Guitar Tricks has become one of the biggest and most popular guitar lesson websites, since its inception in 1998. Today it's thought by many to be the best place to learn guitar online, from professional instructors.
Their format is almost entirely video-based, with short instruction bits that are usually less than 10 minutes in length.
We’ll cover that format, along with every feature of the site, in our full Guitar Tricks review.
A GENUINE NON-BS LOOK (why I hate reviews)
I hate even calling this a "review," because so many Guitar Tricks "reviews" are, quite honestly, little more than pandering sales pages.
I don't want to couch this in some kind of vague attempt at selling you something without having good reason to do so. Thus, here's the truth:
I've used this program and I like it - otherwise I wouldn't be writing so much about it.
In other words, I'm not reviewing this simply to get you to click through and make a purchase and there should be no false impression that I may or may not recommend it. Of course I recommend it, (see the disclosure text below) but (unlike others, who shall remain nameless) I've also included a lot of detail and information that explains why I recommend it.
As a result verything in this article is a genuine and honest assessment of the value that Guitar Tricks presents to potential customers of the site. I've given as much detail and as clear a picture as I possibly can, taking care not to pander to you.
Disclosure: We are a professional review site that receives compensation from companies for online guitar course reviews, yet with a professional and unbiased opinion.
Are they running any sales?
Routinely, Guitar Tricks will run sales and promotions that drop their full access (yearly) price from $239 to a scant $99. Whenever they do, I try to update this section with that sale.
SALE IS CURRENTLY INACTIVE
We will post annual membership promotional discounts here, if and when they're available.
Annual membership now $239
Full price: $239
I remember using Guitar Tricks way back in the day, when I first started playing guitar.
That would have been around 1999, just a year after their launch.
Everyone loved the ’90s. | Flickr Commons Image via Tinto
It was useful and informative back then and to this day I've continued to rely on it as an up-to-date and credible resource, particularly when it comes to learning songs and different aspects of guitar-related music theory.
So, those are my cards - on the table for all to see. I'll take you through all the details I know of, from top to bottom.
First, let’s look at the highlight reel for those who are thinking about signing up.
Guitar Tricks Review Quick Hits
- Price: $19.95 per month or $179 per year
- Free trial: Yes, 14 days.
- Members: 2 million+
- Lessons: 11000+
- Refund Period: Yes, 60 days guaranteed
- Song Tutorials: 600+
Lessons and song tutorials are being added regularly.
Over time, full courses are also updated and revamped to better-suit the needs of members.
Guitar Tricks also runs a number of promotions and special deals throughout the year where they’ll drop the price of membership.
(See the Guitar Tricks coupon section for more info.)
Further, their 60-day refund period is honored without questioning, so you can cancel for any reason and get your money back.
We’ll cover all aspects of the videos, the format, the content offered and everything else you need to know if you’re considering buying a membership.
Let’s dive into the deeper portion of our Guitar Tricks review.
1. The Format
With Guitar Tricks there are a ton of different roads you could take within the site.
You’ve got the Core Learning System, lesson categories, style categories and even lessons grouped by artists.
To make sorting easier, Guitar Tricks breaks all of this into four sections:
The home page for Guitar Tricks members, highlighting the four main lesson categories. | View Large Image
Coming off the members home page:
Each category organizes lessons differently.
To drill down another layer into our guitartricks.com review, we'll start with these four categories, stemming from the home page.
Here’s what to expect from each section, starting with the Beginner Lessons:
2. Beginner Lessons
The splash screen for the Beginner Guitar Lessons section of Guitar Tricks, highlighting the Core Learning System. | View Larger Image
While Guitar Tricks has content that can challenge every skill level, they're particularly well known for providing online guitar lessons for beginners and novice guitar players, ideal for those looking to get their feet wet.
Within the Beginner Lessons section you’ll see the Core Learning System table with the first two courses highlighted in red.
Those courses are the following:
The rest of the Core Learning System is grayed out, though can still be clicked and accessed. Additionally, you’ll notice the following three categories at the bottom of the page:
These are topic-specific beginner lessons and not full courses.
While some of the material here is covered in Lisa’s courses, this content is sorted so you can quickly get to the more popular beginner topics.
3. Experienced Lessons
The EXPERIENCED page highlighting the advanced courses and categories from Guitar Tricks. | View Larger Image
On the Experienced page you now have the Fundamentals lesson circles grayed out and the advanced courses highlighted in red.
