Many of us will consider ourselves self-taught guitarists, but to what extent is this true? Does this mean that we picked up a guitar, worked out the notes, developed a technique and brought it to bear on the physical act of making music? That would be preposterous.
No, our knowledge comes from somewhere. While finding a guitar teacher with whom you can share a physical space, and who inspires you and helps buoy your technique, seems like the platonic ideal, in the internet era – and with the Coronavirus keeping us isolated for the foreseeable future – the importance of physical space is diminished when it comes to guitar lessons.
There is a cornucopia of online guitar lesson resources to guide our playing, but why not take that a step further and find a structured teaching platform so you can be the best player you can be? With some time on your hands, now could be the moment to start learning a new instrument, or take the next steps in your playing development.
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The best online guitar lessons right now
When Fender entered the education game it was no surprise that it would make it box-office, with high production values, lessons that featured popular songs, and a host of teachers who are totally at ease in front of the camera.
Once you sign up you will be asked to choose your instrument (eh, guitar, please – but bass and ukulele options also available) and then which style you want to learn. Choose from rock, blues, country, folk, and pop. Once you have chosen your style you can then choose your own path, with levels 1 through 5 in ascending order of difficulty.
The user experience is excellent. Track your progress on the side bar, select skill, riff or song lessons, save your favourites… Underneath each video lesson there is a button for chord charts, tabs, feedback (not the guitar/amp kind), a glossary and tools. It is everything you need. Subscribers also receive a 10 percent discount on Fender instruments, making Fender Play one of the best online guitar lessons services around.
ArtistWorks Guitar provides a wide variety of lessons with great instructors. It has the likes of Paul Gilbert teaching Electric Rock Guitar and Keith Wyatt teaching Electric Blues Guitar.
Its Video Exchange Learning Platform connects pupils with their teachers to create the sort of personalised feedback that creates a more social online learning experience that can only accelerate a player’s development.
The plans are tiered so that the longer you sign up for them the more you can learn, but even the most basic package includes unlimited access to lessons, the music theory workshop, and the Video Exchange Library, and can make up to five video submissions to their teacher.
TrueFire might be a little more expensive, but like ArtistWorks Guitar, it really packs in the features. There is a similarly storied faculty. Want to have a blues lesson from Robben Ford? Well, why not.
Pretty much all styles are catered for, and all levels, too. Progress is easy to track and there are a whole host of learning tools to bring you up to speed.
Speaking of speed, there is a Slo-Mo and Looping feature that will help you take control of those parts that are giving you the most trouble, and we can all attest to the value of slowing parts down and mastering them there before bringing it up to tempo. Kudos to anyone who takes the lifetime membership after the free trial.
Justin Sandercoe is a really good teacher. He’s so good, that perhaps it’s only fair that he uses the internet to teach; that way he can spread the wealth. If you are a beginner, you should probably sign up now, because the beginner’s course is free and Sandercoe’s ability to walk you through the fundamentals is peerless.
There is a lot on JustinGuitar that is free to access and is complemented by a wealth of YouTube videos. You can choose lessons in theory or in skills, and there are lessons for all abilities.
Sandercoe also provides affordable add-on apps (£1.99-£2.99) and a variety of subscription programmes, such as a music theory course that delivers over 120 lessons with PDF, audio and Guitar Pro downloads to support your progress.
JamPlay offers a dizzying amount of content and a number of apps to help you learn while on the move. There are over 100 teachers available, with the likes of Lita Ford and Steve Stevens on the electric guitar faculty, and Mark Kroos and Kaki King on the acoustic side.
There are also a number of guest courses, with lessons from the likes of Ariel Posen and hybrid-picking wizard Prashant Aswani.
Lessons are delivered in 4K video, with interactive tab among the abundance of resources to help you make tangible progress. There is also an online library of chords and scales, and you can chart your progress easily enough.
A great new Orange Learn feature for 2020 is Orange’s partnership with MGR Music to provide live help, enabling students to get assistance from a teacher whenever they need. Simply click on the Need Help? Button and players will be able to ask a qualified guitar tutor in real time.
