Parent article: Best Guitar Lesson Apps
Updated by Bobby
Updated on March 10th, 2022
Checked to make sure links and screenshots were still accurate, making minor updates for 2022. Also added top summary section (directly below).
Ultimate Guitar Pro ReView
Is it worth it?
Plain text guitar tabs are a thing of the past, thanks to tools like Ultimate Guitar Pro. While you can get tabs in a lot of places, UG Pro is one of the most helpful and functional tab resources on the market. For the meager $40 (roughly) per year asking price, we can't find much to complain about.
The Ultimate Guitar Pro membership is an add-on to the popular website's guitar tab database, which runs directly in your browser as a web application.
While Ultimate Guitar has always been a tab website, almost all of the content is user-submitted as a plain text file. Ultimate Guitar Pro provides tabs that are structured similarly to the Guitar Pro software and put together by the Ultimate Guitar staff instead of just user submitted.
This means they're 100 percent accurate, or at least very close.
It also means they're properly scored like standard notation and played with sound and a backing track.
Video Ultimate Guitar Pro Review
Prefer to watch the review? I did a screencast and walk-through of Ultimate Guitar Pro a couple of days after publishing the written review. You can check that out here as well:
Comparing from UG Tabs with UG Pro Tabs
Just for comparison's sake, let's look at the free Ultimate Guitar tabs and the Ultimate Guitar Pro tabs for "Invincible" by Tool.
Free Version: User-Submitted
Below is a screen shot of the plain text tab that we're used to seeing on Ultimate Guitar:
Pro Version: Staff Created
The Pro version looks like a Guitar Pro file with properly scored notation and a red line that follows along as the song plays:
This version is dramatically different from the free version, for a number of reasons. First, let's look at the basic features of this Pro tab and see what you're getting in a quicker list.
Compare to Other Online Guitar Lesson Programs
Guitar Chalk is a reader-supported magazine which means we recommend programs that we like, and if you buy through (or even sign up for a free trial), it helps us out without costing you any extra. In addition to Ultimate Guitar Pro, checkout some of the other programs we've reviewed and recommend, perhaps if you need something to supplement Ultimate Guitar Pro.
Ultimate Guitar Pro
Features of Ultimate Guitar Pro Tabs (quick list)
There's a lot of nuance to the Pro tabs in Ultimate Guitar, making them vastly more functional, accurate, and useful compared to the free, plain text versions. You can see this by simply looking at the two screenshots above, but I'll list the most obvious improvements that Ultimate Guitar Pro offers their users:
- Guitar Pro-style tab notation with time signatures and sight reading elements
- Multiple instrument parts, often including bass, synth, vocals, and drums
- Fretboard view for multiple instruments
- Chords-only versions of the songs
- Tonebridge compatibility and other misc features
These are the main features representing the bulk of what you're paying for if you buy Ultimate Guitar Pro. For those wanting a little more detail, I'll go into each feature, one at a time.
Notation-Style Tab Sheets
Guitar tabs are traditionally displayed in a Courier font typed up in a plain text file.
While this can be useful in certain contexts, it's limiting in terms of the information you can display on your tab sheets. The Guitar Pro-style tabs solve this by showing timing, bars, and a wide range of notational elements that can't be displayed in a plain text document.
For example, you can see bends, time signatures (lines beneath notes), and bars displayed in "Sweet Child O' Mine" in the Pro tab version:
These tabs can also be played back audibly, with some helpful sound features like section looping, slowing down, speeding up, transposing, and even a metronome.
Of course, you could buy the Guitar Pro software itself from Arobas music, but they don't have a tab database like Ultimate Guitar does. This feature is the main thing you're paying for, plus the work that Ultimate Guitar staff has gone through to curate and maintain all the pro-level tabs.
Multiple Instruments (bass, synth, drums, etc.)
I think what's most remarkable about Ultimate Guitar Pro is that most tabs have multiple instrument channels for each part of the song. For example, they might have bass, but then they'll also have different channels for each bass part.
