Updated by Bobby
Updated on December 26th, 2020
Updated screenshots to reflect most recent style used on the Masterclass platform. Also made minor changes to article formatting.
Knowing Tom Morello's history and relationship with capitalism and American consumerism, it's surprising he has jumped onto the bandwagon of me-too online guitar lesson resources that have been cropping up over the last few years.
His new course is on a website called Masterclass and is simply titled, Tom Morello Teaches Electric Guitar.
Here is a glimpse at the home page for the course:
Per the title of my article, you've probably gathered that I'm not a fan of this course and won't be recommending it. And I promise, it's not because of my love for capitalism and American culture, that emphatically collides with Morello's socialism.
Instead, my audit focuses on a few issues that are common in guitar lesson programs that I tend to view negatively:
- Too limited in scope
- Material is largely available elsewhere for free
Had Morello not did that awesome Guitar World interview so long ago, we might be having a different type of conversation here.
Instead of Tom Morello's Masterclass, we consistently recommend the following guitar lesson resources (table below). Keep in mind, these are affiliate links, however we recommend them based on thorough research, actual use, testing, and sincere support for their methods and platforms.
If you want a second opinion, checkout my buddy Aaron Mathias's review over at Guitar Gear Finder.
Alternatives to Morello's Masterclass
These are some of our partners and alternatives we recommend to the Masterclass program. For more information about how we make recommendations, please consult our affiliate disclosure page.
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Our Summary and Verdict
In this analysis, we'll look at the main reasons I don't recommend Morello's program or the Masterclass platform in general.
Please keep in mind:
This is all based on my own opinion and experience and not is ultimately indicative of how much a person might enjoy or benefit from the aforementioned platform.
- Could be fun/intriguing for Rage Against the Machine fans
- Great camera angles and video quality
- Audio quality is good
- Too expensive for what you get
- Can't decide if it's an educational course for beginners or a cash course in advanced Morello technique
- Masterclass platform doesn't have a specialty
- Monthly plan requires year's worth of payment up front
First Problem: The Masterclass Platform in General
As recently as 2015, masterclass.com was simply a lone jazz DVD "masterclass" landing page, which I was able to pull up on archive.org. But in 2016 - I'm assuming after a change in ownership - masterclass.com seemed to surge into Google ad space with a convoy of A, B, and C-list celebrities and professionals teaching, well...anything.
Serena Williams teaching tennis, Christina Aguilera teaching singing, Dustin Hoffman teaching acting, and a slew of other predictable names teaching what they've made a career out of, make up the site's main body of content.
Among them, Tom Morello teaches "electric guitar."
This platform is an uncategorized learning system, like Udemy. I find these websites far less effective when it comes to specializing in certain areas. And while I know that depends on the "specialists" they employ, there's absolutely no chance I'm going to send a student to a website to learn electric guitar, when that website also teaches acting, basketball, script writing, and cooking.
Masterclass also relies heavily on celebrity name recognition and offers minimal description of each course outside of the following information:
- Name of the "famous" tutor
- Title/subject of course
- Number of lessons
- Trailer video
For example, Herbie Hancock teaches jazz.
Okay, great. But what kind of jazz does he teach? This would be a piano-focused class, I assume? Or is it jazz guitar? What about the history of jazz? It's difficult to determine ahead of time what exactly you're paying for, which should not be the case in light of a $90 per class price tag.
If you think I'm being too hard on them, try making sense of this copy Masterclass published on guitar pedals.
Second Problem: Tom Morello's Class is a Case Study
My second issue could be said of most Masterclass courses.
Tom Morello's class is not so much a class on electric guitar as it is a case study of Morello's own approach and playing style.
Now, it might be worth your time to learn that, but it's not the same as if you were to take a class on rock guitar or a full intermediate guitar course.
A good, reliable rock guitar course isn't going to spend time on Morello's "Ghost of Tom Joad" or multi-tracking techniques.
Most of that stuff is free anyways.
Morello's course is only going to be relevant to those who specifically want to learn his playing style or are looking for a case study in Rage Against the Machine or Audioslave.
If that's worth $90 to you, then have at it. Otherwise, don't let the title fool you.
Morello is teaching the "Morello Method." Calling it, "Tom Morello Teaches the Electric Guitar" is far too general and (I would argue) a bit misleading.
Third Problem: The Price is Way too High
At 26 total lessons and about 12 minutes per lesson, Morello's Masterclass course is quite short, especially by the standard of your typical TrueFire or JamPlay course. In fact, one of David Wilcox's JamPlay courses (ironically also with "Masterclass" in the title), has one video that's over 74 minutes.
