Parent article: Best Online Guitar Lessons
Best Guitar Learning AppS in 2021
Guitar Tricks App (for iPad & iPhone)
With an interface that's even better than the desktop version, the Guitar Tricks iPad and iPhone app (also available for Android and Apple TV) is the best app-based guitar learning experience available, delivering all the same content and benefits of the core program.
Learning guitar takes time. However, you can cut that time down - and learn quicker - when you access guitar lesson apps on your phone or tablet.
These devices - with so much power to distract - have an equally powerful ability to educate, provided we fill them with the right resources. If you want to learn guitar, the apps available through phones and tablets have made it easier than ever before.
We can literally take guitar lessons anywhere, from our phone. Through video, text, and even game interfaces, we can learn a lot about how to play our instrument of choice.
Scary, but also pretty cool.
In this article, I'm going to look at all of my favorite guitar learning apps from programs that we've used and tested at Guitar Chalk. These are programs that we've:
- Vouched for personally
When Guitar Chalk publishes a guitar lesson website or app review, we do it based on personal experience. I've played guitar since I was nine (I'm 33 at the time of writing this) and those I work with are experienced musicians as well. We can use that experience to make genuine recommendations that aren't just an effort to sell you something.
Instead, these are apps and programs that we enjoy too and have found useful over years of guitar playing and learning.
Here's what we'll cover:
5 Best Apps for Learning Guitar (as of January 2021)
Guitar Tricks App
TrueFire Guitar Lessons App
Amped Guitar Learning
Ultimate Guitar Pro (Chords & Tabs)
Justinguitar Beginner Song Course
1. Guitar Tricks Mobile App
The Guitar Tricks iPad and iPhone app use the same login that you would use on the web-based version of the program. This means all the content and material you have access to is the same and you're not getting a "stripped down" or "mobile" version of your membership.
Everything that's good about the main Guitar Tricks program is perfectly intact in the iPad and iPhone version as well, to the point where we even like the mobile interface a little better than the web look.
Though both are quite good.
The mobile setup is darker and simpler to navigate, because the mobile style menu is less distracting and easier to compartmentalize.
Realistically, you only need these four tiles:
Regardless of whether you're using the app on a phone, tablet, or desktop computer, the Guitar Tricks program is strong on:
- Beginner content
- Licensed, popular song lessons (with tabs)
These three features are some of the most important when it comes to learning guitar online, and the Guitar Tricks app has them all down to a science.
What's unique to the app?
Depending on your device, the app's navigation might be more simplified. For example, the iPad app has a history section and "Last Lesson" button that assist in navigation at the bottom of the home dashboard. To start, most people would just select from one of the four tiles:
From there, content is organized in a structure similar to what is used for all the courses on the website. The videos, chapters, and course content are all exactly the same without anything stripped out.
We'd consider the similarities between the mobile app and the Guitar Tricks website a good thing. When you have a program that's solid at a base level - like Guitar Tricks - the mobile rendition is almost certain to be icing on the cake.
Read the full review: Guitar Tricks
IDEAL FOR: Learning on the fly, those who like to stay organized, beginners and learning songs
- We like the darker interface
- App is free if you already have a membership
- No annoying in-app purchases (full membership is completely transferred)
- Navigation is sooth and easy to figure out
2. Amped Guitar Learning App (iOS only)
Amped works similar to Yousician with an interface that tracks your playing accuracy along with an interactive tab.
For our take on Yousician, you can checkout the full Yousician review here.
In our opinion, Amped is a better program for a couple of reasons.
#1: Amped is Exclusively Focused on Guitar
First, Amped is focused on just guitar, while Yousician is spread thinner across five different instruments. This also means that the Amped song section is more guitar focused.
Moreover, the interface was designed specifically with guitar in mind, with a darker, more rock-esque tone and backdrop.
Strings on the game screen are also easy to identify based on thickness. As you can see from the screenshot below, even the winding around the thicker strings is accurate.
