For those of us who can’t afford expensive music lessons, guitar learning software is the next best thing.
But finding a great guitar learning software is not as easy as it seems. There are thousands of apps and tools out there and they all promise to turn you into the next Eric Clapton.
How many actually live up to that promise? How do you know which one to trust?
Well, that’s where we come in.
In this review, we focus on six amazing guitar learning apps that you can use to improve your skills.
If you’re a beginner, we suggest you check out Fender Play or Justin Guitar Beginner Lessons. For more intermediate users, Ultimate Guitar and The Gibson App are great choices.
The Top 6 Guitar Learning Software
The best overall app is without a doubt Fender Play. The Gibson App is an expensive alternative, sharing numerous features and lessons and updated regularly.
The best app that offers value for money is Yousician. It’s affordable and offers a plethora of premium features and beginner-friendly lessons. A great alternative is Justin Guitar Beginner Lessons also going for around $10 per month.
The best budget app is Ultimate Guitar. Ultimate Guitar is free to use and its tab library is unparalleled in scope. A great alternative is GarageBand. It has a ton of fun features and lets you produce your own music.
Best Overall: Fender Play
Fender Play is a guitar learning software that was introduced in 2017 and the developers have consistently been making updates and improvements since.
The app was created in collaboration with musicians and educational advisors from the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California and the Musicians Institute in Hollywood.
This app is beginner-friendly and has tons of easy-to-follow guitar courses and guitar tabs to help you improve.
What we found impressive was that once you sign up, you’re asked questions about the instrument you prefer and your favorite genre. For example, you might want to learn the bass guitar and are into heavy metal. Fender takes this information and creates custom lesson plans and exercises catered to your specifications.
What makes Fender Play stand out among other guitar learning software is that it incorporates a micro-learning strategy. This is ideal if you have a short attention span.
Suitable for: Beginners and intermediate guitar players.
- Custom learning plans
- Tons of features and lessons
- It is a paid-for service
Alternative: The Gibson App
The Gibson App is a smartphone great guitar learning software for people of any skill level. It sports key features like a guitar tuner, easy-to-use tabs, and direct access to the Gibson online store.
What makes the Gibson App stand out among the crowd is that it has been built around Audio Augmented Reality. What this means is that the app will respond to you in real-time, as you play along to lessons and complete various exercises.
This is ideal for beginners, especially if you feel that you need some guidance, because it provides an interactive experience.
With Gibson, it’s like you have a professional music teacher living on your phone.
Like most guitar learning apps, Gibson also offers tabs for popular songs and artists like Aerosmith, The Beatles, and Billie Eilish. Don’t be intimidated though, Gibson allows you to adjust each song to your skill level. This is great for keeping up a beginner’s motivation.
If you’re still craving that in-person feel, Gibson offers face-to-face video call consultation with a professional guitar tech. Even better is that it’s included in the subscription fee.
A downside to Gibson is that it’s relatively pricey at around $15 per month, just shy of $90 a year.
Suitable For: Guitar players of any skill level.
- Real-time feedback
- Free trial period
- Large array of features
- Live video options
- Overwhelming for beginners
Best Value for Money: Yousician
Yousician takes an alternative approach to teaching their users how to play guitar. The app was developed by musicians and music teachers to help both beginners and advanced players.
The app takes on the form of a video game and each lesson and song is treated as a “mission” within the app. This is great if you find normal lessons too boring or you’re like us and have a short attention span.
Yousician also offers a free-to-use and paid-premium option which is ideal if you’re just looking to try it out before making a commitment. The premium subscription offers users uninterrupted and unlimited playtime.
Suitable for: Beginners and intermediate users
- Available for desktop
- Extensive library of tabs, exercises, and lessons
- Interactive lessons
- Instant feedback
- The video game approach can be alienating
- Features locked behind paywall
- Pricey compared to other guitar software
Alternative: Justin Guitar Beginner Lessons: Play Real Songs
Justin Guitar is one of the thousands of music and music lesson accounts on YouTube. Many of his lessons have now been compiled into a useful mobile app.
As the name suggests, Justin Guitar is ideal for beginners and offers structured lesson plans and courses across various grades. The lessons cover everything from technique exercises, to chord theory and strumming patterns.
Justin Guitar is great if you want a face-to-face experience to learn how to play the guitar. The video lessons on Justin Guitar make you feel as though you have a professional music teacher helping you every step of the way.
The video lessons are also interactive, which adds to the classroom feel of the app.
Suitable for: Beginners
- Professional advice
- Offers a personal learning experience
- Relatively affordable when compared to other guitar learning apps
- Limited library
Best Budget App: Ultimate Guitar: Chords & Tabs
You’d be surprised just how many famous guitarists started by teaching themselves off of tab libraries like Ultimate Guitar.
Ultimate Guitar is known for having the largest library of guitar tabs and offers free access to lyric sheets. That’s right, you don’t need to pay a cent.
This lets you play almost any song you could think of which is great if you just want to jam out and have fun. This is ideal for less structured practice sessions.
Another cool feature is that Ultimate Guitar shows you alternative chords and chord progressions if you find the original chords of a song too difficult to play. We found this inclusion useful, especially if you’re struggling with those hard-to-master bar chords.
Ultimate Guitar is one of the best guitar apps around.
One downside is that it doesn’t offer any structured lessons or guitar exercises. It also doesn’t offer any guitar tricks or tips that beginners might find useful. Ultimate Guitar only offers tabs, nothing more.