Corey Congilio's TrueFire course is over three and a half hours long, spanning 69 videos, and can be purchased for $29.
Steve Vai's Masterclass on TrueFire is nearly five hours of content spread out over 37 lessons and also just $29.
By that comparison, Morello's course should be far cheaper, especially considering how limited it is in scope. If they were to market the course as a Morello case study and drop the price, I might feel differently about it.
For now, $90 is way too much.
Fourth Problem: This Content is Already Available for Free
A long time ago, Morello did a really thorough Guitar World interview which was almost entirely composed of him demonstrating riffs and effects use for Rage Against the Machine tracks. The full video was condensed to just over 23 minutes, but it is sort of a Reader's Digest version of a lot of the material you'll get in the Masterclass.
"When you wanna rock hard, children, lean on F sharp."
Interestingly, Guitar World took this content down on YouTube, though it's still available through various channels that have downloaded and re-uploaded the content.
It's not fair to say these videos are a carbon copy of what you get with Masterclass, but I would say they're appreciably similar with some significant overlap and another reason they should have dropped the price of the Masterclass version.
What the Course Actually Covers
I should pull back a little bit.
This wouldn't be a good review if I didn't actually talk about what's in the course.
As I've already mentioned, a lot of the content revolves around Morello's Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave years, though he does focus on some basics and creativity processes. He goes through pentatonic and blues scale patterns that lead into fretboard connectivity illustrations. But again, it's all in the context of the music he has written and doesn't necessarily follow an identifiable learning path.
There's also a lot of material on Morello's gear, including his guitars, amps, and pedal settings.
Read more: Equipboard's Tom Morello page
I found it far too disorganized for beginners, though could perhaps be helpful if you wanted to focus on learning how to play like Morello.
One thing that I do like about the course is the user interface and the quality of the videos. Camera angles are good and there seems to be a lot of effort put into post-production with plenty of closeups of Morello's pedals, guitars, and fretboard.
It reminds me of my Fender Play review, in that you have a program that looks really good and smooth, but vastly over-promises and under-delivers.
How I Rated the Course
For this program we stuck with a basic four-point rating system, addressing content quality, education quality, topical order, and value. In this section, we'll qualify our ratings with some explanation of each criteria.
Content Volume, Quality, & User Experience
Since content addresses things like quantity, video quality, streaming, and supplemental material, Morello's Masterclass gets mixed reviews in this category. On the one hand, video quality and filming are excellent, yet there are far less videos compared to a Guitar Tricks or JamPlay course. For something advertised as a complete electric guitar course, we'd like to see more videos or supplemental written content.
How good was the education and how was it communicated?
The quality of teaching you get from Morello is good, but I took off a lot of points here for the amount of time he spends on his own gear and songs. This is where the case study argument really hurts, as a lot of concepts are addressed too quickly and without a lot of depth. He covers a ton of ground in a really short period of time, which means the quality of instruction you get for each concept goes down significantly. Vertical progress is sacrificed in favor of horizontal progress.
Organization and Ordering of Topics
As I've already alluded to, the root of this course's problem is an attempt to cover a ton of ground in a fairly small amount of time. This means topics are skipped and concepts are covered without a lot of depth, which throws off topical order and organization. Furthermore, since content often diverts to explore techniques and music unique to Morello's career, there isn't any kind of identifiable organizational system.
Value for What You Pay
As I've mentioned, the course is too expensive at $90. While you can join the website for $15 a month, I'd have trouble recommending that path since the material covered throughout the site is so varied. You also have to pay for the entire year up front, putting your initial bill at $180. If you're only interested in Morello's course, that's way too high. Considering the limited scope of the material and the low number of lessons, I'd want to see sub-TrueFire pricing for this course before I'd consider moving up the value score.
Who is it a good fit for?
To be fair:
For fans of Morello and those who want to get an inside look at his approach to the guitar over the years, this course could be a lot of fun. But outside of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave fans, the content is extremely limited in its value and areas of application.
If you're a big Rage fan and you want an inside look at Morello's technique, maybe give it a spin.
I think what's more frustrating to me than the course itself, is the company behind it and how they're marketing their content. In that regard, I don't really blame Morello for putting his name on this program. It helps build his brand and he's teaching what he knows.
It's a win for him in multiple ways.
But I wouldn't call Masterclass a top-tier educational resource based on the name recognition they've been able to pull together. Add the horrendously-written guitar articles and over-priced content, and you get a platform that I'm happy to pass on and recommend others do the same.