#2: Audio Augmented Reality
Secondly, Amped uses technology called audio augmented reality, which plays back your guitar (coming through the mic or input) into a pair of headphones and makes it sound like your guitar is actually plugged in.
To put it simply, it makes your guitar sound really good.
When played through the app, this is only going to work properly if you're setting up Amped to be played through headphones. It'll sound like an amplified guitar, with a slight reverb effect, almost like you're playing in a large room.
Overall, it's a better experience than Yousician.
Like Yousician, Amped listens to your playing and matches it with the tab you're trying to follow, making it a great practice aid, beginner tool, and motivational way to get kids to practice more. It's fast and seems to accurately read your notes, as we noticed it seemed to be really good at identifying mistakes and missed notes, as well as the ones you get right.
IDEAL FOR: Practice aid, beginners, kids, or learning to play faster
- Audio augmented reality sounds great
- Program is sleek and easy to use
- Does a good job of analyzing your playing and finding mistakes
- More guitar-focused than Yousician
- Educational instruction isn't really present
- Not as thoroughly developed as longer-standing programs
3. Ultimate Guitar Pro
If you have the Ultimate Guitar app, an Ultimate Guitar Pro membership basically gives you the option to view any tab in a premium Guitar Pro tab format.
Basically, these tabs are significantly nicer than the notepad/Courier font things you're used to seeing from the user-submitted content in Ultimate Guitar.
Here's an example:
These tabs are separated by real musical bars and instrument tracks, with proper notation and technique provided for each note in the piece.
It's the "correct" way to display and read tablature, and it's far easier than the plain text versions you'll see on the free side of the Ultimate Guitar forums.
Membership to the app gives you access on any device, including an iPhone and iPad to login with your Pro account. For those focusing on learning songs, this is one of our favorite app recommendations.
Read the full review: Ultimate Guitar Pro
IDEAL FOR: Learning songs and people who already like to use Ultimate Guitar
- A massive upgrade of tab quality for Ultimate Guitar fans
- Fantastic price point (just a few bucks a month)
- Easily integrates with existing and user-submitted content in the Ultimate Guitar database
- Nearly every song on UG has a Pro version now
- None for the price
4. Justinguitar Beginner Song Course
Similar to Guitar Tricks, the Justinguitar app essentially mirrors the content structure of its parent website.
However, Justin Sandercoe's app does restrict certain pieces of content behind a paywall, while nearly all of the content on the main Justinguitar website is completely free.
The interface is also a significant deviation from what you see on the desktop version of the website, though it is broken down into a similar stage system with videos and basic progress tracking.
The app also seems more focused on the goal of learning "beginners songs" by teaching you chords necessary to play particular songs in each stage.
You can click on the guitar button at the bottom of the screen to browse just song lessons without the educational content sprinkled in. This section is called "Songbook."
Again, some of the content is behind a paywall, which we don't have a problem with, considering how much content Sandercoe has published for free over the years. As far as we know, no one else has provided more guitar tutorial content free of charge.
While the app's narrower focus on songs reminds us a little bit of things we dislike about Fender Play, it's still a well-designed app with plenty to like about the interface and a nice compliment to the main Justinguitar portal.
Read the full review: Justinguitar
IDEAL FOR: Beginners, and learning songs
- Modernized interface is easy to navigate
- Lots of completely free content
- Paywall is fair, and tastefully implemented
- Stage system from the main website still in place
- Sandercoe's videos are always helpful and informative
- Older videos are filmed in a lower resolution
- Narrowed focus on songs is Fender Play-esque
5. TrueFire Guitar Lessons App
TrueFire has an excellent mobile app, perhaps one of the best we've seen from a pure design and usability perspective. The interface is smooth, intuitive and does a great job of recreating the large body of content from the website in a usable mobile design.
At the login screen you can sign into the app with an existing account, create a new one, or skip the sign in process entirely to use the free content on the app.
