Songsterr is the guitar tab website I most often recommend. Not only are they one of the most popular guitar tab sites, but they're also easy to use, and have one of the highest-quality tablature forms with a full score, and MIDI playback for every song in their database.
In this article, I'll do a full review of both the free and PLUS accounts for Songsterr, which you can follow along with by checking out the free demo song provided by Songsterr.
This song has all the PLUS account features enabled.
Keep in mind: If you search for a different song on Songsterr, you can still read the tabs and even use the playback, but the advanced features will be disabled.
In this analysis we'll answer the following questions about Songsterr:
- Is a PLUS account worth it?
- What makes Songsterr a better guitar tab website?
- How does Songsterr compare to Ultimate Guitar?
Before we jump into details, I'll provide a quick summary of my audit, along with the Songsterr alternatives that I recommend for learning songs and accessing licensed guitar tabs:
Note: This is not a sponsored article and we are not a Songsterr affiliate or partner.
A free Songsterr account is one of the best guitar tab resources available, with an easy-to-read score and discernible time signatures. This has made it one of the best places to learn guitar songs, particularly among resources that are free.
However, the PLUS account at $9.90 per month is severely overpriced, and doesn't give you enough features to justify the added expense.
We recommend the free account paired with one of the following Songsterr alternatives:
Alternatives We Recommend
We partner with Guitar Tricks, though still maintain strict objectivity in how we rate them alongside other programs. If you decide to buy a Guitar Tricks membership or free trial, you can so via the orange button below, at no extra cost to you. We appreciate your support.
Ultimate Guitar Tab Pro
Guitar Tricks Song Lessons Section
Chordify Chords App
Justinguitar Song Lessons Section
Difference between Songsterr and Songsterr Plus
The first thing to address is the difference between a free and paid account. This distinction is actually quite simple. A paid PLUS account comes with a variety of playback controls that are not included in the free version. In the free version, you can use the MIDI playback feature to listen to the song audio as the tab plays, but the tools to do things like change speed, loop sections, and select different instrument tracks are not included.
A paid PLUS account comes with a variety of playback controls that are not included in the free version.
Here's a quick look at the features breakdown between the two versions of the website:
You can see that while the tabs are included for non-members, the only feature that a free account gets is audio playback.
Songsterr PLUS Feature Details
Here I'll cover a quick explanation of each advanced paid feature outlined above. Again, you can easily test these out yourself in the free Stairway to Heaven Plus tab.
- Multiple instrument tracks: Most tabs have multiple instrument tracks. For example, rhythm and lead guitar, bass, drums, and even vocals will regularly be tracked.
- Speed adjustment: This simple but helpful tool allows you to adjust speed and tempo of a track without changing the pitch.
- Solo mode: Allows you to play just the solo.
- Loop mode: Allows you to loop a specific section of a song.
- Count-in mode: Helps you start a song by counting in the beat.
- Print option: Printer-friendly format for each track.
Cost of Songsterr Plus
To get these features for every song in the database, you need to sign up for Songsterr PLUS and login with that account. The price is $9.90 per month which - as far as we can tell - is the only available pricing plan (no yearly plans or discounts).
This begs the question:
Is the price tag - which is high by our estimates - worth the added features mentioned in the above section?
Is Songsterr PLUS worth it?
We would argue that $9.90 is too high of a monthly rate, given the limited feature selection and the fact that a free account doesn't limit your access to songs. Additionally, the comparisons are much cheaper.
Here are links to full reviews for both programs:
Songsterr's pay-as-you-go plan is simple, but lacks the discounted yearly option that brings the price down for its competitors. In that regard, we'd have to say the PLUS version of Songsterr is currently too expensive to be worth investing in, especially considering all the songs are already available to users without even an email sign up.
You can checkout some additional guitar lessons cost info for comparison purposes.
If we pull back from the value of the paid version, how does the core feature of Songsterr - the tabs and playback - work on all accounts (free and paid)? We've found that the functionality of their tab format is quite good, even without the add-on features.
Audio Playback Quality
First, when you press play on the tab, you'll get a MIDI playback of the music as the tab progresses, helping you identify where you're at in the song. It doesn't match the quality of the actual track, but the playback makes it really easy to tell which section of the tab you should be focusing on. I'll often use this just to find a particular part of song, which saves me the time of sifting through the tab and trying to pinpoint exactly where I'm at.
Tab Setup and Sheet Music Quality
Songsterr was one of the first websites to setup their tabs like proper sheet music with timing indicators. In other words, they aren't just the plain-text Courier font tabs you're used to seeing on user-submitted sites. Instead, Songsterr tabs are properly formatted and easy to read via time signatures and note duration indicators.
Below is a screenshot of a Disturbed tab, which clearly shows the timing signature and high-quality tab sheet. That green vertical line is where the audio playback is sitting.
In the next section, we'll cover some of the specifics of the guitar tabs in Songsterr.
