Updated by Bobby
Updated on March 9th, 2022
Double checked links and made minor changes to article formatting.
Best Intermediate Guitar Lessons (our Top Pick)
JamPlay's wide scope of specialized content, individual courses, and niche topics make them our best recommendation for intermediate players, or those that want to narrow down into a more specific area of study.
Intermediate guitar students are typically going to be narrowing their focus. They've learned the basics and the elementary topics that apply to every style, and are now ready to focus on more specific musical disciplines and techniques. It might be rock, jazz, blues, metal, or whatever style of music interests them the most. This has an impact on how they learn and how they practice. If you're in this stage, you'll start spending more time applying what you've learned as opposed to picking up new concepts or ideas.
The best intermediate guitar lessons will help that application process. They'll get you spending more time actually playing and building technique, as opposed to memorizing concepts. Even with beginner guitar lessons, I'd recommend a healthy dose of application. In this article I'm going to cover the guitar lessons that I believe do the best job of this.
These are the intermediate guitar lessons I most often recommend, for both their free and paid content.
Intermediate Guitar Lessons Comparison Table
Best Intermediate Guitar Lessons Overall
JamPlay is the second most popular online guitar lesson program behind Guitar Tricks. JamPlay is certainly close to the same quality standard as Guitar Tricks, yet with a slightly different focus. Where Guitar Tricks is more centered around their Core Learning System and a set structure, JamPlay addresses a wider scope of topics and specialized material.
Take the following two shred courses, taught by Andy Wood and Stephanie Bradley:
It's not uncommon for JamPlay to provide standalone courses and content that focus in-depth on a very particular type of guitar playing. We believe this is an ideal experience for intermediate players because it gives them the opportunity to explore different aspects of the guitar that might be more likely to interest them.
While JamPlay does have set learning paths, there are more opportunities to break from that path and drill down into a particular topic.
Read the Full Review: JamPlay
In the above screenshot, JamPlay gives the amount of content provided for each category. You can easily see that the "For Beginners" section is a lot less populated area of the program with only 654 lessons compared to the other specialized sections that number the following:
- Styles & Genres: 3174
- Skill Building: 1035
- Master Classes: 915
Keep in mind, these are numbers as of July 2019, and they're consistently adding/updating material.
Yet, the numbers make it quite evident that JamPlay is focused on specialized content for those looking to narrow down into a specific style. While they don't have the same volume of content that Guitar Tricks does, what they do have is far more ideal for intermediate players.
JamPlay even brings in well-known guitarists to teach some of these courses, which is something that you don't really get with Guitar Tricks.
If you go over and browse the Skill Building section, you'll start to notice how much great intermediate-level material is offered by JamPlay.
While JamPlay doesn't have the volume of lessons comparable to Guitar Tricks or TrueFire, we can still give them a good overall grade in content quality because the material they do have is substantive and useful. If grading purely on how valuable the content would be for intermediate players, we'd probably add five points.
The volume - or amount - of content is a big part of this grade, which is why JamPlay falls behind the two bigger sites. Though we'd consider anything 80 or above to be quite good, and again, if you're only thinking in terms of intermediate-level content, add five points to the grade.
In our Education Quality rating, which takes into account the quality of instruction and depth of content covered, JamPlay is the second highest scoring program, surpassing Guitar Tricks and TrueFire. An argument could be made for TrueFire being higher, but we like how focused JamPlay is and how they're still able to offer clear learning paths. TrueFire can - at times - feel more scattered and provides less in terms of a learning structure.
While Guitar Tricks wins the topical order category, JamPlay's topical organization is still excellent. We take off some points because it feels like there are a lot of different navigational elements that grab at your attention. For example, in Guitar Tricks, most of the content can be browsed and understood from just two pages. In JamPlay, the interface is a lot darker and busier, which doesn't "guide" you through the material quite as well.
As you see with Guitar Trick, they essentially win the guitar lesson battle with their song section. While JamPlay makes a valiant effort in this department, they're closer to Justinguitar than they are to Guitar Tricks.
