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What Are The Best Online Guitar Lessons For Fast Learning?

Quick Summary

Surely, you’ve heard about platforms like Guitar Tricks, Jam Play, and others for fast-tracking your learning journey on the guitar. In summary, the finest all-around platform for learning online seems to be JamPlay. With that being said, each platform has its own strengths. For example, Guitar Tricks has a fine community of like-minded learners, and ArtistWorks has an excellent, friendly teacher who helps inspire you to learn.

Explore for yourself which platform is right for your learning needs at this moment. In fact, you may very well choose to try each platform reviewed here; all of them (apart from ArtistWorks) are available for free trials so you can make the perfect decision on how you’ll reach new levels on guitar.

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Introduction

After reading this guide, you’ll know exactly which online guitar course is best for you, such that you’ll hopefully be able to get started and sign-up with one in the next hour.

How will you be able to sort through the fog & make that decision? Well, this guide walks you, step-by-step, through each of the main online courses you’ll find, analyzing the following:

⇀ Pros & cons of each
⇀ Who it’s meant for
⇀ the Price
⇀ Decision on if it’s worth it

By the very end, you’ll read a full wrap-up, comparing the courses like Guitar Tricks & ArtistWorks to arrive at a decision for which is best tailored for your exact guitar needs.

Better yet, as a bonus, towards the end, you’ll get some extra info on (1) why online lessons can truly be of value to you, (2) free alternatives for guitar lessons, and (3) great resources available on Trusty Guitar for you to grow over the long term as a guitar player.

Overview

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Q: As a beginner or intermediate, would you use these lessons?

These lessons aren’t meant for the absolute “Day 1” beginner; rather, they’re more so meant for someone who’s already learned the function of the guitar’s 6 strings, figured out some basic exercises as well as chords, and is now ready to learn a plethora of classic songs – whether it be Under My Thumb, Wonderwall, Smells Like Teen Spirit, or Enter Sandman.

With that being the case, I wouldn’t use these lessons as a total beginner; in fact, there aren’t nearly enough lessons that delve into the absolute basics and fundamentals of guitar, such as walk-throughs of the E String, B String, and so on.

However, I would use Guitar Tricks as a burgeoning intermediate, taking advantage of its huge bank of song lessons, choosing among the kind of “bonus” techniques/riffs it teaches (for blues, country, rock, and so on), and for its helpful forum of like-minded individuals learning guitar.

Q: How would you rate the quality of the teaching?

This question would best be answered in two fronts; one, how is the quality of teaching on a teacher-by-teacher basis; two, are there “pathways” or “progressions” of lessons which lift you to a new level of repertoire and technique, entirely.

On the first topic, the quality of teachers, I’d say it’s doable in some areas, underwhelming in others, and poor in certain cases. In other words, there aren’t any teachers that hit home-runs of unbelievable pedagogy, but certain teachers convey enough enthusiasm through the camera and have the skill-level to teach the content; for example, I found the teacher for metal guitar spoke with great clarity and had enough surplus ability to likely transfer it to students. On the other hand, I found the Guitar Tricks modules focused on jazz guitar to be literally dangerous to watch; the teacher had no ability to play jazz guitar, much less an ability to teach it. With that being the case, I’d describe the quality of teachers as “spotty” — some lessons are decent, whereas others could literally reverse your progress, and there isn’t enough quality assurance on Guitar Tricks to ensure you’re only getting great content.

In terms of learning pathways, this is one area where Guitar Tricks is lacking in teaching quality. Rather than prescribe a learning pathway much like a doctor would prescribe a treatment plan, Guitar Tricks more so provides a brain-dump of songs lessons, peppered with various lessons on riffs, licks, and techniques, which doesn’t really apply any authority on how the student should go about the lessons. I should be fair and so there are attempts at that, but I’d rate the effort as a D+.

Q: Would I still need a private teacher with this program?

As a beginner, yes you’d still a private teacher to fill in the gaps of Guitar Tricks and help to prescribe a way to navigate its bank of lessons. Though, as an intermediate — if your goal is to take advantage of Guitar Tricks’ convenient sheet music & tabs for its many song lessons, so that your repertoire grows — then you probably don’t need a teacher; you can pop into Guitar Tricks, use it for your predefined purpose of learning more songs, and then return to your own journey.

If Guitar Tricks really put their best foot forward and re-designed their lessons, shaping the kind of directionless bank of lessons into more of a defined journey or pathway, then I’d feel more confident in saying you really could put off hiring a private teacher; until then, I’m more hesitant to say so, but Guitar Tricks can still add value on its own to your playing out of its sheer volume of content.

Q: Does the program have any notable strengths?

Despite the drawbacks in defining a purposeful pathway for students, and the — at times — mediocre teaching quality, Guitar Tricks excels due to its volume of content (which includes tablature & sheet music), blog content, and community.

Rather than having to search the truly “world wide” web for dependable tabs on The Beatles’ Let It Be, you know that it’s on Guitar Tricks, and at the very least it offers the base content you need to learn the song: (1st) a video lesson and (2nd) tabs — and to give Guitar Tricks credit it’s all in one place. On top of that, it’s got a solid enough bank of content that Guitar Tricks can keep you busy in learning songs for some time.

