Updated by Bobby
Updated on March 23rd, 2022
Updated logos for certain channels and made some minor corrections to article copy and formatting.
Best YouTube Guitar Lessons (our top pick)
About half of the ActiveMelody.com content is available free on YouTube. Brian Sherrill's material makes up some of the best YouTube guitar lessons we can recommend at a wide range of skill levels, and particularly if you're learning blues, jazz, or soloing structures.
YouTube has everything. Whatever you want to watch or learn, YouTube has it in some form.
This is especially true with guitar lessons and music education.
Many of the paid online guitar programs even have their own YouTube channels, while some teachers are entirely YouTube based. In this article we'll highlight the best YouTube guitar lessons and channels, looking for high-quality content, effective teaching, and good topical coverage.
We'll also look at things like organization, consistency, thoroughness, video quality, instructor communication, and a number of other things that will help us rate each program and/or its corresponding channel. In this way, we can establish strengths and weaknesses to help you figure out which of the best YouTube guitar lessons would be most ideal and functional for you.
Below, we've listed all our favorite channels and will thoroughly cover the first five.
Note: Ratings reflect corresponding membership programs, not specifically each YouTube channel.
Best YouTube Guitar Lessons (Comparison Chart)
GuitarLessons (Nate Savage)
Steve Stine Guitar Lessons
1. Active Melody
Brian Sherrill's guitar program, Active Melody, is partly mirrored on his YouTube channel with over 500 videos.
The rest of Active Melody's content is behind a pay wall and hosted on a private Vimeo account. Yet, the free content available on YouTube makes up a large portion of the Active Melody program.
Sherrill focuses specifically on lead blues technique and soloing structures, enough that we consider them the best YouTube guitar lessons for that style.
The channel covers plenty of additional topics and beginner content.
As with Justinguitar, playlists don't necessarily mirror exactly what's on the full version of the site.
Read the full review: Active Melody
IDEAL FOR: Lead blues, jazz, and soloing structures
ACTIVE MELODY PROS
ACTIVE MELODY CONS
Everything available at Justinguitar.com is also available on YouTube.
Justin Sandercoe has always used YouTube as his video host and (as far as we know) lists all those videos as publicly accessible, keeping nothing behind a pay wall. Justinguitar is the third most popular guitar lesson YouTube channel with over one million subscribers.
Between this channel and his website, Justin Sandercoe is responsible for the largest database of free guitar lesson material in existence.
Since we recommend his website without hesitation, the same would go for his YouTube channel. Our only complaints about Justin Sandercoe's content is that it tends to get less comprehensive as skill level increases.
He's strong on beginner content, but a little scattered on the more advanced material.
Navigation and organization aren't as good on the YouTube channel than they are on Justinguitar.com.
While they've grouped some courses and topics into playlists, the bulk of this content is not sorted.
Read the full review: Justinguitar
IDEAL FOR: Beginners with budgetary restrictions
3. JamPlay's YouTube Channel
We recommend JamPlay's membership program for intermediate guitar players, and feel the same way about their YouTube channel.
As of July 28th, 2020 their YouTube channel had 924 videos uploaded, which is on the higher end of the lists we've researched. The content on their channel isn't grouped into playlists outside of certain sections.
Instead, they tend to show videos that are clips of song lessons or single lessons designed to promote courses.
It's most ideal for intermediate players that want to learn something specific, as opposed to going through a course in a chronological path.
Read the full review: JamPlay
IDEAL FOR: Intermediate skill levels, song study, and specific technique
TrueFire is one of the most comprehensive online guitar programs with a huge YouTube channel boasting over 8000 videos as of July 2020.
Unlike many of the best YouTube guitar lessons, TrueFire's channel does a thorough job of breaking content up into playlists, giving you a type of learning path to follow.
Here are a couple of those playlists:
With that much content, they run the table on skill levels and styles, though we've always liked their program primarily for advanced study.