Suited for: Intermediate to advanced players
- Massive tab library
- Able to check out alternative chord progressions of songs
- Easy to use
- Free to use
- Doesn’t offer any structured guitar lessons or exercises
GarageBand is a digital audio workshop in your pocket. The app is aimed at musicians on the go, ideal for when inspiration strikes and you simply have to record a new song.
GarageBand offers an array of premium features like the Touch Instrumental, a microphone, and a guitar which allows you to instantly record songs and tunes. The app can hold up to 32 tracks.
The app also gives you the option to add free virtual instruments via the sound library. This feature is amazingly versatile and lets you become a one-man band with ease. No drummer for your latest hit? No problem.
GarageBand is aimed at helping musicians record and mix their songs. It also allows you to upload the track directly to YouTube or SoundCloud.
The downside to GarageBand is that it doesn’t offer any lessons or guitar exercises. It is meant for intermediate players who want to start creating original music pieces.
Suitable for: Intermediate to professional guitar players.
- Teaches users basic recording techniques
- Lets you experiment with virtual guitar gear
- Allows you to upload original music directly
- Not for beginners
- Doesn’t offer structured learning
The Basics of Guitar Learning Software
Now that we’ve gone over a few impressive guitar learning programs, it begs the question of how to choose the right guitar software for you.
What are the key attributes you should be looking for and what are the advantages to using guitar learning software as opposed to attending music lessons? How should you be using these apps?
Well, we’re here to answer all of your questions and then some.
How to Choose the Best Guitar Learning Software for You?
Before choosing a guitar learning software, there are a few questions you should ask yourself.
The first being which guitar you want to play. In general, there are two types of guitars, the bass guitar, which has four strings, and the acoustic or electric guitar, which has six strings. There are more kinds, however, in our experience, if you can play acoustic you can play almost every other kind of guitar (with the exception of bass).
Because bass and acoustic guitars have different numbers of strings, the chords and chord progressions will differ. The techniques you’ll use will also differ.
Once you figure out which instrument you want to play, try to find a guitar learning software that is best suited for that instrument.
Another thing you should think about is how structured you want your lessons to be. Many people start with nothing more than a cheap acoustic, a pick, and Ultimate Guitar.
If you want a structured approach, choose an app with more rigorous lessons. If you’d like a more free, relaxed approach, find a good tab app and have fun.
The biggest point when learning how to play the guitar is practice. A lot of playing involves muscle memory and that takes time to build. After all, practice makes perfect (or as close to perfect as possible).
What to Look for in a Guitar Learning Software
Here are a few things you should consider when choosing the right guitar learning software for you:
If you’re looking for a more structured approach to learning how to play the guitar, you should check out the lesson coverage that each app offers. When looking at the lesson coverage, you should also consider your skill level.
Novice players should aim to use guitar learning software that has beginner-friendly lessons that explain things like how to string a guitar, how to take care of the guitar, and how to tune it.
Look for guitar learning apps that offer video lessons so that you can see what is being done and how to correctly hold chords and how to transition from one chord to the other.
If you’re a beginner, we would also recommend that you check out some music theory.
When looking for guitar learning software, try to find an app that has interactive practice tools and online guitar lessons. These tools and lessons really help keep up your motivation and progress.
Additional tools and guitar tricks that you could look for are animated tabs, backing tracks, example performances, or an animated fretboard.
Another key feature that you should be looking for is flexibility. Can you use the app or platform on multiple devices? Is the guitar learning software available on your device? Are the lesson plans flexible and adaptable to various skill levels?
It is also helpful if the app offers guitar tricks and tips to help you get a hang of the instrument.
One of the benefits of teaching yourself to play guitar is that you’re able to work according to your own schedule. The app or software you use should give you the flexibility to play guitar when and where you want to.
How to Use Guitar Learning Software
Most guitar learning software is easy to use and straightforward. They might offer online guitar lessons, or video lessons, or tabs to practice off of. How you use these apps is completely up to you.
Remember, the apps are only as effective as you make them.
In our experience, if you’re a novice the thing you need to focus on most is practice. Many people struggle to keep up their motivation, especially as they’re starting out. Pick a few of your favorite songs and try to master them. If you keep it up, you’ll be playing like Santana in no time.
Make your practice fun. Music is fun, so don’t take it too seriously. Play the songs you enjoy. Play the artists you enjoy.
Many online guitar lessons are structured and if this doesn’t work for you, try something more freeing. The more you enjoy playing, the better you’ll get at playing.
Most newbies might want to go out and buy the best guitar they can find or spend hundreds on expensive strings. Don’t do that.
If you’re just starting out, we recommend you go with a guitar that has nylon strings. Not only is it gentler on the fingertips, but it’s also easier to get the chords right than on metal strings. Your fingers will thank you.
The guitar is probably one of the easiest instruments to learn, no matter your age. Playing guitar is straightforward and there are a ton of online videos that offer to teach you guitar tricks and tips.
In this review, we covered the best online guitar learning software we could find that would fit people of all ages and skill levels.
Remember, it’s not about whether you have the best guitar or the most expensive strings. Playing guitar is all about having fun.
Now go out there and be a rockstar.
Mike Hostetler is an Entrepreneur & Technologist currently working to help technical teams grow and thrive. Mike formerly founded appendTo, a boutique consultancy born out of the jQuery project. He is an active OSS supporter and currently serves as CEO & Publisher of ModernWeb.com. Mike is passionate about Remote Work, the Future of Work, Leadership and helping others succeed.