Next, the blog content is actually rather pleasant to read; it touches on topics from Jimi Hendrix’s guitar style to recommendations on guitar pedals to purchase. Granted, much of a the content may be dated (for example, in case a new model of pedal has since been released), but much of the content doesn’t have an “expiration date”. It’s not a bad blog for some light reading when you have the time.

Finally, one of the stronger aspects of Guitar Tricks is the active and sizeable forum community. As a member, you’ll get to post in its forum and ask other guitar players how to go about transitioning from a an Am chord to a G chord, to keep up with Kurt Cobain in About A Girl, or what scales they prefer to solo with. The forum seems to be quite active, so hopefully others can chime into your needs, so you can tap into the “hive mind” of fellow learners.

Q: Is it a pleasant experience to navigate their website & lessons?

It’s a bit jarring to navigate the Guitar Tricks members’ area. You’ll probably get the idea of what I mean when I say it’s like the site hasn’t been updated since 2003; the video quality for many videos is non-HD (maximum 360p like an old Youtube video), it’s easy to lose your place in the user interface, and many videos need to buffer or were stuck buffering for me, never loading.

In case you’re going to use Guitar Tricks, I’d try and solve this by bookmarking all the pages you’d like to visit (for example, the Metallica Artists page with a directory of their songs, or the specific blog area you like); this would make it so you can jimmy-rig your own way of easily navigating their content. Next, if videos freeze for you, try refreshing the page; this didn’t always work for me, but it worked in some cases where videos froze. Lastly, in regards to video quality, to be fair, the newer Guitar Tricks videos are filmed in HD, so not all videos are too grainy.

Overall, I’d say the members area could benefit greatly from some “renovating” to make it more intuitive to click around; at the moment, it’s not easy, but there are ways around it.

Q: Am I auto-charged after the trial period ends?

Yes indeed, you’re auto-billed after 14 days. As such, if you’re unsure whether you’d like to continue with Guitar Tricks beyond the trial period, just cancel your subscription after signing up, and you can rest assured you can try the content for 2 weeks, free-of-charge.

For more details, the way the billing process works is, upon signing up for the free trial, you’ll be asked for your credit card or Paypal information; note, you do not get charged at this step; rather, they do this so they can auto-bill you after your 14 day  trial period ends. However, as I mentioned above, you can go ahead and cancel your membership renewal immediately after signing up to avoid any stresses.

After the 14 day trial period, the charge is about $19.99 USD per month, which is par-for-the-course compared to alternatives like JamPlay or Fender Play.

Q: Is it worth the cost?

Whether Guitar Tricks is worth the cost depends on whether you’ll only use the 14 day trial, or you’ll continue at $19.99 per month after it ends. It also depends on your immediate goals with the guitar; are you looking to sharpen your fundamentals, or are you looking to expand your repertoire of songs?

With the trial option of 14 days, it’s worth your time to signup, whether you’re an absolute beginner or an intermediate looking to grow your library of songs. Why is this? Because, despite the drawbacks of Guitar Tricks (in teaching quality and site usability), you’ve really got nothing to lose. As a beginner, you’ll at least find a lesson here or there, for example on How to Change Strings, and How to Play Seven Nation Army. As an intermediate, you’ve got lots of songs to continue your progress. Regardless, at the very least you can signup for your trial and download as many tabs as you can while you have access; for the most part, there’s nothing to lose and even if you learn the tiniest concept, you gained something out of it for free.

Continuing with the $19.99 per month is a different story. As a beginner I’d say it’s not yet worth it, because there isn’t a course-like approach to lift you out of being a beginner (complete with lessons on basic fundamentals like how to fret chords — instead, Guitar Tricks assumes you can already fret chords). Though, the strengths of Guitar Tricks are the volume of song lessons and the community; if you’re an intermediate looking to learn 5 new Rolling Stones songs, 3 new Metallica songs, and concepts for blues soloing, and would like to chat with other learners, then it’s worth a few renewals I’d say.

My recommendation is to skinny dip and test out the trial run, since you’ve got nothing to lose, but quickly determine if you’re the beginner who needs an alternative approach, or an intermediate who might actually want to continue. Then, decide to cancel or let your membership renew soon after, so you don’t face any subscription surprises.

Overview

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Q: As a beginner or intermediate, would you use these lessons?

As a beginner or intermediate guitar player, I would feel confident in using JamPlay’s learning platform. It’s refreshingly well-kept, with many path-options for learning fundamentals, a well-managed and user-friendly ecosystem to connect with students & teachers, and expert authority figures keeping tabs on student learning.

For example, as a beginner learning guitar, there are over 15 different teachers with their own lesson series who are there to walk you through the absolute basics, from restringing a guitar to learning the B-string. It’s quite an advantage, since, if one teacher’s style doesn’t fit your learning needs, you’ve got many others lined up to cater better towards your learning style. 

Additionally, they’ve got a schedule of live events with teachers, almost like a class fitness schedule at a local gym, where you can interact with other students and teachers on a live basis. One aspect they lack is a forum to really flesh out questions with other members, but the live system is creative and could be a motivating system for learners who crave interaction.

One refreshing area of JamPlay is how they’ve actually done a fairly good job at recruiting genre-specific experts. For instance, Tim Stewart, a masterful guitar player, teachers a series of high-level lessons on technique and applications of more advanced ideas; certainly, this won’t be for most guitar players, but I think it bodes very well for the quality which JamPlay strives for on all levels in terms of its teaching, and that includes the beginner and intermediate lessons.

