TrueFire is a guitar learning platform for all levels of player, and its catalogue of streaming lessons is huge; with over 45,000 of them and constant updates you won’t be running out of learning material anytime soon. Add 30,000 tabs plus 20,000 jam tracks then you have a very impressive combination for players looking to improve their skills. But getting to grips with guitar isn’t a numbers game – if the core beginner courses are lacking, you’re unlikely to stay with it long. It currently sits on our guide to the best guitar lessons online (opens in new tab), and for good reason.
TrueFire was founded in 1991 by Brad Wendkos and was well ahead of curve when it comes to online lessons. It has built a formidable archive of learning resources as a result and collaborated with over 600 tutors over the years to created what Guitar Player Magazine called "the planet's largest and most comprehensive selection" of lessons.
Its clout enables it to attract an impressive roster of world-class guitarists as guest teachers, including Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson), Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, Tommy Emmanuel, Julian Lage and Sonny Landreth. But their lessons are going to be for more experienced players, and we’re honing in on the offerings for beginner and lapsed guitar players.
TrueFire: Ease of use
Price: $29/month for monthly plan, $249 annual, $2,499 lifetime
Styles: Blues, jazz, funk, rock, funk, country, bluegrass, rockabilly, metal
Free trial: 14 days
App: iOS, Google Play
Because TrueFire is covering a lot of ground, it’s immediately not as streamlined and straightforward as a learning platform like Fender Play (opens in new tab) that’s aimed squarely at beginners. Via the internet browser version you’re presented with a home page packed with options – recommended courses, trending lessons, new courses, top courses… it’s a lot to take in if you just want to learn how to pluck a string first. It’s more streamlined on the TrueFire app for iOS and Google Play though.
You can choose to peruse courses by style or level or learning paths by genre. There’s a choice of beginner or late beginner and based on the recommended courses TrueFire present, we’d recommend the former if you’re starting out. Here you’re presented with 41 different courses, and there’s a handy review rating shown from users for each one – you can filter by best reviewed and newest to oldest too, but some of the courses only have a few ratings.
TrueFire’s setup means you can buy individual lessons if you want or pay for an All Access membership – you’ll get lifetime access for them either way to download and stream. We’re impressed by TrueFire’s 14 day trial that will give you access to stream them all (not download), which is more generous than most online lessons out there, and will enable you to make an informed decision.
The two courses Learn Guitar 1 (this one is downloadable in trial mode for free) and 2 seem the obvious choice as they are the first two results in the beginner section, but there’s also ‘quick-start’ courses for beginners in blues guitar, acoustic, rock, country and jazz. The choices are welcome but we really wish TrueFire would make its recommended path clearer for beginners who are unsure of the best way forward.
TrueFire: Suitability for beginners
The lessons themselves are good – Learn Guitar 1 is with TrueFire’s Director of Education Jeff Scheetz and chooses to start with chords early on. The chord boxes are helpfully presented on the lesson screen as well as a PDF you can scroll down to.
The more contemporary courses are filmed against a white background, which provides consistency and focuses attention squarely on the tutor. For specific parts (eg. riffs) the screen will split into three parts to give you camera views of picking and fret hands individually, and you can see what the tutor is doing more clearly. You can loop specific sections and slow things to half speed with ease from the video player too, which is vital. As is the consistent video picture quality in general for these more recent lessons – the older ones we tried were somewhat jarring in their reduced video and audio quality when compared.
Our favorite feature is the Video Tab Sync that highlights the notes in the guitar tab as the tutor plays them, so you know exactly where you are – neat!
TrueFire’s tutors are experienced guitar teachers and it shows in their confident and clear presentation on camera. But if you’re looking to test out your newfound chord skills by learning some simple, popular songs form them you’re out of luck – there’s no designated area for that. However, the artists who have filmed courses for TrueFire do break down there songs but these tend to be muso favorites, not the likes of Foo Fighters or Taylor Swift.
So if you’re looking to learn simplified versions of your favorite songs, TrueFire might not be for you. And considering there’s a huge catalogue of lessons, there’s very few courses on learning the specific style of players. It’s natural for players to want to emulate and be inspired by guitar heroes but there’s nothing on the styles of consistently popular high profile players like Slash or John Mayer, for example.
But when it comes to learning the building blocks to one day become an advanced player, there’s a huge choice here and we’d recommend players follow the learning path option of the two First Steps courses followed by genre fundamentals from the choice of rock, blues, jazz, acoustic and country. After that you can then work through specific courses to hone in.
TrueFire: Extra features
There are plenty of supplementary tools aside from the courses TrueFire offers but some, including private one-to-one video lessons, cost extra. Included in your All Access fee is a monthly Guitar Lab course download (a new lesson on a specific subject), an additional library of audio lessons and the All Access guitar channel for additional learning. Like most online guitar lessons providers, you’ll also be able to access an onboard tuner, scale and chord charts.
Should you use TrueFire?
We’ll come straight out and say it, we don’t feel TrueFire is aimed at younger players – they tend to want to learn the songs and styles of their favorite artists and that’s simply not in much evidence here. And that could well be an issue for older players too because you’re never too old to have guitar players. TrueFire’s key strength is offering access to a long term, deeper world of learning. One you can start slow with, via its accessible beginner courses, and explore further through the wealth of supplementary and specialist lessons, some featuring all-time greats in their fields.