Last Updated Mar-29-2017. Forget the name – GuitarTricks offers so much more than just ‘tricks’. In fact, it’s one of the most comprehensive online guitar tutorial sites today, catering for complete beginners, intermediates and experienced players alike.
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As they approach their 20th anniversary, it’s clear that GuitarTricks knows a thing or two about teaching guitar online. So let’s see what they have to offer.
Some quick links to the sections discussed in this review:
As mentioned, GuitarTricks has been around for a long time and has built a huge archive of songs and technique lessons ranging in style, ability and artist.
As an example of the format, let’s look at a medium ability song – ‘Be Like That’, by Three Doors Down. For that song, you’ll be presented with a home page, which includes a Lesson Info section (offering an overview of how the song and lesson are broken down) and a progress bar, as well as a contents section for the lesson in question.
The lessons themselves vary in length and come in a range of segments, instead of one long hard-to-follow lesson. This makes it easier for learning a tricky solo for example, as you can head straight to your desired section without having to watch the introduction and other aspects of the song multiple times. With ‘Be Like That’, the song is broken down into its various verses, choruses and the bridge, while there are also segments for finding the right tone for the song, and a performance video so you can play along.
Both the TAB/notation for the specific section, and even song lyrics, are also available at the click of a button, just underneath the video.
In late 2016, GuitarTricks upgraded their video player, making it very fast, simple and smooth to use. Videos load quickly, with accurate A/B looping allowing you to repeat a full video or a specific portion continuously – crucial when learning a difficult song. Another essential tool for learning songs is their Slow Motion feature, allowing you to adjust the video down to half speed (without affecting pitch, which helps when playing along).
The newest lessons on GuitarTricks are also shot in 4K, so you are guaranteed clarity and high resolution, even if you play the videos on a big screen television, via a HDMI cable or internet TV.
As one of the four main categories on the home page, ‘Beginner Lessons’ are easy to navigate to. And if you are a complete beginner, you’ll be pleased with how GuitarTricks eases you into the instrument.
When on the beginner’s page, you can work your way through their Core Learning System, starting on the Guitar Fundamentals Level 1 course, which helps you get to know everything about your guitar – from how to tune the strings to playing simple chords, working your way up to must-know open chords and lessons on rhythm. You also learn how to start playing instantly, with instructor Lisa McCormick holding your hand right the way through – a fine teacher, who is easy to follow, but doesn’t patronize.
This is more than enough material to keep you playing for a few weeks, and as much – if not more – than you may learn with a face-to-face instructor!
After this, you can move onto Level 2 whenever you are ready. This course picks up where you left off, and shows you how to play and use power chords, barre chords, different scales, and even an introduction to reading music. If you’ve never picked up a guitar before, this foundation course teaches you to play songs from day one, and would allow you to become competent in a matter of weeks.
So, GuitarTricks offers a very comprehensive beginner’s online course – but how does it stack up for advanced players?
Very well actually. As part of the Core Learning System, after the beginner’s Guitar Fundamentals levels (1 and 2), more experienced players can explore the foundations of three different styles of music: blues, country or rock. There are two levels per style, with the introduction of new instructors. There are ample lessons to get anyone started on the road to a new style; outlining both rhythm and lead playing techniques as well as well as how to find the correct tone with different equipment.
While the later stages of the Core Learning System will benefit the majority of experienced players – especially those looking to learn a new style (trying country music for the first time, for example) – the true highlight of GuitarTricks for experienced guitarists is their bank of songs, which spans more than 700, over a range of difficulties. These difficulties are categorized by a small guitar icon: one guitar for ‘Absolute Beginner’ working up to five guitars for ‘Advanced’ songs.
The trio of styles – blues, country and rock – highlighted in the Core Learning System may be the most popular, but are by no means the limit. In fact, GuitarTricks also includes dedicated sections on the majority of guitar styles: acoustic, bluegrass, classical, funk and soul, jazz, metal, rockabilly, surf and world.
