Best Apps For Learning Guitar

Tap your inner guitar god with these "picks" for learning how to play guitar

Overview

Approximately 6.5 % of the United States population plays guitar in one capacity or another. That equates to about 20 million guitar players in the US alone. Surely, it is safe to assume that a vast portion of those players could learn a thing or two when it comes to playing guitar because an instrument is never truly mastered. The iTunes App Store has no shortage of apps for those of us looking to sharpen our chops, but there certainly are plenty of bad ones. Fortunately, you don't have to waste your time sorting through the heaps of garbage to find some viable tools available for you, the practicing guitar musician. We've already done the dirty work for you, so just grab your axe, crank your amp up to "11", and read on.

Essential Apps

  • Free

    Beginner Guitar Songs

    by Guitar Jamz Inc

    Beginner Guitar by Guitar Jamz is a great place for any beginner to start. The app is crammed with videos and host Marty Schwartz is an enthusiastic teacher who doesn't talk down to you. The beginner series starts at square one with lessons on how to tune your guitar, the names of the strings, etc; all the basics. Soon after he guides you through basic chords and strumming progressions. In no time he will have you playing some very basic songs, but the point here is, you will be playing. These videos are all free, however, underneath the shiny exterior is an infomercial looking to wrap its arms around you and suck you in for the bigger better deal. That being said, I still think any Day-1 beginner will benefit from this collection of instructional videos.

  • Free

    Songsterr Tabs & Chords

    by Guitar Tabs LLC

    When I was first learning how to play guitar, the most beneficial tool for me was being able to purchase magazines and books that contained notations of my favorite songs in tablature format. I didn't have to know how to read music and if the song was familiar to me I could easily look at the page and correlate it to the different parts of the song. Playing the song along with these transcriptions with my guitar in my lap proved to be the best learning tool for me because I was able to train my ear and learn songs that I was interested in playing as opposed to just doing boring scales all day long. There was a rewarding satisfaction to the process that motivated me to keep playing. I mention all this because the Songsterr Plus app is something I would have benefitted hugely from had it been around when I was beginning to play guitar. Songsterr is a simple tablature database that contains a diverse amount of tablature transcriptions. There is a vast selection of music to choose from (over 80,000 songs) that each contain multiple tracks to choose from such as rhythm or lead guitar, bass, or even drums. Additionally there is a Midi playback system that allows you to actually hear a recreation of the song as it plays along with the tablature. There are some nice other features such as a half speed playback mode as well as an offline mode that allows you to save your favorites to the app so that you can sit and learn with them later with no Internet connection required. The app is a little pricey, and considering that all this information is available on the web for free, some people may not find this to be the best deal. However, I personally think that having access to this kind of interface wherever you go is fantastic and worth every cent. The only real drawback is that I have noticed that sometimes you may come across a song where the transcription is clearly not right, although I must say that in the songs I tested that was few and far between. There are other similar apps out there such as TabToolKit and Ultimate-Guitar tabs but I find this app to be the better option and the better overall value. Some people may not be partial to learning from a simple tablature interface but for those who can stomach taking a more independent approach to learning and need less hand-holding, this app is a must have.

  • $1.99

    Guitar Lessons from Howcast

    by Howcast

    I must start by saying that although I believe most of the videos on the Guitar Lessons from HowCast app are available for free on the regular HowCast app, I would recommend shelling out the couple of bucks it costs to get them all in this convenient collection. Otherwise you will likely spend more time searching for the correct video than actually playing guitar. Additionally there is a nice tracking feature that keeps track of the videos you have watched or how much of it you have watched. Those of you that are just getting started with guitar will find a lot of useful information and technique advice from guitar instructor Ivan Max. He covers all the basics and works his way up to a basic intermediate level with the 140 videos included. Ivan is a calm and patient instructor that takes his time (at a steady pace) in explaining himself. Even as a fairly experienced player I was able to see things a little differently than I had before. Those who may be more experienced will find little information that would justify the purchase, but for anyone looking to start off on the right foot, this app is a great place to start.

Notable Apps

  • $0.99

    Guitar Jam Tracks - Scale Trainer & Practice Buddy

    by Ninebuzz Software LLC

    Ninebuzz software has a healthy collection of Guitar Jam Track apps available for various prices ranging from free to $4.99, with the latter amount representing their full universal version that contains the collection of all the separate apps in one. This alone is a nice approach since it gives you, the consumer, a number of options to choose from without being forced to pay for certain apps you don't want. All the apps are laid out the same and are basically a collection of backing tracks and chord/scale charts that accompany the backing tracks. Apps like this require a certain amount of discipline in order to be beneficial. There are no videos to follow along with and it's basically up to you as a player to do your due diligence and learn the scales for each of the backing tracks, but if you muscle through it can be a rewarding learning experience. The Guitar Jam Track apps have a simple, barebones interface that won't steer you wrong. It's nice to have the option to switch between the note charts while the backing track continues to play. This allows you to dive right in without having to really having to commit the scales to memory, however, you must be sure to change your iDevice's settings to keep iPhone/iPad screen from going dark while you are jamming away, unless you want to reach away from your guitar to tap the screen. The backing tracks are nothing incredibly fancy, but they are not supposed to be. They serve a purpose of backing up you, the player, while you learn to shine. Each app features a backing track for each key (A-G) In minor and major as well as different progressions to allow the player to experiment with different styles and feels. It really is a great way to practice and learn to improvise. Hopefully the developer will address the blackout issue in a future update so you don't have to make adjustments in your Settings app each time you want to use this one.

