Our Verdict and Review Summary
Michael Palmisano's program makes up for a smaller body of content with an extremely thorough, and much-needed focus on music theory. Guitargate is a diamond in the rough of the online guitar lesson world and one of our favorite recommendations.
If you've read my Fender Play review it should be clear that I am not a fan of the "skip music theory" mantra that you tend to see around the guitar lesson world these days. The aim now is to get people playing songs so that they won't give up as easily and will, presumably, buy a nicer Fender guitar. In my humble opinion, that's a bad way to teach (or learn) any instrument. Part of the reason I'm such a big fan of Guitar Gate is that it's one of the most effective guitar and theory combination resources I've ever used, despite being a somewhat smaller (and younger) online platform.
Founder Michael Palmisano, who teaches most of the material, is a practical thinker, a well-studied music theorist and a graduate of the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. He knows the why behind the fretboard and his program does an excellent job of curating and teaching that information.
Our Guitar Gate review covers his course and the interior of a monthly membership.
Point Value (weight)
1. Content Quantity
2. EDU Quality
2. Topical Order
3. Concept Coverage
7. Video Player
8. Site Design/Navigation
Compare to Similar Programs
Guitar Gate Review Quick Hits
Before we get into the details of the program, here are a few highlights that most who are interested in Guitar Gate would probably want to know up front:
- Free Trial: Yes (three days)
- Price: $9.99 per month
- Price of standalone lessons (non-membership downloads): $25
- Number of courses: 10 with 195 lessons total
- Feedback? Direct from instructor
- Live broadcasts: Weekly, for the whole community, featuring a pre-announced topic followed by open Q&A for subscribers to get direct answers to questions.
- Discounts and free shipping on ALL new AND used gear from a boutique retailer in MD
Guitar Gate has some distinct strengths that can be identified right away, and expanded on in the following sections.
- Explanation of music history
- Depth of music theory knowledge and detailed explanation
- Videos are typically longer (15 minutes is not unusual)
- Website and interface are easy to navigate
- A little more conversational and personal feel (instruction isn't lame or annoying)
- Sponsored by PRS
Once you login to your free trial or paid membership, all of the content is on one page. While this does mean that there are less lessons than something like TrueFire or Guitar Tricks, it makes the website much easier to use. At the time of writing this, Guitar Gate has 10 courses, all featured on their dashboard, including the following:
- Level 1
- Level 2
- Level 3
- Level 4
- Level 5
- Level 6
- Blues Guitar Fundamentals
- Country Guitar Fundamentals
- Allman Brothers Roots and Techniques (taught by Scott Sharrard)
- Making Money in a Cover Band (taught by Maynard Edwards)
These courses are displayed in ascending order, with large video stills that make it easy to decide where you want to go.
Remember, each element is a complete course with a lot of lessons in each one, so you won't come back to the homepage unless you want to switch to a completely different course.
In the following graph, we plot the overall content quality grade of Guitargate and compare it with some of the other programs we've tested. Content quality measures volume and broad quality levels for a guitar lesson sites material, and doesn't necessarily focus on the specifics of the educational quality. Gutiargate lags behind many of the other programs in this regard because it's volume of content is much more limited. It simply doesn't have as many lessons as a lot of the other major sites.
Interior of a Guitar Gate Course
Guitar Gate's courses provide a clear list of goals, a progress tracker and a bright orange "BEGIN COURSE" button to get you started.
You can begin the course from here or scroll down to the "Curriculum" where all the lessons are listed in ascending order. Michael covers material like a college class, with content that builds on previous lessons, so I'd recommend you take each course in its chronological order, going from top to bottom.
Once you click on a lesson you'll be taken to the actual video player, which is powered by Vimeo, and all the supplemental material. This includes jam tracks (when applicable), a downloadable PDF version of the lesson and a discussion section for student feedback.
Students can submit video or forum-style feedback, both of which Michael himself will respond too.
The design of the lesson page is clean and very easy to navigate. Lessons are shot in HD with multiple camera angles and extremely clear audio, both of Michael's instruction and his guitar playing.
All of the courses that Michael teaches are shot in this format, with PRS guitars and a similar technical setup. If you want to get a feel for his material, there's plenty of free content on his YouTube channel, some of which he's used in an article he wrote for us on learning the CAGED system.
As I mentioned earlier, our education quality rating specifies the value you get out of a programs ability to inform you and article guitar-related concepts. In other words, it rates how effectively it's able to teach you. Since Guitargate offers you a strong element of personal interaction and feedback with a strong emphasis on music theory, we've given them a higher grade in this category than any other program.
Other Guitar Gate Courses
If you looked at the course listings you probably noticed that the lessons continue after level six with a few specialty courses. Of these four courses, my favorite was easily the Allman Brothers Roots and Techniques course taught by Scott Sharrard.
Scott is actually the lead guitarist and musical director of Greg Allman's band, and has been one of their primary creative influences over the years.
His course goes into a lot of the music history and roots of blues, though he somehow manages to explain it in a way that still feels like you're learning a lot about music and the guitar, and not just a bunch of meaningless historical information that can't be applied. He's a good teacher, and this course - in particular - adds a lot of value to the Guitar Gate program.
Sharrard's material focuses on blues and jazz influences, the blues "Three Kings" section and several technique lessons pulled straight from Allman Brothers tracks.
Sharrard teaches in a very informal and off-the-cuff manner, which I'm assuming is why there are no PDFs available for download with his material. He'll often intersperse playing demonstrations with elongated verbal explanations of concepts, which is actually quite helpful and engaging.
When applicable, Sharrard's lessons include diagrams, like when he covers the "true" blues scale in the screen shot below. His material is involved and worth taking in slowly. It's the type of instruction that you could go back and watch a couple more times before really absorbing it all.
Cost and Value
Guitar Gate's only real weak area would be the limited size of the site and limited content. Compared to largely companies, Guitar Gate is understandably lower on shear lesson volume. This is significantly helped by their pricing model which allows you to purchase individual courses for about $25, without a monthly membership. I think the $9.99 is a fair asking price, but having the ability to buy and own content is a great second option for those who don't like the idea of a monthly membership.
Keep in mind, Guitar Gate lessons are almost all fairly long, giving you a lot of content despite the limited number of courses.
The other thing to consider is that Guitar Gate is really strong on the inclusion of music theory into the curriculum. If that's something you want to work into your guitar lessons, Guitar Gate gets a major bump in value. In the following graphs, we've plotted the monthly and yearly pricing of Guitargate and comparable programs along with the overall rating we've given to each one. This helps you get an idea of the value you'll get out of each purchase.
And the same graph for the monthly cost of each program:
Since Palmisano and Sharrard do some of the best theory explanation I've heard in any online format, Guitar Gate should get serious consideration from guitar students that want this emphasized in their learning platform. Another thing to consider would be getting personal feedback from Michael and whether the personal, communal aspect of learning the guitar is important to you.
That's also a big part of the value in the monthly membership, since that's the only way you can use the video feedback and discussion system.
References and Credits
- Article copy and formatting: Bobby Kittleberger
- Guitar Gate consultant: Michael Palmisano
- Review format: Full monthly membership
- Reviewed on: Macbook Air, 27" iMac and Lenovo desktop with widescreen display
- Page built on: WordPress Genesis Framework with Thrive Architect