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Best Guitar Lessons for Learning Cover Songs
Guitar Tricks Song Lessons Section
Without a ton of competition, Guitar Tricks' song section is one of the best available, offering fully-licensed tutorial videos that break songs down into steps and walks you through every note. If cover songs are a priority, they're an easy top recommendation.
Learning covers songs is one of the biggest perks of learning an instrument like the guitar.
You go from simply listening to the music you love to being able to join in and participate, while still improving you guitar skills. In this article we're looking at guitar lesson programs online - both free and paid - that are exceptionally good at teaching you cover songs by famous artists and bands.
To aggregate these resources, we looked for lessons with some of the following qualities:
- Instructor-led breakdown of songs
- Detailed and licensed tab sheets
- Different sections/videos for different parts of a song
- Lots of popular artists and bands to choose from
- Single paywall or free (more on that later)
All the lessons we're recommending have at least a couple of these qualities. They're the best guitar lessons available for learning songs and getting good at cover tunes.
Additionally, they can apply to a wide range of skill levels and styles.
Everything is fair game and a lot of fun when you just get to jam with some of your favorite music.
Our pick for
Paid Video Song Lessons
1. Guitar Tricks Song Lessons
IDEAL SKILL LEVEL
Guitar Tricks is one of the best online lesson programs overall, but their song section is second to none. All of their music is licensed, plus they have more of it than any other website. In 2020 they crossed the 1000 song threshold and continue to add to their song and cover content on a regular basis. They have tons of popular bands and artists represented, giving you plenty of content to explore regardless of your musical taste. All song lessons are broken down into sections and instructors lead you through the music note-for-note.
- Songs broken down in sections
- Lots of artists/genres
- Entirely licensed with tabs
- Largest video song lesson library on the internet
- No Soundslice
- Over 1000 song lessons
- Usually between five and 10 videos per song
- 14 day free trial available with credit card
- Cancel before 60 days (after the free trial) for a refund
- Tabs included (digital copy)
- Content regularly added
Our pick for
Free Video Song Lessons
2. Justinguitar's Song Lesson Section
(as of Feb, 2021)
IDEAL SKILL LEVEL
Justin Sandercoe has put together the single largest repository of free guitar lessons, dating all the way back to the late '90s when he got started. To date, this includes a staggering 561 song lessons, all available for free on his site and YouTube. While he doesn't always include tabs and most of the content is shot in one take (not broken up), it's a fantastic resource for those looking to get into the cover song game without having to pay.
- Completely free
- Tons of songs
- Plenty of classic rock covered
- Justin is a fantastic teacher
- Licensing situation isn't clear
- Tabs not always included
- Plenty of filter options for artist and skill level
- Over 500 total song lessons
- New lessons shot in 4k
- Not all music is licensed
- Justin Sandercoe is the primary instructor for the material
Our pick for
Songs with Lots of Course Options
3. JamPlay's Song Lessons
IDEAL SKILL LEVEL
Though JamPlay has paired down their song section in recent years, it's still one of the better sources of instructional videos for learning guitar cover songs. At the time of writing this article, they were at 358 songs, which suggest they've let some of their licensing rights run out. While the future of their focus on cover song material remains unclear, their course material is some of the best in the game, and certainly gives you a place to go after you've gone through the song material that interests you.
- Wide range of songs and styles covered
- TONS of supplemental content with song lessons, including Guitar Pro files
- Camera angles in new vids are awesome
- New videos shot in 4k look great
- Not as much content as Guitar Tricks or Justinguitar
Our pick for
Tabs Instead of Video
4. Ultimate Guitar Pro Membership
Not given a full rating
IDEAL SKILL LEVEL
If you don't care as much about the tutorial videos and would rather go straight to the tabs, Ultimate Guitar's Pro membership is one of our top recommendations. It's only $40 per year and essentially upgrades your existing Ultimate Guitar community membership to a "Pro" account, which gives you access to a massive database of premium tabs, delivered in an interactive Guitar Pro-style format with a backing MIDI track. You can read more about Ultimate Guitar Pro here.
- Great price
- Every song imaginable
- MIDI playback on all tabs
- Multiple instrument tracks
- Interactive tab sheet
- None if you don't mind going without video tutorials
- Integrates with existing UG membership
- Works on all devices
- Tabs are presented in a full sheet music format
- Staff monitors Pro versions of tabs
Finding Real Cover Song Lessons
Teaching a full song, the right way, actually takes a lot of time and attention.
