Learning Guitar Online. Really?
Is it really possible to learn the guitar using online lessons? What about feedback on your progress? Is there a proper structure to follow? These are some common questions when thinking about learning guitar with online programs. This Guitar Tricks review will give you all of the information you need to decide whether or not it’s right for you. I’ll explain how it works and reveal how it can teach you to play the guitar. Finally I’ll share my recommendations. Don’t have a guitar yet? Check out my post to see the best electric guitars for beginners.
Name: Guitar Tricks
Description: Online Guitar Learning Systems
Price: $19.95 (Monthly) or $179.99 (Annually)
Guarantee: Yes, cancel anytime in 60 days for a full refund
Discount Available: Yes, read on to find out more!
Guitar Tricks Overview
One of the best things about online lessons is the they allow you to progress at your own pace without the pressure of someone sitting over you, judging your every move. Guitar Tricks is no exception to that rule. Even if you’ve never picked up a guitar in your life, Guitar Tricks will walk you through everything you need to know. There’s even a repository of songs, each accompanied by tools to help you learn to play. With a variety of styles and genres, from Folk to Metal and Blues to Rock, there’s something for every guitarist. There’s also scale finders, tuning tools, chord finders and a Jam Station for you to play along with. If you’re learning to nail every note on the fret-board, there’s an interactive fret-board quiz to test your knowledge too.
With a variety of expert instructors you can start with no knowledge at all and they’ll show you the way. Even as basic as how to hold the guitar and where you should place your fingers to fret a note. If you have a little knowledge you can build on it here. Videos cover a vast variety of topics, right up to pinching harmonics, learning lead sequences and arpeggios as licks. They’re always adding resources including tutorials on technique and video guides showing you how to play your favorite songs. There’s even an app to give you most of the resources in your pocket!
How Does it Work?
Guitar Tricks teaches you via a system that they call the “Core Learning System”. This is designed to teach you how to play by following sequential lessons. Each stage of the systems is broken down into chapters, such a “Get to Know Your Guitar”, which teaches you about the parts of your guitar, tuning and how it works. You’ll soon move on to learning to play, starting with how to fret notes and play basic chords. You’ll then move onto how to play melodies and how the chords fit together.
I really like this approach. When I taught myself to play the guitar I learnt some chords and then immediately started playing songs. I didn’t take into account spending time on technique, rhythm, timing and how the chords fit together. I think that actually made my learning curve steeper, so the fact that they cover it in the basic lessons is great. Call it the benefit of hindsight but spending a little time on the basics of rhythm will pay huge dividends in the future.
Level 2 introduces you to power chords, the major and minor scale, barre chords and an introduction into reading music. I like that they cover reading music too. Again this was something the I swerved when I was learning, thinking I’ll be fine with tab. The truth is, if you understand and can read music, you’ll be a much better guitarist. It depends on what you’re looking for, but I envy guitarists who can play more freely because they have a decent understanding of music theory.
Once you’ve completed level 2 you can move onto your preferred style of music. The Core Learning System lets you choose between:
Or you could just learn them all. It’s up to you. There’s a lot of differences between the styles, each of which is covered by the respective courses. For example Blues uses the 12 bar form and a distinctive tone whereas Rock tends to use arpeggios and utilizes a variety of effects to define the style. Whatever style you pick the first level of the style takes you through the fundamentals of the style and teaches you the techniques and the theory required to play your selected style.
Level 2 of each style takes you through more advanced techniques and finally distinguishes the sub-genres within that style. For example in the Country style you have Modern Country and Tex Mex. In Blues you have Delta Blues and British Blues. In Rock you have Punk and Heavy Metal. You’ll be taught the specifics that are important to that style. For example with Rock you’re taught how to use your right hand to palm mute properly and to play pinched harmonics. In the Blues style you’re taught to play vibrato and how to use a slide.
Each of the videos is bite-sized so you don’t have to spend hours on each lesson. The information is provided in a clear and friendly manner. I really like how the instructors throw in things that add a human touch, such as breaking nails whilst gardening. Here’s a sample of one of the lessons so you can see the teaching style for yourself:
When you view the lessons on the site, you can change the playback speed. This might seem like a small feature, but I actually really love it. I found that playing the videos at double speed allowed me to take in the information whilst shortening the time commitment. Equally I could slow the video right down when I needed to focus on a technique being demonstrated by the instructor. This flexibility makes it much more appealing. The last thing I want to do is to have to keep using my mouse to skip back to the appropriate part of the video to see what the instructor is doing because it’s too fast for me to take in. That’s even more painful if using a phone or tablet too!
