Guitarists today age are lucky. We have the world in our back pocket. We get to talk to people all over the world about our gear obsessions, and get to learn from those players who have more experience. We can live in remote areas of the world, where we don’t have access to great players and gear, and we can get that knowledge and our musical toys shipped right to our door. Learning to play guitar online is probably the number one way guitarists and bassists are learning these days. Whether it is looking up a tab to a song you always wanted to know, or Skype lessons with one of your favorite players, location isn’t the barrier to knowledge it once was. This article will introduce you to some well-known online lesson resources, as well as some not-so-well-known. You can learn those scales and chords sitting on your bed in your PJ’s and no one will judge you.
Is Learning Online Right For Me?
This is a difficult question to answer. Online lessons certainly have some advantages to the traditional teacher-student relationship. You can pick and choose the things you want to learn, and you can learn at your own pace. You can gather information from many sources with the only limitation being your own discipline and determination. You will have to be honest with yourself with how you are progressing and if you can see results over a few months.
There is a lot of information out there, and much of it is free. The free lessons vary greatly from high quality, well-filmed explanations to lessons and concepts that raise more questions than they answer. A good place to look for lessons on individual concepts (not necessarily for progressive learning) is the websites of guitar magazines. There are always free lessons for all levels by teachers who are willing to answer questions (if you are not in a hurry) when you ask.
The biggest drawback to online lessons is the lack of direct communication and feedback. You can’t ask an online video course a question about your hand position, and the video instructor can’t explain a concept in more detail than what is already presented. As a result, many people combine online learning with in-person instruction. As a guitar teacher, I try to learn from whatever sources I can find/afford. There are great online lessons out there, and here are some of my favorite.
TrueFire is one of the oldest and most established online lesson houses, and they have been around so long for good reason. They have hundreds of courses, across dozens of styles, and I can see an enterprising student using nothing but their resources to learn. They utilize many instructors including many famous players like Larry Carlton, Rusty Cooley, and Tommy Emmanuel. They offer free trials, free lessons, and frequent sales. They also offer courses for small children, as well as bass and harmonica lessons.
JamPlay is a graduated set of courses broken up into 3 phases which teach basics, more advanced concepts, and their application within actual songs. Their content is updated with about 11 hours of new material every month, and feature over 70 different teachers for acoustic, electric, and bass guitar. JamPlay always has free downloadable jam tracks, and you can even do webcam-based real time lessons with a personal instructor. They offer flexible payment plans with monthly, tri-monthly, and yearly rates.
Concentrating on mostly acoustic instruments, Homespun has been around for almost 50 years. They are generally an instructional DVD store, although some of their content is available via digital download. If your tastes range from slide, lap steel, mandolin, uke, Dobro, and dulcimer, Homespun has been in the video instruction game longer than anyone. Their focus is on traditional American folk music, although many years ago, they put out a wonderful series with sonic scientist David Torn which they have yet to make available digitally (hint hint).
Jamorama is a series of courses aimed towards the beginning player. It features a downloadable chord book, as well as instruction on guitar maintenance. The courses are taught by Mark McKenzie, who has perfected his methods over 20 years of teaching. There are hours of HD video available, and some free basic courses to get you started. He has a strong focus on acoustic guitar and fingerpicking. His lessons’ monthly cost is less than the cost of a single lesson with a private instructor.
Guitarzoom is a lesson site that focuses on individual concepts, which you pay for as a complete course. Blues ideas, speed picking, vibrato, and string bending are among the techniques taught here. While Guitarzoom doesn’t provide a straight-through progressive curriculum, it does provide a menu of many in-depth concepts. They offer free lessons from many of their courses as well, so you can see if their teaching style is right for you before you spend the money.
Blues Guitar Unleashed
Blues Guitar Unleashed focuses unsurprisingly on the blues. While it features a mostly DVD-based lesson plan, several courses are available as direct downloads. From turnarounds, to shuffle rhythms, to soloing, Blues Guitar Unleashed focuses on the beginning-to-intermediate guitarist who wants to concentrate their study on one of the building blocks of rock music. There are a few free lessons available too, as well as paid-for downloadable jam tracks so you can channel your inner SRV. Hat, feather, and bowling shirt is optional.
Guitar Alliance has been going strong since 2001, and offers over 2000 videos online. While they tend to de-emphasize concepts like music theory, they do dive right into beginning chords, strumming patterns and riffs of famous songs. Courses are divided into areas such as slide, arpeggios, acoustic guitar, and scales. They frequently run sales on the lessons as well, so if you sign up for their newsletter, you might find a better price than the ones advertised on their website.
Cracking the Code
Tony Grady has an almost insane dedication to figuring out how the fastest guitarists in the world do their thing. He attaches a GoPro camera to the guitar as the shredder-in-residence plays. By using a combination of physics, math, excellent graphics, and slow motion, he uncovers how the best players in the world do what they do, even if they themselves are not aware of it (many of them aren’t). His obsessive analysis isn’t really a guitar course in the strict sense, but his videos are a fascinating insight into specific guitarists’ techniques. You get printable tabs along with the video, as well as interviews about technique that are way more in-depth than any source thus far. Well worth paying for if he has covered any of your favorite players.
Try Before You Buy
Every website I have researched for this article promises that you can learn to play quicker and easier in a short amount of time. They all promise to teach you what you need to know to be as good as any rock star, and downplay any other method of learning. This isn’t bad, just a sales tactic, so you should be aware that you will see language like that on almost every lesson website. As a guitar teacher, I learn from many different sources: websites, magazine articles, YouTube, friends, other teachers and more. The more a student (and I consider myself a lifetime student) soaks up what is around them, the better prepared we are for the musical world we want to live in. Of course, remember to check out the lessons available for free in the Seymour Duncan Player’s Room area of the blog.
Have you ever bought any online lessons? What resources do you use to learn more about guitar?