Updated by Bobby
Recently updated on March 30th, 2021
Added compare buttons to table, updated Yousician's logo and made minor changes to copy and article formatting.
Best Beginner Online Guitar Lessons (our top Pick)
For years Guitar Tricks has been a standard-bearer, not only in guitar lessons broadly, but in beginner guitar education specifically. Their program's strong organization and continual expansion makes them an easy first recommendation for players just getting started and for more advanced skill levels as well. Use the orange button below to try the program free.
Beginner guitar players need structure and organization if they're going to take lessons.
The best beginner guitar lessons should be tightly organized, easy to follow, and designed with a proper topical approach.
We've taken all that into consideration (and much more) in this roundup, putting together a list of the top beginner options based on the following factors:
What to Consider
Finding Guitar Lessons that Work for You
We believe these factors matter most when a beginner picks up the guitar. If you aren't going to be totally self-taught, you need guitar lessons that can come along side and help you teach yourself, not just feed you information.
There are a lot of guitar lesson programs out there that we've tested.
Some of them we like a lot while others we really don't.
If you want to browse only what we like most (regardless of skill level), checkout our top online guitar recommendations here.
Otherwise, the following table has our beginner picks:
Best Beginner Online Guitar Lessons Comparison Table
Or try our guitar lesson quiz
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1. Guitar Tricks Beginner Courses
As mentioned in the above paragraph, Guitar Tricks is the most popular guitar lesson resource in existence. It also happens to be our top recommendation for beginners, kids, and those that just need a refresher of the fundamental topics.
While they have over 11,000 total lessons, their main body of content is organized into something called the Core Learning System.
This system gives you two "Fundamentals" courses which you can then follow up with one of three different style lanes, all of which are like prerequisites to more specific areas of study (although you can skip ahead if you want).
Read the Full Review: Guitar Tricks
Within each course you're able to narrow down into specific chapters containing several lessons, all of which house multiple videos.
The breakdown is extremely easy to follow and keep track of.
This is the heart of Guitar Tricks' strength - its organization and topical thoughtfulness.
For beginners, this makes it really easy to track where you are and where you're going, without having to worry about what topic you need to be covering. The Fundamentals courses in Guitar Tricks essentially take care of that for you.
Here's a video Bobby did that goes through some of Guitar Tricks' content in greater detail:
And another screenshot from one of the more advanced artists studies series on David Evans (the Edge) of U2:
For those interested, here's a little more info about how we rated the Guitar Tricks program and how to interpret the numbers.
Rating the Guitar Tricks Content
We give a content quality rating to each guitar lesson program we review, which is weighted as 15 percent of the final score.
This is essentially a general measure of quality for the content provided.
This gives us a broad overview of value, both in terms of volume (content available) and in terms of the quality of the available content.
For example, Guitargate gets a lower score here because it has a lower volume of content then Active Melody. At the same time, it has less content than Fender Play, but meets a higher quality standard.
Rating the Education Quality
With this rating we're getting a little more specific about each program, narrowing in on their ability to educate.
How good are the instructors?
How effective is the presentation?
Is it easy to retain and absorb information?
This rating is weighted at 20 percent of the final grade, so it's a more significant factor than the overall content grade.
Guitar Tricks gets high marks for instructor personalities, ease of use, and thorough coverage of topics.
Structure and Organization Rating
Topical order helps us rate guitar lesson programs based on how well they organize content within their site. This is a big part of how Guitar Tricks wins the overall battle, getting the top spot in this category that's weighted as 20 percent of the final score.
They're unmatched in this department, with an easy-to-use tracking system and a well-thought out ordering of each topic, which is especially strong in the beginner courses.
Rating the Song Section
Most guitar lesson programs have some sort of a song section.
For Guitar Tricks, this is where they ultimately win the war.
Without question their song section is the best available, boasting over 1000 licensed song lessons from popular artists and bands. These lessons are shot in HD video and teach you the entire track as though you had a teacher sitting down right in front of you.
