Guitar Chalk focuses on four topical pillars, the first of which is online guitar lessons and music education. A huge part of what we do is centered around providing high-quality online content that teaches the guitar with plenty of thorough and in-depth material, ultimately giving you a broad and comprehensive explanation of whatever topic is being covered. This piece is our central core containing all the content, outside of Guitar Chalk, that gives you a clear, complete and thorough overview of guitar-related topics.
These are the online guitar lessons we're familiar with and can vouch for. We believe they are the absolute best available. Some are affiliates, some are not. In our humble opinion, they're all great choices.
Paid Online Guitar Lessons
Free guitar lessons are often fantastic and we'll cover them shortly.
But, there's little to refute the cliche that you get what you pay for.
This is true even in the music education industry, which (these days) is loaded with free content.
Moreover, online video has drastically shifted the way we approach our education.
Video-based online guitar lessons have become one of the primary ways by which people are learning the instrument. It has, in large part, replaced the traditional tutoring-style guitar lesson approach.
For this format, the top options are clear cut and well-established.
We'll provide an overview and inside look into each one.
Current Black Friday Deal: Free guitar plus full one year membership
Guitar Tricks got started way back in 1998 and they're still the absolute best in the business when it comes to video-based online guitar lessons and courses.
They simply have the most resources and highest-quality content, hands down and are particularly strong when it comes to providing organized guitar lessons for beginners.
Guitar Tricks Quick Stats
- Price: $19.95 per month or $179 per year
- Free trial: Yes, 14 days
- Members: 2 million+
- Lessons: 11000+
- Song Tutorials: 600+
- Refund Period: Yes, 60 days guaranteed
The lessons are categorized into primarily four sections.
Here's a sample lesson from Anders Mouriden, one of our favorite GT instructors.
The four sections of the Guitar Tricks online guitar lessons and courses. (View Larger Image)
Within each section you'll have a variety of courses and lessons to choose from, totaling over 11,000 videos, not counting the song tutorials.
If you don't want to use the skill-based categories to sort content, you can sort courses and videos according to individual styles, some of which have more or less content depending on their popularity. For example, the "blues" style has a lot of material while the "surf" and "flamenco" categories are a little more sparse.
Bobby covers the full membership in his Guitar Tricks review going into as much detail as possible about the courses, topics covered and the other tools offered to full access members.
As of right now, there's nothing that comes close to competing with the amount of resources they provide.
JamPlay is the second-largest online guitar lesson video website, with over 5000 on-Demand lessons and an additional collection of song tutorials.
The song tutorials section is similar to what Guitar Tricks offers, though JamPlay has the added benefit of certain songs being taught by actual professional musicians and artists.
For example, Stand's Mike Mushok takes you through all the Staind songs JamPlay offers, and he's just one of many "artist" teachers that make an appearance on the site.
Others include Bumblefoot, Joel Kosche, Tosin Abasi, Lita Ford and more.
JamPlay Quick Stats
- Price: $14.96/month
- Promo code? Yes, 1BA1E2 for 25% off first month or 33C6CE for 10% off all memberships
- Free trial: Yes, 7 days
- Members: 465k+
- Lessons: 5100+
- Song Tutorials: 500+
- Refund period: 7 days after initial purchase
While Guitar Tricks is designed with a broader focus, with more guitar lessons for beginners, JamPlay provides more nuanced material that often appeals to the advanced guitarist.
However, both sites have material that spans the entire spectrum of skill and ability.
JamPlay also has a more diverse list of signup and pricing options, allowing you to pay monthly, quarterly or with two different yearly plans.
Here's a look at their lesson covering how to play "Shine" by Collective Soul.
JamPlay's pricing system. (View Larger Image)
Similar to Guitar Tricks, content and lessons can be sorted by skill level, technique or genre.
JamPlay Lesson Sorting
- Skill level
- Style or musical genre
JamPlay has an additional section for all their artist-taught courses, as well as live lessons.
Other features include a section for bass players (which is actually a separate membership), a ton of jam tracks (available depending on what kind of membership you buy) and a reporting system that helps you track your progress.
Between the two, we typically opt for Guitar Tricks because of their reputation and organization.