Q: How would you rate the quality of the teaching?

I would rate the quality of teaching as an ‘A’. As mentioned earlier, there are many options for teachers, particularly when it comes to beginner lessons, there are clear ‘phases’ of lessons which they’ve designated, and the quality of teachers is solid.

On top of the 15+ different routes for beginner guitar series, JamPlay has segmented 4 “phases” of learning guitar; Phase 1 for beginners, Phase 2 for deep-diving into specific genres (from blues to classical), Phase 3 for applying the skills to real songs, and Phase 4 for songwriting. Especially for students who want to defer their learning path to teachers, thereby devoting all their efforts towards actually learning the guitar (rather than using up brain-cycles on learning how to learn the guitar), JamPlay has done a solid job with directing this kind of authority in outlining a path for students.

Is it the optimal path for all students? Probably not; for example, their lesson structure climaxes with students learning how to write songs, but that might not be the end goal for all players. Nevertheless, the fact that they at least provide a clear path at all is a positive, and probably useful for all students. For students who’d rather choose an end-goal of honing their technique, they can very easily choose their own path within JamPlay’s plethora of lessons, and follow certain instructors’ more advanced modules.

Q: Would I still need a private teacher with this program?

As a player who benefited hugely from having an in-person teacher, know that this opinion is biased. That being said, I would say nothing replaces having an in-person guitar teacher; to have a skilled player specifically focused on your personal progress on the guitar is unmatched – period. They’ll be there to point out small errors (on seemingly simple points such as how you fret notes) which could compound if left unchecked. Even with the best online lessons, this sort of “peer-review” is lacking.

However, JamPlay has a comprehensive enough collection and organization of lessons where it’s probably possible to get away with not having a private teacher, as a beginner or intermediate. If you choose this route, just be sure to consistently practice, get feedback from friends who play the guitar (at least currently) better than you, and don’t allow yourself to cut-corners in terms of technique or practice intensity.

Q: In what areas does this program lack?

As you’ve read, JamPlay has quite a few respectable strengths, and it’s a fine choice for anyone seeking to learn the guitar online. However, no platform is perfect and JamPlay isn’t an exception. A few areas where it could use improvement are in its “Tools” section, the lack of a forum, and the shortage of popular songs to learn.

JamPlay has a Tools section, where there’s (supposed to be) a metronome, tuner, chord namer, and training games. As these use the archaic Adobe Flash, the web applications don’t work. To be quite honest, I think this shouldn’t play a role into whether you decide to enroll in JamPlay, since you can easily download a metronome and tuner on your smartphone, and chord namer and fretboard training games generally aren’t terribly useful. That being said, I think it shows that JamPlay isn’t perfect in updating their site, and there’s more they can do to keep it in ideal shape.

They do a great job with their live events and the ability to speak with active users in a JamPlay chat room, but I’d like to see a forum (similar to Guitar Tricks) where users can put their heads together and help each other learn techniques and songs in a more structured way. Live chats are great, but they lack the ongoing nature and records of forum threads, where new users can walk in and read through archives, in case other students have experienced similar challenges.

As well, JamPlay has a nice bank of songs to learn as part of its Phase 3 section of the learning platform, but it doesn’t have enough songs. For example, JamPlay won’t replace Google for you if you’d like to learn your favorite Rolling Stones songs; in fact, they don’t have any Rolling Stones songs to learn (as an example), and they only have one Jimi Hendrix to learn (which is “Wild Thing”). It seems like JamPlay’s strength is more in their guided paths towards learning techniques of the guitar, rather than providing an enormous lesson archive of popular songs to easily access and learn.

Q: Is it a pleasant experience to navigate their website & lessons?

Navigating through JamPlay, the experience is fairly forgiving. Fortunately (apart from some of the site “Tools” like the online guitar tuner and metronome), no links were obviously broken, it was fairly easy to track your way through the platform, and the aesthetics were pleasant and seemed modern enough.

If I was to be a bit nit-picky, the load-time of the videos is – at times – a bit laggy, but it’s just inconvenient in how it’s slower than what you’d expect on Youtube or Vimeo. Also, many of the lessons aren’t shot in HD, but both points aren’t critical in actually soaking in the lesson content.

They’ve also got an online chat service (during business hours) which I didn’t test, though I’d assume as a last resort it’s helpful should you encounter any difficulties.

Q: Am I auto-charged after the trial period ends?

Yes, if you make it past your 30 day trial period, you’re autobilled for $19.95/month. As a tip, I’d signup for your JamPlay trial, but immediately cancel your subscription upon gaining access; from there, use your 30 day trial to determine if JamPlay is right for your learning needs. If it is, then turn your renewal back on and continue beyond the 30 day trial period.

As a note, when you signup, you’ll be asked for either your credit card information or your Paypal information. Rest assured, though they ask for this, they do not charge you immediately; rather, this is so they can autobill you if you exceed the 30 day trial. Like I mentioned above, though, you can cancel the renewal immediately so there’s no risk of them charging your credit card or Paypal for $19.95/month after the trial period.

One nice feature they have is – even if you do get charged for a month of paid membership by accident – they have a 30 day refund guarantee to ensure there are no surprises in billing.

Q: Is it worth the cost?

