Parent article: Best Beginner Guitar Lessons
Updated by Bobby
Recently updated on June 17th, 2021
Updated Yousician's home page and logo.
Our Verdict and Review Summary
Yousician deserves credit for an extremely functional guitar learning tool, even while the program lacks instructional and educational depth. We like Yousician as a complimentary tool to other programs, and not necessarily as a stand-alone option.
Yousician has flown a bit under my radar over the past few years, partly because it has only been around since 2010, which is young compared to a lot of the other guitar and music education online programs available. But it has grown significantly in popularity, bringing in over 800,000 unique website hits per month by offering versions of their software that caters to multiple instruments: Guitar, piano, bass, Ukulele, and even voice training.
Point Value (weight)
1. Content Quantity
2. EDU Quality
2. Topical Order
3. Concept Coverage
4. Song Section
7. App Interface
8. Site Design/Navigation
Bought and Tested Yousician Review
To review the Yousician program I actually bought and used extensively a basic monthly subscription. If you look on the LONG & THOROUGH review tab below, you can see a screenshot of my invoice, just so you know this review is based on a first hand account. I've done a short, summary-style review as well as the more in-depth version in the second tab.
Compare to Similar Programs
For our Yousician review, I used the guitar "version" of the software. Though the elements and core components of Yousician are going to be the same across the entire platform, with minor changes made to structure in order to accommodate different instruments.
While the curriculum of each program is unique and specific, the learning methods and user experience is largely the same.
My Yousician Review Process
Again, I want to be clear that for my Yousician review I actually bought and used the software. Also, I did not use the free version (which is limited) but used the monthly basic plan, which cost me about $19.
Here's a look at the invoice they sent me, just so you know I'm actually reviewing this product first hand:
In other words, this review is from personal experience and actual use of the software.
Yousician Cost and Free Trial Info
If you want a full rundown, my wife has gone over all the Yousician cost info here.
In simple terms, it's $20 per month for a basic membership and $30 a month for a PLUS membership, which gives you access to licensed songs and additional material.
Recently we were made aware that the free trial length is 30 days, which is considerably longer than it has been in the past.
You can check that out on the trial offer page.
What is Yousician?
Unlike other online programs like Guitar Tricks and JamPlay, Yousician is primarily a piece of software that you download on your computer, like a computer game. You run the application and then go through the program, similar to how a lot of language learning software is constructed. We'll get into the specifics of that structure and content soon.
Who is Yousician for?
Up front, Yousician is most ideally suited for beginners. While there are more I do not recommend Yousician for anyone who is past the beginner stage, at least not as their primary learning tool. It could also be ideal for kids, or those who want to give their kids a fun way to learn an instrument and get some music knowledge into their lives on a regular basis.
It could also be an effective supplemental tool, just because the interactive interface (which will get into later is so unique and well-designed). Yet even for beginners there options I'd sooner recommend, via the above comparison table.
Yousician is unique because it teaches you guitar more like Rosetta Stone teaches you a foreign language; through slow, basic repetition and exposure. It guides you through the material interactively, largely without tutorial-style instruction.
Again, this can be very motivating and helpful to beginners and especially to kids who might have trouble following a more conventional course or tutoring session. We'll cover the software, the format, and the content quality in depth.
Installing and Starting the Yousician Software
While Yousician can work on tablets and phones, I found it easiest to work with on a desktop environment. Specifically, I downloaded the software on a Macbook Air to test everything out.
On my wife's Macbook air, the install was quick and painless, like most drag and drop applications in the Mac OS. Just drag to the applications folder.
Once you launch the application, you'll probably need to wait on a few updates to be downloaded and installed.
Once you're done with the updates, the application launches, but requires a login in order to work. Use the same login you used to purchase and download the software. You can also sign up from this screen or login with a Facebook account. I should point out, I did not use a Facebook account to test the software, so I'm not sure if that experience differs from mine.
Proceed through the login prompt:
Once you're in the software, you'll start with a question about your skill level, which is a pretty simple assessment (similar to what I saw in my Fender Play review) but helps to place you at one of several starting points within the software.
