My dad played the guitar when I was growing up, and he always kept a stack of well-worn songbooks from Harry Chapin, Don McLean and John Prine close. When my parents gave me a Takamine acoustic guitar for my birthday as a teen, I dove into the same songbooks. I hate to admit over time that I fell away from it, but being stuck at home during lockdown is the perfect time to brush up on a rusty skill or learn a new one.
The guitar is a rewarding instrument — there’s no feeling like writing your first song, getting a riff right, picking up a tune by ear or earning those callouses on the tips of your fingers. If you also find yourself with some free time and want to learn how to play guitar, here are five online classes to get you started.
Guitarmy/Screenshot by John Falcone/CNET
The Beginner Guitar Lesson One course by GuitArmy on Skillshare is a great place to start for musical newbies. 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 information like holding the guitar and the pick, strumming, finger numbering, the parts of the guitar, tuning, reading music and playing chords.
What it costs: Some online classes on Skillshare are free when you create an account, but most require a premium membership, which costs $99 annually or $19 a month. You can sign up for 14 free days 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 class starts out with tuning basics and moves into skills such as using a metronome, playing scales and “cowboy” chords. It’s 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 $99 annually or $19 a month. You can sign up for 14 free days 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 chords, 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 courses cost $85. 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 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. Olsen’s courses cost $70. 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 be 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.
For more, check out five Masterclass classes to become a film-maker.