However, both options are solid if you prefer the video learning method.
Not only does TrueFire have a massive amount of content but, they stand out from both Guitar Tricks and JamPlay in terms of how they price it.
While the expected monthly and yearly membership options are available, you can actually buy single courses one at a time and download them as standalone products. This is not possible with the other two sites we've looked at.
TrueFire did a promo code for us that gives you 30% off either your first download or enrollment in the annual program. Just use CHALK30.
Membership essentially gives you unfettered access to all the material, though it's nice that you have the option to avoid a monthly cost if you want to.
Moreover, the TrueFire content is so thorough that you might be better off taking it one course at a time.
Take the Steve Vai course referenced in the above photo. It includes all of the following materials:
- 21 PDF Charts
- 11 MP3 Jam Tracks
- 21 Guitar Tabs (Guitar Pro files)
- 4 hours and 59 minutes of video
- Total download size of 3.5 GB
This is a lot of material to get through and absolutely worth the $34 asking price.
For those needing assistance in a specific area, TrueFire can probably get it to you for a one-time fee and still keep you busy for awhile.
If you look at just the rock category, there are several pages of courses similar to the Vai offering we highlighted.
For any one category TrueFire offers a littany of courses and material. (View Larger Image)
Learning paths and a robust sorting system are provided to add some organization to all the material.
However, each course is, in and of itself, its own learning path that can be followed in a linear line before moving onto the next course.
Account creation is free and comes with a 30 day free trial, giving you access to all the site's resources, namely the following:
- 25,000+ lessons
- 11,000 + tabs & notation
- 7000+ jam tracks
- Free trial: Yes, 30 days
It's plenty of good-quality material to keep you busy for a long time, so give the free trial a shot and explore some of the courses.
30 days gives you plenty of time to build some new skills and improve.
ArtistWorks focus on a variety of musical instruments, with specific teachers and sections of their website devoted to each individual discipline.
For the guitar, they have nine different teachers that cover the following styles:
The entire platform, regardless of instrument or style, is heavily based on interactive online learning, meaning you'll actually interface, communicate and work with the instructors for each individual course.
For example, in the rock course you'll get feedback from Paul Gilbert and be able to communicate with him as you work through the material.
Your ArtistWorks profile page where you can use the video exchange. (View Larger Image)
The courses taught by Gilbert and other instructors are structured similarly to what you'll see in the other websites, with a video player and course navigation window that allows you to move quickly through the lessons.
Video player and course navigation window in Paul Gilbert's rock course. (View Larger Image)
The content and courses are excellent, at least for the rock guitar course (which Bobby covered in his ArtistWorks review, extensively), though the hallmark feature has to be the fact that you actually get feedback and help from Gilbert himself.
This makes ArtistWorks unique and gets you closer to the feel of a tutoring relationship instead of an impersonal video and computer screen.
Plans and pricing are similar to other sites and depend primarily on the length of time you sign up for.
ArtistWorks pricing system. (View Larger Image)
Basically you choose an individual course, then a length of time you'll pay for that particular course.
If you prefer the personal interaction of in-person lessons with the convenience and flexibility of online content delivery, ArtistWorks gets closer to a happy medium between those two scenarios than any of the other sites we've looked at.
Guitar Gate ( via Michael Palmisano)
A look at Michael Palmisano's Guitar Gate. (View Larger Image)
Guitar Gate's creator, Michael Palmisano, is a friend of Guitar Chalk and someone that we can vouch for, both professionally and personally.
His courses are all hosted on Guitar Gate, which he continuously updates with new content and course material. His classes are some of the most comprehensive and complete online guitar lesson offerings available. We consistently recommend them, especially for those looking to get a little more theory and technical instruction.
Why We Like It
Michael, a formally educated guitarist who has taught/worked with over 70,000 guitar students, has intentionally focused on practical fretboard navigation and music theory.
He teaches guitar in a way that doesn't just show you mechanical movement, but also gives you a truly foundational understanding of the instrument.
In short, Michael will teach you all the placement and structural issues (chords, scales, modes, inversions, etc.) but also, and more importantly, how to apply those topics in a practical way.