You can navigate to these different styles directly from one of the four main categories on the home page, ‘Learn Styles of Guitar’, although they are also listed throughout the site when browsing songs.
Unfortunately for bassists there are no dedicated bass guitar lessons on GuitarTricks, as they focus solely on six-string electric and acoustic guitar.
As you may expect from a tuition site that’s been running for almost 20 years, GuitarTricks features a huge roster of instructors – 32 at the last count! They all vary in age, gender, and style, with some specializing in one genre (such as Ned Luberecki for country, and Kenny Echizen for funk), while other instructors will pop up teaching many different styles – Doug Fearman, for example, takes lessons on blues, rock and jazz.
All instructors come across as knowledgeable and friendly, although some perhaps a little more enthusiastic than others. The majority of instructors have played and recorded with artists around the world – Andy Gurley, Jinx Jones, Michael Eisenstein, and Henrik Linde in particular, while Sharon Aguilar is the lead guitarist for Cee Lo Green, and Anders Mouridsen has performed with the likes of John Fogerty, Taylor Swift, Faith Evans, and Pink.
Other instructors such as Dave Celentano and Tom Finch are renown across the industry for their playing and teaching skills. So a varied bunch of tutors, all with a good pedigree.
As mentioned, GuitarTricks boasts a huge collection of officially licensed songs to learn – more than 700, with approximately one new song added once a week. Although don’t be surprised to see multiple additions every so often.
The songs you can learn on GuitarTricks are a big mixed bag – everything from The Beatles to Blink 182, Pearl Jam to Poison. Every style of guitar music is covered including a range of classical guitar pieces, with Bach, Beethoven, Pachelbel and Tarrega all well represented.
Whether or not your favorite band is featured is the luck of the draw. For example, some of my all-time favorites including Paul Simon, Iron Maiden and The Offspring aren’t featured at all, while some of the lesser known artists feature heavily.
The choice of songs for some of guitar’s most beloved icons are also a little limited – for example, there’s just one Metallica track, one Eddie van Halen track, and nothing from Steve Vai or Joe Satriani. Those wanting a taste of these megastars can find ‘style lessons’ where an instructor gives a lesson or study in the style of Maiden, Hendrix, Vai, Satriani and so on, although if you are looking for specific songs you may be disappointed.
Having said that, with more than 700 songs in the GuitarTricks bank, as well as hundreds of style and technique lessons, there is more than enough to keep both beginners and experienced guitarists playing for years!
In addition to the free trial we highlight above, you can find 24 free guitar lessons on GuitarTricks that gives you a good taste of what full membership can offer you.
The majority of these free lessons focus on specific aspects of playing – warm-up exercises, scale lessons, tutorials on sweep picking, working with pedals – with a variety of different instructors, although there are also a couple of full songs to get your teeth into.
Aside from the standard list of lessons and songs, GuitarTricks offers a very helpful page called ‘My Guitar Toolbox’ that features a range of basic web apps that are essential for both the beginner and experienced guitarist alike.
The six tools comprise a metronome, a reference tuner, a scale finder, a chord finder, a jam station, and a fretboard finder.
The first four are pretty self-explanatory, but it’s worth pointing out how the other two work. The fretboard trainer in particular is an innovative way to find your way around the fretboard – it’s a straightforward game that will randomly highlight a note on the digital fretboard, offering a range of multiple choice answers and a timer. You just have to tell the system what the note is. Simple in theory, but actually quite addictive to play and a fun way to learn your notes.
The jam station is a complete collection of all lesson backing tracks and playalongs, which also display TAB/notations for you to follow as you play. It takes a few minutes to get used to, but it worked out as a very helpful tool for improvisation and putting lessons into practice. With the jam station, there are no videos – just audio, which is just what you need when you want to practice and experiment. Good fun.
While the majority of these tools may be something you already have, it’s very convenient to have them in one central location – close by when you are learning your songs. All the apps operate well, are clean and aesthetically pleasing, and easy to use.