  • Free

    Lick of the Day

    by Agile Partners

    Guitar World Lick of the day is a guitar learning app geared towards intermediate players who are looking to really sharpen their chops on the guitar. Although fee based, if you consider how much this app provides, it really is not too bad a deal, provided you have the money to spare. For $1.99 a month, every day (yes, EVERY day) of the month you will be able to download (or automatically sync) the new lick of the day. Typically these short video lessons are hosted by a celebrity guitar player as they show you how to approach the selected lick of the day. Included to view is the music chart presented in Tablature format. These lessons are extremely short and are not intended to do much more than let you hear how it should be played, along with some personal direction from the instructor. The real benefit of this app will be up to the user who will need to practice these licks repeatedly (as is the case with all guitar lessons). The point being, don't expect these "lessons" to be jam packed with information on technique and approach. They are quick and to the point and let you get right to practicing them. I personally benefit more from this approach and I can say that learning some of these licks has really motivated me to play more which, at the end of the day, is how you really get better.

  • Free

    Video Guitar Lessons, Backing Tracks, Tuner, & Chords Chords

    by JamPlay, LLC

    JamPlay is another app that has its roots online as a place to view online video guitar lessons along with other interactive learning tools. This app is their downsized portable version that allows players to take many of those features on the go. There is certainly a lot of information and material to comb through with over a hundred videos that include a riff and lick library, an exercise library and some random performance bits that are merely there for entertainment purposes. Also included is a chord and scale library along with a sizable collection of jam tracks for the aspiring musician to play along with, which is quite valuable for those of us who may not have other musicians to jam with on a regular basis. Add to all this, a metronome and a guitar tuner and you have a pretty thick package of material to keep you busy for quite a while. My only complaint about this app is that the presentation does little to guide you. It's clearly meant to be for those of us wanting to learn, however, there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the layout. Instead it's just a mish-mash of a lot of different material that's all categorized but without any real guidance as to who or what kind of player might benefit from it, leaving the user to sift through the various materials to find what appeals to them and their playing level. I suppose this is no different than Guitar Worlds Lick of the day app but that app clearly states what it is. With this large collection of tutorial videos perhaps I was expecting a more linear approach to the order that the lessons are presented. When all is said and done though, this app does contain a lot of good information. More importantly, it contains some pretty valuable tools that I feel most players will be able to take something away from.

  • Free

    On the Music Path

    by On the Path LLC

    This app, although free, has the potential to set you back more money than many of you may be willing to spend but I would be remiss if I didn't mention it. On The Music Path offers users the unique opportunity to view lessons with well known performers such as Jackson Browne, Eric Johnson, Richard Thompson and Eric Tennant, to name a few. The lessons aren't cheap. They range from anywhere between two dollars to twenty dollars and last anywhere between 45 and 85 minutes. The lessons include musical notation, chord charts, lyrics (if applicable) and tablature notations that are synchronized to what is being played in the lesson. Some other nice features include both standard and tablature notation, the ability to set looping start and end points as well as adjusting the speed of the playback. I personally shelled out twenty bucks for the Eric Tennant lesson and I have been completely satisfied. I do understand though that the artists featured on this app are not going to appeal to a lot of players out there. I'd recommended downloading the app for free and seeing if any of the lessons or artists appeal to you. I would also suggest going to YouTube and doing a search for "on the music path" to view some sample videos including a nice demo video with actor Jeff Bridges (who actually does play guitar, as demonstrated in His Academy Award-winning performance in the film Crazy Heart). If the price isn't too much for you and you find the artist selection to your liking, I would be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable way to learn how to play music -- from the artists themselves.

Decent Apps

  • Free

    Guitar Lessons: Rock Prodigy

    by The Way of H, Inc.

    Rock Prodigy utilizes a user interaction that will be vaguely familiar to players of the music games Guitar Hero and Rock Band. With your iRig plugged in, you play along with real songs by the real artists. You have the ability to slow the song down, rewind, fast forward and loop any section or phrase of the song that you wish, however this feature is somewhat hampered by the distracting digital stretching that is required when you choose to slow the song down. Another setback is the limited catalog available to download, and let's not forget that you will be forking out cash for every song you purchase. Because of these setbacks, Rock Prodigy may not be the most appealing option for beginners. But for those who have a steady grasp of guitar, and don't mind the somewhat clumsy interface, Rock Prodigy is a decent way to really dissect some songs that may have eluded you in the past...assuming one of those songs happens to be part of their limited catalog. Rock Prodigy also has a version of this app dedicated exclusively to Dave Mustain and is hosted by the Megadeth guitar maestro himself. That app will definitely cater to more advanced players that are fans of Megadeth, but I honestly have a hard time recommending these apps as viable learning tools.

  • Free

    Gibson Learn & Master w/ StudioShare

    by Legacy Learning Systems

    I was sitting on the fence with this app to begin with, since it initially was little more than a free advertisement for Gibson guitar company's Learn & Master video instruction series. However, the app included a tuner, a metronome, and a nice chord chart along with over two hours of free video lessons. Of course the lessons were clips of larger lessons that were mere morsels of information in the larger context of the material it came from, but they contained some good moments and along with the chord chart and free price it seemed like a decent recommendation to those on a budget. However, Gibson has removed the chord library from the app and included some menial subscription based-recording feature that requires a sign up. In other words, give them your email address so they can harass you to buy this video series. What was once a cool little free app has now become a sneaky attempt to get their meat hooks into you. I now recommend you avoid this app completely.

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