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So Many Online Guitar Lessons, so Little Time
Guitar players today are absurdly lucky. Not only can you find great quality guitars cheaper than ever before, but you can find a wealth of resources on the web - both free and paid - to assist you with learning to play the guitar.
The bad thing is there’s almost too much choice when it comes to selecting guitar lessons on the web. To add to the frustration, the quality varies so much. Anyone with a guitar, cheap webcam, and a YouTube account can throw up a lesson... but that doesn’t mean they’re qualified!
Since Equipboard helps guitarists from all walks of life make the best gear choices, we figured we could help you make the best choice when it comes to online guitar instruction :-)
How We Made This List
We have several guitarists on the Equipboard team, and between us we’ve tried nearly every method there is to learn and improve our guitar skills. We combined our experience with scouring the web to find out what actual guitar lesson students are saying about their experiences - both good and bad. Basically we did many hours research so you don’t have to!
The 5 Best Online Guitar Lessons At-A-Glance
Before you dive in, we’ve summarized our findings in the chart below.
Now, you might be thinking, aren’t there more than five guitar lesson websites out there? There certainly are - in fact, there are dozens of websites, and even more if you count apps available on iPhone and Android. We signed up for all of them and took them for a test drive. Truth be told, some are total trash. Several are pretty decent, but in the end what we found is five websites emerged as the clear winners when it comes to online guitar lessons.
If you only take one thing away from this article, it’s this: Guitar Tricks and JamPlay are the top two membership-based websites. They’ve both been around for a really long time, they’re good at what they do, and they have generous free trials to let you try them out. The best free option out there is without a doubt Justin Guitar, which has YouTube-based video lessons taught by Australian guitarist Justin Sandercoe. Not the best lesson site in the world, but the fact that it’s free & popular makes it a no-brainer to include. ArtistWorks is also worth a long look, and what’s cool about them is you can record yourself playing, and an instructor (sometimes a famous guitarist!) sends you back feedback.
Use this chart to familiarize yourself with the lay of the land, and continue reading for our full reviews and pros and cons of each.
The 5 best online guitar lesson websites, summarized
Learning the guitar is a tricky beast. It’s all too common for guitar players to get stuck, hit plateaus, get comfortable or lose motivation. From personal experience, the best way to improve is to seek out a structured, planned resource of online guitar lessons. Novice guitarists have a tendency to seek out the free resources first. And while there are a wealth of free lessons on YouTube, they lack structure. If you spend time reading forums, often beginner guitarists wished they had shelled out the $20 per month for a structured, step-by-step program taught by reputable instructors.
Why learn guitar online? To put it into perspective, a one hour lesson with a guitar teacher is anywhere from $20-50. For around $19/month for online lessons, you get unlimited access to their entire catalogue of material. Not only that, but you can do the lessons from the comfort of your own home - no need to drive anywhere! Also, not sure about you, but when we get in the zone we want the freedom to practice for over the 30 or 60 minute limit of an in-person lesson. Online guitar lessons will fit much more comfortably in your busy schedule.
Electric or Acoustic?
Beginners often ask if they should start out learning on an acoustic or electric guitar. The answer is both “it depends”, and “it doesn’t really matter!” Simply take a look at this list of famous guitarists and their first guitars - there’s not really much of a pattern, with all of them learning on something slightly different.
One school of thought argues that learning on acoustic guitar is better because it’s harder - pressing down on the strings takes more strength, barre chords are more difficult, and there is no amp/effect/distortion to cover for your mistakes or sloppy playing (Gibson puts it rather well in the image below). They also argue that moving from acoustic to electric is easier than the reverse.
Truth be told, countless musicians started on electric guitar and went on to be amazing players. Because learning how to play an instrument is a labor of love, it very much comes down to what you connect with the most. If all the players you look up to play electric guitar, and that’s the type of music you want to play, then by all means, go electric!
Our Reviews of the Top 5 Websites for Learning Guitar
Without further ado, check out our reviews of the 5 best online resources to learn guitar!