These courses include the following:
- Blues Level I
- Blues Level II
- Country Level I
- Country Level II
- Rock Level I
- Rock Level II
At the bottom of the page you have advanced lessons broken down further into the following categories:
- Artist Studies
- Chords & Scales
- Gear & Tone
While some of the lessons in these bottom categories cross paths with what you get in the courses, most of it is standalone material that is completely autonomous.
Which path you take depends on how you want to navigate the content.
In that regard, Guitar Tricks offers you a lot of flexibility.
For example, clicking on the STYLES section takes you to the following page:
A tile splash screen showing the styles offered to Guitar Tricks members. | View Larger Image
From here you can filter lessons based on their stylistic focus.
Click on the ACOUSTIC section and you’ll jump to the following page:
All the lessons Guitar Tricks offers focusing on the acoustic style (lessons continue down below what the screen shot shows). | View Larger Image
Once you’re on this page you’re looking at all the lessons focusing exclusively on the acoustic guitar style.
The interface is smooth, well-organized and easily navigated, meeting modern user experience standards.
All you need to do is pick a topic.
I clicked on the first lesson, listed as “Ragtime Fingerstyle Guitar.”
This takes you to an introductory page for the tutorial:
The ragtime fingerstyle acoustic lesson introductory page. | View Larger Image
There’s a lot of information on this page, though I found the most helpful section to be the CONTENTS pane on the right-hand side.
From there you can start any portion of the course or just click the yellow BEGIN TUTORIAL button on the main banner.
Once you start, you’ll be taken to the following screen:
The video player and home page for the ragtime intro lesson and the template for all Guitar Tricks video pages. | View Larger Image
This is the format that all Guitar Tricks videos are presented in, which houses the following elements:
- Video player with HIGH, MEDIUM and LOW resolution options
- Description of the lesson and any notation (if applicable) via the two tabs beneath the video
- Lesson info section with FAVORITES, PRINTING and DOWNLOAD options
- Full course summary with each video listed in order
What you see on this page is the heart of Guitar Tricks’ presentation and is used to display all video content.
The interface is smooth and intuitive, allowing you to use and see almost all of the content above the fold (without having to scroll down).
The video player itself offers some different resolution options as well as a looping feature that allows you to repeat certain portions of the video.
Changing to different videos in the courses is easy via the listing of each lesson on the right side of the screen.
The path we’ve outlined, going from a style section or course to the video player, is the most common way to get to any one lesson or tutorial series.
But what about the larger courses we mentioned, like Guitar Fundamentals I and II?
Since these are cornerstones of the Guitar Tricks learning system, we’ll take a closer look at their structure as well.
4. How Courses are Setup: A Closer Look at Guitar Fundamentals I
Guitar Fundamentals I and II are some of the most popular online guitar courses for beginners specifically, that Guitar Tricks offers.
We begin on the first page of Guitar Fundamentals I.
As with the Styles category page, we’re greeted with a splash screen that shows a video introduction to the course and list of the course’s content in chapters.
The beginning of the Guitar Fundamentals I course. | View Larger Image
In the case of Guitar Fundamentals I, there are seven chapters total.
Within each chapter, there are lessons.
Within each lesson, there are videos.
For example, let’s say we click on the “Welcome to the Guitar” lesson.
A look at the first three lessons in the Guitar Fundamentals I course. | View Larger Image
Once we click here, we’re taken to the familiar splash screen, just like we saw with the Ragtime acoustic course:
Intro screen for the first chapter of the Guitar Fundamentals I course. | View Larger Image
Once you click on BEGIN TUTORIAL you’ll be taken to the first lesson.
“Common Models of Guitars.”
Screenshot of the Common Models of Guitars video. | View Larger Image
You’ll now notice that instead of just the five lessons listed to the right of the screen, all seven chapters of the entire course are listed for you to go through.
I like this feature, since it removes the need to backup a couple pages and allows you to (potentially) complete the entire course from within the lesson page itself.
Everything else is the same as the video screen we showed before.
Note that in the screenshot there is no NOTATION tab since the lesson doesn’t cover any material that requires it.
5. About the Instructors
Most of the Guitar Tricks instructors are either formally educated musicians or have experience playing for well known artists/formats.
Many have both to their credit.
A look at the top of the Guitar Tricks instructors page. | View Larger Image
For example, Anders Mouridsen graduated with Honors from MI’s Guitar Institute of Technology and has worked with a long list of notable musicians, including Stone Template Pilots, Taylor Swift and Pink.
Anders Mouridsen’s bio page. | View Larger Image
Mouridsen’s impressive credentials are not unusual among Guitar Tricks instructors.
