Justin Sandercoe is a trailblazer when it comes to YouTube guitar learning; back in 2003 the guitar teacher saw the potential for the platform as a place to learn and now has 1.3 million subscribers to his channel. Inclusive, friendly and a great player, it’s not hard to see why he’s been so successful, creating a huge archive of song and technique lessons for beginners and higher level players on YouTube.
Sandercoe now has the second version of his Justin Guitar Power Lessons App For Beginners with Musopia as well as a website offering three grades of beginner lessons alongside intermediate and advanced modules. Unlike the big online guitar lessons providers that offer a range of courses and tutors, Sandercoe’s limitation is also his strength; as the only teacher of his lessons he offers consistency. And after years in front of camera, he’s a seasoned pro when it comes to this stuff.
Another advantage is that Sandercoe is able to offer an impressive range of lessons on his website for free – drawing from his established archive of YouTube. So we are looking at both the paid app here for beginners as well as the site as a resource for new and more experienced guitarists. Whichever you choose, these are some of the best guitar lessons online (opens in new tab).
Justin Guitar Power: Ease of use
Price: $8.99/month / $64.99 annual / Free site access
Styles: Classic rock, rock, traditional, pop, country
App: iOS, Google Play
Free trial: 7 days
The Justin Guitar Power Lessons App For Beginners is one of the most user-friendly video-based apps we’ve encountered. The first tab is the lesson-based course and it is split into nine stages, each consisting of individual video lessons with their appropriate titles.
These lessons are consistent as they were likely shot in the same session – same background, same high quality audio and video. The close-ups on Justin’s fretting hand to illustrate chords positions are sharp and work effectively on our smartphone with none of the irritating background hiss on the audio we have found with some of other guitar learning providers – especially those that use lessons shot several years ago.
The idea is you’ll have everything you need on one screen; a large chord box appears next to Sandercoe’s fretting hand for chords. It’s a simple concept that works very well on mobile devices. There’s a tuner in the app you can switch to at any time too – a vital tool for any guitar lesson because if you’re not in tune, you’ll never sound good.
The Songbook tab isn’t a portal to stream Sandercoe’s previous YouTube breakdowns of popular songs as we expected. It’s a bespoke system that autoplays a backing track while an instrument plays the vocal melody line (you can choose accompanying instruments or turn them off in the settings). The chord names are shown in the main screen as the song plays, while the chord positions on a guitar neck are shown on the right. It’s looks a bit like a mix of karaoke and the Guitar Hero games – but playing for real.
It’s well designed, too. Tabs at the top allow you to see photos of how all the chords in the song look like fretted on a guitar, see and hear how the strumming pattern should sound (this is really important for chord rhythm work), and the last tab shows you how you could play it in fingerstyle if you choose to.
These are simplified chord-based versions of classic and contemporary songs designed to get you having fun and using the lessons you’ve learned in the course – more will be added with ongoing updates. All the Stage one-nine course songs are here and split into relevant categories and you can unlock them as a kind of reward when you learn specific chords in the course’s Learning Path. It’s a nice incentive (though you can cheat in the settings and tick all the stages as complete).
Justin Guitar Power: Suitability for beginners
Justin Sandercoe’s approach to learning guitar puts a lot of emphasis on chords and building up to using them to play songs, which is a point of difference from the likes of Fender Play (opens in new tab). After a very comprehensive intro to this version of the app from him, the first lesson jumps straight in, teaching you to play an A chord with his acoustic. Sandercoe advises you to check his website for advice on the fundamentals on holding a guitar and pick. From the beginning, it’s clear this app is designed to get you playing straight away. But all you beginners out there don’t need to be nervous.
The pace is gentle; Sandercoe’s teaching style is confident and clear with insider tips that come from years of experience – there’s never the sense he’s rushing your through a lesson. Which is just as well because there’s no means to slow the speed down like many other lesson providers off in their players (you can slow the tempo in the Songbook section though). But the value here is this feels like an intimate one-to-one lesson – and that’s no mean feat when you’re watching on a phone’s screen!
Sandercoe’s course recognizes a fundamental truth of guitar; rhythm must come first, and without it you’ll never progress as a player. Chord changes, strumming patterns, time signatures and fingerstyle dominate the nine stages with the minor pentatonic and 12 bar blues jamming only appearing towards the end. It’s paced exactly as a well-honed beginner course should be, with some fresh approaches to exercises that utilize the app’s graphical style. In this sense it does a better job of appealing to younger players than TrueFire (opens in new tab), one of its main competitors.
Justin Guitar Power: Extra features
This is where things get really interesting. The Justin Guitar website is well worth a visit if you’re a beginner or a more advanced player; in fact we’d insist on it as there’s Grade 1-3 beginners lessons to be found there via embedding from Justin’s YouTube channel. These filmed lessons from 2020 are different to the app versions but cover the same essentials to the same high standard. Generous indeed, though you lose the integration with the Songbook that makes the app so enjoyable for a beginner.
There’s also an archive of Justin’s YouTube song lessons from the last 17 years, Intermediate Foundation level lessons 1-3, advanced modules and a general technique lessons. It’s really refreshing to see a website offering so much value without a paywall in sight and we’d advise you bookmark Justinguitar.com (opens in new tab) pronto!
Should you use Justin Guitar Power Lessons
In-person lessons with a regular teacher, or indeed Justin Sandercoe himself, would set you back far more than a year’s subscription to this app. You don’t get the tutor feedback of a real lesson here but the quality of the teaching is here in abundance. There’s a real sense of authority and security knowing the course was designed by the teacher whose name is on the product – and that trust is well earned.
The Justin Guitar Power Lessons App For Beginners is one of the top music learning courses you’ll find in 2021 and the free lessons on Justinguitar.com and his YouTube channel are an essential resource too.