A Variety of Styles
If you want to explore different styles you can select from a wider range in the “Learn Guitar Styles” section. Once you’ve covered level 1 and 2 of the core learning system you can jump right into your favorite style. For example the Metal provides 24 video lessons covering style specific tuning, practice drills and artist studies. There’s an extensive section covering Classical as well as Acoustic. The Surf section is a little sparse, but I guess that’s pretty niche right?
There are 32 instructors, each specializing in certain styles. They vary from session musicians to guitar teachers to guitarists who have played in bands (one was the guitarist in Cee Lo Green)! Doug Fearman first pick up a guitar 45 years ago, so has a wealth of experience gained playing in all sort of bands. They even have lessons from the guitarist for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones! You can read about the instructors in a separate section of the site, which also includes handy links to all of the artist study videos and song tutorial videos they present.
The instructors are all very clear and teach in a down-to-earth manner. There’s no assumption, so they cover everything in an appropriate level of detail. Some specialize in difficult techniques such as Eric Barnett who deals with the trickier picking sweep styles and other Metal techniques. Ben Lindholm brings a broad knowledge of different styles having studied at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles. He explores techniques such as “Chicken Picking” and even tapping. Chicken Picking is a lot of fun and from personal experience is a great way to impress your friends 🙂
Learn Your Favorite Songs
There’s an extensive library of songs for you to choose from. You can view the whole list of 100’s of songs or filter by artist, style and difficulty. This is a great way to test your newly learned skills and to challenge yourself. The great thing is that each song is accompanied by videos, which breaks the song down to make it easier to learn. The videos explore techniques used, sections of the songs and how to achieve the styles used by the artists.
Practice & Warm Up
Technique is a massive part of playing the guitar. It’s easy to ignore this and think that technique will develop naturally as you play. To a minor degree that’s true, but you really need to intentionally practice. In the long run it makes playing a lot easier. Guitar Tricks has a section dedicated to practicing, covering how to practice, warm up stretches, building strength and drills. They combine practice and warm up in the same section so you can practice technique following a warm up. When you do jump into playing you’ll be much better off as a result. There are also warm up and practice exercise videos in each of the style sections, that will help with techniques important to that specific style.
Tuning & Maintenance
Keeping your guitar in good shape is important. Guitar Tricks provides a section on tuning and maintenance with video guides to help you take care of your guitar. The videos include changing strings, tuning with electric tuners and tuning by ear. There’s also a section on basic maintenance, which is important. You don’t want to spend unnecessarily at a music shop when something minor goes wrong with your guitar. I remember spending around $50 to have basic maintenance performed on my Fender when I first started playing.
Through the experienced section you have access to a variety of other features.
This section provides video instruction on a variety of techniques. From beginner to super advanced (well, I call it super advanced if it’s a difficulty of 5!) These videos cover techniques such as:
- Alternate Picking
- Bending Strings
- Finger Picking
- Hammer-Ons & Pull-Offs
- Palm Muting
As you can see there’s plenty there to get your teeth into. They’re identified with a style icon next to each technique, which gives you and idea into which style they are typically used. There’s also a section on left-handed training. Great for left-handed guitarists or those wanting to be ambidextrous!
Chords & Scales
This is quite a large section which covers:
- Beginners Scales
- Other Scales
- Combining Scales & Chords
Most of these videos tend to suit any style, however there’s a style icon that lets you know if it’s better suited to certain styles. This is a great little resource. There have been times where I’ve wanted to spend an hour working specifically on scales. A section like this allows me to dive straight in and practice a variety of scales at the click of a button. There’s nothing wrong with flicking through a book to find scales to play, but to have them on screen in a clear and concise fashion is much easier.
Gear & Tone
This section covers:
- The Basics of Guitar
- General Tone
Within each of the styles the videos look at amps and amp settings, effects, setup and combining pedals to enhance the tone of the style you’re learning. When I started learning I had to play with the amp and effects pedals until I thought I’d matched the sound of Tom Delonge’s Fender Strat. Of course there were so many variables that I had to guess. Amp build, make and power, type of effects pedals etc. Having a resource like this allows you to get the basics right quickly. You can then jump right into an artist study to perfect the tone you’re looking for.
The Toolbox: Your New Best Friend
The toolbox section provides you with 10 interactive tools to help you stay on track. There’s everything from a metronome to a chord finder tool. A fretboard trainer to a tab guide. The fretboard trainer is great for beefing up your knowledge to help you find the notes anywhere on the board. It’s a type of quiz to test your knowledge after you’ve used the fretboard diagram tool to study where the notes fall on the board. There’s a reference tuner to make sure that you have a perfect starting point when practicing tuning by ear. The Jam Station allows you to select a style and key to jam along to. This is great when you want to test out your new knowledge of scales or to practice that impressive sweeping picking style!
