Updated by Bobby
Updated on July 22nd, 2022
Updated logos for JamPlay and TrueFire. Made minor changes to article formatting and checked product links for availability. No courses were added or removed.
Best Folk Guitar Lessons (our top pick)
Courses by David Wilcox and Mark Kroos are two of our top folk guitar lesson picks, both available for trial and download on JamPlay.
As a musical genre, folk is a bit hard to define.
Yet, as an area of guitar study, it can be easily recognized by acoustic finger-picking, songwriting, melodic improvisation, and the frequent open tuning.
In this article, I'm highlighting four courses that do an exceptionally good job teaching these concepts, as well as the most abstract elements of folk music and songwriting like the injecting of emotion and creativity into your music.
These courses focus primarily on acoustic guitar and assume you know the basics of guitar already. If you don't, checkout our roundup of the best overall online guitar lessons to get some foundational resources first, then you can move into some of the folk material.
Otherwise, we'll recommend four of the best folk guitar lessons, all of which are available either through a membership or via a downloadable one-time purchase.
Folks Guitar Lessons Comparison Table
JamPlay's Extrem Folk Guitar by Mark Kroos
JamPlay's David Wilcox Artist Series
TrueFire's Acoustic Rhythm Guitar Playbook by Corey Congilio
TrueFire's Country & Folk Fingerstyle Guidebook by Gareth Pearson
1. JamPlays Extreme Folk Guitar by Mark Kroos
Mark Kroos does a good job of explaining the songwriting process and demonstrating it in a concrete way. The difficulty about teaching folk guitar is that so much of it is abstract. Yet, Mark gives you a process to follow even while explaining abstract concepts like melodic composition, bass note movement, and adding "flavor" to your songs. Lessons are really long and wordy, which is hard to get away from in this style (as you'll notice with other folk courses as well).
Read the full review: JamPlay
IDEAL FOR: Learning the abstract concepts of storytelling in folk guitar and improving your technical abilities.
- Lots of camera angles
- The Kroos teaching method does a good job of cutting a path through abstract ideas
- Helps you learn songwriting as a form of story telling
- Course is available for download in addition to streaming
- Gives you a concrete songwriting process to follow
- Videos not broken into smaller segments
- Buffering issues at higher res
2. JamPlay's David Wilcox Artist Series
The David Wilcox artist series is only four videos, but like the Kroos course, each video is quite long with over 70 minutes of instruction in the first lesson alone. David is an excellent teacher and - in this particular course, patiently walks you through how to inject emotion into your songwriting using open tunings, bass note movement, and arpeggiated chord progressions, among other techniques and concepts. Again, there's a lot of verbal explanation, but Mark does an admirable job of illustrating and demonstrating each point he makes.
IDEAL FOR: In-depth and songwriting-focused study of folk guitar
- David's teaching method is upbeat and engaging
- Conversational lesson tone
- Translates the abstract to the fretboard
- Good rundown of open tunings
- Downloadable as single purchase
- Videos not broken into smaller segments
- Sometimes hard to tell between instruction and demonstration
3. TrueFire Acoustic Rhythm Guitar Playbook
Corey Congilio's course is designed specifically to expand your rhythm and strumming pattern vocabulary, and is ideal for both acoustic song writers and electric rhythm players. For those interested in a folksy style, this gives you an extremely applicable range of rhythm and strumming techniques, which can help get you out of the rut of your "default strum" which can be a real struggle for some people. There's a ton of material covering chord changes and specific strumming styles, enough to total over 130 minutes of viewable content.
Read the full review: TrueFire
IDEAL FOR: Learning additional strumming patterns
- Applicable outside of folk playing styles
- Great for people "stuck" in a single strumming pattern
- Lots of chord change help
- Good for rhythm guitar in general
- Lesson names are a bit cryptic
4. TrueFire's Country and Folk Fingerstyle Guidebook
Gareth Pearson's TrueFire course is primarily centered around a study of eight folk songs that are designed to be studied as performance pieces. "Greensleeves", "Tetris Theme", and more are covered in a ton of detail, with both a full performance and full breakdown of each song. Every aspect of each song is covered, including a breakdown of the right hand picking technique with bass and melody notes. For live folk performers that want to improve their song vocabulary (or start building it) this is a great place to start or a great supplemental resource to other folk guitar lessons.