On the move? Don’t worry, because GuitarTricks also offers a free iOS and Android app, so you can take lessons on the road.
The free version of this app offers a range of free lessons on rotation, although you are very limited in choice. However, if you upgrade to full membership, you are granted access to all the content GuitarTricks has to offer – all 11,000 lessons with more than 700 songs to learn.
The app itself – on both platforms – is nicely designed, and as smooth as the website to get around. You’re offered a simple dashboard, which makes navigating to songs, styles and lessons very easy, while the videos retain the same high-quality resolution as you’d find on the web version.
You are never alone when learning guitar – especially with GuitarTricks, who offer a full forum for their users. This forum allows you to chat with fellow guitarists of all levels, ask and reply to questions, and see what other guitarists are up to. With dedicated sections on guitar basics, music theory, songwriting, recording and technique, among many others, there’s something for everyone on this easy-to-use forum.
Guitar Tricks are also very active on social media networks including Facebook, with nearly half a million followers, and post regular guitar tips and videos, and even the occasional free lesson. Their Twitter page – @GuitarTricks – is also an active stream, keeping followers up-to-date with what’s happening on the website and blog.
In addition to their wide range of lessons, GuitarTricks also offer a regularly updated blog which is available to both members and non-members alike. Blog authors talk about a plethora of different topics, and share interesting guitar-fueled lists – such as ‘10 Easy Guitar Songs For Beginners’ and ‘11 Most Innovative Guitar Brands You’ve Never Heard Of’ – as well as interviews with instructors, gear reviews, and special giveaways and competitions.
There are two ways to pay for full access membership to GuitarTricks. You can pay $19.99 every month, or an annual fee of $179.99 which saves you $60 in the long run. For such an extensive course, that pretty much guarantees you’ll progress with guitar – providing you actually sit and practice – this offers very good value.
GuitarTricks have a very generous permanent promotional code, which will save you 20% off your first payment. Even better, this works for both monthly and annual subscriptions, so you can save up to $36. Just enter the code SAVE20 or visit this page where the coupon has already been applied.
The good news is that GuitarTricks offers a generous 14-day free trial, for those who want to test out the system without paying a penny. This is a risk-free way to see if the songs and lessons will suit you, and whether full membership is worthwhile. And they don’t hold anything back – you to access to everything a full member would get, for two weeks, for free!
If you’re a complete beginner and have never even held a guitar, you’ll want to start with Guitar Fundamentals Level 1 as part of GuitarTricks’ Core Learning System. As mentioned above, this course will teach you how to hold the guitar and plectrum, right up to learning your first basic chords and songs. You can then progress to the slightly more advanced – but beginner friendly – Level 2, where you’ll learn power chords, barre chords, and be introduced to major and minor scales.
If you are an intermediate or advanced player, you can start pretty much anywhere. We suggest diving into a few of your favorite songs to get to grips with the lesson formats and video player. Then you can start on a short course to try a new genre of music – Blues Style, Country Style, or Rock Style courses are all part of their Core Learning System.
It’s hard to fault GuitarTricks – the company has been around for nearly two decades and has a lot of experience when it comes to teaching guitar.
They really impress with the amount of songs and lessons on offer, especially when compared to some of the other online guitar lessons around.
The group of instructors are talented and friendly, while the website and video player is easy to use and navigate. It’s also good to see the newer videos are filmed in 4K – superb quality, highlighting every pluck of every string.
In fact, there are very few weaknesses. Perhaps the song choices are a little arbitrary, with some more popular bands and guitar icons poorly represented, while others – who are less well known – have a bigger catalog. There’s also no bass guitar lessons, which is a shame for wannabe bassists, or those who play both instruments.
However, for well under $200 for a full year’s membership, GuitarTricks offers good value for beginners and experienced players alike, and a free trial is the least you should check out.
One of the coolest things about GuitarTricks is that it appeals to everyone, all the way from children to seniors. Click here to read the testimonials on it, click here to sign up for the free trial, or click here to go right into the $19.95/month plan.