His primary Guitar Gate course is a 136 lecture package which includes the following:
- 7.5 hours on-demand HD video
- 2 hours on-demand audio
- Access on mobile, TV and other devices
The Popularity of Michael's Course
As mentioned, we know Michael personally and have used his courses first hand, which is why we're comfortable recommending it. However, we should also cite the tremendous success and popularity it has had, as it was previously hosted on Udemy.
For example, he was the second course that came up when you searched for "guitar."
The Professional Guitar Masterclass is one of the best available on Udemy. (View Larger Image)
You'll also notice that his course had a ton of enrollment and received almost exclusively "glowing" reviews from students who have taken his class.
Michael's course has enrolled nearly 20k students. (View Larger Image)
And the student feedback:
Michael's ability to teach is every bit as remarkable as his skill on the guitar. To create good courses and help guitar students succeed, you've got to have both.
You can actually browse through the entire curriculum for the course before you take it, that way you can get a feel for the exact topics that are covered.
The cost for the course is only $9.99 per month, which gives you access to all the content as well as instructor feedback from Michael.
Free Online Guitar Lessons
It's never going to be true that free content can equate to paid resources, especially not the guitar lessons previously mentioned.
As you've seen, the scope and detail of paid content is hard to beat, particularly if you're talking about a video format.
However, there's a lot of free guitar lesson content out there, and what it might lack in quality and organization, it makes up for in sheer quantity and the likelihood that specific songs, techniques or theoretical topics are covered somewhere, by somebody.
We've curated some of our favorite content from these places, all of which is completely free of charge and accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
Let's start with the most obvious medium - YouTube.
YouTube Channels We Like
It's getting to the point where you can find just about anything on YouTube.
However, the problem is that a lot of information doesn't always equal helpful or good-quality information.
Most of the time YouTube is a matter of sifting through a lot of weeds before finding good fruit that's ripe for the picking.
Even the good channels are limited in terms of how much content they can produce and what issues or questions they might address. This is even more true now because of the limited monetization methods available to those who run a YouTube channel.
However, the channels listed here, when they do publish videos, are almost always worth a watch, even if they might not address your specific question.
Check them out and subscribe to a few. They're all worth the effort.
TrueFire's YouTube Channel
There's a ton of really in-depth and professional-level material on TrueFire's YouTube channel, where a good chunk of the instructional content runs anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour. Steve Vai's lesson on "For the Love of God" is a particularly good example of how well TrueFire structures and presents their content.
Ben Eller’s channel has enough instructional material to keep you busy for a long time. Ideal for the speedster or heavy, rock lead guitar player, Eller’s content is largely delivered in the form of workshops and technique demonstration. The “This is Why You Suck” series seems to be the most popular.
Known for his YouTube tutorials, many of which show you how to accurately play complex solos, Chris Zoupa also plays guitar for the band Bellusira.
Karl Golden’s channel is more of a showcase then actual instruction (lots of covers) but, he’s one of the best in that regard with a fascinating and inspiring collection of work, cover songs and original music.
I can’t really vouch for LickLibrary's other products since I’ve no experience with them. But the YouTube channel they keep is robust, with lots of great instructional content and lick demos.
One of the planet’s most popular guitar magazines is no slouch when it comes to their YouTube offerings. Interviews, lessons, gear demos, covers - Guitar World does it all.
Cesar Huesca is masterful when it comes to tracking solos and producing great covers. He's got some good instructional material as well.
The main reason I like the Premier Guitar channel is because of their Rig Rundown videos. Somehow they seem to get to nearly every notable guitarist’s rig with an in-person explanation and demo of the gear they’re using. Sometimes it’s done by a guitar tech, but often the artist will give the interview themselves.
This guy doesn’t have much notoriety, though as of the last time we checked he had over 330,000 YouTube subscribers. He covers some really in-depth topics with tabs to accompany.
Colin, a long-time YouTuber (2006) and guitarist from the UK, puts out excellent content focusing primarily on gear, but touching on most all guitar-related topics.
Free Online Guitar Lessons
YouTube is all well and good, but what about "real" online guitar lessons?
Is there anything good that also happens to be free and maybe a bit more organized and formal?