Several others have studied at the Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles, recorded their own music and even served as guitarists on a number of popular TV shows, including Saturday Night Live and Jimmy Kimmel.
Despite their credentials, you won’t see instructors from mainstream bands or musical acts.
Guitar Tricks doesn’t really go this route.
Yet the instructors are knowledgeable, well-spoken and, for the most part, have engaging personalities.
6. Personalities and Teaching Styles
Every instructor is different, with variances in personality and teaching style that can’t all be accounted for.
In general, you’ll consistently find the following traits:
- Enthusiastic about the subject matter
- Competent and articulate speakers who are easy to understand
- Confident and firm about the topics they’re presenting
- Friendly and relatable.
There are parts of videos, particularly the introductory material, that can feel canned and awkward.
In those moments, it’s fairly obvious that the instructors are reading from a script.
Following the script? | Flickr Image via SC63
In most cases, this is quickly remedied as they get into the material and become more comfortable with their speaking cadence.
All instructors do a great job of speaking slowly and in short segments that are easy to remember and comprehend.
7. Can you interact with the instructors?
While there’s no formal feedback system in place, Guitar Tricks does make all of the active instructors available to you via their member’s forum.
In that forum, each instructors has their own section where you can post your questions and receive an answer directly from them.
The member’s-only forum section where you can ask questions directly to instructors. | View Larger Image
The instructors are all quick and consistent about keeping up with the forum, helping to alleviate the disappointment of not having any kind of feedback interface available.
Of all the instructors, the three most active on the forums (by far) are Mouridsen, McCormick and Christopher Schlegel.
Schlegel frequently responds to threads from other sections of the forum as well.
We’ll touch on a little more about the forum in its own section.
8. The Toolbox
Aside from the courses and videos, there are additional resources available to you as a Guitar Tricks member.
The Toolbox is probably the most significant of those perks.
You can access it from the home page on the left-hand menu:
You can access the “Toolbox” from the menu on the left side of the home page. | View Larger Image
From there you’ll land on the following page with six different tools, which are actually small web apps.
A shot of the six web apps available in the Guitar Tricks toolbox. | View Larger Image
The following apps are included in your toolbox:
Each app opens into a new window and has it’s own controls that allow you to point and click in order to use whatever functionality it provides.
The scale and chord finder are research tools, though pleasantly easy to use allowing you to view patterns in a familiar diagram as well as listen to whatever chord or scale you’ve chosen.
Its user interface is simple and easy to navigate.
A shot of the Chord Finder web app. | View Larger Image
The Metronome and Reference Tuner are exactly what you’d expect. Though I personally don’t like the process of using either in the form of an online app.
That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the apps.
I just didn’t find myself using them.
9. The Jam Station App
If you open up the Jam Station app, you’ll find an entire library of all the jam tracks available on Guitar Tricks.
This is an incredibly helpful resource that allows you to filter through all the styles on the site and pool jam tracks based on a number of different categories.
Musical key, instructors and genre can all be used to sort the tracks.
Once you select a track, any applicable notation is displayed beneath the player:
A shot of the Jam Station web app. | View Larger Image
Note that clicking on multiple genres of music (the boxes at the top of the page) doesn’t deselect the ones that were already selected.
Since ACOUSTIC was selected by default, me clicking ROCK pooled all of the ACOUSTIC and ROCK jam tracks.
The notation available for the particular jam track that I selected. | View Larger Image
I tested this on an Apple Macbook Pro with an updated version of Firefox and noticed some problems with the controls.
The play button worked fine, though I wasn’t able to pause the app or use the forward/backward buttons.
Volume control worked well and I was able to play new tracks by double-clicking them. However it does seem as though there are lingering bugs in the app, possibly dependent on what browser you’re using.
10. What is the Fretboard Trainer?
The last app in the list is called the Fretboard Trainer.
This is a game that shows you a picture of the fretboard, highlights a spot on it, then gives you a multiple choice selection of notes that it might be.
The Fretboard Trainer app from Guitar Tricks. | View Larger Image
You then click the note that you think is the correct answer.
It’s more of a fretboard quiz than a fretboard trainer, because it assumes that you already have some knowledge about the fretboard notes and how they work.
A board game with almost no learning curve? | Flickr Image via Mike Fleming
If nothing else, it’s incredibly easy to use.
Some people might find it useful, others won’t get anything out of it.
In my opinion, it neither helps nor hurts the value of your membership.
11. Scope of Content: What does it cover?
Guitar Tricks provides two basic pillars of content for their paying members.
- Song Tutorials
Discussing the scope of each pillar should be done separately, since they’re two distinct aspects of the site and do not intertwine within the courses.
