I'm typically much better at articulating why I don't like something as opposed to explaining why I do like something. And while we have a lot of fantastic guitar lesson resources at our disposal, it's not all good, especially in a world where online content has made it easy for a lot of different lesson programs to pop up. This list is going to deal with places that overcharge for guitar lessons either in terms of price or lack of value.
We'll focus on two different areas:
- Online resources
- Brick and mortar locations
We'll look at the cost of several companies that offer guitar lessons, yet charge much higher than the typical guitar lessons cost, or offer substantially less quality and value These are companies that I do not recommend using for guitar lessons.
Companies that I do recommend would include (primarily) the following:
Alternative Guitar Lesson Resources I Recommend
All four of the above programs have been tested by me and a few of the folks I work with to publish Guitar Chalk content. Not only do we recommend them and believe they're some of the best online guitar lessons available, but they help keep our magazine going.
Support us by checking them out, enjoying a free trial, and signing up for a membership.
Now, onto the overcharging options that we do not recommend.
1. Guitar Center
From a gear perspective, I've got no issue with Guitar Center. In fact, I bought my 2005 PRS CE 24 from them at a fantastic discount price (it was used) and they shipped it to me from Chicago. But the Guitar Center lessons cost is extremely high compared to what you'll pay for the online material, and I've heard quite a few people say that the quality of instruction is very average. Some folks have also said they felt a lack of individualized teaching in favor of a more canned, commercialized lesson plan.
Of course, this will vary depending on which Guitar Center you're talking about. Even the price - to an extent - will change from store to store.
But overall, we recommend avoiding the familiarity of the Guitar Center brand, unless you're looking to buy some decently-priced gear.
While Yousician does a good job of promoting functional learning and a practical approach to the fretboard, it lacks the education quality achieved by most other online guitar lesson programs.
For those interested in the details, checkout our full Yousician review.
In terms of what they charge, Yousician has two tiers:
- Premium: $20 monthly
- Premium Plus: $30 monthly
The difference between the two programs is primarily the inclusion of licensed song lessons in the Premium Plus option. We'd consider this a bit of an over-charge, given how Guitar Tricks can be had for less than $20 a month and includes all the song lessons, with a far better educational program to boot.
Yousician isn't bad, but it should be cheaper given the market comparisons.
TakeLessons is a large website that functions as a curation and marketplace for thousands of private tutors and instructors of various topics. They have a very active guitar section where teachers can sign up, create a profile, and charge an hourly rate for their teaching.
The quality of this instruction is usually not the issue.
However, since it runs through TakeLessons as a third party, TakeLessons is charging the tutor a fee to use their site, a cost that inevitably gets passed down to you, the consumer/student.
Additionally, most guitar teachers on that site charge around $35-$40 (at least) an hour and you still have to interact with them in an online capacity. If you're going to go with in-person lessons: You might as well use someone local, save the TakeLessons fee, and get the benefit of meeting with a tutor in-person.
4. Teaching Guitar Workshops
The Teaching Guitar Workshops are put on by a NAMM partner called the Guitar & Accessories Marketing Association (GAMA for short). Workshops are held throughout the year in different schools to help support music education programs, though anyone can attend. They're spread over five days and include 40 hours worth of clock-time instruction.
The program is largely supported by donations and a Grant from NAMM, leaving the price of the workshop at $400.
This only comes out to $10 an hour, but the content listed looks fairly basic and achievable through a lot of other means and cheaper (or free) mediums. Here's what the GAMA website lists as the content covered:
It's not that this is unhelpful, but the course only lasts for five days, which also calls into question how much guitar you could pick up in that amount of time.
I've always viewed learning the guitar as a long game, less ideal for a "short burst" approach.
While there's certainly a lot to like in the mission statement of this program, the workshop format is quickly becoming a casualty of the online music education options we now have at our disposal.
5. Fender Play
As you can see from the screenshot above, I've had a subscription off and on to do my Fender Play review and to test the program. Since its inception in 2017, I've consistently recommended avoiding it, even if you're just starting out.
Fender, like Guitar Center, is extremely trustworthy when it comes to matters of providing you gear.
Guitars, basses, and amps are all legendary and rightfully deserve our respect.
But the lessons ploy over the past couple of years is really hard to understand. It's heavily marketed and seems to make up a huge aspect of the direction Fender wants to go with their company. The problem with Fender Play is that it's just not very good.
Even for the meager $10 per month asking price, there's little Fender Play offers that you can't get free nearly anywhere else. The content is thin and basic, while the organization is difficult to understand. In terms of value for what you pay, Fender has a long way to go making this format competitive with the alternatives I recommended earlier.
Like it or hate it, the internet has changed the way we learn guitar. In-person lessons, workshops, and "the basics" are no longer worth the hourly rates that people have charged over the years. When compared to the monthly membership pricing models, the result is guitar lesson programs that are over-priced.
The guitar programs that use the membership model and still provide a ton of value, organization, and nuanced content, are your best options in the digital age.
Just to recap, the four we recommend primarily are the following:
Remember, we aren't necessarily just looking for a lower price. With guitar lessons we want to find high-quality education that's marked by thorough topical coverage, a solid organization model (ordering of material), and a deep understanding of guitar and music that spans the entire skill level spectrum.
While some of the programs in this list are good, they just don't do all of that.
Do you have questions about the programs in this list, either the over-priced or recommended alternatives listed? If so, leave them in the comments section below and I'll help you out as much as possible.
I’ve used TakeLessons for local students as well as online. They charge me a fee, yep, and I DO pass it on. My TL fee is 20% higher to cover the cost of that ongoing fee TL charges for the duration of the person taking lessons. If my student asks if they can abandon TL and pay me directly – since they are bringing it up, I feel no ethical problem saying they can do so if they choose. It’s their money.
I still believe in person lessons are best, particularly when starting out, because there is so much hands on stuff that is required to help the student play properly – technique – to achieve a good sound. After they have the essentials down, online tutors, such as myself, will not have to deal with that issue so much as simply remind them “technique, technique!!” I have online students from across the country who are pretty good, and so don’t have those issues with them.
Bobby Kittleberger says
Thanks for this info Geoff. It is interesting how TL handles this. They’ve gotten pushy with me about having people who teach for them write for Guitar Chalk. I think you have a valid point about the in-person lessons as well, but I would just advise my readers to cut out the middle man (TL in this case).