My father played the guitar when I was growing up and always kept a stack of well-worn songbooks from Harry Chapin, Don McLean and John Prine nearby. When my parents gave me a Takamine acoustic guitar for my birthday as a teenager, I consulted those same songbooks for my first foray into guitar playing. I admittedly fell away from the practice over time, but during the lockdown, a lot of people suddenly had the urge to pick up a new skill. Since I was a little rusty, I decided to brush up on my guitar playing, and through that process I have found some of the best online guitar lessons out there.
What I like most about playing guitar is that the guitar is an instrument that rewards the player — there’s no feeling like writing your first song, getting a riff right, learning a guitar trick, picking up a tune by ear or earning those calluses on the tips of your fingers. It’s pretty intuitive, but if you want to go beyond the basics to hone your existing guitar skills after a long hiatus, or you’re completely new to music and want to learn to play for the first time, formal guitar training with a guitar teacher may be in order.
With busy schedules, this may seem like an impossible feat — but that’s where you’re wrong! There are a lot of resources out there for people who want to learn to play guitar over the internet, and video lesson options should definitely be considered. We’re not talking just a free guitar lesson on YouTube, but beginner lessons, courses that teach guitar technique, music theory and more. There is an absolute wealth of online guitar course options taught by professionals. And the best part is that you can learn on your own time, giving you more flexibility than traditional classes.
If this seems like the perfect time for you to learn how to play your favorite song on guitar, here are five of the best online guitar lessons to get you started. We’ll update this list of the best online guitar lessons periodically.
Guitarmy/Screenshot by John Falcone/CNET
The Beginner Guitar Lesson One course by GuitArmy on Skillshare is a great place for musical newbies to start with an online guitar lesson. Chris Rupp is a guitar instructor of 18 years, and his GuitArmy page has over a dozen guitar classes for beginners. The first course goes through basic guitar training information for the beginner guitarist like holding the guitar and the pick, strumming, finger numbering, the parts of the guitar, tuning, reading music and playing a basic chord.
What it costs: Some online classes on Skillshare are free when you create an account, but most require a premium membership, which costs $168 annually or $32 a month. You can sign up for a one month trial of unlimited classes. The premium membership is also ad-free and lets you download classes to your mobile device and watch offline.
Will Edwards/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET
Musician Will Edwards’ Skillshare course, Learn Basic Jamming Skills for Guitar, assumes you have a working knowledge of guitar. The online guitar training class starts out with tuning basics and moves into skills such as using a metronome, playing scales and “cowboy” chords. The guitar training is still aimed at beginners, but not at those who have never picked up a guitar before.
What it costs: Some online classes on Skillshare are free when you create an account, but most require a premium membership, which costs $168 annually or $32 a month. You can sign up for a one month free trial of unlimited classes. The premium membership is also ad-free and lets you download classes to your mobile device and watch offline.
Henry Olsen/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET
I liked that Henry Olson’s Ultimate Beginner Guitar Masterclass on Udemy delves into topics like guitar gear in addition to how to play. Olsen’s course will help you figure out basics like which guitar is best for you and setting up an amp (if you’re using an electric guitar). You’ll also learn basic guitar chord fingerings, strumming patterns, riffs on the electric guitar (as well as acoustic techniques), working in practice time and tips to make playing easier.
The class includes 12.5 hours of on-demand video, 26 downloadable resources, PDF support for most of the lessons and a 42-page picture chord book.
What it costs: Udemy’s course prices are set by the individual instructors from a price tier, unless they choose to offer them for free. Olsen’s course costs $120.
Dan Dresnok/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET
Dan Dresnok’s Guitar Lessons for the Curious Guitarist class has something for every level of guitarist, so you can keep moving through the lessons as you improve. Dresnok teaches acoustic guitar and electric guitar lessons, ear training and in-depth looks at scales, rhythm and strumming, and guitar basics like chords. He also covers solos, reading and writing music, and more complicated techniques such as slides and pull-offs.
The course comes with almost 30 hours of video, 54 downloadable resources and 10 backing track videos so you can put the solo lessons into practice.
What it costs: Udemy’s course prices are set by the individual instructors from a price tier, unless they choose to offer them for free. Dresnok’s course costs $100.
Masterclass/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET
Making art in any form is about making it your own and expressing yourself. Learning how is the goal of the class Art and Soul of Guitar with Carlos Santana. The 10-time Grammy award-winner takes you through blues, jazz, guajira, merengue and rock on a “spiritual” level.
This class is probably the most advanced of the list, as it features Santana breaking down his musical process and talking about connecting with an audience. His course is 16 lessons long and delves into music in a more abstract way — rhythm, techniques, melody, going beyond sheet music, playing live and your hardware.
What it costs: MasterClass gives access to its 180-plus classes for $180 a year. There’s also a 30-day guarantee — if the program isn’t for you, you can get a refund.
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