We’ll deal with the lessons segment first.
12. Scope of the Lessons
The lessons on Guitar Tricks, while boiled down to simple course modules via the Core Learning System, span nearly the entire spectrum of guitar difficulty levels.
Beginner to advanced – it’s all here.
This is especially evident once you get into some of the course outlines and lesson titles.
For example, the Guitar Fundamentals I course starts with the absolute raw basics:
- What a guitar is
- How to string a guitar
- Basic open chords
By the time you get to the end of Guitar Fundamentals II, you’ve covered chord theory and musical notation.
Should you continue on into the Rock Level I course, you’ll cover all the most important aspects of rock guitar solos, including:
- The wah pedal
- Stylistic focuses and best practices
- Technique (bending, vibrato, etc.)
Thus, Guitar Tricks will cover a lot of ground over the span of an entire course.
You’re also going to get more of a breadth of topics than you are a depth of focus in any one area.
It’ll kind of look like this:
Breadth of topics cover with less depth. | View Larger Image
Take intervals for example.
This is touched on in just a handful of lessons via the Rock Level I course.
While it shows up, and is expanded on, in other lessons, the idea itself could fill a lot more time than what it’s given.
This can be good or bad depending on what you want to accomplish.
For a lot of players, they just want to get through the crucial aspects of each topic and move into playing as fast as possible. That’s something Guitar Tricks does really well.
It gets you playing.
What it doesn’t do as well is give you an in-depth understanding of a given topic, outside of the crucial information you need to apply that topic.
The scope is limited in that regard.
- Long list of topics covered
- Lacking in depth with any one topic
Now to be sure, some ideas are explored and discussed more than others and this is not to say that the lessons are incomplete.
Rather, their focus is to move you through topics quickly, getting you to the point where you can handle the song tutorials.
13. Scope of the Song Tutorials
The song side of Guitar Tricks is completely autonomous.
Song tutorials do not make their way into the lessons or courses.
As far as the difficulty or skill levels of these songs, they’re widely varied, offering everything from the incredibly simple to the genuinely complex.
You’ve got a slew of sorting options if you want to browse through them.
First, you can simply use the style tiles to pool a particular genre:
Buttons for sorting song lessons. | View Larger Image
Note the BEGINNER SONGS button to the left and the MASTER LIST to the right.
Additionally, you can sort by the following criteria:
Since there are hundreds of songs listed, having all these sorting options is an important feature.
The sorting options for the song tutorial list. | View Larger Image
The songs included are largely made up of classic to modern rock hits.
Most of the tracks are easily recognized, particularly if you’re familiar with the last few decades of the rock, blues and country music.
Keep in mind that while 600+ songs seems like a lot, there is still a lot of material not here.
So don’t necessarily expect to find all the songs you love.
There’s the issue of the time it takes to create the tutorials and post them, plus the added complexity of licensing that prevents Guitar Tricks from being able to display certain music.
For example, the Jimi Hendrix song lessons are no longer availablebecause of this very issue.
Yes they do, Jimi. Yes they do. | Flickr Image via Communicator
In some cases, licensing issues can also prevent Guitar Tricks from being able to display lyrics, allow printing or make a video available for downloading.
If you’re on a song lesson and you don’t see these options, that’s the reason.
None of this detracts from the value of Guitar Tricks but, it’s information that you should go into the song tutorials with so you know what to expect.
14. Beginners or advanced?
With all this information on hand, let’s talk about who Guitar Tricks is for.
While the site has a solid base of advanced content, the market that I believe would benefit the most is beginner leaning.
I’d further characterize that market in the following ways:
- Beginners looking for a concrete, organized learning system
- Those looking to get back into the guitar after a long absence
- Aspiring guitarists who are short on time and want an optimized path to playing actual music
- Self-motivated, independent learners
Any of these three people would be well-served by the Guitar Tricks product.
Having said that, there are also people that I would say Guitar Tricks is not the ideal choice for:
- Advanced players looking for an in-depth look into theoretical or technical topics
- Those who need to be personally motivated to learn
- Those who don’t learn well with a structured approach
Between these two assessments, it’s fair to say that Guitar Tricks leans beginner.
The more important issue is how you learn and whether or not you like the online method.
Once you’re in, and you like the presentation and style of the content, you can find material that will apply to you and be helpful.
15. Ways to Use Guitar Tricks both Free and Paid
Guitar Tricks has two types of membership:
- Full Access (paid)
There is no middle ground.
You’re either using a free account or a full access account that gives you access to everything on the site.