They win this category both by volume of content offered and quality of said content.
For beginners, it's nice to have song options if and when you want to take a break from the more "studious" side of learning guitar.
IDEAL FOR: Beginners who want structure
GUITAR TRICKS PROS
GUITAR TRICKS CONS
2. Guitargate Courses
Michael Palmisano, a longtime guitar teacher based in Maryland, developed the Guitargate program on his own and managed to get it sponsored by PRS.
You'll notice he's playing PRS guitars (quite a wide variety of them) in all his course videos.
We've used the program, know Michael personally, and consider it one of the best diamond-in-the-rough guitar lesson options, and a solid choice for beginners.
There are a few reasons we like it for beginners, so let's go over those in a brief listing:
The interface is also very user-friendly and easy to navigate with a basic "Mark as Complete" tracking system.
But nearly all of the value you get from Guitargate is wrapped in the content and Palmisano's teaching.
His program is a better option if you want more individualized attention that feels less like an online program and more like you're being taught by someone face to face.
Content Quality in Guitargate
The main issue with Guitargate's overall content score is that the program doesn't have a ton of volume.
Though what they do have is quite good and you could probably make a case for this number being in the 80s.
Guitargate goes with a less is more approach, providing fewer lessons, but maintaining a higher quality standard within each one.
This shows through quite a bit in the education quality score.
For a taste, checkout the video below on the CAGED system from Palmisano:
Palmisano's Teaching Style
In terms of pure education quality, Palmisano's teaching and presentation of music theory is a top-scorer.
We also give a higher grade here because he's actually able to interact with students and answer questions, something largely missing from the other top-scoring programs (Guitar Tricks, TrueFire and JamPlay).
Course Order and Structure
While not as strong as Guitar Tricks, Guitargate does a great job ordering content in a way that's easy to understand and navigate.
Michael also does a great job of organizing around music theory without only teaching music theory. His curriculum is makes sure you have the right topics covered before moving on to more complex ideas.
Read the Full Review: Guitargate
IDEAL FOR: Beginners who want to emphasize music theory
3. Justinguitar Free Lessons
Justinguitar is the second program in our list based on a single teacher and personality. Justin Sandercoe has been teaching guitar for a long time. We even went back into archive.org and looked at some of the earliest iterations of his site. That dude has come a long way in terms of content volume and site design.
A recent redesign of his site has also vastly improved organization and made Justinguitar a far more viable comparison to some of the paid sites.
And for those that don't know, his program is completely free.
You don't even need to give up your email address to sign up (unless you want to use the progress tracking system - which we'd recommend using).
The bulk of Sandercoe's program is geared towards beginners, covering all the basics in a fair amount of detail.
His intermediate and advanced material tends to narrow rather quickly into blues, folk, and classic rock, which seem to be Sandercoe's preferred style camps.
Still, in terms of free programs, it's impossible to beat the quality and volume of material that Justinguitar offers. It's a great starting point for beginners or those that just want to focus on a particular topic.
Read the Full Review: Justinguitar
Justin Sandercoe's Content and User Experience
Justinguitar's content quality grade is reflective of its strength in beginner content and a fairly high volume of material to work with, though it also takes into account the dropoff we see in more advanced topics.
This is of less consequence to those exclusively concerned with beginner content.
Often times people will start with Justinguitar, then move onto paid programs once they outgrow the beginner stages of guitar playing.
Other content-related issues we have to consider with Justinguitar include video and audio quality.
Since Sandercoe has been publishing content for so long, some of his older videos are really grainy, even to the point of having difficulty seeing what his fingers are doing on the fretboard.
Obviously he has since filmed with much nicer equipment, but those older videos are a major step down, and part of why we don't put his content grade into the 90s.
Sandercoe's Teaching and Communication
Most of the guitar lesson programs we review score pretty well in the education quality category.
This is part of the reason Justinguitar looks low, because there's so much competition in this rating. Anything above 80 percent we'd consider exceptionally good.