I think having these tools all in one place is invaluable to any guitarist and it reinforces for me how much thought the developers have put into this site. It’s definitely a touch by people who play the guitar. They understand the struggle that we sometimes face when learning the guitar. Having these tools to hand, for me, makes it more likely that you’ll continue to practice rather than put the guitar down and doing something less useful.
The Forums and Community Support
Join your fellow guitarists on the forums where a huge variety of topics are discussed. There are topics covering guitar basics, tone and effects, technique and style, music theory, tech talk and even songwriting. On top of this you can ask questions of the instructors. Each has their own “Ask” board where they respond to your questions directly. That’s an incredible feature if you want the answer straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. If you’re not sure where the answer to your question might lay, you can search the forum or start a discussion thread yourself. It’s a great way to get professional and peer support.
Having trouble with the site, membership or just want to know more about Guitar Tricks? The “Help” section provides avenues for support, information and articles to help you. The troubleshooting section provides answers to common problems and shows you how to carry out actions on the site, such as how to download the video lessons. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you an always submit a request. I found their help desk to be very fast and friendly to deal with.
Download the App!
Another brilliant feature is that there’s a free app too. The app broadly mirrors the features of the website. You can access video lessons and the videos on gear and techniques. You can’t access the forum via the app or the toolbox, which is a real shame. Even so there’s still a lot of content available via the app. Perfect if you’re on the move or if you just prefer to view the videos on your phone or tablet rather than firing up your computer. The app maintains the feel of the site, which I think provides a very good user experience. It doesn’t feel clunky and it’s simple to navigate.
You can access some of the beginners videos for free. There’s also a free lessons section, which includes some of the more advanced techniques. If you do decide to become a full member, it’ll cost $19.95 per month or $179.99 if you pay annually. If you pay annually you’ll save 25% and they’ll throw in some free bonus gifts too. The membership includes a 60 day money back guarantee so if you want to you can get a refund in the first 60 days. They frame that as “learn guitar in 60 days or get your money back”.
You can also pause you subscription at any time, useful if you’re going to be away from your guitar from a lengthy period of time. The price is pretty good when you consider that a face to face guitar tutor will set you back on average $160 a month. you also have access to the resources 24/7 too. You can learn via free videos on YouTube, but my experience of these are that they’re poorly structured and make a lot of assumptions about the audience.
You can also save 20% on your first payment using the code SAVE20.
Guitar Tricks is an easy to use system developed by guitarist for guitarists. The site has a really nice user interface, which is simple to navigate. The free app contains most of the features of the site, importantly it has all of the video tutorials available for your to access in your pocket. The Core Learning System enables someone who has never picked up a guitar before to progress systematically. It’s quite possible for an absolute beginner to be capable of playing to a very good standard in a band following the lessons provided by Guitar Tricks.
Great for the More Experienced:
There’s something for more experienced guitarist too. The song library contains 100’s of songs by a variety of artists across different styles. The video tutorials break the songs down so that you can understand the techniques and learn more about the playing style of the artist. The toolbox contains invaluable features from scale finders, to chord maps. A fretboard trainer to a jam station, enabling you to jam along with backing tracks in a number of styles and keys.
The 32 instructors are a mix of professionals, session musicians and guitarists who have played in some big name bands. They all have a friendly and down-to-earth approach to teaching. They don’t assume anything about their audience. The instructors all have their own specialist styles and are experts in their field. What’s more, you can ask them questions directly via the forum, another excellent feature. The forum not only allows you to ask questions of the instructors but also enables you to discuss a variety of topics with other members.
Great Flexibility & Value For Money:
Most of the video lessons can be downloaded and they all have a really handy playback speed feature. This enables you to speed up or slow down the video playback depending on your needs. The techniques section allows you to explore different techniques and practice drills. This is great because it enables you to access resources when you just want to focus on practicing your technique, which is invaluable to any guitarist. The price is good considering you get 24/7 access. A guitar tutor, who you’d probably see once per week, would set you back around $160 a month and you wouldn’t have access to them outside of your lessons. Guitar Tricks enables you to download videos to take with you, giving you flexibility in your learning.
All in all this is a fantastic resource and can absolutely teach you to play the guitar. The additional features provided are exceptional and new content is added each week. I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Guitar Tricks as an excellent way to learn the guitar. I’ve even learnt quite a lot :). To find out more check out their website by clicking below.
I hope you’ve found this review of Guitar Tricks informative. If you have any comments or questions please feel free to leave them below. Alternatively you can get in touch using my contact page. As always, happy strumming!
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