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Best guitar lessons online 2021

Best Guitar Lessons Online 2021
(Image credit: Fender Play)

The best guitar lessons online are super easy to access these days, available both via websites and usually in app form. We’ve tested out some of the biggest names in the field, ranking them for things like ease of use, music variety and price – you can see our full list of findings, below. 

One of the main things to consider when you’re trying to pick the best guitar lessons online is what kind of music genre you want to play. Our top picks let you play across a broad range of styles (blues, rock, classical and acoustic) but some of the platforms, below, are better known for particular genres. Orange Learn, for example, sticks mostly to rock styles of music, so it’s probably not the best option for anyone looking to learn folk songs.

We’ve outlined where a guitar learning platform excels in a particular area, such as beginner-friendly courses or 1:1 tuition. In general, though, we really rate all of these learning platforms, so whichever one you choose should prove informative and engaging.

Not quite settled on which instrument to learn? We also have a guide to the best online piano lessons. Budding composers might be interested in our round-up of the best music notation software, which should make it easier to write that first opus.


1. Fender Play: Best guitar lessons online overall

Fender Play: Best Guitar Lessons Online Overall

(Image credit: Fender Play)

Fender Play

With superb heritage, a wide range of lessons, and a good price, Fender Play is our top pick

SPECIFICATIONS

Music styles: Rock, blues, country, folk and pop | App: iOS, Google Play | Free trial: 14 days

Reasons to Buy

Beginner-friendly user experience
Great video production and tutors
Discounts frequently available

Reasons to Avoid

Not much for intermediate players

It was a surprise to see one of the world’s biggest guitar companies expanding into tuition back in 2017, but with so many potential customers for its guitars, basses, amps and effects out there, it actually makes perfect sense for Fender to make sure it has a great learning experience attached to its brand. And its delivers one here. 

In addition to lessons tailored to electric and acoustic guitar, you can also learn bass and ukulele if you wish. After choosing the style you’d like to play in (rock, blues, folk, country or pop) there are difficulty levels 1-5 to follow on your learning journey within each one.

The production quality of Fender’s tutorial’s is the highest we’ve encountered in this market. There are a range of friendly and experienced tutors to guide you through the basics of holding a guitar, pick and tuning, to reading tab and learning your first riffs. As well as tailored lessons dependent on your choice of acoustic, electric, bass or ukulele, you can also choose the genre you want to start learning from rock, blues, pop, folk or country. 

Fender Play introduces well-known song parts to learn early on for beginners (as well as full song lessons) and the pace of its learning ‘paths’ is gentle. We especially like the level of detail Fender Play pays to easily overlooked parts of the user experience; for example, the option to turn down the individual bass and drum accompaniment tracks as you follow the notes in practice mode. You can even download Fender Tone pre-sets for the company’s compatible amps to use in lessons.

In addition to the learning paths for different playing styles, you can choose specific chord skills and lead techniques to focus on, keeping things varied. Fender Play is very much aimed at guiding novices to beginners but could be great for a refresh if you’re returning to guitar after a long break. 


2. Justin Guitar Power lessons: Best budget pick

Justin Guitar Lessons: Best Guitar Lessons Online for Low Budget

(Image credit: Justin Guitar Lessons)

Justin Guitar Power lessons

A great selection of lessons and songs at one of the most affordable prices

SPECIFICATIONS

Styles: Classic rock, rock, traditional, pop, country | App: iOS, Google Play | Free trial: 7 days

Reasons to Buy

Learn to play contemporary and classic songs
Justin Sandercoe is an experienced teacher with an accessible approach 
Well structured learning curve

Reasons to Avoid

The app is for beginners but there’s free intermediate content on the website

The growth of online guitar lessons is intrinsically linked with that of YouTube as a place for learning and teaching guitar. Tutor Justin Sandercoe now has over 1.3 million subscribers since he created JustinGuitar in 2003 and his reputation is built on solid foundations; inclusivity, gentle pacing and great teaching. Up to level 3 of the beginner course via Justin’s site is free but the Justin Guitar Power Lessons App For Beginners allows for an easier learn-anywhere approach. 