At least for the free trial you get to JamPlay, I’d say it’s almost certainly worthwhile to signup for JamPlay. You’ll get visibility into various teaching styles (since they have so many teachers and lesson series), access to enjoyable live events to stream, and the insights of many expert players; even as a beginner, it might be interesting to just hear what some of JamPlay’s more expert teachers have to say. Again, if you only intend to stay for the trial so you don’t have to pay, just be sure to cancel your subscription proactively so you don’t get charged. I personally only see benefits for JamPlay’s trial. Even if you learn one lick, one song, or gain one insight, it’ll be a win.

For the paid subscription of $19.95/month after the initial 30 day trial period, I’d say it’s actually fairly worthwhil if you’re the type of person who can stay self-motivated. No matter your skill level, there’s content on JamPlay which should be able to help transfer you to the next level, so long as you commit to working through certain lesson series with a self-appointed deadline. My line of thinking is, if you’re cool to spend $20 on yourself for dinner, then why not treat yourself to $20 of quality lesson content in an area you’re passionate about; if anything, the $20 of lesson content seems more valuable, long-term, than a dinner. Regardless of whether that’s a good self-persuasion mechanism on my part, I’d say JamPlay is worth the money at least for a few dedicated months.

Overview

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Q: As a beginner or intermediate, would you use these lessons?

TrueFire’s specialty is more for advanced intermediates, rather than beginners. That’s really evidence by how, if you go to the different lesson categories (in terms of skill level), there’s much more for intermediates, advanced intermediates, and advanced players than for beginners. 

They do have a Beginner & Beyond Beginner course, but it’s rather short and I’d say unimpressive. There’s only 1 teacher who’s got kind of a jarring style (where he says “we place our first finger on the 1st string”, using language that makes you feel like you’re in a preschool class). Also, it starts with chords, which I think is a big leap for someone first starting the guitar; rather, a single-string approach to start off would probably signal that it’s better for beginners.

As an intermediate, I’d join TrueFire if they’ve got a lesson series from a guitar player who I’m a fan of. This aspect is explained more below, but their strength is in having notable guitar players teach more advanced courses, which help give you ideas to get to the next level. 

Q: How would you rate the quality of the teaching?

For intermediate and advanced players, the quality of teaching ranges from good to genius. That’s because their strength is in having a massive (albeit painfully unorganized) library of courses of many different strong players, both unknown and known. As an example, they’ve got courses taught by legends such as Pat Martino (possibly among the top guitarists ever), Steve Vai, Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, and so on. There are lifetimes of knowledge in the minds of those players, and TrueFire did a great job in recruiting that talent.

Though, for beginners, there’s really not that kind of depth and range of lesson pathways. Instead, there’s really just 1 pathway, and it’s a poorly taught one. In my mind, TrueFire probably just added the beginner modules as an afterthought to say their platform is for all levels; in fact, it heavily leans towards passionate guitarists who can play, and only lightly acknowledges the absolute beginner.

Q: Would I still need a private teacher with this program?

For beginners, yes you’d still need a private teacher to fill the gaps in knowledge. In fact, TrueFire isn’t a great choice to cover more than 10% of your key learnings as a beginner. Rather, as a new guitarist, I’d use TrueFire as just a bonus to anything your guitar teacher shows you, or perhaps as a spring-board to ask deeper questions; for example, if you peered ahead and watched a Steve Vai lesson and had a question, then that might open up interesting conversations to have with your guitar teacher.

As a more advanced player, TrueFire could potentially replace your need for a teacher, if you’re self-motivated. For example, you could take that same Steve Vai series of lessons, watch the whole series, and map out the techniques and learnings so you can explore those different rabbitholes by re-watching the videos, or by then knowing the topics to search up on Youtube. You could proceed to do that with other courses available on the site and (again if you’re a self-starter) really push yourself to learning new things. In fact, in many cases, TrueFire’s artist courses could probably show you much more than a local player in your city.

Q: In what areas does this program lack?

The main areas where TrueFire lacks are in the beginner content area, student interaction, and site usability.

If you’ve read the paragraphs above, you’re probably more aware of how TrueFire lacks in beginner content. It would be great to see TrueFire onboard a more natural sounding teacher for the beginner courses (the one they have sounds a bit robotic) and also tweak the lesson path so it begins with single-notes rather than jumping within the 1st or 2nd lesson into chords. Also, the breadth of the content feels a bit thin. Again, the intermediate and advanced sections are fairly good – it mainly lacks in these regards for the beginner sections.

As far as student interaction, there’s really none on TrueFire; apart from sparse, outdated comments on the lesson videos, there’s no forum community or way to reach out to fellow members. That would be nice to have since, if there’s a student going through issues that you’re also going through, working together to solve the issue often does wonders to accelerate your learning.

Finally, the site is really difficult to navigate; it’s actually challenging, and can be a bit frustrating. It’s a bit over-cluttered, and I even had a bit of a hard time finding the button for how to signup for the All-Access Pass! This is okay if you know exactly what you want and can bookmark the pages you’ll be visiting most, but it’s not as great as it could be.

Q: Is it a pleasant experience to navigate their website & lessons?