That's why it can be hard to find legitimate cover song lessons by teachers that have gone through the work of getting it right. It's also another reason that song lessons aren't often free, outside of the creator resources on YouTube (more on YouTube later).
Let's look at a few markers that tell you if a channel, website, or membership site has done the heavy lifting of producing real cover song lessons.
It is technically illegal to use or display licensed music in any capacity, without licensing.
That's why for a long time you would hear restaurants singing a weird version of happy birthday. Around 2017 that changed - thankfully.
But almost all popular music is licensed, which means using it requires you pay a licensing fee.
The guitar lesson sites that do this have access to accurate tablature and tend to be more polished and professional in their presentation. While plenty of sites still display tabs without licensing, it's something that we like to see because it means the creators/lesson producers have gone through the trouble of legally and correctly display the music at hand.
Most of the sites that provide good song lessons will have some form of membership access, like Guitar Tricks or JamPlay. Even the free sites will have a membership option, perhaps with extra perks like a progress tracker.
We also see sites that have free access to content or a free "version" of their site. Justinguitar is completely free with a membership option (which is still free), while Ultimate Guitar has a community account and a paid or Pro account.
It's a good idea to verify the type of music and the artists included in any guitar lesson program claiming to teach songs. For example, some programs will offer song lessons that don't include any content from popular artists, or restrict it only to public domain music.
This music isn't necessarily bad or not worth your time, but it's just much older than most of the music you're used to listening to or would like to learn.
Paywall Policies and Things to Watch For
As I've reviewed and written about guitar lesson programs over the years, I've noticed that some programs use licensed song lessons as a method of adding a second paywall to their content.
This means you pay for a "regular" membership to get access to the non-song lessons, but then pay for a premium account - costing more - before you get access to any songs.
Here are a couple places that we've seen do this in the past:
While it doesn't mean these programs are bad or wrong for what they're doing, it does add an extra layer of cost that the programs we've mentioned don't require.
Places to Avoid
With that in mind, here are a few places that we'd recommend avoiding, if song lessons are your priority:
- Professional Guitar Masterclass
- Guitar Center lessons
- School of Rock lessons
- Skype or Zoom lessons from Takelessons
These are resources that we generally don't recommend anyway. Either they make you pay more to learn songs, don't include songs at all, cost too much, or are simply not as well structured as other options.
What about YouTube?
YouTube is a viable resource when it comes to learning guitar and cover songs.
The problem is that it's hard to get it all in one spot because of the way YouTube is structured. Depending on the channel, you'll have different songs taught in different ways, with varying levels of accuracy and effectiveness.
This makes it hard to recommend YouTube in a broad sense.
However, there are a handful of channels that are extremely good at teaching guitar and cover songs specifically.
We've already mentioned that Justin Sandercoe's content is all hosted on YouTube, but here are a few more channels we'd recommend checking out.
Does licensing matter?
What about having songs licensed? Does that actually matter?
As I mentioned earlier, it's more of a legal issue on the side of the content creator. There's zero implication for you watching or learning from unlicensed content, but it does take away the main filter for making sure content creators are using accurate notation.
Licensing means the creators is paying for the material themselves, meaning they're more motivated to produce an accurate tutorial and fully explain the song.
In other words, licensing can matter and it's nice to see.
However, creators can still publish a decent song lesson without licensing.
There are a ton of content creators and guitar teachers that create great song lessons without licensing. It just stands to reason that if you're going to pay for lessons, it's reassuring to know the group you're paying went through the trouble to do it right.
If you're after a solid, video-based guitar lesson resource that focuses on songs, it's going to be hard to do better than Guitar Tricks or Justinguitar. This gives you two top recommendation - one free and one paid.
- Guitar Tricks (paid membership)
- Justinguitar (free)
For those having trouble deciding, you might checkout our comparison of the two programs. We've seen some reviewers trying to make the case that Justinguitar isn't as good as Guitar Tricks, since Justinguitar is free.
We definitely do not agree with this.
Both are good resources for learning songs, and it'll likely come down to personal preference or which site has songs that you're more interested in learning.
If you have questions about those sites or the other recommendations we've made, feel free to get in touch via the comments section below.
I'll do my best to help out.
See you there.