Sandercoe believes in learning from playing songs and this is an intrinsic part of the app from Musopia; players will get satisfaction of getting to grips with music they’ve listened to before while learning new skills. There’s hundreds of songs chosen and structured for beginners (with constant updates) with the second version of the app’s Songbook section. These allow you to try out the chords you’ll learn in the nine-stage course (each featuring a number of lessons) and use a bespoke system that’s looks a little like the Guitar Hero interface with real chords. It works well too.

The biggest strength of the courses in the app and site is Justin himself whose experience as a teacher on camera shines through; he understands the challenges beginners face and how to guide players over the obstacles in a realistic but positive way. We even know of recording artists who have used his song lessons! Whether you’re using the app or site, this is one of the most impressive online teaching experiences for beginner guitarists we’ve tried. 


3. Orange learn: Best for accreditation

Orange Learn: Screenshot of homepage

(Image credit: Orange Learn)

Orange Learn

This platform offers excellent, easy-to-follow lessons alongside UK-recognised accreditation.

SPECIFICATIONS

Music styles: Rock | App: Not available | Free trial: 30 days

Reasons to Buy

Great, clean interface
Comprehensive lesson materials
Certificates available 

Reasons to Avoid

Limited number of genres 

The Orange Learn platform is another relatively new website, from a company that’s mostly famous for producing tangerine-coloured amplifiers. When we tried it, we were impressed at how comprehensive the classes were. They seamlessly blend practical, follow-along videos with laid-back quizzes and great beginner tips. Cleverly laid-out videos make it easy to see which notes you should be holding and which strings you should be strumming, while regular tests help cement student learning.

Advanced players are catered for, as well as beginners. The former can access lessons on things like improvisation skills, while the latter will be gently introduced to the instrument through a series of tutorials that can help you properly hold, strum and pluck. The website also has a special portal that allows you to fire questions at tutors, so if you’re stuck on a particularly tricky bit of fingering you can drop a note to an expert and get some feedback quickly. 

Perhaps most impressively, this is the only learning platform that seems to offer certification out of all the ones we tested. You achieve the certificates by attending an online exam, where you’ll be graded on your performance. These certificates (also called diplomas) are equivalent to the UK’s eight-grade system, so this might not be a massive draw for US learners.

One small problem we had with the platform was the narrow range of genres available. Unlike Fender Play and Justin Guitar, Orange Learn seems to focus purely on the rock genre. While this may suit some players, other musicians who lean towards acoustic styles may want to look elsewhere.


4. TrueFire: Best variety of lessons

TrueFire Guitar: Best Guitar Lessons Online for Variety

(Image credit: TrueFire Guitar)

TrueFire

If you want musical choice, this is a great pick

SPECIFICATIONS

Styles: Rock, jazz, blues, country, acoustic, metal | App: iOS, Google Play | Free trial: 14 days

Reasons to Buy

Huge range of lessons for all levels
Slo-Mo and tab sync for the more contemporary lessons is really useful 

Reasons to Avoid

The video quality can vary due to the age range of lessons
Lack of contemporary songs to learn or style lessons on specific guitar heroes

We’re moving into a higher price category here but in return you’ll get a huge learning resource with lessons and tools for all levels of player. TrueFire goes big on everything; from 300 international tutors to thousands of lessons. 

Repetition is a key element in learning guitar (for muscle memory) and TrueFire delivers with slow motion and looping features for you to get to grips with specific parts. We found the Slo-Mo tool consistently useful here as it gives you more time to get things right when a tutor is demonstrating a chord or technique, without you having to constantly go back and repeat segments. 

The 14-day All Access trial is most welcome as there’s a lot to investigate. There’s still great structured tuitions from starting with the basics but more advanced players will also access to some of the world’s top players for video lessons with tab, including Steve Vai, Robben Ford and Larry Carlton.

If your first experience of TrueFire is via its site, it can be a little overwhelming. For beginners, we’d advise starting with the Learning Paths and moving from there and choosing supplementary courses as you get more confident. But if you’re a younger player or looking to learn popular songs, it’s going to disappoint. 

Nevertheless, TrueFire is a learning platform that you could stay with as a player in the longer term and with over 900 courses to help justify its higher cost you won’t be getting bored anytime soon.