You cannot sign up for portions or segments of the website, which is actually a bit of a detraction.
We’d love to see different ranges of memberships or the ability to purchase access to specific courses or segments of the site.
For now we’ve got just the two options to work with.
16. The Free Account
The free access account is easy to setup and requires no credit card to get started.
You just put in your information, setup a username and you’re good to go.
Once you’ve created this account, you’ll have access to the following content:
The 24 free lessons are the lessons that Guitar Tricks makes available to free access members as a “get your feet wet” option.
We’ll look at these more closely in the next section.
Otherwise, the free access account restricts access to the rest of the site.
If you do want to check out the rest of the site without paying for full access, Guitar Tricks offers a 14-day free trial where you can upgrade your free account to full access without getting charged.
Here are a few things you need to know about the free trial:
- It does require a credit card to signup.
- The trial automatically funnels you into a paid account on the 15th day unless you cancel.
- A cancellation can be made by emailing Guitar Tricks at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you don’t cancel and you are charged, Guitar Tricks has a 60-day money back guarantee you can fall back on to get your money refunded.
There’s no actual risk involved, though it does feel like more than a trial when you need a credit card to sign up and an email to cancel.
However, if you’re willing to put up with some manageable hoops to jump through, the trial gives you access to the entire site without any kind of restrictions.
Two weeks isn’t a long time, so I’d advise waiting until you have a less-busy window coming up and activate it then.
Note that you need to setup a free account first, then upgrade that free account by signing into it and then clicking on the free trial link.
18. Guitar Tricks Coupon: Codes and Discounts
If you exhaust the trial and the free lessons, you can fall back on a Guitar Tricks coupon code, if you're willing to be patient and sign up for their newsletter.
However, having worked for Guitar Tricks in the past, I can verify that they do send out discount coupons and promos with a fair amount of regularity, which they'll always make subscribers aware of.
Any Guitar Tricks coupon code will have a limited window in which it can be used, though these promotion usually last about one week - plenty of time to cash in.
So, you have a couple of options:
First, you can sign up for the newsletter and keep an eye on the promotional deals and they send through.
Second, you can check the "special" page for the same purpose. If they aren't running any kind of coupon, the page will simply default to the home index.
Monthly Membership Guitar Tricks Coupon Code
Most of the Guitar Tricks discount coupons revolve around the yearly membership, and while those are almost always the better deal, signing up for a monthly membership allows you to use the code 60OFF.
This code takes 60 percent off your first month's membership, effectively dropping the price to $7.98 instead of the expected $19.95.
Once the first month of your membership is over, the price kicks back up to the regular amount of $19.95.
However, if you just want to get your feet wet, this is a great way to go for that first month at a discounted rate. Otherwise, Guitar Tricks coupon codes are a matter of waiting out the promo offers.
19. Full Access Member
Once you’re a full access member, you’ll have access to everything on the site.
If you get to this point, you’ll have chosen between one of the following options:
- Monthly plan at $19.95/month
- Yearly plan at $179/year
These are the regular (and current) prices that Guitar Tricks offers.
As I mentioned earlier, there are times throughout the year when they send out a promotion for a cheaper yearly membership, which makes it worthwhile to keep an eye on their newsletter.
Once you’ve signed up you should also note that these memberships renew automatically. If you do not want this to happen, once again you have to email and ask for a cancellation.
This will suspend your account from renewal but, will let you continue to use your account until the period you’ve paid for has completed.
It just might be harder to get a Guitar Tricks account suspended. | Flickr Image via Titans
If you’ve asked for a cancellation, the account will simply expire instead of renewing.
Once again, this is an unpleasant aspect of signing up for an account.
You can get out of it but, it still feels like you’re having to jump through a lot of hoops if you just change your mind or you don’t want to renew your membership.
Having the option to turn off automatic renewal from within the site would add a couple points back onto the Guitar Tricks review final score.
20. How good are the 24 free lessons?
The 24 free lessons I mentioned are always available to free access members.
But, how good are they?
How much progress can you make from just these lessons?
If you go to the home page for the free lessons, you’ll be greeted by an intro video and a grid with all 24 lessons listed along with a picture of the instructor.
The 24 free lessons home page. | View Larger Image
There’s no real system or order to the material.
For the most part, these are segments of the larger courses for beginners and intermediates. There isn't a lot in the way of advanced material within these free lessons.
Thus, all the lessons are standalone examples of particular courses and chapters within Guitar Tricks, so you’re not getting a significant amount of any one course.