The reason we don't have Justinguitar over Active Melody and TrueFire is because those two programs do a better job with advanced content and covering a broader range of styles (Active Melody more so in terms of skill level and less in terms of style).
In our opinion, the value of Sandercoe's program falls off quite a bit after the beginner content.
We didn't feel that way about Active Melody or TrueFire.
But again, this is why we believe Sandercoe has produced some of the best guitar lessons for beginners, because it's where he has invested the most time.
Course Arrangement and Order
Beginners will appreciate the attention given in Justinguitar to organizing topics and covering aspects of the guitar that are most fundamental. This is something that Sandercoe does really well, giving you a bedrock of content that's well-organized with a simple progress tracker.
It's nothing fancy, but it's a simple system that you can easily sort through and have clear direction about where you should go.
The structure doesn't feel quite as tight as the Guitar Tricks program, but it's not too far behind.
Rating the Song Lessons in Justinguitar
We have to preface this by noting that we aren't sure whether or not Sandercoe has licensed the song lessons on his site.
Technically, any time you want to use a song for any purpose, licensing has to happen, which is why it's so hard for guitar lesson sites to provide song lessons.
But licensed or not, Justinguitar has a ton of song lessons and resources, giving him another big boost in the beginner category.
IDEAL FOR: Beginners on a budget
4. Yousician Beginner Lessons
While we don't believe Yousician is good enough to be part of our broad list of online guitar lesson recommendations, we do like it for beginners.
Yousician is a very different take on teaching guitar, which involves using a Rocksmith-style interface that actually listens to your guitar through your computer's microphone and it's ridiculously accurate.
For our full Yousician review, we bought and tested the program, both with acoustic and electric guitars and it did a fantastic job of picking up the signal and accurately hearing both correct and incorrect notes.
Here's a quick look at the interface:
Where Yousician struggles to hold its own is in terms of concept explanation and depth. Because the app, by itself, doesn't really explain topics or ideas. It just helps you practice and tells you where you're messing up. Yet, for a lot of beginners, that might be all you need or all you're looking for.
We recommend it as a supplemental resource and wouldn't advise relying on it entirely for learning.
Though, that could be said of other programs in this list as well.
We do find that the video game-style setup is an effective motivator and can help you quickly correct areas where you're missing notes or not playing fast enough. As a beginner's guitar practice tool, it's very effective.
Yousician's Content Rating
To rate the content from Yousician, you have to look at the app itself and what it allows you to do, which is a little different than the other recommendations in this list.
Overall, the content that Yousician puts forward is good, if not particularly in-depth or comprehensive.
This gets addressed more in the education quality rating.
Other aspects of the program like the "Knowledge" section of the curriculum don't do a lot to help this score.
Any time Yousician lessons deviate from the Guitar Hero-style interface, it feels like we'd be better off elsewhere.
EDUCATION QUALITY of Yousician
As you might expect, Yousician is far less competitive when you look at purely educational aspects of their content.
Again, for beginners, the practice help is quite valuable. Yet, you won't get much in the way of additional explanation or details about why you're playing what you're playing.
It's essentially an instructor-less program.
We would concede that Yousician has done well creating a program that has almost no instructional presence whatsoever. That's hard to do, and they've created a useful tool that doesn't involve you simply listening to a person talk or play. It gets you playing faster, which is a good thing.
However, it's not ideal to learn something without the instruction - either written or spoken - from another human being.
This is why we recommend Yousician for beginner guitar players with a bit of an asterisk next to it.
Use it for practice and building chops, but supplement elsewhere with a better program.
Structure and Organization Rating
In this category, Yousician runs into some of the same problems we see with their educational content. They do have a nice interface where material is organized and easy to get through, but it feels like you're missing a lot and that you're skipping over concepts before you've fully understood them.
To put it differently:
Yousician has a good organizational system, they just don't have much to organize.
Again, this might not be a major concern for the beginner, but it's something to keep in mind if you haven't decided on a program yet.
