One of the first things you should consider about ArtistWorks is that it’s not just limited to guitar.
They cover several major musical instruments and genres including bluegrass instruments, classical instruments, vocal coaching and harmonica, all in addition to the expected guitar, bass and drums.
What makes ArtistWorks unique is their interactive and social integration.
Every instrument has several instructors (nine for guitar) who function as your own personal music tutor through their own videos, a video exchange system and a user forum.
This creates an interactive environment where you can have dialogue with your instructor as well as other students and get real-time feedback.
So there’s a communal aspect to the site, which is something that a lot of other instructional sites don’t offer.
In this ArtistWorks review, we’ll focus on the guitar side of the site.
PLEASE NOTE: Some of the content pictured here is still in BETA and will be rolled out to students in the near future.
Rock Guitar with Paul Gilbert (free sample lessons available)
Blues Guitar with Keith Wyatt (free sample lessons available)
Country Guitar with Guthrie Trapp (free sample lessons available)
Free Beginner Acoustic Guitar Course
Plans and Pricing
ArtistWorks Review: The Home Page
There are several different styles of guitar you can sign up for, each with its own instructor.
So for the purposes of this review, I was signed up for the Rock Guitar School.
The landing page, for that portion of the site, is where we’ll start.
The landing page is actually setup quite well and gets you all the information you need right away.
What you’ll notice first, is that membership includes personalized lessons and interaction with Racer-X guitarist Paul Gilbert.
This is an incredible feature and ArtistWorks is one of the few sites that offer socially interactive lessons from a player of Paul’s caliber.
Pricing can be found by going through the JOIN NOW button or by going to the “Plans & Pricing” menu item.
You have to add the course to your cart to see the pricing, but I’ll save you the trouble.
There are also free sample lessons that give you a feel for what to expect from the full course.
In addition to Paul’s Rock Guitar School, here are some of the other course options:
- Blues Guitar with Keith Wyatt
- Country Guitar with Guthrie Trapp
- Jazz Improv with Chuck Loeb
- Fingerstyle Guitar with Martin Taylor
- Bluegrass Guitar with Bryan Sutton
Each school has its own landing page that is similar to Paul’s, in that it provides you an intro to the school and the instructor, along with pricing and free samples.
It should be noted that the format used for each school will be consistent throughout the website.
So, even though we’re focusing on the rock portion, it’ll still give us a reliable picture of what the other areas of study will look like.
Rock Guitar School Home Page (after you log in)
As a paid member you’ll be able to login to your ArtistWorks account which will give you access to Paul’s rock guitar school, or whatever school you’ve signed up for.
We’ll stick with Paul for example purposes.
The first thing you’ll do is click the login page at the top of the screen to begin using your account:
Once you login you’re greeted by what’s called the DASHBOARD with a newsfeed, featured video exchanges, your profile info and a navigation pane to the left of the screen.
You can quickly see how active Paul is and how easily you can have access to him.
The top of the page displays profile info and the featured section:
Scroll lower and you see can see the SHOUTBOX (interact quickly with Paul and other students) as well as the newsfeed:
Once you’ve browsed the dashboard and you’re ready to start learning some guitar, click on the LEARN (or “Learning Channel”) option via the navigation pane on the left side of the screen.
From there, you’ll be taken to the main lesson and video page
The heart of the program is the lessons page and video viewer, which allows you to access nearly all the content from one spot.
This is a wonderfully convenient feature and an effective way of organizing a mass amount of material.
Here’s what you’ll see when you first make your way to the lessons page:
The lessons home page for Paul Gilbert’s Rock Guitar School.
The Video Player
First, you’ll notice a massive video player that takes up a most of the screen’s width.
It’s nearly twice the size of your typical video box, which saves you from having to use the full screen mode if you don’t want to.
You’ll also notice the video player has a looping feature, a 30-second rewind button and six different quality settings.
Further, playback is quick, clear and the audio is easy to hear and properly-synced with no lag behind the video.