5. Guitar Tricks: Best for more experienced guitarists

Guitar Tricks: Best Guitar Lessons Online for Experienced Players

(Image credit: Guitar Tricks)

Guitar Tricks

If you're looking for a mix of songs, and instruction beyond beginner, this is a good option

SPECIFICATIONS

Styles: Blues, jazz, funk, rock, funk, country, bluegrass, rockabilly, metal | App: iOS, Google Play | Free trial: 14 days

Reasons to Buy

Great presentation and simple, clear navigation
Plenty of popular songs to learn between lessons

Reasons to Avoid

Video image quality not quite as high as some competitors

Guitar Tricks’ opening gambit is that it has one core, step-by-step, learning system for beginners that is the “easiest way to learn guitar”. And with three million customers since 1998, it must have a point. We find its system one of the most easy to approach for newcomers. 

Your learning path begins with two Guitar Fundamentals courses. The first starts right at the beginning of picking up a guitar for the first time and assumes you have no prior knowledge of playing. Fundamentals 2 then moves to basic open major and minor chords, barre chords, scales and reading notation. So far, so traditional, but you can choose the path for your next two levels from a choice of three styles; blues, country of rock.

This is a great way for players to play the music that inspires them and learn more about the techniques that are integral to them. By the end of your four levels you should be approaching an intermediate level on the guitar. 

If you opt for the free trial only specific lessons will be open to you until you pay, but you get a good feel for the app, and the menu system is one of the most user-friendly you'll find. 

The lessons themselves usually feature two camera angles and six playback speeds from 0.5x to 2.0x with tab notation available to view at the same time (you can print it easily too). There are also downloadable jam tracks too. And if learning contemporary songs is important to you, Guitar Tricks is a great choice as is adds new tracks to learn weekly to its archive of over 1,000.


6. JamPlay: Best for choice of beginner courses 

Jam Play: Best Guitar Lessons Online for Beginners

(Image credit: Jam Play)

JamPlay

A good one for novices, although it lacks the personal touch

SPECIFICATIONS

Styles: Blues, jazz, rock, funk, flamenco, classic rock, bluegrass, metal | Apps: iOS, Google Play, Amazon | Free trial: 30 days

Reasons to Buy

Impressive range of beginner lessons
High quality, multi-angled lessons

Reasons to Avoid

Feedback from specific course tutors not available

Another online tuition provider with an impressive array of pro artist tutors including UK acoustic virtuoso Mike Dawes, former Guns N Roses man Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal, Tosin Abasi, Andy James and Kaki King. That’s all well and good for players wanting to challenge themselves – what about beginners? Well, how about 21 courses and 654 lessons for starters!

JamPlay offers 11 different courses for absolute beginners of acoustic guitar alone and there’s even a child-focussed starter course. We really like the presentation of the course preview section too; introducing the tutors and summarizing the course content clearly and concisely.  

Some newcomers may find the sheer number of courses here a problem of choice, but it also allows you to trial tutors and find a teaching style you connect with most. The course lengths also vary from around 11 lessons up to 69 and we appreciate the feature allowing members to up- and down-vote courses to give an overall review percentage. 

Within JamPlay courses are high-quality videos, filmed with multiple cameras, and downloadable tabs to work on in your own time. Stumping up the extra dollars for the Pro level membership also allows you to download up to 25 lessons and access one-on-one virtual consultation with a qualified tutor. But this isn’t the same as feedback from the tutor of the specific course you’re working through. 

If you want to take JamPlay with you, it also provides iOS, Android and Amazon apps for your smartphone or tablet and the downloadable Toolkits with extra learning material are a nice bonus – but you’ll only get one included with Standard membership. You’ll need Pro membership to get all eight. 


7. ArtistWorks: Great for 1-1 tuition

ArtistWorks: Best Guitar Lessons Online for One on One Tutorials

(Image credit: ArtistWorks)

ArtistWorks

If you need someone to guide you, ArtistWorks is well worth a shot

SPECIFICATIONS

Style: Rock, bluegrass, electric country, acoustic, blues, fingerstyle jazz, classical | App: None | Free trial: Lesson samples available

Reasons to Buy

Acoustic and electric courses with clear aims
Paul Gilbert as a rock tutor

Reasons to Avoid

The absolute beginner’s course isn’t aimed at young players
No app or free trial of the courses available 

The first thing that catches our eye here is three of the world’s best players are also ArtistWorks tutors; Paul Gilbert, session ace Guthrie Trapp, and jazz maestro Martin Taylor are serious draws for intermediate and advanced players. But what about beginners? ArtistWorks makes this side of things straightforward.

