Finding a guitar teacher who can kick-start your playing or elevate your chops can be a difficult experience. It can be costly, too. If the teacher’s good, that is money well spent. If not, well, that can kill your buzz.
But this is 2020. We have so many resources at our disposal. We’ve got Guitar World coming through the letterbox each month (wait, you do subscribe, right?… No!? what are you waiting for?). We’ve got lessons posted here - for players of all levels, including beginners taking their first steps into future of calloused fingers and an existential anxiety surrounding whether they should be using a .73mm pick or something thicker. And we’ve got YouTube, too.
Given that we can’t leave our homes right now, these are all pretty good options. Here, we are going to point you towards our 10 favorite lesson sites on YouTube, and tell you why these are pretty cool. Many of these will have their own sites, with a more detailed program, but this will give you a good idea of where they are coming from.
Some, you might already know, others you won’t, but all have great teachers who engage us and demystify the instrument. There are lessons for all levels, but what is especially encouraging is that there is a wealth of resources for beginners, with primers on basic music theory and learning to play your first chords and scales.
Now, speaking of scales, let’s start with that, a lesson on a pentatonic riff that can really help you think about how you want to use the pentatonic scale in a musical context, which is the whole point, right? OK, here goes, in no particular order, and your first instructor is… Oh hi, Paul Gilbert!
Few use the pentatonic scale better than Paul Gilbert. Here is an excellent little lesson for intermediate players who know the scale, have practiced it, but - as we all have at one point or another - have then found themselves at an impasse: how best do we apply it? Gilbert runs back through the shapes on the fretboard, and once you’re happy with that, he pulls a few choice notes and shows you what you can do with them.
This lesson is part of ArtistWorks Online Rock Guitar School with Paul Gilbert. It’s a brilliant program, and Gilbert’s personality is ideal for teaching; he’s enthusiastic, approachable and on your side. But what’s better is that he is but one of several tutors. Say you want to learn jazz, well Dave Stryker is on hand. Keith Wyatt will teach you blues.
2. Andy Guitar
Andy Guitar has 1.28 million subscribers to his YouTube page and his own dedicated site where you can find his lessons. Andy’s real surname is Crowley, and his lessons appropriately enough are a kind of magic.
Again, as with all good guitar teachers, his communication is excellent, and this starter lesson walks you through some of the essentials, such as the fundamental ability to play chords. It won’t be easy to begin with, because learning the guitar is tough, especially when there’s a little discomfort with new fingers getting accustomed to fretting strings.
But take a break when the discomfort turns to pain, and keep at it; you will be amazed at how far you can come in a short space of time, and that sense of achievement will keep you coming back for more. Andy Guitar will talk you through it.
Like Andy Guitar, Justin Sandercoe is another teacher with a million-plus following on YouTube and a cornucopia of learning materials and lessons on his own dedicated site. He is an excellent communicator, with a particularly strong focus on beginners.
We’ve listed his lesson on Seven Nation Army riff by the White Stripes as it makes for an ambitious first riff and an ideal sophomore riff for beginners. As Justin explains, it is not as easy as it looks, and the devil is in the detail. That he takes care of the details helps stop you from developing wrinkles in your playing as you learn.
His beginner course is free, fun and easy to follow. And just to prove he is a good sport and in the tank for you, his Nitsuj series of videos shows him learning to play left-handed, taking him way out of his comfort zone to show you that everyone finds the guitar hard at first, but that just makes the achievements all the more sweet.
4. Marty Music
Marty Schwartz’s upbeat delivery and gift for explaining what he is doing on the guitar makes him the ideal teacher for an online environment. His YouTube lessons are fun, informative, and one minute he might be teaching you the Game of Thrones or Spongebob Squarepants theme, the next he’ll be breaking down Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters so you can play it on the acoustic.
And if your fingers get sore from playing, you can grab a coffee and take five watching Marty’s Guitar Tours, where he hangs out and jams with players who have seen it and done it all. He also has a variety of resources online, catering for a wide variety of styles, abilities and budgets.
5. Music Is Win
The Music Is Win YouTube channel is first and foremost a lot of fun. You’ve got plenty of great content covering guitar culture and whatnot. But the lessons are excellent. Check out this one above. It tackles chord progressions, beautiful ones at that, and it’s the sort of easy to follow lesson that can open new ways of thinking about chord progressions - and thus songwriting.
Intermediate players could get a lot of inspiration out of a lesson that takes Stairway to Heaven’s chord progression as the acme of beautiful chord progressions and changes it dramatically just be revisiting the voicings of the chords. You can subscribe to the Guitar Super System online and enjoy HD video lessons in all manner of styles and for all levels of ability. At only 10 bucks a month, it is excellent value.
The brainchild of Mark Lettieri, JamPlay hosts a formidable array of lessons on YouTube with more detailed lesson programs on its website. Lettieri is an awesome player and has collaborated with Snoop Dogg and David Crosby, but he is an incredible tutor.
JamPlay’s fretboard faculty also includes the likes of Prashant Aswani, whose hybrid-picking lessons will help experienced players hot-rod their technique, and DJ Phillips, whose Blues Turnaround in A lesson we’ve listed above. While there is no substitute for sharing the same physical space as your teacher, the split-screen format gets pretty close and makes the lessons easier to follow.
TrueFire offers a comprehensive guitar education online, with its lessons available on laptop, tablet or mobile device. It has an excellent array of tutors, some you’ll have maybe seen at a show, others are session players with serious knowledge. We’ve got this cool blues lesson from Robben Ford here as an example.
Ford is another tutor who is excellent in front of the camera, who takes joy in sharing his discoveries on the guitar and is articulate enough to make sense of them. That’s no mean feat. Something else will help you make sense of the lessons is that TrueFire’s lessons can be slowed-down and looped, plus there are added learning tools such as a tuner, metronome and reference charts.
If Fender follow-through on the 360º logic of their business model it won’t be long before they’re playing the guitars for us. But, in all seriousness, the Big F getting involved with tuition is an incredible resource. Fender Play is the joined-up education wing of the company, an online learning platform available across all of your devices that aims to get you playing your favorite songs and fast.
The Fender YouTube presence has some of this educational content, too, and while it is hosted in among its usual social content - gear demos, etc. - a quick search for #FenderPlay will bring up all kinds of quick and useful lessons. Like this on trip-stop bends. The instructors are great, the production values excellent.
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9. The Art-of-Guitar
Mike from the Art-of-Guitar has an online subscription program for $10.95 a month, and his YouTube channel is a good guide of the quality of his teaching. Here, he walks you through 21 of Randy Rhoads’ techniques in half-an-hour.
For an intermediate or experienced player, this is the sort of bite-sized primer on technique that can be used to help nail Randy’s style or just augment a style. Of course, you might want some tab to accompany that, but that’s where the paid content comes in.
10. JamTrack Central aka JTC Guitar
The JTC YouTube channel has loads of cool stuff. There are performances from the likes of Andy James and Guthrie Govan, and a huge variety of backing tracks that give you a style in a certain key and let you do your thing over them.
This presence is complemented by a wide-ranging array of teaching modules on the JamTrack Central site, including masterclasses hosted in the company of an expert player, all shot in HD.
- Our pick of the best online guitar lessons