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Best Guitar Lessons for Active Duty Military
Guitar Tricks (via full access membership)
All of the courses in Guitar Tricks are available for download to full access members. This includes the 14 day free trial, which you can take for a test run via the link below and download a few lessons with no obligation:
My wife and I have multiple grandparents and a large contingent of friends that have served in the US armed forced. Army, Marines, and Navy are all represented in our inner circle, which means we've heard the stories - good and bad - about what it's like to be an American soldier, in a variety of scenarios.
And we've seen that people in the military are well-rounded individuals with a lot of different hobbies and interests.
Interesting in a musical instrument shows up quite a bit.
In this article we're looking at guitar lesson resources that we believe are most ideal for active duty military, or just folks living on base who are interested in learning a musical instrument in their spare time. Since life in the military is regimented and tightly scheduled, we wanted to target lessons that fit the following descriptors:
- Could be accessed and watched quickly
- Downloadable/viewable offline
- Available anywhere in the world via the internet
You can browse our recommendations below or checkout our quiz for help starting off in the right direction.
We've Done the Work for You
Guitar Chalk's online guitar lesson quiz
Whether you're active duty military or someone that just wants to learn an instrument, this quiz will help you start to think about which questions to ask and which program could be a good fit.
Guitar Tricks (full access membership)
IDEAL SKILL LEVEL
Guitar Tricks offers one type of membership account that includes streaming, but also allows you to download videos and watch offline. All other membership lesson sites charge extra for digital downloading, but Guitar Tricks includes it at no extra charge. They're our top pick for beginners and have the best licensed song lessons.
- Great for beginners
- Downloading for offline watching is included with membership
- Courses are well-organized & easy to follow
- Song section is the best of its kind and a ton of fun
- Advanced content falls off a bit
- Videos have to be downloaded one at a time
- No single-course purchases available
- Over 11,000 total edu lessons
- Over 1000 total song lessons
- Licensed tabs included
- 14 day free trial available with credit card
- Cancel before 60 days (after the free trial) for a refund
- 10 designated beginner courses
- Over 3 million members
- Courses typically have around 200-250 videos
TrueFire (course downloads)
IDEAL SKILL LEVEL
Intermediate to advanced
TrueFire has all of their courses for sale individually, meaning you can pick and choose courses you want without having to worry about a monthly membership. They also have the largest body of guitar lesson content with nearly 50,000 videos, as of June 2020. Each course can be downloaded or obtained with a DVD copy.
- Good option for intermediate or advanced players
- Download option with DVD is available
- Courses are always rich in content depth and teaching
- Yearly price is a bit lower than Guitar Tricks
- High monthly rate
- Essentially no song section
Justinguitar (free videos & courses)
IDEAL SKILL LEVEL
Though completely free, Justinguitar is a substantive and thorough guitar lesson program that competes aggressively with the paid websites. Particularly if you're a beginner and you don't mind skipping around a bit, Justin Sandercoe's content makes for a great starting point, especially if you just want to feel out the online guitar lesson experience before you commit to signing up with one of the paid websites.
- Great for beginners
- YouTube backend is familiar
- Organization is exceptionally good for a free program
- Song system is excellent, second only to Guitar Tricks
- Sandercoe's teaching method is solid - professional, even
- Limited usability once you get into intermediate & advanced topics
- Limited to one teaching personality
- Not a ton of diversity of musical style
- Over 900 total edu lessons
- Over 550 total song lessons
- Song lessons likely unlicensed
- Program is open source and free to use
- Progress tracker requires an email sign up
- Content is hosted on YouTube and available there as well
- URL: Justinguitar.com
- Organized into courses, primarily by skill level
JamPlay (downloads & streaming)
IDEAL SKILL LEVEL
JamPlay is the second most popular online guitar lesson program behind Guitar Tricks, employing a similar - membership style - website that allows you to stream lesson videos. However, JamPlay has recently started making full courses available for purchase and download without a membership, giving you a ton of options outside of a monthly membership. Downloading individual videos isn't free - even for a streaming member - but the program has a lot of courses and covers a wide range of topics. It's our top intermediate guitar lesson pick.