You could make an argument for them being ahead of Justin Sandercoe's program, though we like Sandercoe's individualized approach to teaching songs a little bit better. Also (surprisingly) Sandercoe has actually published more song lessons than JamPlay.
Yet there's a ton to like about JamPlay's song section, with over 450 licensed songs, multi-angle instruction, and tons of supplemental material.
Our song list rating looks at volume of songs covered, how applicable they are to the guitar, and the quality of instruction within the song lessons themselves. We'll also consider the level of detail given to individual song lessons and accuracy.
IDEAL FOR: Intermediate players who want to specialize
You might think of TrueFire as the Netflix of guitar lessons. While there is a lot of structured course material, the bulk of TrueFire's appeal comes from a wide range of standalone, downloadable, and streamble courses. Most of these courses address really specific playing styles and genres, even more so than JamPlay.
This provides a lot of value to both intermediate and advanced players.
If you take all of their content together, they have more guitar lessons compiled than any other website, from a wide variety of sources.
This is all excellent for a player that wants to start focusing on a particular playing style or genre of music. All of the courses you browse through are available for download as a one-time purchase, which saves you from having to sign up for a monthly membership. Though you can go that route too and get access to all the content, if you prefer.
To get an idea of how much material there is, take a look at the following screenshot of the courses sorted for Jazz. Between 141 courses you have an astounding 8979 lessons.
You can see in the above screenshot; you've even got sub-topics for jazz. Now it's true that less popular areas of guitar aren't as heavily populated, but this is still a good representation of the kind of detail you can expect from TrueFire.
We've given TrueFire the highest overall content quality grade because of the volume of lessons, breadth of material, and high-level user experience their site provides. They've managed to compile a lot of material from a wide range of teachers, bringing users multiple voices and personalities for each topic they cover.
Of the four top scorers in this category, an argument could be made for any of the three to be the first option. TrueFire suffers slightly because of having so much ground to cover and so many different voices (which as we noted previously is also a strength) speaking on a wide variety of topics. You can - in some situations - feel like the flow from one course to another is somewhat broken.
Yet, this is why we recommend TrueFire for intermediate players. It allows you to learn in spots and narrow in on different topics.
If you plan on only jumping around to different courses, add five points to their education quality rating.
Again, this is an area where such a large amount of content can get somewhat difficult to handle. And while TrueFire does have learning paths available to members, the bulk of their content is grouped and not ordered by skill level. This means you might see a page with 20 jazz courses covering different aspects of the style, though they don't necessarily flow together.
Again, this is not a problem if you're an intermediate or advanced player looking to hone in on something specific.
If you're a beginner, trying to get your bearings, the 80 percent score looks about right.
Compared to the rest of their site, TrueFire's song section is extremely weak. It looks as though they haven't wanted to get involved with the process of licensing songs, as many of their song lessons are either public domain or "song based on" covers. While it's a decent resource, it's not something that we would recommend using if your goal is to learn songs. Intermediate and advanced players won't care much for this type of material either way.
In our comparison chart, TrueFire is in the same boat as Yousician (the basic membership), with generic song lessons that aren't licensed.
You could even make an argument for Yousician being ahead of TrueFire in this area, because you actually have the option to pay for access to real, licensed song lessons.
It's just not TrueFire's thing at the moment.
We're okay with that.
Read the Full Review: TrueFire
IDEAL FOR: Beginners who want to emphasize music theory
3. Guitar Tricks
We've talked a lot about Guitar Tricks and how it's a great guitar lesson platform for beginners, but it's actually quite solid throughout the full spectrum of skill levels. Unlike TrueFire, it's still going to give you a fairly set structure to follow, if you want to. Intermediate players might start with the second half of the Core Learning System, with two courses for each of the following styles:
- Rock I and II
- Blues I and II
- Country I and II
The reason they highlight these three styles is that they're often foundational parts of more specific genres. Here's how they break down in the Core Learning System:
These courses might be for the slightly less experienced intermediate, so if you don't want to start with one of those, there are plenty of other options if you just sort by style. You can see in the screenshot below that Guitar Tricks' organizational system is clean and simple.