IDEAL FOR: Improving your folk song vocabulary and learning performance pieces
- In-depth look at popular folk songs
- Takes full advantage of Soundslice integration
- Great for the live performer
- Covers both left and right hand movement for each song
- None for the price
Why Trust Guitar Chalk
As we've built our list of folk guitar lessons, we've used online resources that we trust and have thoroughly vetted. Additionally, we review courses within those programs and pick the ones best-suited for learning the folk guitar style. In this situation we've looked for courses that focus on things like songwriting, fingerpicking, and rhythm guitar concepts.
How We Conduct Guitar Course Reviews
Programs are tested on our own computers with guitar in hand, just like you would if you were to buy one of the courses or memberships. Here's the gear we use:
- Macbook Pro, Mac Mini, and Cinema Display
- Apple iPad and iPhone
- PRS and Fender electric guitars
- Taylor and Martin Acoustics
For access to these courses we use full, paid memberships, and not free trials. We do this so you know you're getting a complete and unfiltered look at each course's contents.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
For every guitar lesson, course, or program we review, there are at least four criteria we use for evaluation:
- Content quality
- Education quality
- Topical order or organization
- Cost and value
For folk guitar lessons we don't necessarily have additional rating categories, but we do look for certain topics covered as previously mentioned. These include:
- Rhythm technique
For those wanting a better understanding of how we've rated and reviewed these courses, read on for more info on our four main grading criteria.
Value is meant to measure the cost and quality of a particular course, lesson, or program.
All of the folk guitar lessons and courses we've listed can be accessed via a streaming membership (like Netflix) or as a one-time purchase from either JamPlay or TrueFire. For the most part, these programs are priced reasonably, usually between $20 and $40 per course. If you go by the membership price $20-$30 per month, the value is even higher.
Broad assessment of video quality, audio quality, amount of content, and user experience.
This area grades things like the image quality of the video, the amount of videos available, the amount of supplemental content, and the general user experience. For example, slow buffering or a smaller list of videos could impact this grade negatively.
Quality of teaching, communication of ideas, and learning
Folk guitar lessons require a special kind of education where the teacher needs to explain abstract terms in a way that helps you learn a process. For example, it's hard to teach songwriting, because the process of songwriting is unique and subjective depending on the person. Education quality addresses how this is handled, the communication skills of the teacher, and the overall quality of education presented within the course.
Topics should be taught in a way that makes sense, with simpler concepts covered before more complex processes are introduced.
When you get this deep into a specific genre of music, topical order and skill level become less important than it would be for a beginner guitar course. However, it's still something that should be considered. Keep in mind, most of the folk courses we've recommended here assume a basic understanding of the guitar, and that you're able to at least play basic chords.
Other Factors Unique to Folk Guitar
Here, we'll expound on some of the additional factors that we recommend paying attention to when you're looking for folk guitar lessons.
A good folk guitar course should approach the guitar, at least in part, from the standpoint of a songwriter and should be able to explain that process.
While the folk guitarist is telling a melodic story, they're also (often) responsible for the rhythm of the song. Chords and rhythm technique should be a significant part of any good folk guitar program.
In most folk guitar styles, fingerpicking is a big part of the style and often employed to play through melodies or arpeggiated chord progressions. If you haven't already gone through a fingerstyle guitar course, I'd recommend looking for folk lessons that at least have some material on that particular playing style.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Does folk guitar require an acoustic guitar to learn?
A: I would say yes, just because the concepts of rhythm, fingerpicking, songwriting, and story telling are all closely linked with the base style of the acoustic guitar.
Q: Do I need longer finger nails on my right hand to play folk guitar?
A: You'll notice some of the teachers in these courses grow long fingernails on their right hand for picking. Personally, I can't stand doing that, so I'd say it's fine to use your fingers without nails or some kind of thumb pick.
Q: Can I learn folk guitar while learning basic chords?
A: I'd recommend getting a firm hold of your basic open chords before you move into a formalized study of folk guitar.
There are a lot of great resources out there for guitar players, but we've found folk guitar lessons to be more rare than most other styles. Even then, we were able to dig up some good options for you, so checkout these courses and see which one really speaks to you and gets you excited to play. As long as you're learning aspects of rhythm and songwriting, you'll be able to apply it to the folk style in some respects.
Questions and Comments
If you have questions about the folk guitar lessons and courses we've mentioned here, feel free to drop a line in the comments section and I'll see what I can do to help you out.