Updated by Danielle
Updated on May 8th, 2023
It looks like Songnotes.cc is no longer up, so we've made a note by that entry and left it up for reference. Enjoy the rest, everyone!
Playing songs is one of the most enjoyable parts of learning guitar.
In fact, when most people set out to learn guitar, it's a big part of the goal they have in mind. "Wouldn't it be awesome if I could play that song?" is a fairly common sentiment. And in our day, there are a ton of resources that can help you learn songs quicker, and easier than ever before.
In this article we're putting together a list of those online resources that help you learn songs.
All of these resources are either open source (completely free to use) or provide some free version or lite version. The only exception - as of writing this article - is Hal Leonard (more on them later).
If you have questions, feel free to drop them in the comments section below.
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1. Old School Ultimate Guitar
Check it out: Visit Ultimate Guitar
For years now, Ultimate Guitar has been one of the most complete and robust online guitar communities, particularly in regards to sharing tabs and user-generated content.
All of the user-submitted tablature in Courier font, plain text form is still available completely free.
Nearly every song imaginable is there.
2. Ultimate Guitar Pro
Read the full review: Ultimate Guitar Pro Membership
Ultimate Guitar's paid membership is called Ultimate Guitar Pro.
This is a program that provides licensed staff-created guitar tabs that are displayed in a proper, full sheet music format, just like the Guitar Pro software. It's a few bucks a month to access the Pro side, but delivers a significant upgrade over the free, user-submitted content.
Please note, either Songnotes has moved or is defunct completely. That's a bummer because it was a great site. If anyone has any info on this let us know. We'll leave this up for reference.
Check it out: Songnotes.cc
After David Potsiadlo built up Songnotes.cc with a lot of great guitar tabs and music resources, he moved a lot of his effort over to his YouTube channel, which is also quite good.
Both resources are excellent places to learn songs, especially if you're looking for a more thorough and organized tab resource.
David's site is clean, inviting, and easy to use.
4. Guitar Tricks Song Lessons
Try it for free: The Guitar Tricks song lessons
Guitar Tricks has over 1000 fully licensed video song lessons, which walk you through every aspect of each song covered. It's one of the largest and most thorough video-based song lesson resources, with tons of popular artists and tracks covered.
It's a paid program, but you can test the waters first with the above link that gives you access free for 14 days.
If it's not your thing just cancel before the trial ends.
5. The Justinguitar Song Section
Check it out: Justinguitar Song Lessons
Justin Sandercoe's song section doesn't have quite the same level of consistency and pristine as Guitar Tricks.
Yet, it's in the same conversation which is remarkable considering Sandercoe has done most of this on his own. While you don't always have multiple camera angles or tabs, Sandercoe is a great teacher, getting you through the songs he teaches thoroughly and clearly.
For free, there's nothing to complain about.
6. Downloadable Guitar Pro Files
Check out the software: Guitar Pro 7.5
While Guitar Pro itself isn't free (it's a one-time fee for the software download), those who have a version of Guitar Pro downloaded can easily find .GPX song files for free.
These are songs that have been pre-built in Guitar Pro and can be opened in the software for easy song learning. There are several different sites that catalog these files, though I've had the most luck with GTPTabs.com, even though it's a bit older.
Read our full review: Songsterr
If you Google "guitar tabs" for a particular song, Songsterr usually has it. And the difference between Songsterr and sites like Ultimate Guitar is that Songsterr only has the high-quality tab sheets, similar to the Guitar Pro software.
In other words, no old-school plain text stuff.
Now the Songsterr version doesn't have any of the premium features that we see with Ultimate Guitar Pro, but it still lets you view the entire tab and even run a MIDI playback.
For free guitar tabs, it's our top pick.
Checkout the channels we recommend: YouTube Guitar Lessons
While it can be hit or miss, there's no question that YouTube is a great resource when it comes to answering specific questions and how-to-related queries. This applies all the same for learning particular songs on the guitar.
In fact, most people who cover songs on YouTube will also put out tutorials for those songs.
It's just a matter of searching, filtering through all the junk and finding what you need.
The link above goes to a page with all the YouTube channels we recommend most for learning guitar.
9. The Hal Leonard Library
Check it out: Hal Leonard guitar library
Hal Leonard's resources aren't free, but I wanted to include it here because they're one of the oldest and most respected guitar/music education publishers in the business.
Many of the official artist song books, with full licensed tabs, are published by this company, making them a good fit for people that prefer to have something in their hands as opposed to always reading tabs off a computer screen.
For what it's worth, most of their tab books are available in a digital format as well.
10. Your Local Library
Find one near you: Local library search
My last recommendation is a fairly under-utilized resource in most communities, yet one of the largest repositories of free information a musician could have access to. Local libraries will often have a ton of guitar-related material, that can include song-learning content.
Now, of course, this will depend on the community and library in question.
For example, in my home town of Staunton Virginia, our library actually has guitar gear that you can check out (pedals, amps, and guitars), in addition to a lot of great song books and tab resources.
This isn't necessarily going to be the case everywhere. However, it's worth exploring if you haven't been to your local library in awhile.
Difference Between Tabs and Video Lessons
Most of these recommendations are either guitar tabs, a form of guitar video lessons, or a hybrid of the two. Keep in mind that some resources focus exclusively on tabs while others only use video demos and tutorials.
If you have a preference, or learn better with one than the other, this is a good distinction to keep in mind.
Songs VS Lessons
Another thing I want to note is the difference between learning songs and an informational guitar lesson.
The above web resources were singled out for their ability to teach songs and not necessarily to communicate new ideas or deliver a guitar lesson. While lessons and songs can both be a part of the process, learning songs should be viewed as a kind of application, whereas taking lessons is more so a downloading of information that you didn't have.
The websites I've listed here are going to help you with the application process and will show you how to learn songs based on skills you've already obtained.
That's what any good song lesson should help you accomplish.
Do you have questions about the resources we've listed here? What about other guitar song learning resources that I might have missed? If so, drop a line in the comments section below and I'll check in.