While we've yet to find anything that reaches the caliber of something like TrueFire or Guitar Tricks, you can get to a happy medium between that and the chaos that is the world of YouTube.
Typically you'll find quality, free guitar classes online in one of the following mediums:
- Blogs or online magazines
- Free education resources (iTunes U or Khanacademy)
- Non-membership websites
For example, Guitar World magazine (not surprisingly) has a website, which has a blog portion. This blog regularly publishes lessons and guitar-related content, like Bobby's column.
Now, it's not a full course and usually not a series that comprehensively covers a topic, but they're guitar lessons, nonetheless.
We'll cover that and a few other free options.
We know Guitar World for their magazine, but their blog (which costs you nothing to read) is chock full of thorough music instruction as well as some of the best online guitar tutorials from a myriad of contributors.
Justin Sandercoe may have been one of the first people to establish a free online guitar-learning resource.
Not only that, but he’s an excellent teacher, who didn’t just get lucky by being one of the first people on the scene. Every lesson is accompanied with a video that’s intuitive and well-filmed, while the content is relevant, detailed and aptly explained.
He’s one of the originals and still one of the best.
Though it’s a relatively young site, SongNotes is devoted to high-quality guitar tabs for popular songs, meant to be a more palatable alternative to the user-submitted stuff that is so common everywhere else.
It’s nothing short of refreshing to spend time looking up tabs on this site, despite the fact that its inventory is far lower than most.
Bold Music is a thriving local company based in Charlotte North Carolina that pairs students with music instructors for a wide range of instruments including electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, bass and a slew of others. It’s a great resource for pinning down one-on-one lessons, either locally (in the Charlotte area) or remotely anywhere in the country.
Musika is a website that helps to pair you up with real music teachers in your own locale for just about any kind of instrument, guitar included.
They’ve been up and running for over 13 years (at the time of writing this) and can facilitate a number of a different lesson formats.
Just search for a teacher and book a free trial. It's a great resource for music students of all kinds.
Nate Savage is another veteran of online guitar lessons who lucked out with perhaps the most coveted guitar lesson URL in existence.
That said, he’s a solid teacher with lots of great content on both his website and YouTube channel.
It’s exactly what it sounds like.
A bare bones website dedicated to teaching music theory. No videos or anything, but just a lot of explaining about something we could all use more of.
There’s no cost, whatsoever.
Hub guitar was developed by a Berklee online guitar teacher, beginning in 2011 and has since amassed a library of over 500 professionally-shot guitar lesson videos. It's currently (somehow) free, in exchange for an email signup, and extremely thorough.
This one is an absolute diamond in the rough.
Khanacademy does have a music section that’s somewhat hidden under the arts and humanities category. While it doesn’t offer full online guitar lessons, specifically, you’ll still get some good information on music theory and formal education topics that can be helpful for any musician.
Guitar-Related Academic References from Colleges and Universities
As often as possible, we try to cite our sources and often use .edu articles and content to do so. Nearly all of this content is free and extremely thorough, often put together by music professors or graduate students who are well-versed in music generally, if not guitar specifically. Whenever we come across something worthwhile, we add it to this section of recommendations.
Chords and Scales
Intervals and Pitch
Topical Content: What Should
Be Covered & Where to Find It
Online guitar lessons vary rather wildly in terms of what they cover and to what extent a given topic might be explained.
However, there are a handful of topics that you should look for and expect to see in any decent guitar lesson program, particularly as it relates to beginner material. Most of the sites we've mentioned cover these topics in one form or another.
This is why we, in most cases, refrain from writing basic how-tos on the topics mentioned in this section. In most cases, they've already been aptly covered and re-writing instructional material on them would be redundant and unhelpful.
Instead, we've set aside this section to focus on providing specific places where you can go for this information, places that we believe do the best job of covering the given topic.
How to Read Tabs and Diagrams
Justin Sandercoe's page on this topic covers how to read both chord diagrams and guitar tabs, giving you graphics, a written explanation and video. While the graphics look a bit outdated, the information is easily understood and effectively delivered by Justin, via the video portion of his lesson.