There are also multiple camera angles for each video, which makes the content easier to watch and helps prevent your mind from wandering or losing focus.
A shot of the ArtistWorks main video player.
So the player itself leaves nothing to be desired.
From a navigation perspective, the system is based on five tabs at the tap of the video player, which are the following:
- Video Exchange Library
Clicking on tabs one through four will bring up a new window pane to the left of the screen that will load all the videos for that particular course.
Loading time is initially a bit lengthy, though speeds up after the first group of courses loads.
Videos for each section are loaded into a pane on the left of the screen where they can be selected and loaded into the player.
From here, simply click the video you want to watch to load it into the player.
Backing tracks and downloadable PDF content is included in the RESOURCES section, where applicable.
ArtistWorks scores huge usability points here.
Knowing where to start is often a bit of a challenge on sites like this, but having everything separated by four basic categories makes that a non-issue here.
ArtistWorks makes the right move by keeping this simple.
The Video Exchange Library Tab
This tab is different than the other four, in that it takes you to a new page with a window that allows you to either view or submit your own video.
These videos can also be viewed from within each lesson, near the bottom of the video player page.
It’s one of ArtistWorks’ most desirable features, giving you the ability to interface directly with Paul (or whatever instructor you have) and other students.
The Video Exchange Library for the Rock Guitar School.
Video exchanges happen because certain lessons call for them, which means the lesson essentially has homework that you’ll submit in the form of a video of you playing what Paul is teaching.
This is a big part of how you get direct feedback.
To me, it seemed like a excellent way to get the feel of an in-home lesson to marry happily with the convenience of online education.
While Paul isn’t sitting in front of you, it’s possible to have one-on-one help from him with your guitar involved.
In other words, it’s not just a forum where you can talk to your instructor but he can’t see your guitar or what you’re doing.
This interface lets you actually show Paul what you’re doing so he can help you identify mistakes and improve.
Paul Gilbert’s Personality and Teaching Style
Paul himself is an extremely enthusiastic and engaging personality who seems like he’s actually enjoying what he’s doing.
Watching his videos is an altogether enjoyable and genuine experience, which encourages you to participate in the communal aspects of the site.
It’s also worth noting that there’s a a lot explanation packed into each video, which are usually between 10 and 15 minutes long.
Paul’s teaching style, while perhaps boisterous, is focused and easy to follow which makes each one of his videos worth watching and spending time with.
The way he presents material feels like you’re learning just by listening and watching, which I found helpful with or without a guitar in my hands.
A big plus (at least of the Rock Guitar School) is Gilbert’s animated and engaging teaching personality.
ArtistWorks puts a lot of focus on community and the social interaction that can, and should, take place between students and their instructors.
They’ve done a great job of facilitating that interaction and providing teachers who are just as active in participating as the students are.
Overall, ArtistWorks receives strong marks for the following:
- Instructor enthusiasm
- Exhaustive material and lengthy videos
- Website design and navigation
- Easy to communicate with instructor(s) and fellow students
- Feels eerily similar to living-room style, in-person guitar lessons
On the negative side, video loading times can be a bit sluggish, while overall site performance and speed seems hit or miss.
There are also less videos per course than what you’ll see on many competing sites.
This is understandable when you consider that ArtistWorks is spreading their resources out over a lot of different instruments, though still a bit disappointing if all you’re interested in is guitar.
ArtistWorks opts for painting in broader strokes with longer videos, which means there’s certainly room for more topics to be covered and more content to be added.
When you consider that you’re getting access to not just content, but an actual instructor (a famous one at that) and an active community, it’s well worth the cost.
This is especially true if you’re looking for that social aspect, which many are.
If you’re less of a self-motivated learner and want the social flavor of an involved tutor with the convenience of online learning, ArtistWorks is a fantastic solution.
I like it either as a long-term solution or for those looking at a quick 30-day membership to get their feet wet.