Once upon a time, when you wanted to learn how to play the guitar, you needed to either figure it out on your own, or hire a teacher who you would likely meet once per week to develop your skills.
The internet changed all of that, though.
Today, guitarists have a bevy of options when it comes to taking online guitar lessons that are not only affordable, but also really effective at turning complete newbies into legitimate guitar players.
The main issue new guitarists have, though, is picking a site that offers online guitar lessons best suited for them. Some sites, for instance, assume you already have a working knowledge of the guitar. Others start you right from the beginning.
Even though I’ve been playing for a long time, I’ve personally tried a handful of these sites in an effort to continue honing my skills. I’m going to use this article to break down the good and bad of our top choices. Hopefully at the end, you’ll have an online guitar lesson provider that’s a perfect fit for you.
What You Need to Know About The Best Online Guitar Lessons
Before hopping into the list of the best online guitar lessons and ultimately moving forward with one of them, there are a few things you need to know and consider.
Free vs. Paid.
How much are you willing to pay to learn the guitar?
When you’re shopping for lessons, remember that many of these sites make money by helping you learn. In other words, get ready to pay up.
Most paysites use a subscription model — either monthly, or at a discounted rate if you pay for an entire year.
While that expense may annoy you, you can also use it as motivation to ensure you get your money’s worth.
What do I mean by that? Take the lessons and practice! If you spend $90 for a yearly subscription to Fender Play and religiously take the courses and practice, you’re going to become a better guitar player. If that was your goal, that’s money well spent.
Now, that doesn’t mean the free options out there are all that bad. In fact, some are really good.
You should know, though, that the good “free” sites on the internet always have some kind of product that you can buy. Really, no one is giving away their best content — and that includes guitar teachers.
So, while you can certainly learn a thing or two and become a more competent guitar player, always know there’s going to be some sort of pitch, be it via an email newsletter or a pop-up, that’s working to get you to open your wallet.
Another way of learning for free is going on YouTube and piecemealing your lesson plans together. While it can certainly be done, this approach typically leads to slow progress and staggered results.
My advice? Devour as much free content as possible — especially the beginner’s lessons. You’re going to become a better guitar player simply by working on those. Once you develop a basic framework of the instrument and music in general, then hop into a paid version to really start refining your playing ability.
How much time do you have to commit to practicing the guitar?
When I was growing up, my parents had me set aside 30 minutes a day for practicing. And you know what happened? As I got better, I wanted to practice longer and longer. Sometimes it would get to the point where I needed to stop because dinner was waiting for me on the table.
The point is, most online guitar lessons can be custom-tailored to the time you have available. Shoot for 30 minutes a day, but if that doesn’t fit into your schedule, 10 to 15 minutes is better than nothing.
The good thing about the guitar is that it doesn’t have to be a very loud instrument in order to practice. That allows you to practice late at night or early in the morning.
Electric vs. Acoustic
And one of the biggest questions we get from newbies who want to buy a guitar is: acoustic or electric?
The good news is that there are a number of online guitar lessons that are great for electric players and just as many for acoustic players. So, it really comes down to how you want to learn.
Personally, I think learning on the acoustic is the best starting point. But I also understand the appeal of learning on an electric.
These Are the Best Online Guitar Lessons You Can Take
Use this guide to determine which service is best for you and your learning style.
- Price: $14.95 per month or $129 per year ($50 savings)
- Approach: Learn by working through simple songs.
- Extras: Free trial; step-by-step guide for absolute beginners; and 1,000+ real song tutorials.
Guitar Tricks started in 1998, making it one the oldest — if not the oldest — online guitar lesson company out there. Over the past 20 years, the company has grown its library to more than 11,000 lessons taught by knowledgeable instructors from around the globe.
Core Learning System
So, what approach does Guitar Tricks take to get you to learn how to play? They call it the “Core Learning System,” and claim it’s the easiest way for a beginner to pick up a guitar and learn to play.
After working through two levels of guitar fundamentals, players then start to choose their own path by either picking blues, country or rock. Each genre features two separate levels and consists of video lessons and actual songs to learn. The company believes in learning through songs, which is definitely one of the more fun ways to learn how to play.
Guitar Tricks’ library of songs is pretty incredible, with hits like “Hotel California” by the Eagles, “Let It Be” by The Beatles, and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones. These tutorials break down every little part of the song, allowing you to learn section by section, and ultimately play through the entire piece with confidence.
Pros and Cons
There’s plenty to like about Guitar Tricks, but it’s not perfect.
