“Can anyone recommend a decent website for guitar lessons?” is a perennial theme that pops up constantly on guitar forums (along with the many happy NGDs). The permanent answer? JustinGuitar.com (opens in new tab).
Back in 2003, it’s doubtful Justin Sandercoe, then a 20-year-old native of Tasmania, had any idea that his fledgling website would help millions of people learn it play guitar online. But he was smart enough to spot an opportunity, smart enough to offer a solution, and persistent enough to move on. Since then, Justin has become a guitar-wielding institution, possibly the most famous guitarist (who non-guitarists have never heard of) in the world. By 2011, his YouTube videos had received over 100 million views and his current subscriber base now has more than 1.5 million users.
First of all, Justin is a phenomenal teacher, which is a completely different skill from being a good musician. And in the early days, when most of us would have just given up and hit the pub, he worked tirelessly to provide his burgeoning audience with a near-constant stream of free content. A labor of love if ever there was one.
Tap JustinGuitar.com in your browser and you’ll discover a learning platform that easily rivals its paid competitors like Fender Play or Yousician. Central to this is a three-step learning path that takes you from the soft-handed beginner, to the hard-skinned intermediate, to the proud, calloused intermediate.
Each level includes three classes (1-9), and each class is broken down into about half a dozen modules, each generously packed with numerous lessons. These lessons typically last between eight and twenty minutes, which is a good length. Thankfully, since Justin’s teaching style is fluff-free, this all makes for some solid study time.
As you’d expect, Grade One, Module One explores some basic open chords, but in Grade Three (still beginner level) you’ll pick individual strings as you strum and learn how to play simple duets.
By the time you reach Intermediate Six you will have a very solid foundation in barre chords, rhythm basics, lead playing, blues guitar and, if you wish, a good introduction to fingerstyle, folk, funk and jazz. In short, there’s a heck of a lot of content here, although not all of it is mandatory.
To date, the Advanced Levels focus primarily on jazz technique, but this section is only partially complete, so it will be interesting to discover what else Justin has up his sleeve.
JustinGuitar Review: Skills and Songs
If you come back to JustingGuitar.com after a break, you’ll probably remember that the learning path used to take a slightly different route. In recent years, Justin has struggled to reorganize the entire path, which meant pretty much every lesson had to be re-shot. As a result, the course area is now more logical to navigate, and the new video content that will be phased in over time is professionally lit and shot in crisp HD 1080p or better with multiple camera angles. You don’t get an animated fretboard, but each lesson is supported with detailed notes and chord diagrams where appropriate.
need more? If that’s not enough, rest assured that Justin is constantly working on new course material – at the time of writing, advanced grades 8 and 9 are on the horizon. If that’s still not enough, check out Justin’s Skills sections where you can delve deeper into Scales & Modes, Arpeggios, Ear Training, Guitar Kit… It goes on and on.
Most of us are enticed into learning guitar because we want to play our favorite songs. Again, JustinGuitar.com does not disappoint. You’ll find more than 670 songs in the song library, covering a wide range of tastes and skill levels, and more are being added all the time. Some of the song videos were filmed a few years ago, but don’t let that deter you from the joy of learning one of your favorites.
JustinGuitar Rating: Paid Content
Everything I’ve mentioned so far is completely free for anyone with an internet connection, but there’s some paid content as well. Justin currently offers four premium courses – Transcribe blues solos, solo blues guitar, strumming techniques 1&2 and Practical, fast and fun music theory. The first three cost about $10 each for lifetime access, but the more elaborate music theory course is $9.99 for six-month access, or $99 for life, which seems like good value .
Justin has been selling their excellent line of instructional e-books and books for many years, but they are now being joined by a beginner’s app, jam tracks, tabs/notation and an expanded range of merch. The tabs/notations are not transcribed by Justin, instead he uses the official versions straight from the publisher, so a fee must be charged.
JustinGuitar Review: Style and Substance
A few years ago Justin seemed to be drowning under the weight of his own creation, so I’m happy to see that he’s recruited a team to help him behind the scenes. The updated site looks great and the new video content is miles ahead of the early YouTube videos I remember seeing of a young Aussie teaching guitar in a cramped London flat. It’s fair to say that the production quality has been good for a number of years, but the very recent course videos are simply outstanding.
The site’s most important asset is, of course, Justin himself. His delivery is always knowledgeable, thoughtful, sometimes even humorous, but he’s no stand-up. So if you are looking for a crazy, crazy guitar teacher then look elsewhere. Instead, I like to think of Justin as the David Attenborough of the guitar world, graciously guiding millions of us through the otherwise impenetrable jungle of guitar learning.
JustinGuitar Review: Specifications
- Costs: Free with a small amount of paid premium content. It’s possible to watch the free video content on YouTube, but if you log into the site you’ll get access to written material and save your progress.
- Application: Lessons and Songs mobile app (Android (opens in new tab) and iOS (opens in new tab)) is a karaoke style play-along app for beginners with in-app purchases
- Visit: JustinGuitar (opens in new tab)