This is our full Chord Buddy review, which was conducted by buying the Chord Buddy device and using it on my own guitars, as well as my son's guitar.
For unique products like this - or for uniquely popular products - I structure my reviews a little differently than normal and put my conclusions at the front, before expanding on my reasoning. Largely due to their successful showing on ABC's Shark Tank, the ChordBuddy device has had better-than-average popularity level for a guitar learning tool.
Thus, I think that's fairly important to give you my conclusion up front.
Here's my Chord Buddy review in a single paragraph:
Chord Buddy Review Summary
The ChordBuddy's marketing is far too optimistic, while the negative reviews I've seen are far too critical. If you understand the Chord Buddy's functionality and context, it's a decent tool that has value, but certainly not a full learning system, much less the "best" as the box would indicate.
While Chord Buddy does a decent job of contextualizing this product, the box does refer to it as the "World's Best Guitar Learning System" which it certainly is not.
It's a tool that can supplement other full systems, but is not - in and of itself - a system.
In fact, I would recommend ChordBuddy only as supplemental to one of these full learning programs:
Chord Buddy Alternatives and Comparisons
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Our Weighted ChordBuddy Rating
Point Value (weight)
1. Content Quantity
2. EDU Quality
2. Topical Order
3. Concept Coverage
4. Song Section
7. Device Functionality
8. Ease of Use
Does it actually work?
Most people simply want to know: Does the ChordBuddy actually work?
From a functionality standpoint, it certainly does do what it is intended to do.
Using the color-coded buttons, you press down a color to play a particular chord. However, you can only play four chords: G, C, D, and Em.
In this regard, the ChordBuddy works fairly well. Chords come out clear, though you do need to adjust the tightness of the device depending on which guitar you're using.
We tested it on four different guitars:
- Taylor 114ce acoustic
- Journey Instruments 3/4 travel acoustic
- Ameritone 3/4 acoustic
- PRS CE 24 electric
On all of these guitars, the ChordBuddy worked as advertised and helped you play chords by simply pressing the colored buttons. You can even detach pieces as you get better to play chords while only using certain parts of the ChordBuddy.
What does it teach you?
Now, you might be asking the "does it work" question a different way, in that you want to know if the ChordBuddy actually teaches or helps you learn guitar. This is a more difficult question to answer because the ChordBuddy, while it does come with some book material, isn't instructional and not what we'd consider a learning system.
As mentioned in the above summary, it's a tool, but little more.
Having "The World's Best Guitar Learning System" on the box is a wild exaggeration.
In that regard, I think it's important to define exactly what the ChordBuddy does and does not do for you.
The ChordBuddy Device Can:
- Teach you the cadence of basic songs
- Motivate you and be fun
- Help you focus on your strumming
- Help you ease into certain chords
The ChordBuddy Device Can NOT:
- Replace a full learning system
- Teach you chords
- Teach you scales
- Speed up the learning process
- Address technique
- Address other chords (outside of G, C, D, and Em)
Understood in its proper context, ChordBuddy does have value as a supplemental learning tool.
It can motivate a beginner and will allow you to start feeling the cadence of chord changes and playing songs. I also really like the feature that allows you to remove pieces one at a time and start playing parts of chords or progressions.
It can help with muscle memory and give you an idea of what a set of chords and chord progressions should sound like.
Where it's benefit is exaggerated is when it's advertised or understood as a comprehensive solution.
It doesn't teach technique, scales, or rhythm. It also - technically - does not even teach chords. It let's you hear chords but doesn't really teach them, unless you count the supplemental written material and DVD, which isn't totally unique to the ChordBuddy system.
It's a device that gives you a shortcut to playing chords but doesn't necessarily help you play them.
When Chord Buddy is Helpful
And this brings us to an important question:
When would a device like this actually be useful?
A good example of this would be my six year old son who just recently started picking up the guitar (his is the Ameritone 3/4 acoustic). I've had him use both the ChordBuddy and the Guitar Tricks Fundamentals Level I course. Here he is going through the course on my iPad.
Even with his small hands and at such a young age, I didn't really think that my son needed the ChordBuddy. In my view, he was better off learning without the training wheels and just getting his hands used to pressing down strings instead of buttons.
The opposing argument is that using the ChordBuddy in segments can help motivate him and make him more excited to learn how to actually play the chords.
So I've had him use the ChordBuddy after he puts in some time pressing strings. This accomplishes a couple of things:
- Give his hands a break
- Let him have a little more fun
You can see where the ChordBuddy could have a place in this process but probably shouldn't be relied upon as the primary administrator of learning.
I'd say that ChordBuddy can be useful for beginners, kids, those with hand or arm-related disabilities, or classrooms as a supplemental tool. Beyond that context, the ChordBuddy is a shortcut that doesn't have a ton of use and shouldn't be relied upon as an autonomous learning system.
Combine ChordBuddy with Alternatives
Again, we'd recommend pairing ChordBuddy as a fun side-item with one of the guitar learning systems we do promote and trust, like Guitar Tricks or JamPlay, which you can try here for free:
If you use the ChordBuddy as secondary to one of these programs, it can provide a nice break from mundane practice and help to motivate you as a beginner or a child learning the basics.
Note that ChordBuddy is only designed to fit guitars and won't work on a ukulele or bass.
There is, however, a ChordBuddy specifically for ukulele.
Also keep in mind that a lot of negative reviews are born out of people not understanding what it is or how it's supposed to be used. When properly applied, I think the ChordBuddy has its place as a contextually helpful learning tool.
I would also argue that the wording on the box and the marketing is greatly exaggerated and that it should not be relied upon as a full solution for learning guitar. If ChordBuddy were to pull back expectations a little bit, I'd probably give it a higher rating.
It's the programs that over-promise and under-deliver that I tend to score lower.
Your Questions and Comments
Do you have questions about our ChordBuddy review?
I bought the ChordBuddy off Amazon and have actually used it.
We still have the unit at our house with everything that came in the box, so we can definitely answer questions if you have them.
Feel free to leave me a note in the comments section and I'll do my best to help out.