I have been playing guitar for about a decade. I began by playing chords and quickly moved to tabs. I am quite skilled and have no problem improvising. Recently, I decided to give a try to an acoustic guitar and learn finger picking. This leads me to want to learn sight-reading sheet music.

A long time ago, I started learning to play guitar from sheet music. The book I was using began with a few simple songs that used only a handful of notes. Each song would use more and more notes, providing an opportunity for practice and gradual improvement. Is there similar material available in the public domain? I have been searching for books or tutorials, but what I find seems to focus on specific techniques (strum patterns, chords, scales, etc.) which are of little use to me.

Any links to material or other suggestion would be greatly appreciated.

3 Answers 3


Try IMSLP. I just entered a search on their site for "guitar method", and got several pages of links. The first one, Stahl's New Guitar Method (from 1903!) goes into considerable detail on notation right from the start - it may or may not suit your other needs, but I'm sure that you'll find something there that does.

  • Thanks! This seems to be just what I was looking for. "Guitar method" is apparently the magic incantation I did not have. Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 18:03
  • My pleasure. Glad to help.
    – user16935
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 18:16

What you need, if you're not looking for methods addressing specific technique exercises one by one, are some reference composers and works (as in those used in music schools).

As with any instrument, there are tons of classical études written for students of all levels. For example, just searching "guitar etudes" in the public domain (IMSLP indeed) gets you stuff like this:

Aguado lesson 14

Depending on your level, you need to look around a bit until you find an opus that suits your level. If you need fingering indications on your sheets, you might be better off looking for printed booklets though, I assume specific published editions are copyrighted.


It is a long but worthwhile struggle to learn to read on the guitar. Lots of practice of simple melodies, and many different ones, will be a great start. Many different sheets of music will help you avoid memorizing (which won't really be of much use as you're learning to sightread).

So just grab as many method books as you can from the web and/or library and read as much as you can. If one book is too hard, move on to what you can read at your current level. Go slowly and deliberately. Good luck, it'll pay off!

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