If you’ve checked out some other online guitar lessons you will soon find that ArtistWorks is a slightly different way of doing things.
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Before we start, one thing worth noting is that ArtistWorks is not solely for those learning guitar – they cater for a wide range of instruments, including the clarinet, violin, trumpet, flute and even the harmonica, among others. However their offering for guitarists of all abilities is very good, and well worth finding out more about.
Please note, while there are various styles and tutors, for this review we’ll refer mainly to the Rock Guitar with Paul Gilbert course, to keep things simple.
Some quick links to the sections discussed in this review:
ArtistWorks takes a little longer to get acquainted with than something more straightforward like GuitarTricks, but when you know what you are doing it is a relatively simple website to use and navigate.
There are two basic aspects to ArtistWorks lessons – a professional lesson and a Video Exchange.
Via the dashboard (under the Learn tab), students are presented with a library of lessons from the course tutor; covering basic skills right up to advanced techniques, and pretty much everything in between.
As an example of this format in action, let’s look at a lesson in the Fundamentals section, called ‘Rhythmic Bending’ where virtuoso guitarist Paul Gilbert (yes – the Paul Gilbert) takes you through a full five minute video on the technique, with the option of playing a Slow Motion Isolation video of a key aspect afterwards. These lessons are simple enough, and give you ample chance to learn the technique in detail.
However, for those who want further instruction, they can film and upload videos of themselves playing to the Video Exchange for the instructor to comment on. This means – providing your package allows (more on this later) – you are able to record yourself playing a song/technique and upload the video, with your professional tutor giving you personal feedback.
Even if you aren’t the one sending the videos, you have the ability to watch the archive of these exchange videos, and pick up useful hints and tips yourself. So, instead of learning from just one instructor, you are technically learning from a group of fellow guitarists – which can be very helpful at times.
The video player is simple to use, although not as smooth as some other online music schools. And for those who want to read through exactly what is being taught, ArtistWorks offers complete TAB/notation for each technique/song, accessible via the lesson page.
ArtistWorks is tailored towards complete beginners and, as such, focuses most of its lessons on foundation skills – those that will make you a better guitarist in the long run.
Lessons for beginners can be found in the Learn section, under the Fundamentals tab. Here you will find 60 complete videos, covering everything from an introduction to basic rock guitar and tuning your instrument, up to lessons on palm muting, string bending and triplet pull-offs. There’s no shortage of material for complete beginners, who will have months and months of instruction to work through.
Videos range from anywhere between two minutes up to around ten, with the added bonus of being able to film yourself and upload your video for Paul to assess via the Video Exchange.
While ArtistWorks caters for beginners, the good news for those progressing past the most basic stage is that there is a similar amount of material for more experienced players – 24 Intermediate lessons and 32 Advanced lessons. These come in the same format, and can be found via the ‘Learn’ page.
In both these sections you’ll find relevant introductions, then lessons that mainly focus on pentatonic soloing in the Intermediate sections, with string skipping, arpeggios and scales saved for the Advanced section.
A word of warning – if you are already an experienced guitarist looking to learn something new or to increase your ability, you may be better off with something like GuitarTricks, as they cater a little better for advanced players. While ArtistWorks has enough to get your teeth into, after a few months you may find yourself out of lessons.
Although we’ve mainly discussed the Rock Guitar course, ArtistWorks caters for all styles of guitar music – including blues, country, jazz, classical, acoustic, bluegrass, fingerstyle and more. Note that if you want to access these extra styles (say, both rock and fingerstyle), you will need to pay for the courses individually.
ArtistWorks offers a Bass Campus, which comprises three individual bass courses overseen by some of the bass world’s most renown musicians.
For example, you can take Electric Bass lessons with jazz, R&B and rock bassist Nathan East – one of the most popular and recorded bassists of all time, with more than 2,000 recordings to his name!
You’ll also find Jazz Bass lessons taken by legendary jazz bassist John Patitucci, while they also offer specialist Bluegrass Bass lessons with Missy Raines, who has won seven International Bluegrass Music Awards for Bass Player of the Year – more than any other bassist!
While the amount of guitar instructors present on ArtistWorks is less than some other sites, it’s certainly a case of quality over quantity, as the guitarists that take the lessons are all legends in their own right.
Sticking with the Rock Guitar course, we are greeted by Paul Gilbert – an artist who needs very little introduction. Paul has consistently been voted as one of the best rock guitarists ever and featured in Guitar World’s ‘50 Fastest Guitarists of All Time’ list in 2011. He’s the co-founder of Mr. Big and was a member of Racer X, although has since enjoyed huge success with his solo albums and collaborations with other artists.
He’s also a great teacher – charismatic, friendly and enthusiastic when it comes to his lessons, and it feels like he cares about teaching, instead of just halfheartedly putting his name to the program. Paul is also very good at giving advice and ideas on how to improve when responding to videos on the Video Exchange, and regularly responds to forum questions.
