Best Guitar Lessons for Rock (Our Top Pick)
Guitar Tricks Rock Levels 1 and 2
Even without electronics, the Little Martin is an excellent mid-range acoustic. With the pickup and preamp installed, it's a high-value choice that's perfect for performance and recording.
Rock guitar is one of the single most popular reasons to learn the guitar.
In fact, it's still the second most popular musical genre in the world.
And no other instrument has such a unique relationship with a particular style of music as the electric guitar does with rock. Whether you're talking about modern or classic rock, it has always been about the guitar and it always will be.
In this article, we're looking at lessons provided online that specifically address the rock guitar discipline.
These lessons could apply to anyone looking to learn the following styles of music:
- Modern rock
- Classic rock
- Heavy funk/blues
All of these styles (and many others) are encompassed under the banner of rock and roll. And good rock guitar lessons will give you the foundation to function in any of these sub-genres.
What Great Rock Lessons Teach You
But, what exactly do you learn on the guitar when you're trying to get good at this particular style? A great rock guitar teacher or course should be able to teach you the following concepts:
- Power chords
- How to understand and comprehend rhythm
- Musical timing
- Melody and intervals
- Scale isolation and improvising
- Barre chords and chord construction
- Style studies of great players
Obviously this isn't a comprehensive list, but it gives you an idea of what we want to see when we're looking for rock guitar courses to recommend. If courses don't cover these concepts effectively, we move on until we find something that does.
All of the courses in this list do a great job of communicating and demonstrating these ideas.
These courses do assume a certain level of competency on the guitar with beginner topics. If you think you might need a refresher and aren't quite ready to jump into a specific style study, checkout our beginner guitar lesson recommendations first.
Otherwise, let's start with a full table of our four top rock guitar lesson recommendations.
We're going to recommend five total courses from three online programs.
If you want a wider range of options not limited to rock, checkout our full list of online guitar lesson recommendations.
Best Guitar Lessons for Learning Rock
All three of these programs have been purchased, tested, and used extensively by myself (Bobby) and others that help me produce this content. Guitar Chalk never recommends (or criticizes) any guitar lesson programs that we don't have first-hand experience with. This table includes five rock guitar courses from three different online programs.
Rock Level I & II on Guitar Tricks
Will Ripley's Classic Rock Guitar Course on JamPlay
Rock Learning Path: Play Rock Guitar I & II on TrueFire
1. Guitar Tricks Rock I and II Courses
Though Guitar Tricks is our top guitar lesson recommendation overall, it's also our top choice for learning rock specifically because of the Rock Level I and II courses found in the Core Learning System.
As mentioned in the opening paragraph, it's taught by Anders Mouridsen who is one of the best guitar teachers on the Guitar Tricks platform, and is exceptionally gifted at demonstrating and articulating concepts related to rock and blues.
Here's a quick breakdown of the Rock Level 1 (the first of the two courses) overall structure:
Structure of Rock Level 1
- Rock chords
- Rhythm rock
- Lead rock
- Blues roots of rock
Here's a screen shot of the brief copy describing each chapter:
Level 1 Course Details
The Level 1 courses puts a lot of emphasis on both rhythm and lead guitar, covering rock rhythm and soloing basics.
You're also going to get into some of the details of lead technique like bending, vibrato, and Anders will help you put together some of your own basic rock solos. The first two chapters (groups of videos and sub sections) deal primarily with rock rhythm, starting with basics like open chords, barre chords, keeping beat, and rock-related timings.
All of this material is presented in what we'd call a "rock context" and not simply a beginner's structural explanation.
All told, there's a lot of content, but it's intuitively organized and easy to get through.
At no point do you feel like you're working on something that's too big of a difficulty leap from what you've already learned (assuming you go through the course in the established order).
As we've come to expect from Guitar Tricks, the way they organize content is exceptionally good, and makes it very easy to trust the order that's provided in each course.
Towards the middle of the course, particularly in chapter three, you'll get into material that's more focused on lead rock guitar and soloing technique.
Overall, the Level 1 course is a strong and broad overview of rock guitar, getting you into a lot of concepts that can apply to both lead and rhythm guitar, as well as modern and classic rock styles.
Level 2 Course Details
As we see with Level 1, Rock Level 2 starts with work on the rhythm section, covering distinctive aspects of rhythm in the rock style, as well as palm muting, and some more advanced rhythm concepts that expand on what we learned in Level 1.