Rating the Yousician Song Section
The way you learn songs in Yousician is really fun. However, it's held back by two pay walls, meaning that buying a basic membership ($19 per month) isn't enough to access the licensed song material. To do that, you need to buy a premium membership, which is more expensive at $29 per month.
It's the only program on here that puts song content behind a second paywall, which we'd assume is to cover the additional cost of licensing the songs.
For basic members, you'll have access to generic song lessons that are just tracks created specifically for Yousician courses. This doesn't include music from any famous bands or artists.
Still, learning songs with the app is fun and - we would say - effective.
Once again, we're giving partial credit.
IDEAL FOR: Practice and building chops
What should beginner lessons cover?
Based on this article on teaching guitar concepts in a proper order, we'd recommend beginner guitar lessons cover the following topics:
- The basics of single notes
- Alternatie picking
- Reading tabs
- Fretboard notes
- Basic intervals and root notes
- Minor Second (one fret from the root note).
- Major Second (two frets from the root note).
- Minor Third (three frets)
- Major Third (four frets)
- Perfect Fifth (seven frets — power chord shape)
- Two-note power chords
- Adding notes to power chords
- Major and minor chords
- Chord cleanup with arpeggios
- Basic open chords
- Dyads and Triads
- Major scale and first exercises
- Soloing patterns and improvisation
- Application of melody
- Introduction to timing and rhythm
- Metronome use/practice
- Songs and cover projects
Why are beginner guitar lessons important?
I'm not a believer that you must have guitar lessons in order to learn as a beginner. However, I would argue that it has the potential to dramatically speed up the learning process and help you progress quicker through the elementary guitar concepts and music principles.
Your goal - as a beginner - is to get to the point where you can work on what interests you, namely, a particular type of music.
In other words:
You don't want to be learning chords and scales - you want to be learning songs and riffs. And this can't happen until you've covered the beginner concepts and "the basics."
This is what makes beginner guitar lessons so helpful and valuable. They can help you through those foundational concepts and get you to the point where you can apply what you've learned and actually starting playing the kinds of things you want to play. It's not a shortcut of the fundamentals (that's not a good thing), but a more efficient way to get through them.
Who benefits most from beginner guitar lessons?
People who are most likely to benefit from lessons are those who have never picked up a guitar before. However, we can be a little clearer and more specific.
Here's a list of people that would benefit from beginner lessons, given particular situations.
Complete (or mostly complete) beginners
Many people come to the guitar with at least a modest knowledge of the instrument. Perhaps you know how to hold a guitar, pick a string or two, or even strum a few chords. You'd still be considered a beginner, but would likely be able to skip the first few "orientation-style" lessons in a given beginner course.
At the same time, those who have never touched - much less played - a guitar before are also considered ideal candidates for the lessons outlined above.
Kids and young music students
Younger kids, particularly age seven and under, are great candidates for guitar lessons either online or in person. This helps give a child structure and guidance, which are critical aspects of the learning process.
Beginner guitar lessons can also be helpful for those who just haven't picked up the guitar in a while.
Maybe you could play some at one point, but just hadn't kept up with your skills for a long time.
If so, a refresher guitar course can be extremely helpful and worth the effort, since it'll help you shore up any areas you might have forgotten about, or have just gotten rusty during your hiatus from the instrument.
Things to Know When Taking Lessons as a Beginner (online and offline)
There are some pitfalls of taking guitar lessons that can negatively impact beginners, regardless of whether you take them online or in-person.
"Freebies" and automatic charges
A lot of online guitar programs offer freebies like DVDs, eBooks, or free streaming lessons. However, some programs we've seen actually funnel you into monthly charges without the user knowing. Make sure you read the fine print carefully.
Some guitar lesson spots tend to overcharge for their lessons, at least by the typical cost of guitar lessons standard. We've put together a list and recommend avoiding them.
Programs that just aren't very good
A lot of guitar teachers and programs just aren't that good. This is hard to predict when you're talking about a tutor that you don't know, but with online programs you can read reviews and do your research ahead of time.