Once you get into these categories, you get a properly ordered topical approach to whatever you're studying, which is a consistent strength of Guitar Tricks across their entire platform.
While it's our top option for beginners, we can easily recommend it for all skill levels.
Read the Full Review: Guitar Tricks
Guitar Tricks isn't quite as good as TrueFire in terms of scope and volume. TrueFire just has more intermediate-friendly material to work with, though they just don't have it organized quite as tightly as Guitar Tricks. Since our content quality rating sort of groups those factors together, Guitar Tricks takes the second spot.
For intermediate players, we want them to have options and structure where it's possible to provide both. Guitar Tricks gives you a ton of structure, but not quite the same breadth of options that you see with TrueFire. We'd recommend browsing the content available on Guitar Tricks to see how busy it would keep you.
In most cases, even for more seasoned intermediate players, there will still be a ton of material you can learn from.
With Guitar Tricks you've got a nice balance of a limited roster of instructors and concept coverage. This allows teachers like Anders Mouridsen to become a familiar face as you learn from him throughout multiple courses and concepts. Guitar Tricks also gets high marks for education quality because they address a lot of depth in each course, one video at a time. Since their videos are fairly short, you never feel like you're getting overwhelmed or having to absorb too much information at one time.
As an intermediate player, this can be extremely helpful and advantageous, the same way it can be if you're coming into Guitar Tricks as a beginner. While you lose some of the wide topical coverage that JamPlay and TrueFire have, you get a tighter ordering of topics and a more intentional approach to each concept covered.
As we've already touched on, the quality of Guitar Tricks is heavily related to how well they organize their content. We grade this based on how easy it is for the user to get through topics in an effective way and be led from one course to another.
Since this doesn't matter as much for intermediate guitar players, it's a little less consequential.
Yet it's still important to see where Guitar Tricks' primary strengths are wrapped up.
They're by far the best in this category, regardless of skill level.
At intermediate skill levels, guitar players will start to value song lessons and covers a little differently. Some players will enjoy learning more complex songs and covers while others don't see as much value in it.
If you're the type of intermediate guitar player that wants access to a good song resource, Guitar Tricks should jump way up in your own mental rankings, because it has the absolute best song program out there. In total, it numbers over 1000 lessons with tabs, HD videos, and full licensing.
IDEAL FOR: Those who want topical structure and a focus on learning songs
4. Active Melody
Brian Sherrill's program - Active Melody - is a great option for intermediate guitar players, provided you're interested in at least one of the following three topics:
- Blues technique
- Soloing structures
- Theory and structure of improvisation
While his courses also cover basic beginner material, Sherrill tends to go into a lot of detail around these ideas, specifically. If you're an intermediate player looking to focus in any of those areas, Active Melody provides an affordable, high-quality alternative to some of the bigger guitar lesson sites we've looked at thus far.
We wouldn't necessarily recommend Active Melody to all intermediate guitarists because of the narrow topical scope. Brian Sherrill is the site's only teacher, which means you get primarily the topics he's interested in. If his interests and yours match up, then you've got an ideal situation.
If not, you'll have a hard time getting a lot of value out of his material.
The nice thing about Active Melody is that it has a YouTube-hosted portion and then a premium Vimeo-hosted portion. Everything on the YouTube side is entirely free.
Head on over to the Active Melody YouTube channel and check things out.
If you look at Justin Sandercoe's courses, you can see a lot of similarities between them and the Active Melody curriculum. Both are produced by a single instructor and both seem to lean into the blues and jazz styles quite heavily. Of the two, we like Sherril's program better for intermediates because he touches on a lot more specialized and nuanced topics in a lot of depth and detail.
If you ignore the amount of content and look just at the quality of Sherrill's teaching ability, he's nearly as good as what you get on Guitar Tricks and TrueFire and - we think - better than Sandercoe.