Site usability is really an area where TrueFire could improve. It’s kind of like a big, busy mall in another country where, if you know exactly what you’re going in to buy, then it’s great and useful. But, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, then you’ll probably get lost and a bit frustrated. That was my experience on TrueFire; on the one hand, it was unbelievable to have access to Pat Martino or Steve Vai lessons, but – on the other hand – just openly browsing TrueFire felt like a bad fever dream.

Q: Am I auto-charged after the trial period ends?

Actually, with TrueFire, there isn’t a trial period; you pay $19.99 right from the get-go. As some consolation, you do have a 14 day refund policy, so you could treat it effectively like a trial period.

If you don’t get the all-access pass, then everything on TrueFire is individually priced, so if you want the Robben Ford course as well as the Larry Carlton course, you’ll need to pay separately. Also, certain areas of the TrueFire site (such as Artist Channels) actually still cost money even with the All-Access Pass, but to be fair most of the good content you’d want to watch was indeed all-accessible.

Q: Is it worth the cost?

For beginners, no – TrueFire isn’t worth the cost. You’d be much better off joining JamPlay, which has a fair more robust suite of Beginner lesson series, taught in multiple ways by multiple teachers. Plus, there’s a strong community where you could work together with similar skill-level players to collectively improve. Once you become a more advanced player and notice one of your favorite guitarists has a lessons series on TrueFire, then join at that time.

For intermediates and advanced players, TrueFire is worth it if there’s a specific course or lesson series that you’re looking for; perhaps it’s a course you want to watch since it’s taught by your favorite guitar player, or it’s a course which touches specifically on a technique or style you’re aiming to learn. In that case, going for the All-Access Pass or solely buying that course you’re looking for is almost certainly going to be worth the fairly miniscule cost for the good knowledge.

Overview

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Q: As a beginner or intermediate, would you use these lessons?

This review will focus on the beginner guitar course which ArtistWorks has. Do know that it’s got fantastic bass courses (by legends like Nathan East and John Patitucci), as well as another guitar course by Paul Gilbert and other players. 

As a total beginner, I wouldn’t start immediately with the course ArtistWorks has, since it jumps quite quickly into chords; it might feel more forgiving to take more time to walk-through the individual strings and only proceed to chords afterwards. With that being said, their approach is a different style; for each module, they go through a couple chords, apply those chords to a few songs, and systematically walk through all the beginner chords in that manner. It may work for certain players, particularly those who want to explore more strumming styles later on like folk, country, bluegrass, or pop.

For intermediates, this beginner course probably covers levels of content you already know; such as the C chord, D chord, and so on. The course does cover some interesting songs and strumming styles which you could gain knowledge from, especially if you want to ensure your fundamentals are in order, but you may prefer a platform with more content volume JamPlay, in case you wanted to pepper in more advanced lessons.

Q: How would you rate the quality of the teaching?

The teaching quality of the beginner guitar ArtistWorks course is actually fairly decent. The player clearly has a firm grasp on guitar concepts, particularly when it comes to folk guitar, and takes a very relaxed approach, which I think can highly benefit beginners. To be specific, the teacher doesn’t sound like he’s reading off a teleprompter, he doesn’t fake-smile his way through the lessons, and his genuine interest in being helpful shines through. This is in contrast to other platforms where the teachers appear a bit robotic or disengaged from the lesson content.

As far as the lesson content, I’d like to see more of a focus on single-note lines being taught prior to chords, since I think this course skips over some materials for the absolute beginner, but it may be that some feel totally comfortable with starting with chords. 

Q: Would I still need a private teacher with this program?

As long as you’re highly self-motivated (in maintaining consistent practice week over week) then ArtistWorks may be able to get you started as a fairly new guitar player. If that’s the course you choose, remember to just soak in the information steadily and practice on an ongoing basis, as opposed to rushing and only learning in spurts. 

One feature ArtistWorks has is a “Video Exchange” where, for $40, you can send clips of your playing to the instructor and he replies within 1-2 days with a full (sometimes 10min+) reply, providing you with feedback. This seems like a bit of an inefficient way to learn (since real-time, ongoing conversation might be better), but it’s a creative solution that ArtistWorks has. 

Q: In what areas does this program lack?

The ArtistWorks course potentially lacks in its chosen learning pathway for beginners, and also lacks in student interaction.

As far as the beginner learning pathway, the content mostly deals with acoustic chordal playing and strumming. This is shown by most of the song examples being folk songs, whereas it would be nice to see some variation in different styles. On the other hand, if your interest is mainly in folk, bluegrass, country, and old rock pop songs, then this course might be especially fitting for you.

Also, the platform doesn’t have very much student interaction. They do have the Video Exchange program where you can submit your playing to get feedback (though at a cost), but it would be nice if this was more collective – where all students could give feedback on each others’ videos. On the note of community, ArtistWorks does have a forum, but it’s rather deserted – most threads haven’t had new comments in a few months.

Q: Is it a pleasant experience to navigate their website & lessons?

Actually, navigating through ArtistWorks is extremely pleasant. The course area has a convenient header menu to keep you oriented, and the lesson flow is extremely clear; in other words, it’s hard to get lost in ArtistWorks. One aspect that really helps is the fact that there’s only one pathway they choose for you, which is great because then you have no option anxiety; you follow their prescribed lesson path, which is a decent one.

Q: Am I auto-charged after the trial period ends?

