"Over time, Guitar Tricks has honed its content to be fun, engaging and motivating": Guitar Tricks review

Veteran online guitar tuition site continues to grow bigger and better with every passing year

Guitar Tricks review
(Image: © Guitar Tricks)

MusicRadar Verdict

There’s quality tuition here aplenty for players of all levels. If only Guitar Tricks would genuinely expand its song library beyond the core genres of vintage blues and rock.

Pros

  • +

    Staggering amount of quality content. Much of it 4K

  • +

    Clear learning path for beginners

  • +

    Plenty of content for intermediate and advanced players

  • +

    Detailed lessons that are as much fun as they are informative

  • +

    Avoids gamified approach to learning

Cons

  • -

    Lack of contemporary styles and songs

  • -

    Some genres are poorly served

  • -

    Not as slick in appearance as many recent tuition platforms

  • -

    A small percentage of tutorials are still in low-resolution video

  • -

    Avoids gamified approach to learning

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Guitar Tricks review: what is it?

At a glance

Price: $19.95/£16.99 per month. 7 day free trial App: iOS/Android Try today at Guitar Tricks

Guitar Tricks is the pioneering online guitar lesson platform that first appeared way back in 1998. For those of you too young to remember, I’ll give you some context. Cher was in the charts – some things never change – with Believe, arguably the song that introduced us all to the delights of Auto-Tune. President Bill Clinton was embroiled in ‘Monicagate’ and the Fender Jazzmaster celebrated its 40th birthday. Accessing Guitar Tricks back then would have required a dial-up connection, a modem and a lot of patience…  

The lengthy passage of time that’s elapsed since those heady days has given Guitar Tricks ample opportunity to evolve into a learning resource that boasts an exceptional amount of quality content. With more than 11,000 lessons on offer, together with over 1,000 songs, it’s far more comprehensive than comparative newcomers such as Fender Play, Yousician and Simply Guitar. 

Consequently, there’s plenty here to keep both novices and more advanced players occupied and entertained. A valid criticism often levelled at the more recent raft of tutorial sites and apps is that once you’ve journeyed through the beginner pathway, the tutorials begin to fizzle out. Not so here, the sheer breadth of content on offer is astonishing.

Another clue to Guitar Tricks’ vintage is that, unlike some competitors that are still enjoying their first flush of youth, it doesn’t employ a gamified approach to learning. You won’t find an animated fretboard here, possibly because Guitar Tricks predates Guitar Hero by almost a decade. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is down to personal preference – for every guitarist who finds animation fun, engaging and motivational for practice, there’ll be another who considers it a bit immature.

Get your first month for $1

<a href="https://www.guitartricks.com/upgrade?chan=MR1firstmo&coupon=MR1firstmo&term=m&utm_source=MR1firstmo&utm_medium=on_page_link&utm_campaign=MR_1_first_month&utm_id=MR1firstmo&data1=hawk-custom-tracking&a_aid=60801ebbc7578" data-link-merchant="guitartricks.com"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Get your first month for $1
With a huge amount of content for more advanced players, as well as providing a great beginner selection Guitar Tricks is our top choice for players who already have a little playing under their belt. 

Best of all, you can get your first month for just $1 with an exclusive deal for MusicRadar readers. Just hit the link above to claim yours!

Guitar Tricks review: Performance and verdict

Guitar Tricks review

(Image credit: Guitar Tricks)

Guitar Tricks may have history but that doesn’t make it old-fashioned. The platform has undergone countless refreshes since its inception and the current UI is smart, clean and easy to navigate. Frankly, it lacks the sophisticated sheen of Fender Play and Gibson App, but that’s mostly due to its somewhat clumsy logo and drab red livery. 

If you’re a guitar-playing newbie, Guitar Tricks makes it a doddle to get started. On logging in, you’ll be presented with a home page that prominently displays three large banners unambiguously labelled Beginner Lessons, Experienced Lessons and Song Library. Click on Beginner Lessons (unless you’re feeling rebellious or curious about other content), and you’ll be inducted into Guitar Tricks’ Core Learning System.

This system comprises a two-level ‘Fundamentals’ learning pathway that guides beginners through everything from novice guitar skills to early-intermediate techniques. There are 300 videos in the entire Core System, covering topics from tuning your guitar through to extended chords and a myriad of scales. 

Currently, there are two versions of the pathway to choose from. The original 720p series, featuring artist and guitar instructor Lisa McCormick, and a 4k 2021 update in which popular session musician Anders Mouridsen takes the helm. Both teachers are excellent, with Anders bringing a great deal of enthusiasm and energy to play. My advice would be to stick with the more recent version, perhaps visiting Lisa’s tutorials for a different perspective on any skills you find particularly tricky to master.  

Guitar Tricks review

(Image credit: Guitar Tricks)

Once you’ve worked through the two Fundamentals levels, Guitar Tricks recommends that you specialise in one of four areas – Acoustic, Blues, Rock and Country – each of which has its own two-level pathway to complete. Of course, although it’s probably best to stick with the lesson plan, you are free to dip in and out of any of the courses or lessons. This is where Guitar Tricks' non-gamified approach is so refreshing. The platform will hold your hand as much as you want, but essentially, you’re free to pick and choose whatever you want to play. Provided you’re disciplined enough to incorporate structure into your practice regime, I find this unshackled approach to learning more liberating than the ‘earn to learn’ model used by many of its competitors. 