Sherrill is just a more detailed instructor and seems to give a lot more of the "grit" and process involved with fretboard movement.
The Active Melody's educational "doctrine" seems more in line with the Guitar Tricks method of giving you a pattern to memorize than actually teaching you how to use that pattern to achieve something concrete.
To put it simply, Sherrill is just a really good teacher.
Intermediate guitar players will almost certainly learn a lot they didn't know or at least didn't understand fully.
Active Melody's organizational system and structure still seem a little underdeveloped, though it's not enough of an issue to throw off the intermediate player that just wants to start getting into concepts. Basic topical ordering and navigation are in place, though we don't feel it's as well thought out as in some of the bigger sites.
Read the full review: Active Melody
IDEAL FOR: In-depth blues, improvisation, and soloing technique study
Why trust our opinion?
When we review online guitar lesson programs, we actually buy a membership, grab our guitar, log into the program and take notes. This means we're using and evaluating the program just like you would if you were to trade your own hard-earned cash for one of these resources.
In the context of intermediate guitar players, we're looking at how each program would be suit that particular skill level.
Would it be challenging to an intermediate guitarist? Does it provide material that would interest them or that they haven't seen before? Would it give them options and different lanes to accommodate wider range of interests? How well does each program accomplish these goals? Is the teaching appropriate for the typical intermediate's skill level?
We try to consider every possible angle when evaluated guitar lesson programs for specific skill levels.
And just so you know we're being honest, here's quick screen grab of me (Bobby) logging into the paid section of Active Melody:
I believe it's important to actually use what I recommend and to do so with a clear conscience. For example, Active Melody has no affiliate program. Yet, I believe it's one of your better options for learning guitar if you're at an intermediate skill level.
At the same time, Fender Play, a platform we don't recommend, has a fairly robust and high-paying affiliate program.
We don't recommend it or use their affiliate links, because we can't honestly endorse their product.
As guitar (and music lessons in general) are increasingly moving online, this is something that we believe is vitally important. If we're going to make a recommendation, we're going to actually use the product we're recommending and give you honest feedback.
How We Test, Use, and Rate Online Guitar Lessons
For testing these programs, we use our own computers and guitar gear, though in most cases, it's similar to the following setup, just because that's what I usually have on hand:
For intermediate programs we're looking at factors that would matter most to that skill level. As mentioned previously, we're trying to identify the lessons that would be the most beneficial and challenging to someone who has already learned the basics. Thus, as we review, we're specifically considering the following elements:
Based on these factors, we're confident that the four programs listed are the best intermediate guitar lessons because they score quite high overall and do well in these specific rating categories.
As an intermediate guitarist, you're starting to invest in yourself as a player. This means you need to get value and a good return out of your investment, which can be measured by taking our ratings for each program and plotting them against that program's monthly cost.
This is a little harder to do with guitar lessons because a lot of them tend to cost roughly the same. $20 a month is extremely typical.
However, within the programs we've listed there's a little variety, and the graph is still helpful, either way.
Here's the monthly cost vs the overall rating of each program we recommend in this article:
Concluding and Your Questions
If you want to take a more extensive look at our ratings system, we go into more detail about each point at the bottom of our best beginner guitar lessons post. But hopefully the detail we've already given you is helpful enough to make an informed decision.
Intermediate guitar players need options and variety. They need a program that can help them focus on specific topics and drill deep.
Guitar lessons that don't do this are going to leave intermediate players un-challenged and less productive in terms of their improvement as musicians.
The best guitar lessons for intermediate players give you a lane.
They help apply what you've already learned to a specific style.
In other words, it should feel a lot more creative than what you were having to do as a beginner.
We believe the programs recommended in this article will get you there, because we've done our homework.
Questions and Comments
If you have questions about any of the programs recommended, feel free to drop a note in the comments section below and I'll do my best to provide an answer, more information, or to point you in the right direction.