Some teachers and private music schools will offer a free trial lessons, which is always advisable to take advantage of and view as a testing period.
Lessons that are too difficult to be considered beginner-friendly
Sometimes you'll run into a guitar course that's labeled for beginners but gets into difficult topics too quickly, without properly preparing you for the task. We try to weed these out through our review process.
Guitar lessons can't replace practicing
It's important to keep in mind that guitar lessons can't replace practice time, especially as a beginner.
If you're spending an hour on a lesson, just absorbing new information, you need time outside of that hour to apply the concept and solidify it in your memory.
Beginner lessons are not necessarily one-size-fits-all
Though we can often make recommendations based on our reviews, there is no particular teacher, music school, or online course that's going to be perfect for everybody.
Take what you know about how you like to learn and apply that to your guitar lesson search.
While some are better than others, it always depends on the individual and what works best for them.
Why listen to our opinion?
Reviewing guitar lesson programs is a huge part of what Guitar Chalk was built to do.
When we review one of these programs, we actually buy and use full access memberships, just like you would if you were to sign up.
Here's our Yousician invoice, just so you know we aren't making all this up:
Most of the time Bobby - Guitar Chalk's founder - reviews them himself with guitar and notebook in hand.
A lot of times we'll have additional help from editors and feedback from other musicians. Thus, each program gets multiple sets of eyes and a variety of feedback.
We also test the programs on a variety of gear and technology.
Here's some of what we use:
Depending on the program, we use our own guitars and computers to go through each one, watch the videos, and play through the content.
In the case of these recommendations, we did all this with an eye towards what beginner guitar players are most likely to need out of a guitar lesson program.
In particular, we're looking at the following factors:
Since we've been through a lot of programs, we're confident putting these four forward as the best guitar lesson options for beginners, assuming you're not looking at an in-person tutor.
If you're not sure which route you want to go, this article on in-person vs online guitar lessons might be helpful to you.
How do we test & rate these programs?
Our testing and rating process for guitar lessons is pretty simple.
We buy a full access membership and we just use it.
Like you would, we grab a guitar and start playing through some of the content. We make notes of site structure, usability, how well the content is organized, how effective the educational material is, and how much depth it offers for each individual topic it claims to cover.
We buy a full access membership and we just use it.
Once those notes are complete and we've been able to get a feel for the program, we can extrapolate our ratings from what we've seen.
Each rating is given on a scale of 1 to 100.
Identifying Value in Beginner Guitar Lessons
Most people - when making any kind of purchase - want to find the best possible balance of price and quality. This is another thing we consider when looking at guitar lessons for beginners.
How much do they cost and how much can they offer a prospective customer/student?
Here's a breakdown of these four programs on a cost vs rating scale.
Lower and further to the right is better.
Overall Content Grade
We rate content of an online guitar lesson site by looking at all media which primarily consists of text, images, and video.
How much content is available to the user?
How well is it organized?
Is it presented nicely and are the aesthetics welcoming? How much of a given topic have they been able to cover and how complete is that coverage?
While some of this can tie into educational quality and topical organization - which each have their own ratings - this is more of a broad grade given to the site's entire body of content.
Most guitar lesson sites do fairly well in this category.
For example, part of the reason Guitareo's grade here is so low, is that there are parts of the program that almost looked incomplete, like they were missing pages or topics entirely. If you want more info on that program, you can checkout our full Guitareo review.
Education Quality Grade
Educational quality is measured by looking at content from an academic perspective.
How well does it cover the material? How effective are instructors at communicating ideas and making the complex understandable? How thorough is the body of content and how deep do they drill down into each topic they cover?
When explaining a broad concept - in an educational sense - you can go horizontal or vertical. Horizontal means you cover more topics while vertical means you drill down deeper into a specific topic. Great guitar lesson websites are able to do both, which takes more time and resources.
But, the wider and deeper the coverage, the higher the grade.
