Last Updated Jul-25-2018.
We gave this important article a big overhaul and added new summaries for the online guitar courses that we felt deserved their time in the spotlight – such as Fender Play and TrueFire – as well as links to our full reviews of these platforms.
Trying to learn how to play guitar? Well done – this is probably the best decision you will ever make! However, the guitar can be a tricky instrument to learn, which is why a good course is essential if you want to do things properly.
Table Of Contents
While these are still very valid methods (just replace VHS with DVD!), learning how to play guitar via an online course is now considered one of the best ways of learning.
Which is why we have created this page. Here we give you everything you need to know about some of the most popular online guitar courses, their pros and cons, and whether they are worth parting with your cash.
Below is a quick comparison table highlighting seven of our favorite online guitar courses, then stay tuned after the chart for a more in-depth look at these courses and what they can offer you.
Taking one-on-one, face-to-face guitar lessons with a local teacher is a tried-and-tested way of learning the guitar, but this method also has its drawbacks.
Not only are you limited to one teacher, and restricted to their course material and schedules, but they tend to be expensive – especially if you want to learn to a decent standard.
This is why online lessons have completely revolutionized the way people learn guitar (or any instrument for that matter).
In a nutshell, the advantages of learning online include:
• Convenience. Learning online is an incredibly convenient way of nailing the basics of guitar right up to advanced soloing, all from the comfort of your own computer. Providing you have a laptop, tablet or smartphone, you can take your lessons literally anywhere.
• Pace. With online lessons, you can learn at your own pace – whether you are a slow learner or can only dedicate so much time to playing, you can learn and practice when you want; not when your guitar teacher tells you to.
• Choice. Online tuition is also great for giving you choice – whether that is the number of instructors, learning a certain genre, or the kinds of songs on offer, you will be able to tailor the majority of courses to fit your style.
• Cost. Another big plus is that online courses are cheaper in the long run (even in the short run!). A private tutor could cost you anywhere between $20 and $40 per lesson, which soon builds up – especially if you are a complete beginner and need lots of instruction. Online courses tend to be much cheaper – with some coming in at around $20 a month, which is less than a dollar a day.
If you learn every day, the money you can save quickly adds up – and that’s before you take into account the amount of free lessons and free courses on offer.
That is a very valid question, considering the amount of free instruction you can find online these days.
But there is only so much benefit that jumping from YouTube video to YouTube video and learning random chords and songs can offer.
Paying for a course will provide you with both a reputable teacher as well as structure.
Learning guitar from scratch can be a little daunting, and unless you know where to start you can easily get flustered and overwhelmed, or you can see no progress and get bored very quickly.
Also, you will have questions, such as do you learn chords first? Or scales? Or should you learn how to strum before everything else?
Or should you learn it all at the same time? How do you chart your progress, or decide what to watch when you are presented with thousands of instructional videos on YouTube?
For a relatively small fee, joining a paid-for course such as GuitarTricks or JamPlay (more on these soon) can provide you with the structure and guidance you need to progress.
Start at the beginning, follow the step-by-step courses for a few weeks, practice, and you are almost guaranteed to see good progress!
GuitarTricks is often seen as the king of online guitar courses – and for good reason.
Launched in 1998, it is one of the oldest and most comprehensive guitar tuition sites around, boasting an archive of 11,000 lessons, with more than 700 songs. In 2018 the platform celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Overall, the website is slick and easy to navigate, while the video player – after a recent revamp – is simple to get to grips with and offers advanced functions, such as slow motion and A/B looping, while most of the videos are filmed in super-clear 4K.
Instructors are plentiful – there are 33 of them, all of which are experts in their own styles of guitar music, while the majority are professional recording and touring artists.
For complete beginners, the easy-going Lisa McCormick takes the Guitar Fundamentals Level 1 course, which gives you a solid grounding in the instrument and actually starts you playing simple songs with backing tracks from the first few lessons.
Advanced players can explore foundation courses for three different styles of music: blues, country or rock, with two course levels per style.
Aside from learning techniques, there is also a bank of 700 different song lessons, covering artists like The Beatles, Blink 182, Pearl Jam and Metallica, although you can check out the full song list here.
One slight drawback is that of the 700 songs, some less popular bands feature more than some guitar icons. For example, you will find no specific songs from Iron Maiden, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Vai, or Joe Satriani (although you will find ‘style lessons’ to cater for these artists).
Still, with more than 700 different songs covering a full spectrum of styles, you’ll never be bored.
Throw in an active community, regular blogs, and a host of useful tools, and it’s clear to see why 1.9 million guitarists use the system.
JamPlay remains one of the most comprehensive and longest-running online guitar schools around and, while it doesn’t match GuitarTricks when it comes to the amount of content on offer, it has several unique features that makes it a very serious contender for top dog.
One of these is the number of instructors – there are 89 of them! And it’s not a case of quantity over quality, as the majority of JamPlay tutors are professional artists who are members of iconic bands.
For example, the Megadeth songs are taught by former Megadeth shredder Glen Drover; Staind lessons from Mike Mushok; and Machine Head lessons taken by both Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel.
You also have a huge roster of other familiar guitarists, including Nick Catanese, Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal, Brent Mason, and Dave Isaacs.
The feel and format of the lessons is also very polished, with a sensible site layout, a comprehensive and customizable lesson dashboard, and an advanced video player.
The videos themselves are filmed in high definition, with multiple angles on screen at one time to aid tuition.
There’s no shortage of things to learn either, with more than 5,500 different lessons and a big range of songs to learn including hits from The Beatles, Fall Out Boy, Jimi Hendrix, The Offspring, ZZ Top, Eric Clapton, Goo Goo Dolls, System of a Down, Korn, Black Label Society and many more.