Let's look at some of the elements of Songsterr's tabs that are particularly helpful, compared to the old way of displaying tablature. First, here's a look at the typical "net tabs" you might be used to seeing.
In this format you get a Courier font tab without any kind of rhythm indicators and minimal options for showing technique (bends, slides, vibrato, etc.).
As we've already seen, Songsterr improves on this type of tab significantly by providing structure for showing you note duration, time signatures, and the advanced (nuanced) tab symbols for lead and rhythm technique.
Note Length and Duration
As sheet music notes each have a length and are measured in terms of beat, notes in Songsterr tabs have lines and symbols underneath them that indicate the duration of each note.
This is essentially the same thing as note value.
Take this small section, for example:
In the above section of tablature, you'll see quarter note and half note indicators. We've highlighted the half note line so it's easy to spot.
You'll also be able to see time signatures listed at the beginning of the song and in whatever bar the timing might change. For example, the tab for Tool's new song "Invincible" lists the 7/8 time signature at the beginning of the song.
Another feature you'll notice is that the guitar tabs always include helpful notation for technique like bends, hammer-ons, slides, and other more nuanced guitar movement.
Take this section from a Steve Vai tab, for example: You can see bends and their return notes as well as the degrees of each bend.
Songsterr has some additional features worthy of mention that don't necessarily fit into the tab quality category. We'll cover three of them here.
1. Search Algorithm
On the left side of the desktop version of the app (the blue sidebar), Songsterr has a search icon labeled "Songs" that allows you to search through the entire database, and even auto fills songs as you type based on the artist or song you're searching for.
Here's a quick screenshot:
In the above screen shot you can see drop-down menus for sorting by instruments, tunings, and difficulty. By comparison to other tab sites, this is a fast and intuitive search engine. Keep in mind, it's part of the free account and available without any kind of signup or opt-in process.
2. Submit a Tab with a Guitar Pro File
Like its predecessor, MXTabs, Songsterr relies heavily on user-submitted content.
Though to submit a tab in Songsterr, you need to have a Guitar Pro file ready to upload, via the following interface:
This process does require a logged in account, though it doesn't have to be the paid PLUS account. Simply add the artist, the title track, select a difficulty level, then upload your file.
3. Database Scope
What we've found surprising about Songsterr is the volume and scope of content that it has available. Rarely are we able to think of a song that isn't available in the database, which is surprising considering the amount of work it takes to build a perfect Guitar Pro file for a song.
We have to assume that a lot of this comes from a centralized database, perhaps from the parent company that originally purchased MXTabs.
Either way, the tabs always seem either completely accurate or at least very close and they seemingly have every song you could think of.
When It Can be Useful
So when is a program like Songsterr helpful or useful?
In short, it's a good go-to option in any situation, at least if you're talking about the free version. We'd recommend it as your go-to tab resource, unless you're paying for the premium version of Ultimate Guitar Pro or Chordify.
For quickly learning a song or working on some kind of playalong process, a free Songsterr account is one of Guitar Chalk's top recommendations and an easy favorite in the guitar tab category.
All ages, music styles, and skill levels are good to go.
Difference Between Free Songsterr and Free Ultimate Guitar Tabs
What about comparing the free Ultimate Guitar account with the free Songsterr account?
As mentioned previously, most Ultimate Guitar content is submitted in a plain text "net" format like we showed you earlier. It's only recently that the Pro membership for Ultimate Guitar has made the nicer, high-quality tabs available to its members.
For Songsterr, the nicer tabs are already baked into the database, which means you don't have a single line of Courier font in the entire program.
In that regard, we'd break down the two websites like this:
- For a free account: Songsterr wins
- For a paid account: Ultimate Guitar wins
To summarize, we'd absolutely recommend the free account, while pumping the breaks on the paid account in favor of better alternatives. For most players, the quality tab sheets, playback, and helpful search mechanisms will be all you need. Every time I'm looking for a song now, I literally just type in the "guitar tab" search term, then add a "+ Songsterr" to the end of it.
Keep in mind:
Songsterr is not a sponsor or an affiliate of Guitar Chalk, so we're not making any money by recommending it. We just legitimately like it.
As far as free tab resources are concerned, Songsterr is our top pick. And we'd recommend sending them some impressions while checking out some awesome tabs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ section)
Songsterr is free to use without an email login, though you can sign up for a PLUS account, which has additional playback features, for $9.90 a month.
In my experience, it's rare to come across a tab on Songsterr that isn't mostly or 100 percent accurate. However, we're not aware of the quality control systems that Songsterr has in place, and users should be aware that much of the content is community contributed and subject to human error.
While the base Songsterr program is free, a Songsterr PLUS account is a paid version of the website that gives you access to advanced playback features, like allowing you to slow down the tempo of the song, loop certain sections, and use other advanced tools.
Your Questions about Songsterr
Do you have more questions about using Songsterr or the Songsterr PLUS subscription? If so, drop me a note in the comments section below and I'll do my best to help out, or at least point you in the right direction.