Actually, ArtistWorks is the one platform reviewed here, which doesn’t have a trial nor refund policy; once you pay your $19.99 for the month, you’ve really paid it. At first glance that might seem like a con, but actually – from a learning perspective – it may be good; that’s because, by really spending the money, you might get the proper kick-in-the-butt to actually make it worthwhile, thereby practicing your guitar. 

As mentioned earlier, their Video Exchange program, where you can submit your playing for review by the instructor, is $40 per submission, but the first submission is $20.

Q: Is it worth the cost?

Yes, ArtistWorks’ beginner guitar course is worth the money. For $19.99 over one month, you certainly get the value of probably at least several in-person lessons (which would cost $35+ per lesson). Even if you don’t continue beyond the inital month, there’s almost certainly something new you can learn – whether it’s a new chord, a new insight, or a new song.

Beyond the content, what makes ArtistWorks worth the money is more so the quality of the friendly instructor, the very directed learning path (since you only have one option, which makes it clearer to follow), and the logical design of the course area, making it easy to find what you need.

Overview

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Q: As a beginner or intermediate, would you use these lessons?

As a beginner, I might test-drive Fender Play’s lessons, but I’d probably rather opt for JamPlay or ArtistWorks. Fortunately, they’re the one platform on here which allows you to sign-up for a trial (of 7 days) without submitting any payment information, so there’s zero harm in signing up prior to an open weekend you have to see if you like Fender Play

I’d prefer Fender Play more as an intermediate, since they’ve got a fairly decent song library of lessons, where you can learn songs like Life On Mars, with what look to be nice, long-form lessons (10min+ lessons which are more thorough).

Q: How would you rate the quality of the teaching?

Prior to making a judgement call on the teaching, it’s worth mentioning that the Fender Play system prescribes you a certain lesson path depending on the style you like. For example, if you like blues guitar, then it organizes lessons for you which steadily progress into learning 12-bar blues and so on. It’s an interesting system, and shows some effort on their part to tailor the experience for you.

That being said, the teaching from the instructors leans on the more robotic, scripted side; it’s almost as if the corporate machine of Fender is controlling the brains of the instructors, and they come across sounding a bit like scripted, mechanical robots. Also, they use the lessons in a jarring way to upsell other Fender products; for example, they try and convince you to download the Fender Tuning app, and suggest purchasing Fender gear to get started with your guitar playing. It’s to be expected, but seems to reveal their priority towards marketing over the value provided to teaching students.

In terms of their lesson content, it’s a bit thin; that is, the lessons which touch on how to play the D chord or C chord or 1:15 or 1:35 — they seem to really blaze through the content, and not really take the steady time to talk through what students might be wondering. On the other hand, the lesson materials are very cleanly presented (chord diagrams and so on), and the video production is stellar — everything is high-definition, the split-screens to show the right hand and left hands are clear, and the lesson page design is well-formatted. With that being the case, the teaching quality is below par for now, though they make up for it with a sleek, modern design.

Q: Would I still need a private teacher with this program?

As a total beginner, you would still need a teacher with Fender Play’s lessons; for example, their initial beginner lessons go from playing exercises on the 1st string to learning full, 6-string chords, which is a rather large leap. That seems to indicate that there are potentially still some holes in other parts of Fender Play’s curriculum as well.

If you’re a more intermediate player, then there might be some value you can gain from Fender Play. For example, they have a quite nice song-learning area, which – contrary to the rather brief lessons covered in their course – venture into nice depth, whether you’re learning a Joni song or a song by The Fray. As far as the course itself, it aims to lead you in a direction eventually understanding the basic mechanics of the guitar & music so that you can write songs or improvise, which is a sound progression. Having those features, you might well be able to learn without a teacher. The nice aspect of Fender Play is that you can always test it out, as their trial system is the easiest to signup for, of all platforms listed here.

Q: In what areas does this program lack?

Possibly since it’s one of the (if not the) newest platform of the ones reviewed here, Fender Play lacks in depth of content and clarity in learning direction.

Although their lesson path, for example with the Pop pathway, appears to have a plethora of content, in reality they split-up what potentially could be 2 or 3 lessons on strumming across 2 modules of almost 40 short lessons. Many people might prefer having the content efficiently packaged in longer lessons with richer content, rather than spread more sparsely over many lessons. 

On a sidenote, it’s a bit of a concern that Fender Play seems to focus more on marketing & sensationalism than pure teaching. For example, they call a lesson which teaches a simple F-major chord on the guitar “The Secret F Chord”, which seems silly; there’s nothing secret about a normal F chord, and even if Fender is just joking it might give new players (who don’t know any better) the wrong idea about the chord itself. It’s possible beginners might want more of the “give it to me straight, doc” approach, as opposed to a curriculum with more buzzwords than might be needed.

That leads into the final point about how it might be nice to have more authority and clarity in a learning direction. For the pop music course, 3 of the first 5 modules are more focused on learning 1-2 new chords, then learning a new songs, then repeating that cycle with more chords & strumming styles. To finish off the lesson series, they teach single-note ideas like scales and arpeggios alongside techniques such as hammer-ons and pull-offs. However, that plan of teaching style isn’t really clear until you analyse how they’ve laid out the lessons; if they were more clear about that, it might be easier to digest the content. 

Q: Is it a pleasant experience to navigate their website & lessons?