When you click on the VIEW LESSON button for any of the lessons, you’ll be taken to the familiar video player screen where your video will begin:
One of the lessons from the 24 free lessons collection. | View Larger Image
What you’ll notice on this page is the full compliment of lessons for the course to the right of the page.
It’s quite tantalizing.
You can see it in the above screenshot right under the ACOUSTIC FINGERPICKING, STEP-BY-STEP, LEVEL 1A text.
The first video that you’ll see highlighted in a red border lining is the free one.
Everything else in that list will not be accessible to free access members.
So if you get the feeling that the free lesson encompasses all those other videos, this is not the case. And while that’s disappointing, it’s not unusual for a free membership to be limited this way.
You can’t really blame them for dangling the paid stuff in front of you.
Everyone has got to make a living.
We’ve all got to make money so we can build money houses and have a place to live, of course. | Flickr Image via Images of Money
As for the videos you can watch, they are all decent lessons from the actual Guitar Tricks courses.
They’re not stripped down or “lite” videos made specifically for free.
Instead, they’re videos selected from actual lessons in the paid member’s system.
There’s just not very many of them.
In most cases the videos cover a small aspect of a given topic and are between two and five minutes long.
21. How much can I accomplish with them?
I know a lot of users take their time going through the 24 free lessons and stretch them out by expanding on each topic in their own practice time.
So you can do this too and get a lot more out of each video.
However, these videos are short and they’re broken up into a wide range of styles and topics.
How good is free? | Flickr Image via Clement127
That makes it unlikely you’ll be interested in more than a handful, which limits their usefulness.
The best way to look at the free lessons is to be realistic about what they’re intended for.
It’s a great way to test out the vibe of Guitar Tricks and get your feet wet but, it’s not meant to be anything close to the full compliment.
22. Effectiveness of the Online Guitar Video Method
The classical form of guitar lessons is being fiercely challenged, if not replaced, by the presence of online learning material and the wave of internet-based education.
In fact, online guitar courses, for beginners especially, is one of the primary ways that such musical instruction is delivered in our day.
Yet many aspiring guitar players still prefer the one-on-one, tutorial-style guitar lesson to something where they sit in front of their computer and watch a video.
This brings up a valid question:
How effective is the online video method when it comes to learning guitar?
Sites like Udemy allow you to take courses on basically anything. | Image via Udemy
I believe the answer depends largely on the individual and their own learning preferences.
Because there are people who need the presence of another person, an authority figure, that they can lean on to help motivate them. There’s a relational component in tutoring, where you have interaction with a real human being, that you can’t get online.
If that’s who you are and how you’re best wired to learn, Guitar Tricks might not be your most effective option.
23. The Ideal Guitar Tricks Member
On the other hand, not everyone thrives with in-person learning or the classroom model.
Those who are self-motivated and thrive on their ability to independently pursue educational goals, should find the Guitar Tricks format completely ideal.
It’s self-paced, easy-to-use and optimal for those who just want to get their hands dirty and play some guitar.
I’d be willing to bet that the effectiveness of Guitar Tricks is almost entirely dependent on which type of learner you are.
Thus, some self-assessment and reflection is advisable before taking the plunge.
24. The Forum
The last component of the Guitar Tricks full access membership is the forum.
This portion of the website has two components:
- The Public or “Free Access” Area
- The Private or “Members Only” Area
These are the sections of the public forum:
- Open Discussion
- Introduction Forum
- Guitar Basics
- Technique and Style
- Music Theory
- Listening Post
- Tone and Effects
- Gear Discussion
- Gear Reviews
- Tech Talk
- Famous Bands and Artists
- Guitar Tricks Site
Open Discussion, the Introduction Forum and Guitar Basics are the most active forums on this page.
The introduction forum is just a spot for members (free or paid) to introduce themselves and give a little background on their guitar playing.
The “open” section of the Guitar Tricks forum, available to free and full access members alike. | View Larger Image
Listening Post threads are mostly YouTube videos or MP3 demos from members who are either writing their own material or posting covers.
Questions posted in these sections are quickly answered by staff and in many cases Chris Schlegel will post answers, particularly for technical and music theory-related questions.
The rest of the forum will only be accessible to you as a paid member.
Here are all the sections it includes:
- Full Access Forum
- Lesson Q and A
- Song Request Forum
- Ask a Guitar Tech
- Ask Anders Mouridsen
- Ask Ben Lindholm
- Ask Caren Armstrong
- Ask Christopher Schlegel
- Ask Douglas Showalter
- Ask Henrik Linde
- Ask Lisa McCormick
- Ask Mike Olekshy
- Ask Tom Finch
As you can see, the bulk of the “private” forum is made up of the instructor’s own Q and A sections.