Once logged in you'll be able to browse through the content listings, with or without a paid account. Though most content is unavailable to stream without one. Here's what the interface looked like when I logged in with my paid account:
New releases and categories are listed first, while you could also access all of your recently viewed lessons, making it easy to pickup where you might have left off. When you open a video lesson, the video is positioned at the top of the screen (at least on my iPhone), while tabs are placed directly below it. This seems simple, but it was a convenient way to view the content on a small screen. I didn't feel strained by trying to see the video or the text.
Tab numbers are a little small, but there's not a lot that can be done about that when you're viewing on a phone.
I'll blow the following screen shot up a bit so you can get a closer look:
Playlists and progress tracking are both still available on the app, while all the content that you would have access to in the web version is also available in the mobile iteration. The setup is similar to Guitar Tricks' arrangement, in that they've designed a replica of their main website for those who might prefer to use their phones.
The only concern we would mention with TrueFire's mobile app is what we've already said about the main website.
It's a lot of intermediate and/or advanced content.
While there's plenty for the beginner as well, we've found that the large volume of content can actually make it a little difficult for the beginner to navigate. It's just a much stronger program for advanced guitar players.
Read the full review: TrueFire
IDEAL FOR: Advanced, intermediate players, or those looking to study specific aspects of guitar
- App looks fantastic and runs smoothly (tested on iPhone 11)
- TrueFire does a good job of giving you a lot of content in a way that's easy to navigate
- Lots of content, lots of courses to choose from
- Perfect for intermediate or advanced users
- Not always easy to navigate
- Harder to identify linear learning paths
What's the best free guitar learning app?
Most of the apps you'll come across charge you in some way. In a lot of cases, they're worth the investment, though it can still be helpful to have resources that are completely free.
If you're looking for something where the bulk of the content is available without any kind of pay wall, the Justinguitar beginner songs app is probably your best bet. It's mostly free, with only a limited percentage of its content available for purchase. You can use a lot of the app and watch a lot of the videos without spending any money.
Which apps should I avoid?
While we certainly haven't covered every guitar app available on the market, there are a few that we see recommended regularly, that we would not recommend. This is based on our own testing and reviewing of these apps.
We'd say avoid the following three in favor of better options:
- Fender Play
Of the three, Yousician scores the highest in our rating system, but we still prefer Amped and Uberchord.
Comparing and Rating the Apps
In this section, we've put together some charts that compare the ratings we've given to all the apps we've reviewed in three different categories. We'll focus on our ratings for content, education, and topical organization. It's just a simple way to examine how all the apps compare to one another. We've also included ratings for the Uberchord, Fender Play, and Fretello.
Content Ratings Comparison
Our content rating looks at the volume of material, the quality of the delivery format, and the overall user experience. For example, if a site provides video lessons, are they presented in HD? Is the stream easy to access and fast? How much content is available?
Education Ratings Comparison
When rating education we look at the quality of instruction, the clarity of explanation, and how thoroughly topics are covered. In this category, Guitar Tricks and TrueFire and routinely pretty far ahead of the rest of the heard. Note that Guitar Pro gets a low rating because it doesn't really provide educational content. You could also call it "not applicable."
Organization Ratings Comparison
This category deals specifically with how an app handles the organization and topical flow of guitar lesson content. For example, do they cover simpler, basic concepts before introducing more difficult and complex ideas? Also, is it easy to navigate based on skill level or area of study? Does the groupings of lessons and videos make sense? Guitar Tricks is consistently the best performer in this area.
How Guitar Learning Apps Work
Guitar learning apps are pretty simple examples of internet-based learning. Just like any other app on your phone, guitar learning apps can be downloaded and ran on your device at your convenience.
Most work on the following devices:
- Apple TV
They might stem from one or more of the following types of guitar lesson programs:
- Membership websites
- Individual teachers
- Educational games or puzzles
- Tabs or chord resources
Almost all guitar learning apps allow you to utilize one of these four types of guitar resources. Some apps provide content for free, while others are based on a membership website or partially restricted content behind a pay wall.