- Buy & download model implemented for new courses
- Lots of styles and nuanced areas of study covered
- Yearly rate is a good deal
- Lots of supplemental content (PDFs, Guitar Pro files, tabs, etc.)
- Offers a 30 day free trial
- Members can't download videos for free (uses a "credits" system)
- Info-overload can be a bit of a problem
- Over 6000 total edu lessons
- Over 500 total song lessons
- Licensed tabs included
- 30 day free trial available with credit card
- Members: Over 500,000
- Multiple instructor format
- Song lessons not currently being updated
Can these lessons be viewed offline?
Of the four programs, Guitar Tricks, TrueFire, and JamPlay all have download mechanisms put into place so you can watch videos offline. TrueFire and JamPlay charge an additional fee for downloading content while Guitar Tricks includes it at no extra cost with a monthly membership.
However, Guitar Tricks doesn't allow you to download full courses like TrueFire and JamPlay do. In the Guitar Tricks platform you have to do one video at a time.
What about Justinguitar/YouTube lessons?
There are ways to download videos from sites like Justinguitar as well.
This basically amounts to finding third-party applications that allow you to download YouTube videos, of which there are quite a few.
Checkout our roundup of downloadable guitar lessons for more information on how to do this and which applications I recommend.
Summary of Offline Viewing Options
- Guitar Tricks: MP4 downloads included with membership
- TrueFire: Course downloads available for members and non-members, both with and without a disc
- JamPlay: Individual downloads of videos available through a credits system. One-time course bundle purchases for newer courses are also available
- Justinguitar: Offline viewing not available without third party YouTube download application
Read more: Downloadable Guitar Lessons
iPad or iPhone (mobile and tablet)
Which one of these programs works on the iPad and iPhone or other mobile devices? Read here for a rundown of guitar learning apps, or the following list for a quick summary of the ones we've mentioned in this article:
- Guitar Tricks: iPad, iPhone, Android, and Apple TV
- TrueFire: iPad, iPhone, and Android
- Justinguitar: iPad, iPhone, and Android
- JamPlay: iPhone
Read more: Guitar Tricks iPad app
How fast of an internet connection do I need to stream the lessons?
Start by going here to test your connection speed and you'll have something to compare my recommendations to.
When I ran the test on my computer, I was at 12-13 MBPS, which was plenty fast to stream guitar lesson videos.
With 10-15 MBPS the videos ran fine in HD, up to 1080p resolution. Trying to run them in 4k got a little bit slower. I'd aim for somewhere in the neighborhood of a 10 MBPS connection.
Can they be streamed overseas?
All four of the websites we've recommended here should be streamable from anywhere in the world, provided the country in question hasn't blocked internet access to other areas. For example, China and North Korea's governments have done this, making it difficult to access large portions of the internet from within their country's borders.
While I haven't tried this myself, using a VPN like Proton VPN and masking your IP address could potentially get around this.
Though in most cases, you won't have any trouble accessing this content overseas.
Are these all effective for just acoustic guitar?
Acoustic guitars are much easier to transport and travel with than electric guitars. For this reason, we'd recommend them for military personal, especially the smaller travel guitars.
In terms of the lessons being effective for acoustic guitar, most of them are designed specifically to be used by acoustic players or those with access to an acoustic guitar for practice.
Courses where an electric guitar is the main focus are labeled as such, otherwise, an acoustic guitar is perfectly adequate for learning with these websites.
We choose guitar lesson websites for certain situations based on reviews that we've already conducted of each individual program. In those reviews we provide weighted ratings for a number of categories. The ratings we give are based on assessments given by multiple people as a result of actually purchasing, using, and testing out memberships to these sites. If you have questions about the process, feel free to leave those in the comments section below.
To conclude, we'd recommend taking the free trial of any (or all) of these programs for a spin. All four provide a trial period - except Justinguitar which is just always free - so the best thing you can do is to take a test run and see which program you like. They're all setup in a manner that's easy to follow while still being a part of military life and even living on base, so we think they'll be good fits and a fun way to relax in that environment.
If you're still looking for more info, here are some additional articles and resources we've published that you might find helpful:
Do you have questions about the programs listed or our review process? If so, feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I'll help out as much as possible.