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I like to be honest in reviews, so let me say straight off that I had never heard of Jamorama before I needed to review it. I have to say, approaching it, I was a mixed mindset of intrigued and skeptical.
This predominantly came from the way it labels itself as a social network for guitarists. I don’t know why that would even be a thing. I’m a guitarist and I use the usual social networks, and never felt the need for one just for my playing.
Reading more, I saw that it was designed to help guitarist learn, and set points in their progress that could be regarded as achievements. I thought that was interesting, and thought that would be a more valuable attribute than a social network.
The main thing that Jamorama focuses on is community, and learning as others learn. I guess I can see how some new guitarists might like that. When I was learning to play it was all about dial-up and videos were barely feasible!
Jamorama themselves identify their key benefits to guitarists as follows:
There are also a few video lessons for specific songs.
Just considering the basic, free version, it’s definitely aimed at beginners, and despite my own misgivings, I can see how a lot of newbie guitarists would benefit from what’s on offer here.
If somebody is set on learning on guitar, but live somewhere without a teacher, or a good teacher, or if it’s too far or too difficult to travel, or for any other reason that the can’t take an actual class, the free version of Jamorama will easily get them up and running.
The fact that it’s free could even be an alternative to paying for lessons. Considering what’s on offer in that context, a quick look through Craigslist shows that guitar lessons are really expensive. Granted, I’m in New York where everything is expensive – I feel like I should pay $20 just for waking up in the morning.
Obviously, the cost of a lesson every week varies wildly depending on location, quality of tuition, length of class, number of other students, but just shy of $100 for a one off fee is going to be pretty hard to beat.
As mentioned, Jamorama has two options: a free one, for which you’ll never have to pay anything, and a paid version with a one-off fee of $99.95.
I feel like this is quite a jump, especially for kids without much money. I can’t help but feel like a freemium model, with gradual increases to more content, or at least a pay monthly option would be more appropriate. In saying that, I’d question the life cycle of the additional features available for the paid version. I’m not convinced that it would keep a budding guitarist busy for even a year.
The main feature of Jamorama is the lessons they have available. They start with pretty basic stuff like chords, and some basic guitar maintenance.
Each course is split into a number of parts, labelled as weeks, with the idea that you should complete one section per week to complete that course. For example, the first course is called Beginner Guitar Method – Stage 1. It provides materials for you to take over five weeks. The course materials are a combination of instructional videos, and PDFs for you to download or print.
It includes a blog section, but this doesn’t require membership. Blog posts are categorized into lessons, gear, artists and news. Firstly, this somewhat devalues the blog for paid members, and secondly, it hasn’t been updated since 2016.
The song lessons available are limited, but have a simple version and advanced version: all acoustic interpretations, aimed at getting beginners playing popular songs that they might be familiar with, but equally, stuff that’s ready available on YouTube anyway. It also has a forum section for you to say hi and chat with other learners.
Jamarama is trying to do a lot of little things. It’s certainly an ambitious approach, and I really can’t fault the navigability of its interface. Everything is easy to find – if you’ve used the internet, you can use this.
The instructional videos are helpful, and the advice they provide is absolutely solid. I mean, solid as in guitar playing is so old, with so many different types of player, there are a million opinions on how things should be done, so nobody is ever really right, but the advice provided on Jamorama is definitely a good base point.
The one thing that may hinder the usability is the limited content that I mentioned earlier. Like, it surely won’t take much longer than a year to complete the courses they have listed in the free and aid versions? I’m not sure that kind of limited life cycle makes it a sustainable option.
I mean, what do you do when you’ve spent your $100 and you finish all the courses? Chat with others on the forum? There are plenty of places you can do that for free.
I understand the intention behind Jamorama, I really do. Unfortunately, I’m far from convinced that it’s necessary, especially when you part with $100 for it.
It ties together video lessons and written instructions, a forum, a blog, and all kind of resources. But these are all things that are available elsewhere. On separate sites, sure, but mostly dedicated to what they do, meaning you get players of all levels, from all kinds of experiences.
With Jamorama, because it’s aimed at beginners, I feel like the pool of knowledge is going to be limited, and given the inexperience of the target audience, more likely to be have incorrect information.
Further, it’s not encouraging that the blog hasn’t been updated since last year, and even then, updates seemed sporadic at best.
I do like the gamification of it, where you can achieve certain things. But, as you decide yourself when you’ve played something well enough to move on, does that even count? It’s like ticking a box to say you’re older than you really are when you’re going onto some websites – there’s nobody that can check!
In saying that, I see how it might benefit somebody who does not have access to lessons with an actual guitar teacher, and I would recommend them to at least try it, and see how they get on. But this website is not going to create the next Van Halen.
I feel like listening to great guitarists, aspiring to sound like them, practicing until you do, then making it your own, is a decades old route to guitar mastery that isn’t going to be replaced by any website anytime soon.