Here’s where Fender is undoubtedly the king among the different guitar learning platforms available. The course user-interface is extremely pleasant to navigate, and the aesthetics of it are well-done. Compared to other platforms (like Guitar Tricks) which feel like you’re looking at a site from 1999, or a platform like TrueFire which is quite cluttered, Fender Play is clean looking, fast-loading, and easy to navigate.

Also, their lessons are nicely shot in HD, and have great videography with split-screens (showing the teachers’ right & left hands in close-ups) which helps the learning experience.

Q: Am I auto-charged after the trial period ends?

Another advantage of Fender Play is that you can signup without submitting your credit card or Paypal information; thus, there’s no risk of accidentally getting auto-billed. It’s the only platform reviewed here with that customer convenience. 

If you’d like to continue, it’s also the cheapest-priced platform available, at only $9.99 per month, rather than the going rate of about $19.99 per month. Granted, there’s certainly much more content available on sites like JamPlay or Guitar Tricks, but at $9.99 Fender Play makes it much more competitive. Perhaps they can afford the lesser price since they can use the course as a way to sell their physical gear, so it’s still reasonable from a business standpoint for them.

Q: Is it worth the cost?

Fortunately, since Fender Play allows you to gain a week’s-worth of access without paying (nor giving credit card information), you don’t need to guess if it’s worth the cost. All you have to do is signup for the 7 day trial, browse the website, and see for yourself if the content covered aligns with what you’re looking to learn at this time.

If you’d like to continue, then fortunately you can signup monthly for the price of a burger, which seems worthwhile considering guitar is (at the very least) a nice life skill to have.

Fender Play doesn’t cover the ground of JamPlay, doesn’t have the expertise of JamPlay nor TrueFire, and lacks the community of Guitar Tricks, but they seem to acknowledge that with their much cheaper price and easy-to-use trial, which grants them a pass; they’re certainly worth the easy, free signup, and potentially worth a month or two of paid memberships, particularly if you’d like to use their library of song video lessons in addition to their guitar course. 

In Summary: Which Guitar Learning Platform is Best?

Overall, the best platform appears to be JamPlay. It’s strong in many areas, from Community to Level of Expertise, and provides a generous 30 day trial to test the platform. Compared to the other options, it’s the only platform without any notable flaws; though, one that might come to mind is that there are almost too many options for beginner guitar courses, but that could be more a blessing than a curse – so long as you can decide to start with any instructor and aren’t paralysed by “option anxiety”. 

*JamPlay also happens to be the only platform here which I’m not an affiliate for! I wish I was but I’m not. Oh the irony.

Community

Winner: Guitar Tricks

Topping the list for best Community are Guitar Tricks in 1st and JamPlay in close 2nd. For so many reasons, learning alongside others is so powerful; if you’d really like to know a lifehack for accelerating your learning (in anything), find a friend to learn with. Guitar Tricks has a fantastic, active forum community where you can find a plethora of fellow guitar learners with whom to share your growth. JamPlay provides wonderful chat rooms & direct message opportunities to connect with others, but doesn’t quite have the vivacious forum that Guitar Tricks has.

Depth & Volume of Content

Winner: JamPlay

What’s striking about JamPlay is how they’ve got excellent depth & quality of teaching at each level of learning the guitar, from the beginner level to the advanced. Not only are the teachers excellent, but they’re plentiful; for example, there are over 15 total beginner courses which you can choose from, giving you many options to select a teacher you prefer the most. That breadth of content extends to the intermediate and advanced lessons, making JamPlay a solid platform option throughout your guitar playing career.

Expertise of Knowledge

Winner: TrueFire & JamPlay

Both TrueFire & JamPlay have teachers who truly know the guitar; for example, TrueFire has lessons by Steve Vai, and JamPlay has lessons by Tim Stewart. You may not know their names, but they’re phenomenal, highly-respected players, which shows the willingness those companies have to recruit great talent. It’s like if an online course teaching basketball hired Larry Bird to teach lessons.

Friendliness of Instructor

Winner: ArtistWorks

The beginner guitar teacher for ArtistWorks exudes a warm, welcoming feeling, which makes the learning process more palatable. His genuine interest and excitement in being able to help others learn the guitar is evident, and stands in contrast to teachers on other platforms who seem robotic or less engaged on camera.

Site Usability

Winner: Fender PlayFender Play

Certainly, the best designed, fastest, and pleasing to use site is Fender Play’s. It’s fairly intuitive to navigate to various sections of the course areas, the load-speed of the pages is satisfactory, and the lessons are shot in HD with very nice split-screen videography.

Price

Winner: All

Without being cheesy about it, all platforms are worth the money. Really, it’s – at most – only $20 to get many hours-worth of learning content. Even if the teaching quality, at times, is sub-par, you almost certainly will learn some techniques, songs, riffs, or concepts which are worth the money. This is based on the fact that in-person lessons will likely cost you $35 to $50 per lesson; given that price for comparison, these online lesson prices are frankly pretty good.

Additionally, all platforms except for ArtistWorks give you free trials or (in TrueFire’s case) the option for a refund, so you can test them out for yourself with relative ease. 

Should I Learn to Play Guitar Online Rather Than Get Private Lessons?