Through chapters two and four, you'll split time between more advanced lead technique and a second, more technical rhythm lesson series. All of this material builds on previous lessons, so it's important to go through the content in order, perhaps even if you're loosely familiar with some of the earlier concepts covered.
There's a lot of cohesion between these chapters, with a ton of videos to get through, so take your time and make sure you're letting topics build on one another.
The course's fifth and sixth chapters focus largely on stylistic application, preparing you to be a better songwriter and more familiar with common rock sub-genres.
Southern rock, heavy metal, and punk are among those specifically covered.
It's good practice here to carefully choose the course you want to focus on and then branch out from there.
You might want to go straight into the heavy metal style section of Rock Level 2, then move into some of the more advanced, full heavy metal courses in Guitar Tricks or perhaps other platforms.
Here's the style section in Rock Level 2:
And as we did for Level 1, here's the structure for Level 2:
Structure of Rock Level 2
- Advanced rhythm
- Advanced lead
- Style studies
Again we have six chapters, with short descriptions:
Rock Concepts Covered
Here are a few more examples of concepts covered in both courses:
- Intervals in rock
- Riffs and soloing examples
- Gear related best practices for rock tones (sound)
- Pentatonic scales in rock
- Strumming in rock
- Chord extensions
- Arpeggios as rock licks
- Style studies
- Expanding your use of the fretboard
The Ideal User for Both Courses
Those who are wanting a rock course that's friendly to a beginner, but still advanced enough that it doesn't rehash beginner topics will find a good fit in the Rock Level 1 course.
We'd also recommend it for those wanting a refresher on some rock and blues basics, perhaps who are coming out of the beginner phase and want to take on something more specific and more challenging.
Anders does a good job of making the content widely relevant and not just useful to a particular skill level.
While the second course is a logical follow up to the first, those who find the material in Level 1 too basic or not challenging enough, could perhaps start with Level 2 and go from there.
Why It's Great for Rock
- Basics covered in a rock context
- Tons of structural ideas covered
- Strong both rhythm and lead guitar
- Strong on progressions and power chords
- Covers a broad range of concepts and topics, all specific to rock
- Helpful for both classic and modern rock fans
What we Like About it
- Anders' teaching style
- Chapter outline and subsequent ordering methods are easy to follow
- Focus on rhythm is good for modern playing styles
- Doesn't feel like a re-hashed beginner's course (doesn't fall back on previously covered material)
- Everything is presented in a distinct rock context
- Tons of content (chapters have sections, sections have multiple videos, usually around 10)
What we Don't Like About it
- Chapter five and six are a little too scattered to be able to go straight through
- Some video quality settings capped at 720p
2. Will Ripley's Classic Rock Guitar Course on JamPlay
The Classic Rock Guitar course is in the Phase 2 section of JamPlay, which consists of four total phases. Author Will Ripley also has a course published in Phase 1, which he refers to and builds on often, making it a pre-requisite or good review option for the Classic Rock guitar course.
It assumes you have a knowledge of basic chords and a good handle on your strumming and picking technique.
Remember, we're looking to "niche down" into more specialized rock courses, so coming to a course like this without at least a general understanding of the basics is going to be jumping the gun.
Throughout the course Ripley takes you through some advanced solo building using pentatonic scales and a lot of riff examples and demonstrations, using classic rock icons as a style guide.
As we've come to expect from JamPlay, plenty of camera angles are available with a crystal clear 4k video quality and fantastic audio. I also have to remark on how good Ripley's Gibson SG sounded, purely from a tone quality perspective.
Quickly, I'll outline the structure of Ripley's course and how the subject matter breaks down through each section:
Structure of Will Ripley's Rock Course
- Introduction/foundational concepts
- Single note riffs, more topical introduction
- Osbourne, Aerosmith, Cream, and Hendrix style studies
- Advanced pentatonic scale breakdowns
- Guns n' Roses, Neil Young, and Boston style studies
- Lead technique (bends and vibrato)
- ZZ Top, Hendrix part 2 style studies
- Major and minor pentatonic scales
- Continuing style studies (AC/DC, Zeppelin)
- Classic rock licks (examples and application)
Course Details and Major Themes
At times, we had a little trouble determining a consistent thread between the lessons, as Will's verbal explanations could get a bit scattered and hard to follow.
However, from a high-level view, the Classic Rock Guitar course focuses heavily on artist studies, riff-building, and pentatonic scales and is easy to follow. Will often favors demonstration and creative structures in favor of getting too far into the weeds of explaining theory.