The "Lots of Songs" entry kinda confuses me because that isn't really indicative of a skill level, but I digress. I chose "Some Basics" just to get a feel for what I assume is the experience of the software's target demographic (beginners or novice players).
The Guitar Setup
You'll first be prompted to tune your guitar, since the software works interactively with your guitar through your laptop's microphone. As we'll see later, this is similar to how you would play Guitar Hero, except with an actual guitar. The tuner works fine, though it's also fine to tune with a pedal tuner or whatever you're used to using.
The easiest (and quickest) way to start using Yousician is with an acoustic guitar, which is easily picked up by your laptop microphone and the software. However, you can also use an audio interface to plug in an electric guitar, though that takes a little more configuration. For the purpose of my Yousician review, I tested the software with both.
Generally speaking, there are three types of content within the Yousician program:
- Interactive Lessons
- Video Lessons
- Interactive Song Tutorials
What sets Yousician apart is the video game-style of their interactive material. They also offer more traditional video lessons for things like music theory and other topics that are more difficult to translate to an interactive system. If you start with the Intro to Guitar course, you'll go through "Intro & Tuning" video.
Content is organized by topic, where courses and material are then ordered within those larger categories. There's also a lot of locked premium content as well, which I found to be a bit cluttering and distracting. I was also surprised that more of it wasn't available in the app since I was already running a paid subscription.
You can choose from a number of different sorting options, including the above categories. Course materials under the "Learn" tab (displayed in the screen shot below) are organized into paths. These paths are loosely similar to the Core Learning System in Guitar Tricks.
My initial reaction to this setup was mixed.
On the one hand, the content is topically beginner-friendly and easy to understand lesson to lesson. But, from an organizational standpoint, it's a bit confusing when trying to figure out where to start. There are "Missions" and "Workouts" under the Learn tab, which is at first unclear as to what the difference is between the two or which one you should start with.
The Difference Between Missions and Workouts
After I got acclimated and explored the interface a bit more, I can summarize the two options this way:
- Missions: Unlockable progress paths that function more like a video game and allow you to interactively progress through the content.
- Workouts: Standalone courses, videos, and interactive material that are more topically isolated with smaller pieces of unlockable material.
To be honest, I'm not entirely sure why some material is categorized as a "Workout" while others are categorized as "Mission." However, Yousician seems to do a good job of creating unique material for both of those categories and minimizing redundant content.
What does the interactive material look like?
Like I said, Yousician is built like a video game. The interface that you'll see the most is a kind of following-along bouncing ball that goes over the fretboard and allows you to play along with material. This is the primary way Yousician teaches you. Before we get into my impressions of this format, I'll just take you through some of the the screen shots and show you what the entire thing looks like.
Once you start the exercise, you'll play along with your actual guitar, building on material that you've already covered (assuming you start from the bare beginner level). You'll follow that bouncing white ball with a click track, backing drum track, or actual backing song while the software grades you on timing and accuracy.
Chord Blocks and Progressions
Each colored block represents a chord strum, which have arrows (though they're difficult to notice at first) displaying the direction that you should be strumming, either up or down. There's also a finger guide and chord diagram showing you how to play each chord.
Single Notes, Scales & Melodies
When dealing with material that requires single notes or scales, Yousician uses a tab system instead of the chord blocks. For those who understand guitar tabs, this will be a familiar-looking interface with a top-down view (thickest strings first) and a numbered tab system. Again, the bouncing ball is employed to show you when to play certain notes.
As the exercise progresses, you'll follow along with your guitar in the same format. Yousician typically emphasizes chords in the RHYTHM SKILLS sections and single note melodies or scales in the LEAD SKILLS sections.
Interaction Interface Options
There are a few different ways to adjust your experience when using the interactive parts of Yousician's software. Primarily, you're able to adjust how you view the notation and the tempo or speed of the exercise. For example, in the following screenshot, I set the notation to tab and notation and the tempo to 55 percent.
You can also change the way notes appear on the fretboard. For example, if you want to see letter notes instead of tab numbers, you can change this from the notation settings in the pause menu.