First off, make no mistake — there’s a reason why online lessons by JamPlay and Guitar Tricks haven’t wiped out in-person lessons (or at least webcam lessons); with in-person lessons, there’s a highly skilled player who’s devising a customized lesson play specifically for you and ensuring you stick to it (whether it’s by correcting your fingering in real-time, or ensuring you stay on-track over a year-long period). With online lessons, that depth of care is sacrificed; JamPlay simply can’t be as tailored, you don’t have someone at your side to immediately correct your bad habits (before they balloon), and there’s nothing stopping you from taking an unchecked hiatus.

However, to be fair to these platforms, they’ve gotten quite good at providing many different lesson pathways to simulate that customized approach. Also, some of them like Guitar Tricks have a great community to help keep you in check, by connecting you with other players. Also, online lessons are – undoubtedly – cheaper than in-person lessons, and also can have more depth of content.

Surely any experienced player would recommend in-person lessons over online lessons to their friend, however you pay the price. In-person lessons are usually about $40 per lesson each week. That’s about $160 per month. On the other hand, these platforms like ArtistWorks and Fender Play are $20 or less per month. That’s a nearly 90% discount. For many people who are money-conscious, particularly those who are in school or supporting family, it makes good sense to use these online platforms.

As well, an advantage of online lessons is that the depth can often actually exceed in-person lessons. First off, with the sheer volume of content, there’s bound to be golden nuggets hidden away in various places – even on a sub-par platform. Also, video lessons (alongside supplementary materials like chord sheets) tend to be much more information-dense than in-person lessons, where you spend the first and last 5 minutes small talking about how your week went. Again, this isn’t to say that online lessons replace in-person lessons by any means, but they do have their advantages.

If you’re seeking to go the route of online lessons, that’s okay but be sure to self-motivate yourself. That way you can make up for how online lessons lack compared to in-person lessons, while reaping the benefits of how they’re advantageous in other aspects. Aim to practice consistently, find friends to learn alongside, and set clear goals for yourself. Each of those topics could take up an article on their own, but you probably get the idea. Essentially, if you can self-motivate yourself to stay on the path and continue putting one foot in front of the other, you’ll succeed with online lessons. Just be sure to push yourself and not stagnate.

In an ideal world, why not do both? Hire a teacher to meet you in-person or via Zoom, and subscribe to one of these platforms for supplementary material or ideas. You can ask your teacher to help guide you through Guitar Tricks, for example, or you can use what you’ve learned from your in-person teacher by applying it to new material you learn on JamPlay.

Overall, in-person lessons can’t be replaced, but online lessons – with strong determination – can produce similar, worthy results of success.

Are Free Lesson Options Available as Alternatives?

Several lesson series are out there, where you don’t have to pay in any shape or form, and they’re still quality. Particularly in these days where monthly subscriptions are quite popular, these programs often will try and sell you on their main courses, but they’ve got good free content as well. 

  • JustinGuitar – Justin is quite a passionate teacher who, over the years, has built a mountain of learning content for guitarists, which is quite laudable. His site is extremely clear to navigate and fast-loading. It’s wonderful material to get started with.
  • FretJam – Here’s quite an interesting site, where the lessons are all written out like long blog posts. There isn’t a teacher directly showing you the content via video, but the quality of the written content is quite high. The material ranges from content for beginners to intermediates.
  • Totally Guitars – Though I haven’t tried these lessons, apparently this program is an interesting two-week, email-based course for free. You might find the “drip-fed” content helps keep you motivated to learn the guitar on a consistent, daily basis.
  • Steve Vai’s 30 Hour Workout – Here’s an interesting advanced pamphlet of exercises from Steve Vai. The skills required for this are beyond many guitarists, however, even as entertaining reading material for aspiring players, it may be worth printing this off and reading.
  • GuitarNoise – For a fantastic blog of quality material written from a passionate team, GuitarNoise is a great source of knowledge. From chord charts to tips of various kinds, their website could help guide you towards new insights. Plus, they have an informative newsletter with interesting, new content to explore.

Can I Learn to Play Guitar in 6 Months or Less?

Without question, you can certainly learn to play the guitar within 6 months. You may not necessarily become the next Jimi Hendrix within 6 months, but you can definitely get on the right track to becoming the next Hendrix within half a year.

A key part of this is having the proper guidance, which is really what this whole guide is about. With good teachers, a network of like-minded friends with whom you can surround yourself, and a hunger to tame a guitar, you’ll impress yourself with the progress you make. Set it in your mind to make that potential outcome your reality. Take steps towards that now.

Here’s a roadmap to what you can expect to learn within 6 months:

  1. Learning the basics of guitar: the parts of the guitar, how to change strings, tuning a guitar, and so on,
  2. Learning individual notes: acquainting yourself with each string, learning songs which amalgamate your knowledge of each string
  3. Learning chords: being able to strum your beginning chords on the guitar
  4. Learning songs: applying that cumulative knowledge to songs you love to listen to

From there, you’ll have graduated from beginner to intermediate. That’s the seismic shift you want to achieve since it’s arguably much easier to consume online course content on Guitar Tricks, JamPlay, and so on if you’re an intermediate. In fact, many of those platforms actually assume you know that basic knowledge on the guitar, and only then can you truly take advantage of their materials.

There’s so much you can achieve in 6 months. Align yourself to your goal, set your mind to it, and do it. You’ll be absolutely ecstatic that you took that leap – plus you’ll have a skill with which you can apply your creativity for years to come.