Overall, their YouTube channel is a fantastic representation of what they're doing on the membership site. It's certainly worth a subscribe and some exploration, regardless of your skill level or musical interest.
Read the full review: TrueFire
IDEAL FOR: Advanced skill levels and detailed study
5. Ben Eller YouTube
Ben Eller runs one of our favorite guitar channels structured with a traditional YouTube model as opposed to the course mirroring we see with bigger sites.
Eller's is an example of where the YouTube channel serves as the primary source of content and not a separate membership website. As such, his videos tend to be longer and he spends a lot of time on really specific ideas.
For example, he spends over 14 minutes on Adam Jones' pull-thru technique for "Jambi", something you're not likely to see in a typical membership guitar lesson course.
This lets Eller address a lot of really specific technical issues.
Moreover, he's quite good at explaining and illustrating them.
IDEAL FOR: Specific technical study, specific questions
Best for beginners?
Of all the YouTube channels we listed, which one is the best option for beginners? We'd recommend Justinguitar and Guitar Tricks if you're just starting out, which is the same thing we'd say if you were paying for lessons. You can try Guitar Tricks for free for 14 days if you want to explore the paid version.
Best for advanced players?
For more advanced guitar players, TrueFire and JamPlay are going to be better YouTube channels to work with, as they'll have more material that will challenge you.
How We Made Our List
While a lot of websites review guitar lessons, we make sure that everything we review and recommend is evaluated as objectively as possible.
In other words, we sit down with a program, with a guitar, and go through lessons just like you would. Additionally, the people reviewing these programs are actual musicians and guitar players that know the instrument.
Guitar Chalk's founder and editor, Bobby, has been playing guitar for over 20 years and routinely consults with other musicians that includes semi-professional and professional artists.
When we review a guitar program, even if it's just a YouTube channel, we're giving you an accurate picture of what you'd experience as a user.
- What works well in these programs?
- Who are they designed for?
- What skill level are they most effectively adapted to?
- What kinds of styles are the instructors proficient in?
These are just a few of the questions we ask to come up with an accurate rating for online guitar programs.
These ratings, though subject to the opinions and ideas of those making them, can give you a general idea of a program's quality and how helpful it might be in your situation.
The process can be applied to a YouTube channel in a similar manner.
Are YouTube guitar lessons right for you?
You'll always hear that YouTube has a ton of free content and that's certainly true.
The problem we often see with even the best YouTube guitar lessons is that they're extremely difficult to navigate or to work through in any kind of understandable order.
In fact, that's one of our most important criteria for grading non-YouTube guitar learning sources.
Do they provide that structure and order that the free programs lack?
In that regard, those needing a solid structure and path to follow will have a harder time relying solely on YouTube guitar lessons.
When YouTube Really Works: Can you actually learn guitar on YouTube?
Where YouTube tends to be far more helpful is when you're trying to answer a specific question.
Let's go back to Ben Eller's Tool riff example.
If I'm wondering, "How do I play Jambi by Tool?" That question is going to be most effectively answered by YouTube and not by a full course on modern rock guitar.
When Courses/Membership Sites are Better
On the other hand, if I'm starting out and I need a well-ordered beginner's course that takes me through the important topics I need to cover, Ben Eller's YouTube channel probably isn't the best place for me.
In that situation, you're better of with something like Guitar Tricks, which is known for its solid structure and well-designed learning paths.
In most cases, we find YouTube channels can make really good supplemental resources, but have a hard time serving as a substitute for paid guitar courses.
Active Melody probably gets the closest, which is why it's our best YouTube guitar lesson recommendation.
Content Quality of Guitar YouTube CHannels
While we don't necessarily rate all the YouTube courses we recommend, many of them do get reviewed and rated because they have adjacent membership programs. We can loosely use these ratings to get an idea of where each corresponding YouTube channel will have strengths and weaknesses. If a YouTube channel doesn't have a corresponding membership site, we don't give it a rating.