Guitar Tricks is the first of the “Big Two” online guitar lesson sites (the other being JamPlay). It’s a behemoth of video lessons and instructional content. If you want to learn guitar but you’re not sure where to start, Guitar Tricks is probably the best option. They feature over 11,000 video lessons from experienced professionals across many genres (rock, blues, country, jazz, metal, and several others).
One thing that stands out about Guitar Tricks - and the reason it’s the best guitar program for beginners - is what they call their CORE LEARNING SYSTEM. It’s a structure that guides you through 2 courses of fundamentals for those totally new to the guitar, then 2 more courses of slightly more intermediate content depending on the genre you choose - blues, country, or rock.
If you’re just starting out, by starting with the CORE LEARNING SYSTEM you’ll be well on your way to playing chords and basic solos.
Another thing we like is how transparent they are about their Free Trial. Want to try before you buy? All you do is go here, fill in your email address, and you can dive into some lessons! Be aware that they are quite persistent with sending you emails urging you to sign up, which is understandable since the more paid memberships they get, the more they’re able to keep delivering such a high quality service.
For those that want to learn to play songs on the guitar, Guitar Tricks has over 1,000 of them sortable by song name/popularity/difficulty/etc. There are tons of classics across all genres, as well as some more current songs from the likes of Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, and John Legend. Some of the more difficult songs even have a “Made Easy” version.
CORE LEARNING SYSTEM feature is a great path for the novice to learn guitar - feels more organized and linear than other online guitar training offerings
Huge library of songs in every genre, with a lesson on how to play the guitar parts for each one
Nice backing track library in different styles and keys
Lesson videos are not overwhelming - nice and short and to the point
The ability to download video lessons to your computer is very very nice - Guitar Tricks is definitely the way to go if you are often not online or on slow internet connections
Website and accompanying iOS & Android apps are nice and simple - makes getting started very easy
Seems better suited for beginner to intermediate. If you’re already at that point, other online guitar lesson platforms might have more options for you
While the catalogue is certainly broad, it doesn’t cover less mainstream genres like flamenco, gospel, or reggae like some other online guitar lesson websites include
Guitar Tricks instructors are great, but they have less famous & touring pro guitarists than JamPlay does, if that’s important to you
Make no mistake - Guitar Tricks contains some of the best and most organized online guitar lessons you’ll find, and it’s our winner when it comes to the best way for beginners to learn. The Core Learning System is outstanding, and the monthly membership price is a steal considering the amount of content and quality of guitar instruction you get.
No official app, but all video lessons are hosted on YouTube and his website is mobile-friendly
Justin Sandercoe - better known as Justin Guitar - has gathered quite the following in the world of online guitar lessons. He hosts two different YouTube channels: JustinSandercoe (boasting over a million subscribers) is the main lessons channel focusing on theory and technique. JustinSandercoeSongs is - you guessed it - centered around teaching you how to play songs.
If you read our Free vs Paid Lessons section, you know our thoughts around free lessons lacking the structure and depth that the paid courses provide. Even though JustinGuitar uses YouTube to host all of his lessons, he actually tries to combat this by organizing all his videos on his website. He does a reasonably good job with categorization. For example, are you a total beginner? Head to his Beginner’s Course section. Want to focus on theory or technique? There are sections for that also. It’s worth mentioning that his website is mobile-friendly, and he has 6 mini-apps available in the Apple App Store, a couple of which are free.
So, are the lessons good? In a word, yes... and being free makes them even better. Justin really seems like he enjoys his craft, and his genuineness comes through in his video lessons. There’s a good feeling to always seeing his friendly face as you go through video after video. He keeps his lessons short and easily digestible.
Justin is a knowledgeable, skilled guitar player and is a pleasure to learn from
All his lessons are on YouTube, which works well across all platforms and devices
Not the best lesson structure if you are a total beginner, or have trouble self-organizing
Lessons lack the depth found on some paid sites
Since Justin is only one person (as opposed to a team of instructors), there's not as much variety in the way of genre or style specific lessons
We definitely recommend Justin Guitar, especially because it’s free; it’ll only cost you time (there are a few advertisements here and there on the site, but nothing excessive). But because your time is precious, here’s what we recommend: If you’re a beginner, jump on the Beginner’s Course and see how you like it. Stick with it for a few days, and figure out if the loose structure & organization works with your style of learning. Even if you end up opting for paid lessons, know that you can always come back to JustinGuitar anytime since it’s completely free and everything is on YouTube.