To stick with our Tool example:
- Bass 1
- Bass 2 (drive)
- Bass solo
Here's what that part of the interface looks like:
And then for Adam Jones' guitar tracks:
- Lead guitar
- Solo guitar
- Rhythm guitar
My guess is that Ultimate Guitar has access to some kind of database where official scores and tab sheets are stored for licensed music, because doing all this manually would be an incredible time investment.
Either way, they deserve credit for getting so much material to their users.
Here's another look at the instrument selection interface:
You'll often see piano, synth, and multiple guitar tracks included, each with their own tabs. This can be extremely helpful for dissecting different part of a song you might be trying to learn.
The fretboard view in Ultimate Guitar Pro shows you a fretboard from an angle that seems like you're looking down at the fretboard and plays along by showing you the fret location for each corresponding note in the tab sheet.
Here's what the interface looks like:
As the tab and audio play, this element will light up with a yellow dot on the fret and string corresponding to each note. In combination with the ability to slow down the tab, this is extremely helpful and should also be noted as a valuable teaching tool.
When I taught lessons I'd have a lot of students ask me to help them learn a particular song and this resource would have been incredibly helpful for that task.
Chord Versions of Each Song
One of the coolest, "low profile" features of Ultimate Guitar Pro is the inclusion of chords-only versions of each song. This lets you quickly pickup the basic chord progressions for a song, regardless of whether it's played in a traditional acoustic or chord-friendly rhythm style.
The chords for "Africa" by Toto are a great example:
The tab/chord toggle is above the instrument selection panel:
While the song itself isn't exactly a "strumming tune" it's great to have a chord reference like this for getting the general idea and following a bass line. Then, if you want more detail, you can look at the instrument sections for different parts of the tab.
I can't confirm that every song has the chords listed, but after using the program several times - at length - I didn't see a single Pro tab without it.
It's a great feature and an under-emphasized aspect of the program.
It's technically possible to print the free Ultimate Guitar content, but it isn't really supposed to be (there's no print button) and the printable version of each song is only available in Pro tabs. You can see the print button to the right of the screen over where the tab starts.
Both the chord or Pro tab version of each song are printable, similar to a PDF file.
There are a few other features that I won't give a full paragraph to. Instead, we'll just list them here.
- Zoom in/out
- Tonebridge functionality (effects and amp settings app)
- Left-handed view
- Countdown for starting songs
Ultimate Guitar Pro Cost: How much is it?
To get a feel for the value of this program, we need to know how much it costs. This was surprisingly tricky, though after going to an incognito browser (I already had a testing Pro account for this review) and filling out a form about what kind of music I liked and what instruments I played, I finally got to see the pricing structure:
This pricing arrangement is extremely reasonable, given what you get in return. My assumption is that it goes to cover the cost of licensing the songs, accessing databases to pull notes and tab data, and also paying additional staff for taking care of paying customers.
While the month-to-month plan seems a little high, the annual billing option is a great value.
For only $40 a year you get access to basically any tab you could ever want, built to meet a high standard of quality and accuracy.
Here's a quick summary of the Ultimate Guitar Pro cost:
- $9.99 per month
- $39.99 per year
- $24.99 per year (Black Friday sale)
I've seen some forum posts online suggesting the $39.99 is a lifetime access price. From everything I've seen, this is incorrect. The $39.99 cost is for only one year on top of the free trial.
All together, Ultimate Guitar Pro is one of the easiest and most functional ways to learn a song on the internet. It makes the plain text tab essentially a thing of the past.
And while it's hard to grade a tab program, especially in comparison to full lesson programs, my experience with Ultimate Guitar Pro has been entirely positive. It's a simple, extremely helpful resource that significantly improves over what the site offers for free. Moreover, the $40/year asking price is totally reasonable, making Ultimate Guitar Pro a great value for a wide variety of scenarios.
Members of cover bands, church worship teams, and acoustic cover artists should all take note here.
Even those who do a lot of YouTube covers or just like to learn songs as part of their practice routine would really enjoy this subscription.
Your Questions and Comments
Do you have questions about our Ultimate Guitar Pro review or the cost of the program? If so, leave them in the comments section below and I'll be happy to help out. I've also got contacts at Ultimate Guitar I can refer you to if I can't personally answer your question.