How to Hold a Guitar
Nate Savage provides a quick video and explanation of how to hold a guitar while sitting, standing and even the proper classical guitar stance. More recently, he has moved his site (which is quite popular) to a membership pay system, similar to Guitar Tricks, so a lot of his material is now behind a pay wall. From what we can tell, the link leads to a video that's part of his "Beginner Quick Start Series" which is still part of the site's free content.
How to Tune a Guitar
Fender provides three videos for tuning an electric, acoustic and bass guitar, as well as online guitar tuners for each. There are a lot of places you can get this information, but we think Fender does the best job of presenting and categorizing it, while also giving you a fairly decent online tuning app.
How to Re-String a Guitar
This fellow by the name of "Ed" takes you through all the basics of restringing your guitar in his Guitar World column. This video by Martin Guitars is 16 minutes long as does a good job of explaining how to tune, along with some of the nuanced issues that come up when tuning an acoustic guitar.
Chords and Rhythm Guitar
There are a ton of fantastic resources for learning rhythm guitar. Chords are particularly well-covered.
This is especially true if you're just looking for chord diagrams. Those things are everywhere, though some sites do a better job of curating and presenting them than others.
Here are a few resources we'd recommend for chords and rhythm guitar learning, in general:
- Guitar Tricks HTML5 Chord Diagrams
- 8Notes Chord Charts
- JustinGuitar Chord Charts
- TrueFire Ultimate Chord Chart
- The Chord Wheel
- The Guitar Chord Bible by Phil Capone
- Picture Chord Encyclopedia with 2600 Guitar Chords
These all cover chords in a broad and general sense.
If you're looking for a more specific resource, here are a few that answer some of the most common rhythm guitar lesson-related questions.
Learning the CAGED System: first open chords & Understanding the Fretboard
The CAGED system helps you do two things. First, it helps you understand the structure of the fretboard more clearly, which is what Steve Stine's article is focused on.
Second, it gives you some of the most common and beginner-friendly open guitar chords in existence. This above article by Premier Guitar does a good job of highlighting those at the beginning of the article.
How to Build Chord Progressions
Bobby covers all the basics and theory related to building chord progressions in the 27 chord progression article.
Strumming and Keeping Time
Nate Savage delivers once again with a quick but thorough piece on strumming patterns and rhythm.
Scales, Modes and Lead Guitar
Scales and modes are often a little tougher to nail down without paying for a structured course.
You can learn a lot about scales and modes, in an informational sense whereas soloing, improvising and applied lead technique will require more in-depth study and perhaps a comprehensive tutorial.
However, for basic guitar scale memorization, you've got plenty of options.
Here are a few:
- GuitarOrb.com: Six of the Most Common Guitar Scales
- All-Guitar-Chords.com Scale Generator App
- Justin Sandercoe's Scale Starter Page
- Matthew Warnock's Pentatonic Scale Guide
- TrueFire's Free Guitar Scales Guide
Here are some resources that address more specific questions about scales and lead guitar.
How to Read Scale Diagrams
Quickly, and with plenty of pictures, CyberFret.com takes us through how to read horizontal guitar scale diagrams.
The Minor Pentatonic Scale
Sandercoe comes through for us again, providing diagrams, tabs, audio and a video lesson for the commonly used minor pentatonic scale.
The Major Pentatonic Scale
Same goes for the major pentatonic, as Sandercoe provides a video and graphics covering several of the most common patterns.
Learning Songs and Covers
This is an area where the internet has been, perhaps, the most helpful.
Those wanting to cover particular songs or just find an inspirational video of someone else, can do so with little effort.
YouTube gives us the most access to resources for learning songs and/or finding other people who have already done so. In fact, it's extremely common to see a song title followed by "cover" as a search term in YouTube.
And in almost every case, assuming the song in question is reasonably well-known, it'll return a lot of results to pick from.
What about guitar tabs?
For covering songs or reading tabs, we always recommend that you find a tab with audio and a proper time signature.
In fact, text-based tab sheets are something we recommend avoiding entirely, and are ourselves moving away from, even for displaying short, simple instructional material on Guitar Chalk.
A good tab sheet should have the following information:
- Tempo (bpm)
- Time signature (4/4, 3/4, etc.)