How to Choose a Guitar Learning App
How do you pick which one is right for you? While the aforementioned criteria can certainly help break down your options, there are other factors worth considering as well. What kind of device do you have? What programs are you already familiar with? Let's take a closer look at how to choose a guitar lesson app in the following section.
Based on Device
One of the simplest ways to decide on a guitar lesson app is to look at what's available on your device. On iPhone, for example, open up the App Store and search for "learn guitar."
Make sure to scroll down and explore some of your options. Yousician and Fender Play tend to dominate the upper search results, though we wouldn't recommend either of those programs, at least not above the four we've mentioned in this article.
Scroll down and explore some of your options.
Based on Existing Membership Accounts
As we've mentioned, many of the apps available for learning guitar will require linking to a membership account, or signing up for one. At the same time, if you already have a particular membership account, like Guitar Tricks or Ultimate Guitar Tab Pro, it makes the most sense to first look for a guitar learning app that would correspond to that account.
How to Compare Guitar Learning Apps
While the best way to compare guitar lesson apps is to just download and try them out, there are a few particular areas of comparison that can be helpful to look at specifically. Primarily, we'd look at intended skill level, delivery method, and price.
Intended Skill Level
A specific skill level isn't always advertised by guitar lesson programs because they want to market to everyone, but inevitably, each program has a skill level that it seems to handle better or cater to. For example, we've found that the Guitar Tricks app is consistently better for beginners.
On the flip side, TrueFire tends to be better for more advanced or intermediate guitar players.
As much as possible, get a feel for what skill level each app is focused on and use that to compare.
When you start exploring guitar learning apps and programs, you'll find that a lot of them differ in terms of how they deliver their content. For example, you might have a pre-recorded video course, a video game interface, diagrams, or text. Learning the difference between these delivery methods is an important part of comparing mobile apps in the guitar lesson space.
To simplify the distinctions, we can break them down into two categories:
- Video game/memory
Let's talk about each delivery method.
Most guitar lesson apps allow you to stream a pre-recorded series of lessons like you would a TV show on Netflix or Hulu. In this case, you have an instructor that's teaching to the camera, allowing you to watch the lesson, explanation, and demonstration. This is particularly convenient when it's on your phone or iPad, being portable and easy to use when you have limited free time throughout the day to learn.
2. Video Game/Memory
The second, somewhat less common way, is the Amped model or the video game and memory system. These educational apps use a video-game style interface - like Rocksmith - to help you memorize patterns and play through tabs while tracking your progress and telling you whether you've hit a right note or a wrong note.
Perhaps one of the simplest ways to compare guitar lessons is by way of price. If you want an actual comparison chart, you can checkout our rundown of guitar lesson costs which includes a wide variety of exact numbers and programs (both online and offline). In this section, we'll look at some common pricing conventions for guitar lesson apps.
1. Completely free
There aren't a lot of guitar learning apps that are completely free, at least not that are worth much. Some apps might provide chord charts, scales, or some basic instruction, but that information is readily available online as well. Still, depending on what you need or want to spend, you can get a lot of information via apps that don't charge you. As mentioned previously, the Justinguitar app is a good place to start.
2. Free to Try With In-App Purchases or Pay Wall
The second - perhaps most common - pricing convention is a free app, or free to try with additional content behind a paywall. What can change within this structure is the percentage of content that's free versus the percentage that's locked as premium or paid.
The Guitar Tricks app is free, yet makes very little content available outside of the 14-day free trial. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Justinguitar's mobile app offers a larger amount of free content before you have to start paying.
Different companies and apps handle this process with a wide degree of variation, but you can almost always count on having some form of free content, with upgrades available if and when you want them.
3. Paid Membership
Just as entirely free apps are quite rare, so are apps that are entirely paid. Most fall somewhere in between.