JamPlay is one of the “Big Two” online guitar lesson services (the other being Guitar Tricks). It features a whopping 6,500 guitar lessons, making it one of the most comprehensive guitar instruction services on the web. From heavy metal to country, if you want to learn it you’ll find it here.
When reading various users’ reviews on JamPlay we found it generally comes widely recommended. Positive reviews far outweigh the negatives, with most of those being, “well, it’s not free.” Considering how high quality the polish and presentation of JamPlay is, and the sheer quantity of lessons, we feel that $13/month is extremely reasonable (a year membership is $160, which divided by 12 months comes to about $13)!
Jumping into the world of JamPlay just feels nice. You want to learn it? Chances are they have lessons for it. Fingerstyle, classic rock, country, metal... they have it all. We’re enjoying our experience with JamPlay because it has managed to improve our playing no matter our current skill level. The folks on our team who had never picked up a guitar before really like the video lessons geared to beginners, and the advanced super-shredders can find lessons and exercises to make them even better.
Something for everyone: from theory to bluegrass to insane metal
Feels very polished
Cool tools like scale finders, chord builders
Backing tracks in various styles and keys
You can video chat in real time with instructors from the comfort of your home
Artist taught courses are cool - actual pro artists talking about how to play in their own style (these tend to be more advanced)
It feels like JamPlay focuses a little bit more on the intermediate and up level player
You cannot download the video clips to your laptop or computer, meaning you have to be connected to the Internet to access the lessons
Beginner series “phase 1” can be overwhelming, a bit of a “choose your own adventure” - multiple paths with multiple instructors rather than a single focused course
Quality of course can vary based on who is teaching it. With so many instructors it’s bound to happen that some just aren’t as good at giving lessons as others
One of our teammates used JamPlay to get started learning to play guitar online. Some time later they enrolled in lessons with a teacher to compare the experience, and the teacher told him had very good form for a beginner.
Do we recommend JamPlay? If you’re a beginner who might thrive better with a single focused beginner’s course, you might be better off taking a look at Guitar Tricks. Other than that, let’s see: 1000s of guitar lessons covering 100s of genres and styles, free trial, 100% money-back guarantee if you don’t love it, $13-19 per month ... what more could you want? We think it’s a no brainer.
Update (Oct 2019)
Equipboard's got you covered with some coupon codes for JamPlay guitar lessons:
33C6CE - 10% off all guitar products (monthly, quarterly, yearly)
1BA1E2 - 25% off first month
4B926862C0 - 10% off all bass products (monthly, quarterly, yearly)
0713E7D01A - 25% off first month (bass guitar lessons)
TrueFire is an enormous library of guitar lessons - 40,000+ of them organized into 800+ courses. For this reason, the intermediate and advanced guitar player will have enough material to work through to take them into guitar superstardom.
Despite the instructional quality being quite high, beginners might find navigating TrueFire a little less intuitive than GuitarTricks’ beginner system. You have to dig a little to find TrueFire’s Learning Paths for beginners, which you can select by genre: blues, jazz & rock to name a few, and they even have bass guitar lessons.
It’s not rocket science to figure out how to go through the beginner courses and in what order, but course organization is not its strong suite. That’s because TrueFire is more of a huge guitar lesson library, where you’ll need to search for and choose what you want to learn.
In fact, every course is individually priced, so you can pick the guitar lessons you want à la carte ($14 seems to be a common price point). Luckily, “Learn Guitar 1: First Steps for Beginners” is completely free when you sign up, so you should at least try that one.
If you like TrueFire and plan on taking many courses, definitely go for the All Access plan, which for a monthly fee gives you full access to every single lesson and resource on the site. They give you a 30 day free trial of the All Access plan, so you have a month to go nuts on lessons.