- Great user experience. The brand has really refined how a beginner can navigate through lessons and songs. You can start a lesson on your laptop at home and continue using your smartphone when on the road.
- Advanced skill training. While these sites attract beginners, Guitar Tricks also caters to more experienced players looking to hone their skills.
- Jam tracks. This is one of my favorite features. Take the skills you learn and have fun jamming out over some great backing tracks.
- Overwhelming. The sheer amount of content can feel a bit overwhelming at first. It becomes more manageable as you get into your lessons.
- Price: $20 per month or $160 per year ($80 savings) $300/year for Pro Level.
- Approach: Access world-class teachers on demand to either learn the basics or take your current skills to the next level.
- Extras: 30-day free trial; Interactive tabs; interactive games; and a Pro Membership that offers one-on-one consultation.
Jamplay is one of the most comprehensive online guitar lessons on the internet today.
Beginners can expect to spend the first six to 12 weeks learning the basics and building a solid foundation of guitar and music knowledge before hopping into a wealth of interactive lessons tailored to your favorite genres.
If you subscribe for a year, you’ll spend your first two to three months learning the basics before jumping into Jamplay’s four phases and artist series, where some of the top players in the world, including Bumblefoot, of Guns ‘N Roses and Joel Kosche, of Collective Soul, take you through their personalized lessons.
Jamplay’s library of artists isn’t just made up of rockers, either. There are some world-class classical guitarists and other performing artists across a wide range of genres, including jazz, blues, pop and fusion.
What separates Jamplay from the rest is its one-on-one consultations and private lessons with artists and teachers. The ability to have someone specifically tell you what you’re doing well and what you could improve upon, is extremely helpful.
Pros and Cons
- Value. Paying for a year-long membership works out to $13/month, which is a steal when you consider that a private lesson is now about $25 an hour, on average. If you work your way through this library of lessons, you’ll easily get your money’s worth.
- Live Lessons. Whether you’re doing these one-on-one through a Pro Membership, or tuning in with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others, this feature is really the epitome of an online guitar lesson.
- Everything is archived. Can’t make a live lesson or workshop? Jamplay subscribers get access to everything the brand puts out.
- Where to start? There is so much material that it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start your beginner lessons.
- Beginner lessons take longer. This isn’t so much a con as it is a warning. Learning the basics of an instrument you’ve never played before is going to take some time, so get ready for that six- to 12-weeks period of training.
- Price: $80 without discount
- Approach: A strict music theory-first approach.
- Extras: The bundle includes YouTube transcriptions and more than 700 pages of content on PDFs.
While many online guitar lessons focus on learning songs, Rick Beato’s Book and Ear Training program is all about developing a strong foundation of music theory. Because of that, Beato’s book bundle is a bit of a double-edged sword.
As a gigging musician who studied jazz saxophone in college and applied that musical knowledge to the guitar, I greatly appreciate Beato’s approach to theory. He does a great job explaining scales and helping you hear what you need to hear.
But this is definitely an approach that won’t appeal to everyone — especially those with absolutely zero music theory knowledge.
If you can stick through it, though, expect big-time results as you continue your guitar playing journey.
Pros and Cons
- Value. For $80, you receive a lifetime of guitar-learning materials.
- Work offline. While this is technically an online guitar lesson it’s primarily made up of PDFs, which allows you practice from anywhere, no matter if there’s an internet connection.
- Too much theory focus could deter some students.
- Price: Free (donations accepted)
- Approach: More traditional lessons, focusing on the basics and music theory, like reading music and basic chord shapes.
- Extras: Online tools include a metronome, tempo calculator and blank papers for taking musical notes.
Since 2003, JustinGuitar.com, founded by Justin Sandercoe, of Australia, has been on a mission to teach the world guitar.
The brand is so committed to making music accessible to all, that it doesn’t charge for its beginner lessons. Instead, if the lessons worked, the company is asking for an optional donation.
So, what’s JustinGuitar.com all about? For absolute beginners, you’ll start at Beginner Grade 1 and work your way through Beginner Grade 3. These on-demand videos are as traditional as they get, but they’re effective if you put in the time.
For some, you might be OK with the relatively basic videos. They are free, after all. Others may like something with a bit more depth.
The folks at JustinGuitar.com say many players simply stop after their beginner track because they have enough of a foundation to play simple songs, which is really all they wanted in the first place.
If you want to keep improving, you can move on to intermediate and advanced courses (the company has one advanced course, but is developing two more.)
Pros and Cons
- Free. For only a donation, you get access to incredible lessons that can truly teach you how to play.
- The focus on music theory can really help those who know nothing about it more than a site that only focuses on playing rock songs on your guitar.