For those that do, we can take the content quality rating given to their full program and apply it to the YouTube channel.
Content quality addresses the amount and format of their content. For example, how many lessons does a particular YouTube channel have? How many styles does it cover? In other words, it focuses primarily on the scope of education and not the quality of the education itself.
Here's how the programs we've rated here stack up against one another in the content quality category:
You can observe these ratings in the context of membership sites to get an idea of how corresponding YouTube channels are structured.
In this example, TrueFire's YouTube has high volume and a wide scope of content that covers a lot of different stylistic variations.
Our education quality rating looks at the level of completeness, effectiveness, and thoroughness achieved by a given guitar lesson program. How well is the content ordered based on learning style? Does it cover concepts with enough attention to detail and in complete ideas? Are the instructors effective communicators? Does the progression of difficulty make sense?
As we test guitar lesson programs, we can draw similar conclusions about their YouTube channels that help give you an idea of whether or not they'd work for you in your particular situation.
Of course there is some level of subjectivity involved, but we try to be as objective as possible and rate fairly.
Again, this isn't really something we can apply to YouTube channels by themselves. Therefore, channels like Ben Eller and Marty Music aren't getting graded.
We have reviewed Nate Savage's Guitareo program, though we believe his YouTube content is separate from what's available behind the Guitareo pay wall.
Among those we've consulted, there's some disagreement about how to rate Justinguitar in this category.
Part of the reason his program is lower is because of the informal structure of some material, more so what we see from the earlier years of Justinguitar. He's also not as thorough when it comes to more advanced topics, as he's primarily given to songs and beginner-centric lessons.
Though an argument can be made for his occasional informality being a positive, in which case his score (for this category) would be higher.
Keep in mind, there are different ways to understand how effective something might be and this is just one way of looking at the full picture. What it doesn't mean is that Justinguitar is a bad program.
It just means that this is where we believe it falls in comparison to the other three in the list.
Ordering Content in a YouTube Channel
The topical order rating is almost impossible to translate to a YouTube channel.
Aside from playlists, YouTube has no real method of sorting or structuring groups of videos. This is a major part of what separates the best YouTube guitar lessons from the paid membership sites, and a significant reason we recommend paying for online guitar lessons in some form.
Ordering an educational topic and learning item by item is important, especially when it comes to musical instruments. The unfortunate thing about YouTube is that videos are treated as singular, autonomous entities and rarely "connect" to other videos, even within the same channel.
This means they're great for answering really specific queries, but bad at providing course-style learning structures.
Thus, we can't simply apply the topical rating for each program to their YouTube channel.
In most cases, structure and order cease to exist when you migrate from a membership site to a playlist on YouTube.
We'll still show you the chart, but if you're limiting analysis to YouTube, it should be taken with a major grain of salt. Again, of the channels we like, TrueFire has the best YouTube-based ordering system and the most content grouped into playlists.
Guitar Song Lessons in YouTube
The best YouTube guitar channels usually provide some form of a song tutorial section.
We've found that the really strong programs emphasize this aspect of their membership and provide segments of song lessons via their YouTube channel. To rate this category we look at the scope of material covered and the quality of that coverage.
- How many different types of music are represented?
- How conducive are songs to the guitar?
- How complete is each tutorial?
- Do they cover solos?
Most YouTube channels do a lot of song lessons, regardless of the licensing status.
Larger companies, like TrueFire and JamPlay won't post music anywhere without licensing.
After all our digging we'd say that the Active Melody and Justinguitar YouTube channels are the best available, and certainly the most complete if you're limiting yourself to just YouTube.
If you're specifically interested in blues and lead technique or any kind of solo construction, narrow in on Active Melody.
JamPlay, TrueFire, Ben Eller, and any of the other channels listed in the top table are also great options and a cut above everything else we saw.
Your Questions and Comments
If you have questions about these channels or anything else mentioned in this article, feel free to drop us a line in the comments section below.