I mentioned before, the most active instructors on the forum are Schlegel, McCormick and Mouridsen, which is mostly due to the higher volume of questions they receive.
Otherwise you’ve got the Full Access Forum which is often used by members to post customer-support related questions or thoughts about the full access portion of the website.
The Lesson Q and A forum is another section frequently monitored by Schlegel himself and is a great place to post general guitar or theory-related questions that have to do with specific Guitar Tricks lessons.
Everything in the Song Request forum is dedicated to allowing users to request certain song tutorials.
Requests seem to be added here on a daily basis, so it’s not meant to be a “post-it-and-get-it” type of system. Rather, if a large number of people consistently request a certain band or piece of music, that item will get moved to the top of Guitar Tricks’ priority list.
While there are always licensing issues that can’t be predicated, it’s nice to see that Guitar Tricks is willing to listen and be responsive to their community.
25. The Guitar Tricks iPad App
The Guitar Tricks iPad app is a content portal that delivers all of what you can get (with either a full or free trial account) on the regular webpage.
In terms of lessons and material, nothing is stripped down.
The interface looks different than the web version, which we’ll discuss later, but the functionality and content is all exactly the same. Though the app is free to download, don’t get confused that you’re getting a free or “light” version of Guitar Tricks.
Without a regular membership, the app, though free, doesn’t do you any good.
One of the app’s primary strengths is the simplicity of the user interface. There’s no ambiguity when it comes to figuring out where to go for a particular kind of content.
When you open the app you’re automatically taken to the “dashboard” which consists of the following menu items:
- I’m a Beginner
- I’m More Experienced
- I Want to Learn Songs
- Gear and Tone
It’s quite intuitive.
Deciding where you want to start is made easy by this screen, giving you two options based on difficulty (beginner and experienced) and two more options based on niche studying (songs and gear), all of which is reflected on the regular web page as well.
Let’s start with the “I’m a Beginner” section.
The “I’m a Beginner” block takes you straight to the familiar Core Learning System flow chart:
It’s a clear, straightforward way to get started, with a subtle gray background and clearly visible active options that are highlighted in red with white text.
At the bottom of this page you’ll have three more options for beginners:
- Songs Made Easy
- Practice for Beginners
- Tuning & Guitar Maintenance
The “Songs Made Easy” page is simply a collection of beginner songs from Guitar Trick’s repertoire of song lessons.
The Songs Made Easy home page is laid out in rows, for each song, and columns with the following information:
- Song Title
- Band or Artist
All the columns are sortable and clearly identifiable.
The Practice for Beginners tab takes you to a similar page, with only three lessons. One of the lessons is on finger warm-ups, while the other two are focused on helping to establish a practice routine.
Finally, the Tuning & Guitar Maintenance tab provides basic how-to on stringing and tuning your guitar, with separate content for acoustic and electric players.
These last two tabs feel a little bit out of place, and it’s hard to tell whether or not this is content that you will also get if you go through the Guitar Fundamentals course. On the surface, this appears to give you the opportunity to go through a quick intro with the Practice for Beginners and Tuning & Guitar Maintenance tabs, or to jump into a more lengthy process with the Core Learning System.
Slight ambiguity aside, it’s nice to have options.
The “More Experienced” Section
If you go back to the homepage and click the “I‘m More Experienced” button, you’ll be taken to the familiar Core Learning System flowchart, but now with the first two fundamentals courses blocked out in gray, and the other six blues, country and rock courses available to you, now displayed in red.
Once again you’ll have tabs at the bottom of your screen. This time there are five extra options.
Styles, Techniques, Artist Studies, Practice and Chords & Scales are all available if you choose to not filter your lessons by sticking to the Core Learning System.
That’s essentially what these tabs are; a way to filter the lessons you want to take.
For example, the styles tab greats you with a list of 12 different styles via the following screen:
Once you choose a style, you’re taken to a lessons page that’s presented the same way as the others, with a lesson title, focus, difficulty level and instructor photo.
The rest of the tabs function the same way.
The Techniques tab takes you straight to the lesson grid and breaks up content within that page. The following topics are covered:
- Alternate Picking
- Bending - Country
- Bending - Rock
- Finger Picking
- Hammer-ons and Pull-offs
- Harmonics - Pinch and Natural
- Hybrid Picking
- Left Hand
- Palm Muting
- Slide - Bottleneck
- Strumming - Basic
- Strumming - Boom-Chick
- Sweep Picking
- Touch Technique
- Whammy Bar
As you can see, this is incredibly thorough. It is a bit odd that you’ve got things like strumming and palm muting in the advanced section of the app.