- Needs to offer more songs. This could be difficult at the free price Justin is charging for these lessons, since he has to worry about copyright issues.
- Price: $10/month or $90/year ($30 savings)
- Approach: Learn to play by practicing songs in your desired genre.
- Extras: Progress tracker, multi-camera video approach; support for bass and ukulele.
Fender Play is one of the newest online guitar lessons sites on the market, but the name behind the iconic Stratocaster and Telecaster has made it one of the most popular options — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic while people have been spending more time at home.
So, what’s Fender Play all about? The online service, which also offers 10% off all Fender guitars, amps and gear for subscribers, focuses on teaching through learning songs.
After signing up, users are asked to input the instrument they own — either electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar or ukulele — and choose from five different musical genres, including rock, pop, blues, country and folk. This sets up your path of lessons, which covers everything from reading tablature to basic music theory.
We have to assume Fender has invested a hefty amount of money into this online guitar lesson play because the quality of the on-demand video lessons is absolutely incredible. The production value is well worth the $90 per year price.
Each video is a bite-sized lesson led by world-class instructors. These teachers cover everything from how to play a G scale using all six strings to what’s the best posture for strumming an acoustic guitar.
One of the best parts about Fender Play is its ability to track your progress. This not only keeps you focused on where you’re at in your guitar-playing journey, but also allows those with busy schedules to take in a few mini lessons when they have time in the morning or in the evening.
Pros and Cons
- Great value. For $90/year, which is the equivalent of $7.50/month, plus a 10% discount on all Fender products, Fender Play is an absolutely great value.
- User experience is superior. Fender clearly invested into the tech of this app. You can start on a desktop and seamlessly pick up where you left off on a smartphone. In a mobile world, that type of experience is critical.
- Perfect for beginners. This might be the ultimate beginner’s online guitar lesson. If you follow the Fender Play plan, you’ll develop a firm foundation of the instrument and music theory.
- Over-simplified. Sometimes, Fender takes its “this is for beginners” mantra a bit too far. Some of the rock songs are overly simplified to the point where you can’t even recognize what the song is. Some of these lessons would be better off just teaching chord shapes as opposed to trying to mimic a song using the most basic of chords.
- Price: $10/month or $120/year. All instruments access is $180/year.
- Approach: More of a gamified approach, where you work through exercises and practices to accomplish goals — almost like a video game.
- Extras: In addition to guitar, you can also learn bass, piano, ukulele and singing.
Is Yousician the ultimate way to learn guitar? Some would say so.
This service takes a completely different approach to teaching that I like to call the video-game approach. The service, which runs $120 for the year, turns its lessons into games. The idea is that video games are fun, so learning the guitar should be too.
As a result, you’re tackling chords, scales, and songs — and the mic on your computer, tablet or smartphone is picking up on your tone and timing. If you’re hitting all of your notes perfectly, you’ll score a high number of points.
The service then uses the data from your lessons to better tailor a practicing plan for your playing ability.
Pros and Cons
- Impressive song library. This is quite important for beginners, who need to hear themselves playing something recognizable.
- Gamified approach is addicting, which results in you wanting to practice more and improve your skills.
- Left-handed option is a bit rare across all online guitar lessons. Youisican has it.
- No yearly discount. It’s the same price if you choose to pay by the month or for the year. Be on the lookout for discounts, which pop up every so often.
Other Online Guitar Lessons to Consider
Obviously there are other options out there for online guitar lessons. If nothing above interested you, check out these options as well:
- Ultimate Guitar. As the No. 1 site for guitar tabs, if all you want to do is learn songs, you can work your way through literally any song imaginable. While this site isn’t geared toward giving you lessons, some songs include video tutorials submitted by the guitar-playing community that can help you learn a thing or two.
- NYC Guitar School. With more than 15,000 happy students, this New York-based school that features live, virtual lessons in real time, is quickly becoming a must-attend lesson platform for many new and experienced guitarists.
- JamTrackCentral. Geared toward intermediate and advanced guitarists, JamTrackCentral is all about taking your playing to the next level.
Practice Makes Perfect
Online guitar lessons are only as good as the time you’re willing to put into honing your craft. So, make sure to practice, practice and practice some more.
Remember, these lessons are a roadmap to becoming a guitar player (or a better guitar player), but you’re the driver doing the work. Let them guide you, and then practice each lick, chord and scale until your fingers bleed!
And if you need a little extra help on how to learn how to play guitar, we’ve compiled a helpful list of tips of how to do it the right way.
Best of luck on your guitar journey!