It’s not solely the heavier styles of music that are catered for, as JamPlay offer tuition on an unrivaled menu of styles – blues, fingerstyle, classical, jazz, pop, bluegrass, country, and surf among others. Be sure to check out their full list of styles.
Ultimately there is a lot to keep you coming back to JamPlay. Such as Live Courses, where a JamPlay instructor streams a live lesson, focusing on a certain style or technique.
There’s a big schedule to check out. There’s also full tablature, a lively community, and an array of tools to help you along.
Despite a relatively short existence, the platform has already built up a great beginner’s course with plenty of tuition on chords, techniques and songs, although the lack of content for experienced players means advanced guitarists should probably look elsewhere for now.
The site design is very stylish and feels fresh, modern and minimalist – reflected in the high definition videos themselves.
The course instructors don’t have the same notability as some of the other sites, but they are still experienced and friendly.
There are no bass lessons with Fender Play, but the site does offer a good range of ukulele tuition at no extra cost, including a dedicated list of ukulele songs to learn.
On that note, there is also a good range of guitar songs to work through, similar in style to GuitarTricks and JamPlay (even though a few of the lessons seem a little incomplete).
The site lacks some of the extras and community feel that other systems offer, which is a bit of a shame, but the overall cost is lower than others, making it a worthwhile budget choice.
Ultimately, Fender Play certainly has a bit of catching up to do when it comes to content, but they have laid the foundations for what could be an excellent site in the near future.
Having been running since 1991, it’s safe to say that TrueFire has a lot of experience under its belt, while the numbers back it up – they offer more than 33,000 lessons and 700 courses, which pretty much guarantees you will never run out of things to do.
The instructors are a highlight and rival the likes of ArtistWorks in terms of pedigree, with several huge guitar icons teaching some of the courses, such as Steve Vai, Robben Ford and Tommy Emmanuel.
These three barely scrape the surface though, as TrueFire offers a total of 140 incredibly experienced instructors.
While the Learning Paths beginner’s courses are great, it is the content for intermediate and advanced players where TrueFire really excels, with a huge range of core and supplementary courses to choose from.
The open structure can be a little confusing if you are unsure where to start, but providing you can use some initiative, the system is relatively straightforward to get to grips with.
The website is pretty stylish and easy to navigate, while most of the videos are filmed in high definition with multiple camera angles and use the modern SoundSlice player for a solid interactive experience.
Unlike JamPlay and GuitarTricks, there isn’t a huge catalog of songs to learn from as TrueFire focuses on techniques over adding songs to a repertoire (just like ArtistWorks).
Whether or not this is a negative will depend on your style and aims as a guitarist.
As for extras, several features are offered including fully-adjustable ‘In The Jam’ backing tracks and private lessons with a tutor, although these features cost extra.
Ultimately the core courses and thousands of other lessons provide enough value for any level of guitarist, which is why TrueFire remains so popular after all these years.
Compared to JamPlay and GuitarTricks, ArtistWorks does things a little differently – with the focus on the community and instructors, instead of on learning individual songs.
For some people, this is an excellent way of learning the guitar – especially when you take into account the caliber of instructors on offer.
For example, students enrolling on the Rock Guitar course will be tutored by none other than Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big, Racer X) – one of the fastest guitarists of all time and a true legend.
Electric Country guitar lessons are taken by one of Nashville’s leading guitarists Guthrie Trapp; flatpicking virtuoso Bryan Sutton is in charge of Bluegrass Guitar lessons; while Nathan East – one of the most popular and recorded bassists of all time – is just one of the bass instructors for ArtistWorks. It’s hard to rival this kind of instruction.
What makes it all the more special is you get personal video feedback from your tutor, thanks to the innovative Video Exchange feature.
This adds a new dimension to online learning, allowing students to film and upload videos of themselves playing to the Video Exchange, before receiving video feedback from their instructor full of tips and advice.
There’s also a huge archive of these exchange videos, so you can watch how others cope with the lessons and see what feedback the instructor offers them.
In addition to the regular lessons and unique Video Exchange aspect, ArtistWorks focuses on the community side of learning guitar, and provides a variety of ways to keep in touch with your expert tutor and friendly, like-minded fellow students including dedicated forums, a Shoutbox chatroom, and an active Facebook community.
While the lack of songs will put some guitarists off, the expert tuition and Video Exchange is well worth the price of the course alone. You can read more about ArtistWorks in our full review or click here to sign up.
Now’s the time to talk money. How much will you be paying to enjoy online guitar lessons from the comfort of your own home and in your own time?
GuitarTricks is $19.95 every month, or you can pay an annual fee of $179.95, which saves you $60 over the year in comparison to the monthly fee.
JamPlay is also $19.95 per month, with options of quarterly payments of $49.95 or an annual payment of $159.95 – a great saving that works out at just 44 cents a day.
ArtistWorks is $35 per month (with a minimum three-month plan) although the Unlimited plan – coming with several bonuses – works out at $279 per year (or $23.35 month).
TrueFire is $19 per month, with an annual subscription of $199 (essentially giving you two months for free).
Fender Play is $9.99 per month, with a six-month option of $49.99 or a yearly subscription of $89.99.
Jamorama has a very simple payment structure – just one payment of $99.95 will grant you full access to the site for life.
There you have it – a complete guide to seven of the most popular online guitar tuition websites currently available.
Our advice is to check out the websites themselves, then take advantage of a few free trials and see if the format suits you.
Not every website will appeal to every guitarist. Beginners would find use with most of our choices, although experienced guitarists would be better off sticking with GuitarTricks, JamPlay or TrueFire for their advanced content.
Every guitarist is different, so it’s up to you to decide what you prefer. Keep checking back, as we will review new online guitar courses as they appear. Good luck!