If you're looking for a more theory-intensive course, this probably isn't your best option. On the other hand, those that want to get to playing a bit quicker and get to some concrete examples will enjoy the material right out of the gate.
Rock Concepts Covered
In list form, here are some of the major concepts and topics covered in Ripley's course:
- Pentatonic scale basics
- Some advanced pentatonic scale and improvisation concepts
- Riff-building structures and creative structures in a classic rock context
- Lots of Hendrix, Cream, Osbourne, and other classic rock artist-inspired studies
- Solo-building technique
- Lead technique
The Ideal User for Will Ripley's Classic Rock Course
Will teaches this course in a conversational, unscripted tone which - at times - us part of what makes him a bit hard to follow. He favors the application side of teaching guitar, meaning he's going to give you a single riff or lick and go through that process with you.
You can tell that he's more comfortable showing you what to play than he is explaining how to play it, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
As a result:
There is some time given to structures like scales and basic chord progressions, But Ripley is more likely to assume that you know those elements and get you quicker into playing a riff, a song, or an artist-inspired piece of music with a classic rock feel.
For that reason, I'd recommend this course to those that are out of the beginner phase of guitar and looking to narrow into a classic rock study with lots of examples.
You'll be playing riffs quickly with far less theory and less "study" time.
If that's what you're after, this is a great classic rock guitar course to start with.
What we Like About it
- Guitar tone is great and demonstrations are spot-on
- Applied material incorporates a lot of practical riffing, making concepts easier to remember
- Riff demonstrations are engaging and a lot of fun to work through
- Does a good job of getting you to examples and playing quickly
- Accomplishes a lot of fretboard work without having to cover a lot of concepts
- Supplemental content - particularly Guitar Pro files and Soundslice embeds - are extremely helpful
What we Don't Like About it
- Verbal explanations can get a bit scattered
- Sometimes not a ton of connectiveness between the explanations and application stages
- Organization of topics not as good as Guitar Tricks
3. Rock Learning Path in TrueFire: Play Rock Guitar 1 and 2 Courses
While the educational value of TrueFire's rock learning path is extremely good, it's user interface is a bit confusing, so I'll attempt to illustrate how to work through it here.
First, all the content - which is a lot - is broken up by skill level, per the following screen shot:
Each skill level expands into sub sections.
In each sub section you'll have "Core Courses" and sometimes "Supplemental Courses."
If we're talking about the entire learning path, this is a ton of material. But for this particular roundup, we're just talking about the Play Rock Guitar 1 and 2 courses within the learning path.
About the Two Rock Courses
Once you get into one of the two rock courses, the navigation issues I mentioned are no longer a problem, as all the course's contents (all the videos) are displayed in a column on the left-hand side of the screen for getting around easily.
While the entire learning path spans a full range of skill, the Play Rock Guitar 1 and 2 courses are more focused on beginner content, even covering concepts that aren't necessarily unique to rock guitar.
Play Rock Guitar 1: Quick Start for Beginners
The first course, in particular, does not assume you have much of an understanding of guitar, outside of basic chords and picking.
You'll cover a lot of power chords and palm muting with a ton of "Practice Sessions" in between.
These core TrueFire courses always do a good job of explaining concepts to you and then giving you an opportunity to practice and apply them, even within the course itself, kind of like Will Ripley's course in JamPlay.
Towards the end of the course you'll get more into alternate picking and some string skipping technique, but mostly still focused on single note riffs. With multiple instructors within the course, you get a wider range of perspecitves and the courses are a bit more "refreshing" to go through as you listen to different voices and personalities.
Play Rock Guitar 2: Rhythm and Lead Fundamentals
The second "Play Rock Guitar" course continues in the explain/demonstrate/apply pattern that we see with the first course. However, the second course is predictably more difficult, avoiding most beginner concepts in favor of a deeper dive into pentatonic scales and some lead guitar study.
Harmonics, open strings, and playing with higher gain settings are all addressed in the later parts of the course.
- Covers soloing basics and minor pentatonic scale structures
- Less of what we'd consider beginner-level content, compared to the first course
My only complaint about the second course is that it seems a little less contextualized to the rock style than the JamPlay and Guitar Tricks courses. For example, the harmonics lesson is good, but it's really just an introductory lesson to harmonics with only a tangential relationship to rock.
In reality, harmonics are used in a wide range of musical styles, so we'd like to see a more rock-centric adoption of the tactic in these lessons.