Otherwise, the pause menu allows you to access the tuner, skip the lesson, retry it or calibrate your guitar with the software (if necessary).
What Yousician's Interaction Element Lacks
In my view, there's some good and bad to be considered with this particular method of teaching.
First, the good:
It does help with memory and is a fun way to engage with the material. This makes Yousician an especially decent option for kids or beginners who want something that's going to motivate them to play and use the software. It also seems very accurate in terms of reading your guitar's input and scoring you correctly. On the technical side, all things look, sound and feel great.
On the bad side:
The interactive lessons all feel very similar to one another, regardless of skill level and regardless of the type of material being covered. For example, the same method of learning extended chords are used to learn the major scale. Moreover, the novelty of the video game-style setup wears off quickly as you work through lessons. It also lacks a lot of what I would consider rather crucial "blackboard" information, namely theory and technical explanations that would help the user understand what a major scale actually is and why they might be playing it.
The Video Lessons
As I mentioned earlier, Yousician does provide a segment of content that abandons the interactive element in favor of a seminar/PowerPoint-style presentation with graphics and voice-over tutor explaining the material. The best example of this is the LEARN STANDARD NOTATION section, which is entirely delivered in this format.
Content is well ordered, though not particularly in-depth, perhaps given my earlier skill level selection. It's also a little hard to decipher why certain segments of material are broken up into different videos. For example, of the three videos in the above screenshot, you can see that two have the following titles:
- Read Notes on the G-String
- Reading Notes: G String
What's the difference between these two lessons? When you watch them, it's clear that they could have been bundled into one video, as neither is particularly long and both seem to be covering the same topic. Here's a look at some of the video's content:
If you watch a few of these videos, you'll start to feel like the material covered, while accurate and well organized, isn't particularly unique or hard to find elsewhere. Then again, that's what you get when you're trying to explain standard notation.
While you do get a voice-over guiding you through the material, the content looks like a graphical presentation without being able to see a person. This takes away from the already impersonal aspect of an online music lesson, making the material seem a bit more basic and less impactful.
The videos are short and not particularly comprehensive. I liked how they adapted a universal music concept (standard notation) to the guitar, using guitar graphics, tabs and making it unique to what a guitar player's experience with standard notation might look like.
The Advanced Material
When I started getting into some of Yousician's more advanced material, I was pleasantly surprised by how challenging it was. Even when I slowed down the tempo, it was challenging to play some of the blues riffs and accomplish some of the exercises laid out.
I found myself using practice mode and then slowing the material way down to try and keep pace. It was legitimately challenging and valuable for improving my playing, particularly in a lead guitar capacity.
Even with these more complex licks, the software was nearly perfect in terms of keeping track what my guitar was doing.
Again, the lack of explanation is still an issue. Though I found a lot of value even for the advanced player, just because it gave you a really effective tool to exercise certain sounds and improve your playing in a way that you aren't already used to.
The core of Yousician's program, their interactive interface, is really solid and commendable. I was surprised at how challenging it was and how accurately it was able to read the sounds of my guitar, even deciphering notes within chords and picking out mistakes. Particularly on the more advanced material, solos and lead exercises are helpful practice tools, even if the program lacks some of the in-depth explanation you get with other online guitar lesson courses.
With that in mind, Yousician definitely has its place.
Particularly for guitar, I like Yousician as a complimentary tool to other programs, but not necessarily as a stand-alone option.
It's great for beginners, and I think kids would gravitate towards the interface.
But for late-stage beginners, intermediate, and advanced players, I would look to other options.
Gear Used for My Yousician Review
For those curious about how I reviewed Yousician, here's the setup I was working with:
- Macbook Air laptop running the Yousician software
- Taylor 114ce acoustic guitar (picked up by the Mac's microphone)
- iRig Pro DUO USB Interface
- PRS CE 24 Electric Guitar
If you have questions about Yousician or other lesson programs I've mentioned, feel free to leave those in the comments section below. We've also published a quick guide on how to cancel Yousician, if that's something you need help with.
Also, if you've used Yousician and want to share your own experience, we believe that can be equally helpful to future readers of this articles.
Feel free to chime in.