If you want to be a rockstar, it helps if you know how to play guitar. And, with these helpful online guitar lesson resources, you won’t have to deal with a teacher—just grab your ax and start jamming your way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
But before you jump in, make sure you’ve got all the necessary gear. You’ll accrue more and upgrade what you have over time, but to begin with, all you’ll really need is a decent electric or acoustic guitar, a pick, strings, a tuner, an amp, and a cable (if you choose an electric guitar). If you’ve got the extra dough, you may also want to spring for a strap and a wall mount.
Update, 2/10/22: Verified content, links, and pricing are still good. Updated pricing for Yousician and Coach Guitar.
It’s relatively easy to learn how to play guitar. And, while having regular in-person lessons is the best way to learn, we understand that it’s not possible for everyone. That’s where guitar lesson apps and websites come in: they give you everything you’ll need to teach yourself how to play guitar. Here’s what we consider to be the most important features in these learn-to-play-guitar resources:
- Professionally Designed Courses: Throwing some guitar facts and a small database of tablature together and calling it a guitar lesson app isn’t good enough. The best online guitar lesson resources are created by knowledgeable professional musicians and teachers, who ensure that lessons are structured well, are easy enough for beginners to understand, and progress naturally while addressing technique, and the quirks that accompany each genre.
- Lots of Lessons: While you can get up and running with guitar pretty quickly compared to other instruments, you’ll need lessons for years in order to become great. Apps or websites with limited exercises just aren’t going to cut it, so get a service with thousands of lessons and plenty of other resources so you’re covered across your entire learning journey.
- Technique Exercises: There’s more to playing guitar than learning what notes comprise a chord. Learning how to move your fingers and hand, how to pick, and other aspects require finessing your technique as well. Guitar lesson websites and apps that don’t focus on that may inadvertently cause you to develop bad habits that could ultimately limit your playing.
- Intuitive Use: Learning a new instrument can feel daunting. Any teaching resource worth its salt should take this into account and guide you through your first lessons until you get the hang of things. It should also make it easy to find other functions, like community forums and technical support.
Guitar Tricks (Free) is a solid choice, and it makes learning easy. Everything is taught with context, (like with a popular song), so you can have a better basis for understanding the fundamental concepts being taught to you right from the start. It covers lessons across tons of music genres, so you won’t have to start with songs you don’t enjoy, and you’ll start feeling productive instantly.
Basic membership gets you 24 lessons and limited access to tutorials, technique references, faculty, and artist selection. If you choose to go premium with the Full Access Subscription ($19.95/month), you can access over 11,000 lessons, tutorials, technique references, metronomes and tuners, more instructors and artist categories, bookmarking, saved history, no ads, and access to all community features. Overall, this is a quality lesson source for the price, and you can access it both on your computer and through iOS and Android mobile apps.
If you care about the quality of your lessons but don’t have much room in your budget, check out Justin Guitar (Free). It offers over 1,000 comprehensive lessons for beginner, intermediate, and advanced guitar players, and is backed by tons of celebrity endorsements from the likes of the great Steve Vai and Brian May.
With hundreds of popular songs to learn, a practice assistant, and a color-coded karate belt-like lesson progression system, Justin Guitar makes it easy to track your progress as you learn. In addition to songs, you’ll also learn scales, modes, chords, arpeggios, and other bits of essential guitar knowledge. It’s a great resource, especially considering it’s free. You can access lessons online or through the accompanying iOS and Android apps.
Yousician (starts at $7.49/mo) is an immersive guitar lesson program and a great resource for beginners. One of its most outstanding features is that it allows you to choose which learning path you want to take: lead guitar, rhythm guitar, or a comprehensive knowledge path, which includes lessons for skills like ear training. It offers students instant feedback for timing and accuracy, teaches basic music theory, and teaches how to tune your instrument and read guitar tablature. Both the website and the iOS and Android apps are colorful, and Yousician’s explanatory interface encourages learning for novice guitarists of all ages.
If you’d rather take lessons directly from a real musician but keep things online, TakeLessons.com (pricing varies, but starts at about $25/lesson) has you covered. It can be nice to have a professional watching as you play, to ensure you’re using proper technique and give you personalized feedback as needed.
TakeLessons can also help you set up in-person lessons, should you eventually decide that’s what you want, plus it’s available on iOS and Android devices and on your desktop, so you can have lessons anywhere. And, you aren’t just thrown in with a random instructor—you can look at each teacher’s profile to learn more about their style, experience, availability, and lesson rates, so you can find a teacher that’s a perfect match.
Not everyone cares about music theory and all the other advanced bits of knowledge that accompany learning a new instrument, and Coach Guitar ($19.99/month, or $119.99/year) gets that. Its easy-to-follow color-coded method is designed to get you playing your favorite songs within a short period of time. It has over 1,000 songs to learn and a sizable lesson library that receives new additions each week. You can sort through songs by genre, and lessons according to their difficulty level or by what’s trending. Coach Guitar lessons can be accessed online or through iOS and Android mobile apps.
From renowned guitar maker Fender comes an online guitar lesson service, Fender Play ($9.99/month). Its step-by-step lessons are easy to follow, showing you exactly what you need to do to play notes, scales, chords, and songs, all with picking and strumming techniques taught by professional guitarists.
Fender Play has hundreds of songs in their lesson library in pop, blues, rock, and country. What makes the app remarkable is that its lesson guides are small. So, instead of having to block out an hour for a formal lesson with a teacher, you can now fit your lesson anywhere in your busy schedule, making it great for adult learners.
If you already know how to play guitar like Satriani (or if you’re comfortable with the three or four chords you already know), and you just want a place with reliable tabs to boost your catalog, Ultimate Guitar Pro (starts at $24.99/year) is your best option. Here, you can find over a million pieces of high-quality tablature for popular songs, and explore tabs by chart ranking and genre.