Checkout the alternatives listed at the beginning of this review. In our honest opinion, they're the best and I'm not saying that just so you'll follow an affiliate link. You could even Google the name of whichever one you like and it'll come up. I don't care.
Just don't fall for Masterclass's cliche over-sell.
In the words of a famous wedding crasher, "I'm not askin' you to marry me, I'm just askin' ya not to marry him."
Tom Morello is one of the most innovative and accomplished guitar modern era players and artists in popular music. If hes doing a master class you may want to see what wisdom he imparts. I despise when critics who think he is suppose to teach us the minor penatonic scale or some other overused guitar basics. Thats not why you watch a great guitarist. Most of all he imparts the dedication and hard work that made him a great and successful guitarist. Most of the teachers i have seen online are great for breaking down other peoples work but have never produced anything substantial of their own.
Is this Tom Morello who wrote the comment himself disguised as Andrew? I don’t think you wanna pay 180 euros for string scratching “ideas” and other “genius” “approaches”
Great review Bobby!
Fred from Guitarriego
Thanks much, glad you enjoyed it.
Professional guitarist of 20 years here. Definitely feel like it’s a bummer when knowledge isn’t freely given, but I get it. He is an artist. Artists deserve to get paid. Let me say that again: ARTISTS DESERVE TO BE PAID. Now, is Morello a starving artist? Far from it. But let’s normalize paying artists for their labor.
Secondly, let’s remember that Morello is a guitar player. I’m confused as to why people believe the artist should do it all. It’s like, “Well, why can’t Tom just come up with an entire course on his personal theory and technique, film it, and edit it himself? Because he’s not a video editor. He’s a guitarist. And although this course might seem off the cuff, I can tell you it is not. If someone asked me to lay out my entire methodology and technique for a video series, that’d be a freaking project and a half.
Now could I just go and skip the fee and read an article about Tom’s approach? Sure. Could I dig to try and find some old footage of him? Sure. But I am willing to invest in a seamless, beautifully shot crash course into these artists’ processes because I have the money. Do I think the Masterclass series should offer a sliding-scale option for low-income people to access these courses. ABSOLUTELY. Maybe we should be pushing for that instead of taking a dump on the artists?
So far I’ve taken the Morello and Zimmer courses. They’ve both been great. But remember: these courses are TOM MORELLO teaches electric guitar and HANS ZIMMER teaches film scoring. If I wanted an intro to film scoring class or to learn the fundamentals of guitar playing, I’d take an intro course. These are Masterclasses. And while I think they are accessible to beginners due to their broad methodologies which I imagine will inform and expand a beginner’s mindset from the get, I see these courses as MASTER classes. I already know my instrument. I already know how to score music for film. I am trying to learn Tom Morello’s and Hans Zimmer’s particular approach and mindset to their craft.
I think my problem was that the Masterclass was too broad and tried to market itself as accessible to beginners and advanced players alike. I think the way you used it – learning Morello’s particular approach – was right. But the course is marketed as a “catch all” for every skill level, or at least it isn’t made explicitly clear what the target audience is.
Either way, thank you for sharing your perspective and opposing view. It’s good to have balance here.
u feel v….. biased to say the least
did you just decide that u just hated tom morello
bc the class is pretty good
(btw folks….masterclass is 15$ per month. since his class is so SHORT (as you pointed out) you could only pay 15$ for it. and get other classes out of it. just a thought dude)
Do you have any documentation that shows this price? I haven’t been able to spot it that cheap. It’s possible they’ve changed it. Looks like annual memberships are still the same price.
also if you only wanted to take HIS class it’s only 15$
whatever, but i feel like you came in expecting more than was a) promised and b) came in with a negative opinion
Outcast Outdoors says
Bobby you are right. You’re not going to learn how to rage against the machine by sucking The Man’s c*ck.
So don’t do it.
Bobby Kittleberger says
HAHA…very true. This has been a super weird move by Morello. Not sure what his angle is.
Soul Power Guitar made deep in the caves of Mexico $1,299.00
Now, I love RATM and Toms Playing. We need them more than ever, right now.
But I guess the angle is to cash in instead.
It’s smart but disappointing to me….
I don’t know why I care so much about what’s going on? I don’t have a dog in this fight.
Maybe I just feel we should leave this place in better condition than when we got here.
Sorry about the swearing, Bobby.
Bobby Kittleberger says
Nothing wrong with cashing in. But it’s hypocritical on his part, to say the least. My gripe is more so with Masterclass as a whole, as opposed to Morello’s course. Still, there are vastly better options out there.
Didn’t notice any swearing. Thanks for the comment, Michael.