Elsewhere in the world of ArtistWorks guitar lessons, the talented Guthrie Trapp – one of Nashville’s leading guitarists – takes the Electric Country guitar lessons, while flatpicking sensation Bryan Sutton is instructor for ArtistWorks’ Bluegrass Guitar lessons. Bryan’s pedigree speaks for itself – a Grammy award-winning flatpicker who was named Guitarist of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 2000, 2003, and 2004. Enough said!
For those guitarists who are driven by learning some of the most famous songs in the world, this is where ArtistWorks comes up a little short.
It’s a purely technique-based program, with the focus on developing your skills as a guitarist instead of arbitrarily learning different songs. So if learning specific songs is your main aim, ArtistWorks may not be for you – a platform such as GuitarTricks or JamPlay would suit you far better.
Having said that, as you learn your techniques you start to build up an arsenal of riffs, licks and scales, which will suit you well when you eventually take on individual songs. But for a vast catalog of guitar tunes, ArtistWorks is not the place to look.
While there’s no free trial, ArtistWorks still offers a handful of free sample lessons on the website and on their YouTube channel, to allow you to see the format and instructors in action.
As we’ve established, the community is at the center of everything that takes place on ArtistWorks – and it’s certainly a bustling group of musicians, who make you feel a part of something bigger.
The innovative Video Exchanges are a way for you to get closer to your instructor, although they also allow you to see other ArtistWorks members in action and how they handle the techniques on the course.
But it’s not solely the Video Exchanges where ArtistWorks shows off its community spirit. There are also dedicated forums, which allow you to engage with the ArtistWorks community as well as ask your tutor quick questions without having to use video. For example, the Rock Forum (which is accessible when clicking on the ‘Ask Paul’ box) features questions about everything from guitar techniques and equipment queries, to what shoes Paul Gilbert wears – with responses from Paul himself!
In addition to this, on the website’s dashboard, you’ll find a Shoutbox, which acts as a mini chat room, where you can type whatever is on your mind and receive instant replies from other members.
Finally, ArtistWorks have a popular Facebook community, with more than 50,000 followers, and post a variety of entertaining and inspirational videos – although this is not solely a guitar feed, so you’ll see other instruments featured.
Aside from the videos and forum, ArtistWorks offer no extra tools, so it’ll be up to you to find the things you need elsewhere online.
Unfortunately, unlike some other tuition sites, there’s no dedicated ArtistWorks phone app, although you can still access the website via a mobile web browser.
ArtistWorks is flexible with its pricing, and offers several tiers and payment plans to suit most budgets.
Prices start with the Basic plan, which grants you access to professional lessons for three months, with five video submissions to your instructor, for $105 (working out at $35 month).
Next is the Select plan, where $179 ($30 per month) gets you six months access to everything you’d find in the Basic plan, but with up to 12 video submissions and 25 bonus backing tracks.
Finally the Unlimited plan grants you a full year’s membership to ArtistWorks. This includes access to every lesson, the full Video Exchange archive, unlimited submissions to your instructor, as well as VIP bonus content and unlimited backing tracks for $279 per year (or $23.35 month – less than a dollar a day!). This is the best value plan by far, although what you go for will depend on your ambitions, budget and skill level.
ArtistWorks recommends you try the course for at least three months to see the full benefit of having one-to-one lessons with legendary musicians. They encourage you to sign up for three months by offering a fourth month for free. Just enter the code FOUR4THREE on payment, and enjoy using that extra month for no extra charge.
Unlike some other tuition sites, there is no free trial of ArtistWorks, which is actually quite understandable – the interactive student/instructor format doesn’t really lend itself to a brief trial period.
After watching a few videos and practicing your new techniques, record a video of yourself playing, then upload it to the Video Exchange and wait for Paul – or whichever guitar tutor taking your course – to film a video response. Or just enjoy one of the thousands of past videos that have been exchanged between instructor and student.
ArtistWorks has a lot going for it, and this is down to the community and the instructors. Where else are you going to be able to send a message and a video of yourself playing to the legendary Paul Gilbert, and actually receive personal feedback full of useful expert advice? This aspect of ArtistWorks alone is worth the price of the course.
However the community is also a big bonus. It’s busy, friendly and full of like-minded musicians who you can turn to for support and advice – whether that’s through watching the archive of Video Exchanges or chatting on the forum.
It’s not all five-stars – the website itself is not as easy or straightforward to navigate as others, neither is the video player as polished. There’s also no big catalog of songs, so if you are a guitarist in training and want to learn to play hit after hit after hit, you may be better off looking elsewhere.
While the website can also take a little more getting used to than some of the other online courses around, for the expert instruction and the interactive features, this is as close as you will get to a face-to-face lesson, without splashing the cash on a personal tutor, making ArtistWorks well worth considering.
Click here to pick your course and sign up!