Instructors are good at teaching (and include some very famous touring pros like Steve Vai, Andy Timmons and Robben Ford)
Huge content library, especially for intermediate & advanced players
Private 1-on-1 online guitar lessons are available with an instructor of your choosing
Video player is awesome, likely the best of any lesson site
TrueFire apps are very well designed, better than the desktop site
Flexible & fair pricing
Content organization needs work
No clear-cut path for beginners
No clear-cut path for advanced players, either
TrueFire’s guitar lesson library is impressive, and if you’re a more intermediate or advanced guitarist and have a good sense of your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll love it. We’d steer rank beginners more towards Guitar Tricks, but you can always take TrueFire’s free “Learn Guitar 1” course and judge it for yourself.
What we love about ArtistWorks is the ability to sign up for a la carte specific lessons from a specific instructor based on types of guitar (acoustic, electric, dobro, etc) and specific to the style you want to learn (Rock, Blues, Country, Jazz, Classical, etc). This is different from most sites, that sell access to a broad library with different teachers.
If you’re the type that learns best from in-person one-on-one private instruction, ArtistWorks is the most like that of the online guitar lessons we’ve tested. Why, you ask? Well, for around a dollar a day, you are able to get direct video feedback from legends.
Okay so here’s how it works: You record videos and send them to your teacher and they give you direct feedback via video messages (you can rewatch those as many times as you need, which is a big selling point for us). But these are not random teachers. You know Paul Gilbert? The one always in Guitar World and from the band Mr. Big. We tried out his Rock Guitar course first. More than being an obviously supremely gifted guitarist, he proves himself to be a great teacher as well. At first we were skeptical (we say that because we’ve all seen some celebs endorse things to make money and then phone it in). Mr. Gilbert totally over-delivered. He comes off as passionate, competent, and a great instructor in the videos. And, we have to say, the other instructors on ArtistWorks are also legends in their own right. The fact that these lessons are taught and you can receive feedback directly from people like Keith Wyatt, Guthrie Trapp, and Chuck Loeb, to name a few, make this feel like an authentic place to get great quality lessons rather than a cheap licensing deal just trying to cash in on name recognition.
Relevant PDFs also accompany the lessons, so you’ll be able to download the chords and relevant materials to make following along with the lessons a breeze.
The competency of the instructors is amazing. After all, where else can you learn from the likes of these guitar gods?
ArtistWorks’ use of slow motion video is really helpful in making sure the video lessons are absorbed, especially for beginners.
The community aspect of the site is better than others. You can interact with your teacher and fellow students, which adds to a fun learning environment and can up your game. You are able to view other videos submitted by users on the Video Exchange tab on the specific lesson’s page, and often times your peers will add value to the lesson in a different way than the teacher.
The skill level for each lesson (fundamental, intermediate, advanced, etc) is spelled out in the course menu, so you can make sure you are comfortable with what you’ve learned before moving on to more difficult lessons.
We encountered a few confusing parts on the website with regards of how to use features for the first time, but eventually got the hang of it with some playing around and experimenting with the interface.
The videos are not available for download and can only be streamed, which is a bummer if you’re on the go and want to take your lessons somewhere without a reliable internet connection.
Finally, the library is a bit limited. Most styles/genres are covered, but if you’re looking for something super specific ArtistWorks might not have it.
It’s hard to complain about getting personalized instruction and feedback from famous guitarists and getting access to an active community in addition to hundreds of video lessons at this price point. While we do wish ArtistWorks offered a free trial similar to GuitarTricks or Jamplay, if you see the style of play you are interested in, it’s hard to beat the quality of this content.
Update (Oct 2019)
Equipboard's got you covered with some coupon codes for ArtistWorks guitar lessons:
A heartwarming story, Brian May actually built his first electric guitar (which he would go on to use with Queen) with his dad. It was intentionally designed to allow feedback after May was inspired by the playing of Jeff Beck. He also received a Spanish style acoustic guitar as a birthday present, though he quickly wanted to move on to an instrument more suited towards the type of music he wanted to play.
First Guitar: Spanish-style guitar of unknown origin.
First Band: 1984
How He Learned: Self taught, though he did take formal music lessons in his youth.
Michael bought his first guitar, a Fender California Series Stratocaster in Candy Apple Red, in 1998. He likes rock of all types, from classic to punk to metal. Michael co-founded Equipboard to satisfy his curiosity around what gear his guitar heroes use. Read more