Orange Amplification were ahead of brands like Fender when it launched its own online course and now works with Online Music Exams to offer recognised accreditation covering Grades 1-8 for rock guitar.
The syllabus is designed to be worked through alone and at a pace best for you, or alongside your tutor. Downloadable and streamed online lessons include videos and notation with the Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced courses taking students from beginner level to Grade 8.
The exams and resulting certificates give an added incentive to learn, with the flexibility of taking them when you feel it’s the right time, and can form a part of your CV too. There’s a relatively quick turnaround to find out your results too.
Currently the Orange Rock Guitar Foundation is available for free.
Signing up to Jamorama is a no-brainer if you are a beginner. Like Justin Guitar, Jamorama, takes care of the beginners first, as it should be, and offers three free beginners courses.
Jamorama was created by Mark McKenzie, whom you might know from YouTube as the Guitar Guy on YouTube or from writing for our friends at Guitar Player magazine. His lessons are well-organised, well-structured, and well-delivered. Subscribe and you will get a road map for success, access to an HD video lessons library, and will be able to take part in fun challenges such as Gamefied Learning – kind of like Guitar Hero, but real, and with strings.
That said, there’s no strings attached here. Jamorama offers a 120 day money-back guarantee so they’ve got to be pretty confident they can make you better.
The JTC set-up is hugely impressive. Prices for the packages start from £25 per month, with a number of add-on features such as the eponymous Jam Tracks. Instructors include the likes of Jeff Loomis, Guthrie Govan and Jess Lewis.
While there are fewer choices for beginners here – 62 courses as opposed to 207 advanced and 429 intermediate – we love the syllabus and the bite-sized formats. It’s so flexible. You can sign up for a free account and can download a module for £19.99. If you want interactive tab to go with it, then £19.99 will last you a year.
Premium accounts let you access all of the entire library of lessons (excluding Bootcamp) and you get 25 percent off downloads should you want the files on your computer for offline practice.
Available for your computer, tablet or smartphone, Guitar Tricks is a features-stacked tuition platform that places an emphasis on the fundamentals of guitar playing.
Guitar Tricks advises even intermediate players take its Core Learning System, which offers a primer in subjects such as gear, tone and music theory. It is really helpful to have that at hand.
The faculty covers a wide range of styles and there is a strong emphasis on applied learning – i.e. learning how to play songs, and there are over 1,000 song tutorials online, covering the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ed Sheeran and Van Halen.
Which online guitar lessons are right for me?
What you are looking for from the best online guitar lessons is not that different from what you should be looking for from a real, 100 percent organic live human teacher. Communication is key. The ability to condense complex subjects – which, when you are first learning, the modes of the major scale can be – into something that is easily absorbed and understood is priceless. You want a person or a service that is accessible and enthusiastic.
It is also a good idea to think about the sort of lessons you need. The good news is that there is an abundance of programmes to cater for players at all levels – especially the beginners. This is crucial. We’d be inclined to say that how a guitar lessons site tailors its teaching for beginners is a bell-weather for how effective the programme is likely to be for players at any level.
Only you can say what sort of lessons you need, but if you’re thinking of taking the plunge, then think hard on the areas that you want to improve on and see what is available for that. Finding the time to practise can be an issue, too, which is why providers such as Fender Play deliver bite-sized lessons so you can learn a song or a riff one day, and then get back at it the next.
When it comes to online guitar lessons teaching, delivery is everything. Are the videos in HD? Are there split-screens so you can see what’s going on with both the fretting and the picking hand? These are the sort of features that can demystify the lesson. The best sites will be available on a variety of apps for mobile and tablet, too, with downloadable materials so you can access the lessons on the go.
Can I get free online guitar lessons?
As we’ve already mentioned, there’s plenty of free online guitar lessons around, however, unless you know exactly what you’re looking to learn – something only more advanced players will know – you’d be better off using a more structured system to progress you at the right pace without any gaps. The great news is that many of the best online guitar lessons services we recommend here offer a free trial so you can try before you buy.
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