However, the course is still effectively put together, and particulary helpful for someone coming out of the beginner stages.
Here's how the structure breaks down for both courses:
Structure of TrueFire's Rock Learning Path (two courses)
- Play Rock Guitar 1
- Power chords
- Single string riffs
- Extensive practice lessons
- Single note riffs across strings
- Arpeggiated rhythm
- Palm muting
- Alternate picking
- Play Rock Guitar 2
- Pentatonic Scales
- Soloing Basics
- Minor Pentatonics
- Barre Chords
- Advanced chords and rhythm
- Hammer ons and pull offs
The Ideal User for TrueFire's Rock Learning Path
Organization for both courses is a little bit disjointed. I felt as though I could easily skip around within each course and not really miss anything.
Considering that the courses also spend a lot of time applying concepts and doing real fretboard work, it's going to be a better fit for those moving out of the beginner phase and trying to dig into a style more thoroughly.
It's still what we'd call a beginner's course, especially with some of the more generalized lessons on power chords and harmonics.
At a high level view, the two courses have some trouble deciding what skill level they want to focus on. But we'd say "advancing beginners" who want to challenge themselves a bit will get the most out of these two courses. Plus, it's just a ton of content, which means you can afford to jump around to videos that interest you the most.
What we Like About it
- TrueFire has a bright and clean interface
- Teaching methods are patient and easy to follow
- Good progression from concept to application (power chords to band backing track)
- Having different instructors within the same learning path is refreshing and easier to follow
- Lots of time given to practicing and applying
- Can accomodate a wider range of skill
What we Don't Like About it
- Downplays "tedious theory" in the preview videos before covering a ton of theory
- Content structure is confusing at first and can be hard to follow in parent menus
Rock Guitar Basics
Rock guitar can mean different things to different people.
For example, even the term "rock music" is just a parent category to a lot of smaller sub-genres that are more specific:
- Punk rock
- Classic rock
And the list goes on.
It's tricky to get a feel for what rock guitar lessons will actually teach you unless you know some of the basic elements of the rock style. All of these genres draw their structure from some more basic elements of music theory that you should look for, and plan to study, when you're starting your rock guitar lesson journey.
What topics should great rock guitar lessons cover?
In this section, we'll go over some of the topics that you should expect to see addressed in rock guitar lessons, wherever you may find them.
Minor pentatonic scales and minor scale shapes
The melody of rock music is often rooted in a minor pentatonic scale shape. For reference, here's a simple example of a minor pentatonic guitar scale:
While you don't necessarily have to rocognize these shapes to pick out rock guitar lessons, it's good to verify that the lessons you do end up going with have these in their course plan, or that the teacher you go with is familiar with the concepts.
If a teacher or a course claims to know rock guitar and doesn't mention minor pentatonic scales, I would immediately be skeptical.
All rock guitar lessons, at least the introductory rock courses, should go through a thorough discussion of power chords. This should include a structural understanding of power chords, what they are, how to play them, and how to know which root note you're playing.
- What are power chords?
- How do you play them?
- What are the intervals involved?
- What is the root note for each chord?
It should also cover some basic rock chord progressions using power chords with roots on the sixth and fifth strings.
Exceptions for More Advanced Skill Levels
For more advanced courses, you might not notice lessons that are explicitely dedicated to explaining power chords. However, you're more like to see lessons that apply power chords and play through material that uses them heavily.
Almost all rock genres and sub-genres, whether it's classic rock, nu-metal, alternative, or even heavier blues styles will use power chords a lot.
If you get a chance to chat with a potential teacher or browse through a rock guitar course curriculum, see what they have to say about power chords.
Chord Progression Structures
To broaden the concept of power chords, rock guitar lessons should teach you common chord progressions used in the genre, and explain the difference between a major and minor chord progression.
While every genre uses chord progressions (basically layering over bass lines), rock music relies on them heavily, with the following qualities:
- Syncopated, emphasized rhythm
- Thick bass lines following the kick drum
- Heavy power chords or barre chords layered over the bass line
Guitar playing - in the context of rock music - becomes far more rhythm and chord-centered. It's less about soloing or shreding, and more about beat and timing, especially if you're talking about modern rock.
For that reason, it's important to understand chord progressions and where they come from.
Rock guitar lessons should help you understand the following process:
- The key of a song
- The scale resulting from that key
- The common chord progressions resulting from that scale
- How to implement those chord progressions in a rock guitar style
That's specific, but I think it's helpful to have this in your mind when you're shopping for lesson resources.