However, some apps do rely heavily on a paid membership. For example, the TrueFire and Guitar Tricks apps are both just extensions of the website portal. In other words, you don't have an "app membership" and a "website membership." You simply have a Guitar Tricks membership which is effective regardless of which device you're using to access the content.
This means the app is sort of a side car to the main site.
In terms of comparing your options, it's prudent to look at the sites you already frequent to see if they have a corresponding app and - if so - does a membership give you access to it as well.
Should you use guitar learning apps? Pros and Cons List
On a more fundamental note: Should we even be using these apps to learn guitar? Are there downsides to learning an instrument on your phone or tablet? From a high-level view, e-learning and mobile education apps have been a largely positive technological advancement.
But, are they for everyone?
We've see that some people do really well learning guitar - or some other instrument - from an app, while others prefer more conventional methods.
In this section, we'll look at the pros and cons of this type of learning to help you get an idea of whether it's an effective option for you, in your particular situation.
Pros of Guitar Learning Apps
Let's start with the pros of learning guitar from your phone:
- Convenient, portable, and easy to access
- Not bound by a schedule
- Great for those who are self-starters and motivated to learn on their own
- Extremely cheap, especially when compared to hourly guitar lesson prices
- Fun and engaging (in most cases)
- Larger variety of topics covered and a diverse body of content
Cons or Why these Apps Might not be for Your
And the downsides:
- Difficult to get feedback from a real person
- Not ideal for those that are more comfortable with traditional learning methods (books, classrooms)
- Phones and tablets are inherently distracting
- Sometimes hard to customize for your specific interests
Getting the Most out of your Apps
Assuming you do incorporate apps into your guitar study routine, how do you get the most out of the time you spend with them? Here are some tips we'd recommend, specifically for those using guitar learning apps on a regular basis.
#1: Don't rely on them exclusively
Though apps can certainly be useful, we don't recommend relying on them all the time, particularly when it comes to applying what you've learned. Scrolling through an app should - at some point - be replaced standing up and playing your guitar without having to consult your device. Try to strike a balance of learning and applying in your practice sessions. For better results with this, see tip #3 below.
#2: Turn off push notifications
This is something I always do, regardless of what I'm using my phone for. Push notifications are designed to distract and to pull you away from what you were focusing on. If you're using your device to study guitar - or anything else - turn push notifications off, at least for awhile. Here's how to disable or enable them on iPhone.
#3: Lengthy practice sessions, mobile or not
We see a lot of companies that put out resources for a "quick guitar lessons" or "learning in 15 minutes a day." And while we understand people are busy, we don't want to lie to you and tell you that you can truly learn the guitar without lengthy practice sessions. There is no method - yet discovered - to familiarize yourself with the fretboard outside of spending significant time with it. So if your app constructs its content that way, make sure you spend as much time as possible with your instrument and don't buy into the cheap marketing ploy that you can "get this app and learn guitar in 15 minutes a day." It doesn't work like that.
#4: Follow a linear learning path
One of our most common criticisms of YouTube guitar lessons is that there is no path to follow and no linear progression of ideas. When you're using an app to learn guitar, you can - depending on the program - run into similar degrees of distraction or jumping around from topic to topic.
We recommend apps and programs that have tight, well-constructed linear learning paths. This helps the user focus and learn guitar in order, covering foundational topics before moving onto more complexity.
As much as possible, make sure you're following a linear learning path as you use these apps.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Most of the guitar apps available on iOS are also available on Android. The major players like Guitar Tricks, TrueFire, Justinguitar, and Ultimate Guitar are all included. Amped hasn't put out an Android app as they're iOS only, but we'd recommend choosing from the other five.
In the iOS app store you have all six of the programs mentioned here, including Amped. In terms of the "best," we'd recommend Guitar Tricks for beginners who don't mind a paid account, or Justinguitar for those that want something without having to grab their credit card.
Mac users can also use Amplitube and Guitar Pro on their desktop, along with Garageband which is included with the Mac OS.