool, and of course, proper fingerings on both the plucking and fretting hand.
There are different ways to practice technique, but most beginner books will have short musical pieces, or etudes, to help you focus on certain aspects like working within a certain position on the guitar, crossing strings, and plucking chords.
Music Theory Fundamentals
Learning music theory for the first time can seem like a very intimidating task for beginners, but introductory books like these can make it easy just by starting with the basics and building up from there.
For example, a beginner classical guitar method will start you off by teaching you a few notes, typically on some of the open strings, and show you how to read these notes on the musical staff. You will also learn about the rhythmic notation and the value of each one so you can start interpreting sheet music.
Classical guitar books will also teach you the scales and chords you need to know so that you can have a basic understanding of musical harmony, and when combined with the above, you will have a solid grasp of the fundamentals.
While practicing technique and learning about musical concepts are very important for classical guitarists, it’s also essential to put them into practice through learning actual music, and that’s what makes it fun!
From short etudes, duets (excellent if you have an instructor or a friend to accompany), and lengthier pieces that are appropriate for beginners, you will always have some music that you can apply the skills to that you’re learning.
Learning music is also a skill in itself, and it will also teach you how to build a repertoire or a collection of musical pieces that you’ve practiced and perhaps committed to memory.
Whether it’s about composers or the history of the guitar itself, I think it’s useful to know about this kind of information.
Think of it this way, if you hear a song that you really like on the radio, you’ll most likely want to know who the artist is.
When you go through these books, you will learn about different famous classical guitarists who provided the repertoire in them, and there’s a good chance you will come across some favorites that you’ll want to learn more from later on, especially if you stick with your classical guitar journey.
As you continue to read on, you’ll learn about some great classical guitar books that are perfect for beginners, and hopefully, find something that really catches your interest.
Christopher Parkening Guitar Method Vol. 1
This is easily one of the most popular classical guitar books for people who are just starting out. Most guitar teachers will recommend this one to their students because it’s extremely affordable, and you’ll get more than your money’s worth out of it.
Mr. Parkening is a former student of the legendary Andres Segovia and this book was first published in 1972 and it continues to be printed to this day, passing the test of time.
Parkening’s first book covers all of the important details that help provide the foundation for classical guitar players, beginning with the parts of the guitar, how to hold it, and finger technique, and playing positions, all the way to basic music theory that you can use forever, and of course, many pieces of music along the way that you can practice that are relevant to what you’re currently learning in the book.
He also gives excellent advice on how to practice that I still use to this day, like playing at a tempo where I can focus on making little to no mistakes, then gradually increasing it, and also learn how to play at the appropriate volume while staying relaxed.
Upon completion of this book, you should have a decent grasp of sight-reading and playing techniques that you can use to move onto the next book, Christopher Parkening Guitar Method Vol. 2
However, this book is probably one that you can keep in your collection forever, and you can always go back to reference things or brush up on specific areas of your playing.
Solo Guitar Playing – Book 1 by Frederick Noad
This classical guitar book is another one that I and many others highly recommend because of its in-depth nature.
This one covers a lot of the same stuff that you see in the Christopher Parkening book, and it’s almost just as old, but there is some additional material you can find here that I consider a bonus.
For example, I like that this book pays extra attention to rhythmic studies, such as time signatures and more complex subdivisions, so that you can really hone in on your rhythm and counting abilities.
I also like that Noad gives notes and tips on how to play each piece of music that comes up and gives you some historical background on the composers of these fantastic pieces.
There is also music for trios and quartets in here in case you’re taking group lessons, and it’s also a reason why this book is sometimes used in introductory guitar classes at colleges sometimes.
Overall, the teaching here is very clear and concise and it has a lot to offer; it is a bigger book than Parkening’s too. Like Parkening’s method, there is also a Solo Guitar Playing Book 2 by Noad if you happen to enjoy what you’ve learned in the first one.
The Classical Guitar Companion by Christopher Berg
If you’re looking for a book that is extremely comprehensive and you’re almost positive that you’ll be committing to the classical guitar for the foreseeable future, Berg’s Classical Guitar Companion is an excellent choice.
In my opinion, one advantage this book has over the others is that everything is included in one spot – there isn’t another volume that you need to buy, and the contents listed in the book are useful for beginner and experienced players.
The Parkening and Noad books are recommended for beginners who are unsure if they will fully invest themselves into learning classical guitar down the road, but they do their job of providing a solid foundation which is why they’re superb introductory methods and you can choose to move onto the subsequent volumes.
This one has all of the information you need to get started but also includes advanced concepts as well, particularly with technique and harmony studies. Of course, you get numerous exercises and pieces of music to practice each step of the way, as this is the main purpose of this book.
The Classical Guitar Companion is an amazing asset for those who are hungry to learn all they can without having to purchase another book for a while, but it’s optimal that you go through this one without skipping any parts, ideally with the guidance of a teacher.
Then again, having a guitar teacher and going through any of these classical guitar methods is always a good idea just because there is a lot of information that you might have questions about along the way and they can give you direct feedback and correct things you might be doing wrong or inefficiently.
If you’ve been considering trying out classical guitar, you can’t go wrong with any of these beginner books. They cover the features I discussed in this article and will give you the skills to become a great guitarist one day. Once you’ve moved on from these books, hopefully, you will feel inspired to continue playing and growing as a musician, especially with more instruction from a teacher, and perhaps, you will also have students one day that you can recommend these books to.
If you haven’t already picked them up, you should look into getting a footstool and other important classical guitar accessories as well. These will be important companions to you as you learn how to play classical guitar while using the method of your choice!