Speaking of rhythm:
Basic and Advanced Principles of Beat and Rhythm
As I've already mentioned, rock guitar players are often a major part of the rhythm section.
If you listen to modern rock often, you probably already know this.
Look at Disturbed's Dan Donegan, Adam Jones from Tool, the guys from Alter Bridge, Matt Belamy from Muse, and the list goes on. All those guys are incredibly good rhythm guitar players. Sure, they can solo here and there, but what they excel at - what pays the bills for them and has pushed them to the pinnacle of rock music - is an ability to understand rhythm.
Rock guitar lessons - in whatever context - should teach you rhythm, beat, and timing ahead of shredding and speed.
As an electric guitar player, being able to keep time with a drummer and bass player is going to set you apart more than all the shredding in the world.
When you shop for rock guitar lessons, shop for rhythm help.
Skill Level Considerations
The type of rock guitar lessons you take will also depend largely on your skill level. Here are some things to think about relating to your abilities before you decide on a lesson medium.
If you're a beginner in the sense that you've never touched a guitar, you need to backtrack and look at beginner guitar lessons, instead of a specific style. Though, as we've mentioned, you can be coming out of the beginner's learning phase and starting to focus on rock, as a specific style interest.
In that situation you should look at lessons that are rock-focused, but still somewhat beginner-friendly. Power chords, chord progressions, and rhythm basics are going to be more of a focus in these courses.
You'll likely be better off avoiding the "shredder" or speed rock courses at this point.
Those firmly past the beginner stage have more options when it comes to learning rock guitar. In fact, most of the rock basics are probably already familiar to you.
In that case, look for courses that help you specialize in a certain area:
- Are you interested in being more of a rhythm player?
- Maybe more lead?
- Are you interested in a particular style or sub-genre of rock (metal, punk, etc.)?
Use these questions to find a course that helps you specialize in something and not just learn "rock" as a broad term. The intermediate stage is where you need to niche-down.
Advanced players should be getting even more specific when it comes to the type of courses they take. Since you already have a style, established interests, and established proficiencies in a particular area, look for courses (or wait for them to come along) that help you focus on improving methods used in that particular style.
Let's say you're into lead and modern metal.
If so, look for courses and lessons that specifically help you improve techniques you use in that discipline. For our example, you might be working on fine-tuning your hammer ons and pulls offs, sweep picking, hybrid picking, or something that you use a lot when you play already.
We've found that TrueFire is one of the best places to find these types of rock guitar lessons with a really narrow specialty.
Modern or classic rock?
Another consideration that we've already alluded to is the difference between modern and classic rock.
For beginners, this isn't going to matter as much. The content will be the same either way.
But if you're in the intermediate or advanced camp, you'll likely want to seek out rock guitar lessons that are specifically designed for either classic or modern rock guitar players.
For example, here are some of the hallmarks of classic compared to modern rock lessons:
Common for Classic Rock Lessons
- Emphasis on lead guitar
- More focused on technique and speed-building
- More fretboard movement
- Less melodic
Common for Modern Rock Lessons
- Emphasis on rhythm guitar
- More focused on melody and harmony
- Teaches you how to do more with fewer notes
- More structural and percussive styles
- Often more focused on ethereal effects and ambience
These are some of the indicators you should be looking for if you prefer one style over another. While the two types of rock can obviously crossover quite a bit, it can be helpful to isolate your interests to focus on the style that is most suited to you.
Can it work with an acoustic guitar?
For those who are entering the world of rock guitar with only an acoustic guitar:
I've long thought that the acoustic and electric guitar were - in many ways - two completely different instruments.
However, that doesn't meant that you can't use an acoustic guitar to learn the concepts and structures of rock guitar from the appropriate lessons. What you will lack is the experience of the rock genre, which is almost always better-served by an electric guitar and amplifier.
If you need to get started on an acoustic guitar, go for it. But make it a long term goal to procure an electric guitar and get your rig set up.
There are a ton of great rock guitar lessons out there.
But the programs and courses we've cited here are our top picks, and we've had direct experience using and testing them with our own paid accounts. We do not recommend programs that we haven't used ourselves and researched thoroughly.
At the same time, you can take the principles we've used to make our selection, and apply those as you browse other options.
I sincerely hope you've found this helpful.
Your Questions and Comments
If you have more questions - perhaps about the rock guitar lessons in this list - feel free to drop a line in the comments section below and I'll check in.
See you there.