If you finish one specialism, let’s say blues, there’s nothing to stop you from moving across to rock or country. Or you can delve into Guitar Tricks’ vast assortment of advanced tutorials, which are usefully organised into collections such as Chords & Scales, Artist Studies, Guitar Techniques and Guitar Styles. 

Choose Artist Studies to master the styles of players as diverse as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Randy Rhoads, The Edge and Wes Montgomery to name but a few. Select Guitar Styles and you’ll be presented with twelve genres to choose from, including popular ones such as blues and metal, plus more niche categories like rockabilly. Like many of its competitors, Guitar Tricks is heavily biased towards blues, rock and metal. Jazz and even classical are quite well represented, but the funk & soul and world categories get just a few cursory lessons. Which is an oversight.

Guitar Tricks’ massive Song Library is similarly biased towards classic guitar gems from the 60s and 70s, rock’s golden decades. If you love songs from Clapton, the Stones, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, The Beatles, Deep Purple, Gary Moore, ZZ Top and the like then you’re spoiled for choice, there are hundreds of songs here suitable for a broad range of abilities. If your tastes run to more contemporary artists, then beyond some token Ed Sheeran and Rihanna tunes you’re out of luck. For those about to rock, Guitar Tricks salutes you. Those about to play almost every other genre should probably look elsewhere. 

Guitar Tricks review

(Image credit: Guitar Tricks)

So much for the breadth of content; what about the quality of tuition? First, I’m a big fan of Guitar Tricks’ user interface. Regardless of whether you’re viewing a lesson or a song, you’ll see the same principal elements on your screen – a video tutorial, a notation panel with TAB, an info panel with tabs for description, notation, lyrics and Q&A together with a content/progress panel. The video takes precedence on mobile phones, with the other panels tabbed beneath it.

Most of the time, your focus will be on the video panel, which can be expanded to full-screen when you need to see more detail. Footage can be slowed to half-speed, sped up to double-speed, looped and A/B looped for repeatedly watching the same section. 

I really value the notation panel, which shows traditional staff notation as well as TAB, a feature that few other online tutorial sites bother with. Staff notation may look daunting at first, but it does provide a wealth of information about timing that TAB simply omits. Most novices, exposed to staff notation from the start, will be able to pick up the basics within a week or two. It’s a great skill to acquire, one that will help them to unravel the timing of future tricky passages with confidence.

Also consider

Fender

(Image credit: Fender)

Fender Play: Looking for more contemporary songs to learn? Well, Fender Play may be the platform for you.
Yousician: Yousician is our choice for those seeking a gamified approach to learning.
TrueFire: With a wide array of teachers TrueFire is a great site for both beginners and intermediates. 

The quality of instruction is excellent. Over time, Guitar Tricks has honed its content to be fun, engaging and motivating. A few of the older courses do feature long lessons that become wearing to endure, but the more recent 4k content is short, snappy and immediate. Few lessons I viewed exceeded three minutes. As you’d expect, multiple camera angles capture all the detail, making it always easy for beginners to figure out what the picking hand and the fretting hand are doing. None of the elemental courses feature much in the way of theory or overly repetitive exercises. Instead, Guitar Tricks favours seamlessly embedding a little theory within the run of many musical passages.

Additional nice-to-have features include a one-to-one feedback service, a user forum, a practice scheduler and an online toolbox that includes a tuner, metronome, scale finder, chord finder and Jam Station, which is a library of backing tracks to jam to. We didn’t try the one-to-one feedback service, but it sounds intriguing. Members with full access are invited to share videos of their playing via a private YouTube link so that an instructor can then offer feedback, also via YouTube. 

One-to-one online lessons are also available to book, priced at $60 for 30 minutes or $120 for an hour. A custom lesson plan can also be developed just for you, priced at $99. For some reason, Guitar Tricks doesn’t push this feature, but there is an app available on iOS and Android. Free to subscribers, it pretty much mirrors the desktop experience.

Guitar Tricks review: hands-on demos

Deviant Noise

Music Groupies

Sound Fro

Guitar Tricks review: specifications

  • Price: A Guitar Tricks all-access online membership is available for $19.95/£16.99 per month. It is also possible to sign up for a free account, but the content is very limited.
  • App: The Guitar Tricks app runs on iOS and Android. It’s free for all-access subscribers.
  • Key features: 11,000 lessons; extensive core studies; song lessons; artist and genre studies; chord and scale charts; maintenance tips; tone advice; with amp guitar settings
  • Contact: Guitar Tricks 
Simon Fellows

When Simon's childhood classical guitar teacher boasted he 'enjoyed a challenge', the poor man had no idea how much he'd underestimated the scale of the task ahead. Despite Simon's lack of talent, the experience did spark a lifelong passion for music. His classical guitar was discarded for an electric, then a room full of electrics before Simon discovered the joys of keys. Against all odds, Simon somehow managed to blag a career as a fashion journalist, but he's now more suitably employed writing for MusicRadar and Guitar World. When not writing or playing, he can be found terrifying himself on his mountain bike.