I really struggle with online guitar instruction websites.
Not in any technical sense – I know how to use a website! But even as somebody who has developed their career online, I struggle with the idea that this is the best solution.
There’s a good chance that I’m just showing my age. I come from the generation of guitarists that wanted to be the next Noel Gallagher, had a few lessons from a local guitar teacher, and off I went doing my own thing, none of which led to being the next Noel Gallagher.
The internet wasn’t really a viable resource when I was learning. I remember the owner of the local guitar shop saying “have you got the internet at home?” – I have it right in my pocket, all the time now, but it was a perfectly legitimate question back then.
But now, we live in the future, and there’s an onslaught of websites claiming to help you learn! And obviously, each one is claiming to be better than the other.
Here, we’ll take a look at one called TrueFire.
Like many online guitar instruction sites, TrueFire tries to cram an awful lot of stuff in. I appreciate why they do that – they want to offer more stuff than their competitors – but it makes cynical guys like me immediately think “Is this a jack-of-all-trades, master of none scenario?”
Let me take you through the stuff they offer.
I’ll be honest they might have more stuff – as I say, they’re trying to cram quite a bit in here, so it’s easy to miss things.
This is a difficult one to answer – I feel like it’s got something for everyone!
I would say this would get the most use from beginners and intermediate players, but there does seem to be quite a bit on offer for experienced players too.
In saying that, it will depend on the experienced player in question. Some experienced players will be like “Lol, I know I’m great, I don’t need to a stinking computer telling me what to do.”
Whereas others might be inclined to feel like you can never stop learning, or can never know enough, or might want to find out some more about another style or have some point of their playing they feel a little polishing on.
It will also – and this is probably very obvious – work well for those who are comfortable learning from a screen. That isn’t everybody.
Another possibly excessively obvious point is that even if you go through all levels of lessons on this, it’s lessons, it’s based on other people’s work, and it’s incredibly prescriptive.
This may not work so well if you favor more experimental guitar sounds like maybe Tom Morello or Jack White.
So, the thing with TrueFire, unlike other online guitar instruction platforms, is that you pay for what you use.
It’s completely free to sign up and register an account with them, and then the cost can vary wildly depending on what you want to do. One-to-one tuition can go as high or as low as the tutor themselves want to charge.
This will be a weird compromise between what level of skill they’re offering to teach you, and how much you’re willing to pay. The lower the level it is that’s being taught, the less it’s likely to cost.
Think of it this way: if a teacher charges $10 for a beginner lesson, and has 100 students, that’s $1,000. If only 25 of those 100 beginner students keep with the guitar until they become experienced, that’s a massive drop in that teacher’s income.
The self-instruction courses might suit some learners better. These vary pretty wildly. Some of them got up to $30 or $40, but there’s usually a sale to be found so you don’t end up paying quite that much.
Other things you can pay for as you go along.
The instructions and ability to take lessons online are cool if that’s how you like to learn.
For me, one of my favorite features is the jam tracks. I guess this feature is pretty squarely aimed at intermediate and experienced guitarists.
Straight off, you get 200 backing tracks of various styles, tempos, and keys for you to jam along to. For $19.95, you’re allowed to download those tracks. I find that an odd one, but I guess there’s some kind of demand for it. In an era of Spotify and other streaming sites, do people even download MP3s anymore?
It has a blog which seems to primarily focus on lesson related listicles. It looks like it’s updated regularly too – that’s nice to see.
It has a forum, where I guess you can chat with other users about progress, queries, sharing ideas about technique and gear, and complain about things. You know, usual forum stuff!
It seems fairly hidden away, which I find odd, but one of the things that TrueFire has that I thought would have been front and center of its promotion, is the big name teachers that it has. I haven’t been able to work out if they’re exclusive video lesson to TrueFire, but they have stuff from Steve Vai, Larry Carlton, and Tommy Emmanuel.
I generally consider the usability of a product in terms of its life cycle: how long will a customer want to use this for.
And I’m honestly struggling to figure that out for TrueFire!
In terms of actual use, if you can navigate any other website, you can find your way around this one.
Like, sure, it’s free to sign up, and it has a limited number of free stuff to do. But after that, things can look a little pricey, especially if you’re a kid looking to spend your pocket money.
But, in saying that, you can find some pretty great deals, plus, once you’ve spent the money, it should keep you busy for a few weeks, meaning it’ll likely work out much cheaper than going to an actual local guitar tutor.
There’s also the issue of any self-learning platform: student discipline. You really have to commit to it, and designate time for it every day or week, or whatever you can or want. If you can’t manage that, you can’t blame TrueFire!
It’s probably a good idea to try the free lessons before handing over cash, even if it’s way below your ability level, just to make sure this learning style is something that will keep you engaged.
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I was so incredibly skeptical of TrueFire when I started this review, and I feel bad for that now.
If getting to lessons is a pain, and you really have the commitment to learning, I don’t see why anybody wouldn’t get a great deal out of this website.
I think the most important thing for it is a commitment, and that’s on you, not on TrueFire. It really is the sort of thing you need to just sit and do – a difficult task when you have a day job and family. When I’m doing something like that, I try and just get 20 minutes per day at it, which is still a challenge.
But I would definitely recommend checking out TrueFire, whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced player who wants to focus on one aspect of their playing.