Ideally, a beginner guitar lesson program would be as effective and as comprehensive as having a tutor sitting in your living room, explaining every aspect of a given topic to you. This is part of why Guitargate's grade is so high in this area.
Music education, whether for guitar or otherwise, should help you understand and memorize a concept, the theory behind that concept, and then help you apply it in a usable way so you'll remember it later.
The programs that are most effective throughout this process get a higher education quality rating.
Of all the programs we've tested, Guitar Tricks, JamPlay, and Guitargate are the three best scorers in this category. Guitar Tricks and JamPlay do it with depth and volume of content, while Guitargate does it with with depth and individualized instruction.
The only reason we don't typically recommend JamPlay for beginners is because they tend have a more specialized body of content that caters to intermediate and advanced players.
However, they span the entire skill level spectrum.
You can read Bobby's JamPlay review here for more info on that program.
For beginners, topical organization and order is extremely important. To grade this feature, we look at the flow of the site and how it gets you from topic to topic.
We also consider how well this organization helps to cover each individual topic.
Do they skip over ideas?
Does the path from one idea to the next make sense?
How easy is it to know where you are in a given learning path? Does the structure of the learning path make sense?
As we mentioned, this is where Guitar Tricks provides a ton of value to beginners:
Within topics there are chapters, within chapters there are lessons, and within lessons there are individual videos. The videos themselves are usually somewhat short (around five minutes) and easy to digest.
This organizational system is extremely effective and easy to use.
Here's the comparison rating chart for this category:
We also give some credit to Guitar Tricks for being the pioneers of this system. They started in 1998 without any precedent for teaching guitar this way and have since made it into a tightly-organized program with a solid structure.
Not all beginner guitar programs are developed enough to have a song lesson section, but we think it's important for beginners because it gives them a break from the "academic" side of guitar and provides an element of fun and application that you don't get with instructional lessons alone.
Again, this is a major strength for Guitar Tricks, which has the best song lesson section of any program we've looked at.
We rate these sections based on the volume of songs offered and the quality of the lessons themselves. How much stylistic variety do users have to choose from? Do they target only hits or are their deep tracks as well? Are they "guitar-friendly" songs? Is the instructional quality up to the same standards we apply to general educational content?
Here's how each program performs in this area:
Though we only rate it at five percent of the final score, the quality and usability of an online guitar lesson's video player should be taken note of, since it's so central to what the user experiences. We give higher grades for high quality hosting platforms like Wistia and Soundslice, as well as taking into account overall aesthetics, video quality, buffering/loading, and usability.
Site Design and Navigation
Rating any website or web app should involve some basic UI/UX analysis. While this might not matter to the average guitar player, it's something you'll notice if you spend enough time on any one website. We look at how easy navigation is and whether or not you can quickly find content. We also take into account modern web design trends and standards. Most guitar lesson sites perform quite well in this area.
Price and Value
As you've seen in the quality VS cost graph we looked at earlier, the price of each program has an impact on how much value you get in return. Though monthly pricing standards usually hover around $20 (often cheaper for yearly sign ups), we still find it helpful to take price into consideration for final grades. We also look at the variety of membership options you might have and give extra points for sites that allow you to pay as you go or buy individual courses for a one-time fee and then download them.
Concluding and Your Questions
Based on all of these rating factors and our own extensive reviews, we can comfortably recommend these four resources as the best beginner guitar lessons. That's not to say that beginners can't have a positive experience with other sites.
However, we've done our homework.
And if you still aren't sure about which program is right for you or if you have questions about our review process, leave it in the comments section below.
Usually Bobby answers those directly (easier to get to than email), so feel free to drop a line.
We want people who pay for education, especially music education, to get a good return on their investment. Because there are a lot of programs out there, but not all of them are great. In fact, the value you get in return for many is downright poor. And even if the quality is there, it can sometimes be hard to just find a good fit.
Hopefully, this article will help you find the perfect guitar lesson fit.
Best of luck to you in your search.