Though I wouldn’t say this is a detraction or a problem in any way.
A bit strange, but not a significant cause for concern.
The practice tab here is setup the same as the techniques tab. However, it does contain a “Beginner” section, which has more content than the practice tab in the “I’m a Beginner” portion of the app.
Again, it’s a bit curious. But not a problem if you don’t mind a bit of iPad scrolling.
Practice tips for blues, country, rock, a couple other genres and some general practice and warm-up help are all included.
Learn Songs and the Gear Sections
The last two home page buttons are fairly simple, so we’ll just spend a few paragraphs on them.
Let's start with the "Learn Songs" section.
When you click on this box, you’ll be taken to the following screen:
You then have four different ways to filter the song lessons, again in keeping with the main Guitar Tricks website:
- Top Hits
- Beginner Songs
- Master List
The style tab and master list were the two filters that I found the most useful. It’s a lot of fun to just pull up the master list and scroll through songs until you see something you recognize, which won’t take long considering how much content they have.
The gear page is simply a list of lessons that addresses topics and instruction relating to tone, sound and setting up your gear.
Lessons included in both these sections are sorted and presented in the same manner as the “I’m a Beginner” and “I’m More Advanced” sections.
The iPad Lesson Interface
All of these categories and filters essentially lead you to the same spot.
A video lesson.
And video lessons on the Guitar Tricks iPad app are all presented in a format that looks like this:
The lesson page is built around the Guitar Tricks video player, with two options on the left-hand side of your screen, lesson text and lesson series.
You’re usually greeted by an introductory video for each series.
Lesson text is a short summary of the lesson, while the lesson series shows you all of the different videos contained in the series, allowing you to pick whichever one you might want to view. So be aware that one lesson doesn’t usually equal one video. It’s often closer to ten separate videos. Though the interface is intuitive and easy to navigate.
The video player is also quick, glitch free and responsive to the iPad’s touch screen.
No complaints there.
If there are applicable tabs or diagrams, they’ll be displayed in the space below the video where you see the sheet music notation.
Note the videos listed on the left side of this screenshot.
Other things to make mention of:
A full screen option, 15-second rewind function and the option to slow down the video via a button labeled “1x” to the left of the progress bar.
The lesson page does a good job of providing you the information you need without feeling overwhelming is distracting.
Videos seem to fit into the background of the rest of the page and appear to be very much a part of their surroundings in the app, making for an overall pleasant viewing experience.
Overall, the Guitar Tricks iPad app does a great job of capturing the feel and convenience of the website and making it functional on a smaller device. It's a fantastic add on to an already solid product.
26. The Final Verdict
What’s the overall verdict for our Guitar Tricks review?
Before we give it a final grade, let’s talk about some of the weak and strong spots first.
27. The Weak Areas: Providing depth of niche guitar topics (vertical content)
Guitar Tricks falls a bit short when it comes to content depth.
As I mentioned earlier, you’ll get a wide range of topics at the expense of a shallower drill-down into each one.
Those looking for a deeper lane into specific topics, especially pertaining to music theory, might be disappointed.
Another notable area of frustration is the fact that you need to cancel the free trial or automatically be funneled into a full access membership. While this is standard practice for many sites that offer free trials, Guitar Tricks adds a little mud by requiring that you email support staff.
Again, there’s no risk, since you’re backed up by the 60-day refund policy.
However, it does feel as though you give up some control when you sign on for the trial.
Making this process simpler, in a number of ways, would be a major plus.
28. The Strong Areas: Providing online guitar courses for beginners (horizontal content)
The layout and scope of Guitar Tricks’ content is perfect for those who want to get into a system quickly and start playing guitar as soon as possible.
There’s room to grow and the content isn’t all just for beginners.
However, the ideal member, those who I’d bet would be most happy with their membership, will be on the beginner’s side of the guitar looking for a time-sensitive way to learn.
This is where Guitar Tricks excels, and in that regard, they've created some of the best intro level guitar courses that are available online.
Moreover, they’re able to get well-organized content in front of you that spans a wide range of guitar styles and topics.
If that’s your game plan, this site is a far better deal than in-person tutoring, even at the higher $19.95/month price tag.
Have an experience using Guitar Tricks that you’d like to share?
Perhaps a bone to pick with my Guitar Tricks review?
All is fair in my inbox, so feel free to get in touch with me directly.
Keep it kosher.
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