TrueFire review: What is it?
If we’ve learned one thing over the past couple of years, it’s that huge parts of life can be carried out online, remotely. If you, like many others, took the time to explore a new hobby or pastime, you likely benefited from online tutorials, be that in the form of dedicated lessons or simply by mainlining YouTube videos like there’s no tomorrow. Because, to be fair, at times it felt like there wouldn’t be.
Online guitar lessons were one area that enjoyed a huge boom, as people found themselves with the time and opportunity they’d perhaps lacked before to really focus on learning to play. With plenty of vendors to choose from, users were able to find the offer that best suited their learning style, goals and budget. From shiny, upbeat tuition brands using technology in some cool and interesting ways, through to more traditional methods allowing users to drill down into specific techniques, there was - and is - something for everybody.
One that stood out to us was TrueFire. Fitting more into the latter of those two aforementioned styles, TrueFire’s promise of interactive learning, big-name tutors and a bank of over 52,000 video lessons means it ticks a lot of boxes for players of all ages and abilities. But with so much in the way of competition, from names like Fender, JustinGuitar and Yousician, where does it fit in? In our TrueFire review, we’ll aim to outline exactly that, highlighting some of its best features to help you decide if TrueFire is the tool to help reach your playing goals.
TrueFire review: Performance & verdict
We have reviewed a few different online guitar lesson services here at MusicRadar, and each has its own personality. From the colourful, modern stylings of Yousician, to the clean, professional approach of Fender Play. Compared to those, TrueFire lacks the flashy site design and ‘hold my hand’ immediacy, but that isn’t implied as a criticism. People learn in different ways, and not everybody is swayed by slick visuals.
TrueFire offers instead what the others perhaps lack; a focus on sensible, grown-up layout, which isn’t dumbed down in any way, with more in the way of content than you could have imagined. Upon logging in, it isn’t even immediately obvious what to do or where to go. Without a clear ‘start here’ button, you’re left to explore in your own time and by doing this you uncover some of the incredible depth of what’s on offer.
Case in point; upon browsing around the site, and having nothing immediately take my fancy, I started to flip my thinking. Instead of expecting TrueFire to tell me what I should learn, I pondered instead what I wanted to know more about. Much in the same way intermediate players will fire specific questions at a guitar teacher, I began using the search function to find solutions. I knew, for example, that my left-hand technique is sloppy, and limits the speed at which I can play. Searching for ‘left-hand technique’ brought up an entire course on ‘guitar physiology’ - i.e. how the body and the guitar need to work together - and from there a very knowledgeable teacher talked me through basic things like how to hold the guitar and move up and down the fretboard in a way that reduces tension.
It’s basic level stuff but if you, like me, are self-taught then maybe you didn’t get the memo to stop death-gripping the guitar’s neck. Within 30 minutes of watching and practising, I already felt an improvement and know my basic technique is now in a better place than it was before I logged on that day.
Obviously, there are songs on there to learn, and celebrity tutors like Joe Bonamassa and Steve Vai, along with everything you could ever want to know about scales, intervals, techniques and improvisation. But the way TrueFire not only knew what my problem was but had an entire course ready to watch, impressed me greatly.
TrueFire has, it must be pointed out, basic level lessons and courses so there’s something for everybody. From dedicated learning paths for specific genres, to complete walkthroughs for people who have never picked up a guitar in their life; if you have a guitar in your hand, TrueFire will make you better at playing it.
In terms of quality and functionality, videos are presented well, including tab synced to the video, plus the option to loop key sections and slow video down to your preferred speed.
But with so much content to choose from, what does all this cost? For access to everything on the site you'll pay $29 per month (or $249 for an annual pass). This is competitive pricing considering the wealth of content available to you. There's also the option of buying individual courses and modules if you're prefer not to be tied into a subscription. Like most other online lessons subscriptions, there's also the opportunity to try TrueFire for 30 days for free.
Our overall experience got us wondering about who would be best suited to choosing TrueFire. After all, competition in the online learning space is fierce. For us, TrueFire is best suited to a serious learner. Someone dedicated to learning and honing their craft, who can picture a scenario in the future where the guitar is something they play - and can play - for fun instead of constantly banging through scales. There has to be an endgame, right? If that sounds like you, and you’re prepared to put in the hard yards, then TrueFire is a great choice.
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TrueFire review: Specifications
- Cost: $29 per month, $249 per year, individual courses vary between $10 - $75
- Free trial: 30 days full access
- Format: Browser-based, with iOS and Android apps available
- Number of lessons: 50,000 video tutorials
- Styles covered: Rock, Blues, Folk, Jazz plus many more
- Contact: TrueFire