The proposition is an acoustic beginner’s course with tutor David Butler; chairman and co-founder of ArtistWorks (he was also one of the original engineers for AOL). It’s specifically aimed at adults with the option to add Video Exchange for $40. That seems like a hefty addition but it’s really a significant strength here.

Video Exchange allows a tutor like Butler to review their students’ submissions and offer guidance – the closest thing to a one-on-one tutor and student situation from this kind of online guitar lesson course. You can also watch other student’s video exchanges too to gain tips and insight. 

The course is split into nine sections that gradually integrate popular songs with tab to illustrate specific techniques – this is vital for keeping things interesting and relevant for students, but they’re very much song choices aimed at an adult player. 

We like how clear ArtistWorks is regarding the content of the course from the outset. The downside is there’s no free trial of the course itself, and if you’re looking for electric lessons, you’ll be better off moving to Paul Gilbert’s rock guitar course.

Gilbert’s lessons come in at $105 for a three-month plan but actually work out a better deal as they include up to five Video Exchanges. Gilbert is an enthusiastic and approachable teacher who is also one of the most technically accomplished players on the planet but his course will move you on at a swifter pace so may not be ideal for absolute beginners.


How we tested guitar lessons online

Our writer is a guitarist with years of experience, both as a player and writer. At Top Ten Reviews, we research and evaluate each product and make our recommendations based on quantitative data, here these include the learning resources offered, and qualitative data, like our impression of how accessible the online guitar lessons make the learning process for a beginner. 

There are a few advanced level guitar players in our office, but we felt it was more appropriate to evaluate these products from the standpoint of someone who has never taken a guitar lesson and would like to learn a new skill to enjoy and develop if they choose.

We prefer to review and evaluate products that work for a wide range of ages and skill levels, but we also try to find products and make recommendations based on specific use cases to help you find a product that best suits your needs. 

For example, many guitarists want to learn to play in the style of their favorite players so we looked at what courses offer this element, and also hired artists as guest tutors. We like to approach the research and evaluation process by finding the features you won’t find in marketing materials, and let you know whether we think those features will benefit you.

In-person versus online guitar lessons 

There’s a few big benefits to online learning. The first one is cost; lessons conducted via websites and apps tend to be a lot cheaper than classes conducted in-person. The second one is convenience, as you’ll find that making time for a 5-minute, follow-along lesson is a lot easier when you have it stored in your smartphone or tablet. 

The biggest drawback to online learning is missing out on 1:1 tutoring options. This can make a difference if you’re struggling with particular musical passages or need help understanding a complex bit of theory. That said, some of the above platforms do offer 1:1 help, and you’ll also find supportive communities on forums.

If you’re not fully sold on either method, you could try adopting a mixed approach for a while, blending online lessons with in-person classes until you decide which style you prefer. 

Features to Look for When Buying Guitar Lesson Software

Free trial
It’s important that you also get a first-hand experience with any course and its tutor/s before making a financing commitment. This is something that’s not always on offer but tends to be a feature of the best courses we found – all offer a trial or the opportunity for a refund within a reasonable time period if you are not satisfied with the service.

A learning path
As a beginner you will gain more from a course that offers a structured means of progression, but also balances that with the ability for students to choose too. For example, a course’s learning path may involve a foundational guitar course before you can focus on a genre of your choice for the next stage of learning. 

Songs
Many people want to learn guitar to be able to play songs they like and exercises using popular songs are also a great way to learn specific chords or techniques. A large catalogue of well-known songs for subscribers to learn is a cornerstone for some online guitar lesson providers, but not all. 

Adjustable Tempo
The ability to slow the tempo of a song can help you learn chords, riffs or lead guitar parts. Once you have the part mastered, you can adjust the tempo back to the original speed and work on transitioning between the difficult and easier parts of the song.

Rob Laing

Currently working as the the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, Rob Laing has a wealth of experience covering music news, reviews and features.