- Accompanying audio (plays in time with the tab sheet)
- Accurate musical timing measures and tab quavers
When tabs were first developed, most of them used a Courier font form that you would typically find at sites like Ultimate-Guitar and Tab Crawler.
Nothing against those sites, but the tabs they display are much harder to read and, musically, incomplete.
The difference is pretty easy to spot.
Here's the good one.
And now the not so good one:
Again, this is not meant to offend or put down those who produce (or use) these tabs. But, the tabs are incomplete and not as easy to use as the ones that adhere to the conventions of actual music notation.
Our recommendation to you is to find tabs that include the features highlighted in the first graphic, as well as an accompanying audio track.
Here are a few places you can find these kinds of tabs:
Jelly Note and Songsterr are the most readily available options, the better of the two being Songsterr, simply because it's more "free" and has a lot more songs catalogued.
Despite being free to use, the following features are locked from non-premium Songterr users:
- Change tempo of song (speed up or slow down)
- Loop portions of track
- Print notation
Your other option is the Guitar Pro software, which can display tab files with the .GPX extension. Whatever notes are displayed in Guitar Pro can also be played audibly. Thus, full song files, downloaded from the website mentioned will automatically have accompanying audio and can be played/edited in the Guitar Pro software.
The files are free (GTPTabs is a third-party website) but, the software requires a license after 30 days which you can get for a $75 one-time fee.
Still, it's worth it to have quality tabs that are properly displayed and can have the tempo adjusted.
You can download the Guitar Pro software suite to get started.
Other Resources for Easy Guitar Songs and Tabs
Recommended Guitar Books
Most books have been removed from this section because of licensing issues, though we're beginning to add them back slowly.
There are a lot of great guitar and music education books out there, most of which are now available both on and offline, which is why we're including printed books in the online guitar lessons roundup.
A lot of what makes a "good" guitar book is, of course, going to depend on your situation, what you're trying to learn and how you want to learn it.
Another thing to keep in mind is that guitar books are rarely a "read straight through" type of deal.
You're far more likely to use a guitar book as a reference, kind of like a programmer would look up code or syntax to perform certain tasks. Most of the books in your library should serve in the same kind of way.
With that in mind, these are the books we'd recommend, filtered by topic and intended audience.
General Guitar Books
Written by Guitar Chalk's founder, Bobby Kittleberger, the Plain English Guide to Music Theory tackles all of the theory-related topics that are most relevant to guitar players and the fretboard, in 130 pages.
The White Pages series is produced by Hal Leonard, and Bobby has a couple of these in his library. They're some of the most complete and accurate tab resources available, which you can get now in a Kindle book, slightly cheaper than the print version.
Available on Google Books
Some of these books are available to browse free via Google Books. In some cases pages will be limited (kind of like the "preview" feature in Amazon), in other cases the entire book is available. Either way, lots of fantastic resources here, particularly for citing educational material.
Hal Leonard Pocket Music Theory
A quick and easy-to-read music theory resource covering a massive amount of topical material in a relatively short page count. Hal Leonard is always top notch stuff.
Mel Bay's Rhythm Guitar Chord System
This book focuses on advanced rhythm guitar content, particularly chord extensions and unique voicings. A fantastic reference for improving as a more advanced rhythm player.
HaL Leonard's Pocket Chord DIctionary
Also in the "Pocket" series from Hal Leonard, this reference is for chord arrangements, diagrams and scale degrees.
Your Thoughts and Questions
We've built and will continue to maintain this as our primary directive and reference for online guitar lessons for beginners and up.
If you have or know of a resource that deserves inclusion in this list, in that it would be helpful to those seeking to learn guitar, please feel free to get in touch and share it with us.
Or, if you'd prefer, leave it in the comments section below.
How do we determine what is included in this list?
A resource that we include here essentially has our own personal recommendation, thus it's something that we need to be able to see and identify first hand.
Additionally, some of the bullet or "quick hit" requirements would include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Can be accessed or viewed in some kind of online medium
- Caters specifically to guitar players or to music education at large
- Provides a resource that is unique, helpful and relevant to today's guitar player
If you have something that fits these descriptors, we're happy to take a look at it and consider including it in this list.
- Ways to Learn Guitar (GuitarNiche Roundup)
Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of Kmeron
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