Learning to play a musical instrument can be an incredibly rewarding endeavour, but it also comes with its fair share of frustrations when training your fingers to contort into unfamiliar shapes. But fret no longer (unless you’re learning guitar of course), as there are an amazing number of online resources and apps that can help you make sense of music and get you playing in no time.
We’ll focus on guitar and piano, but many of the services here also teach other instruments such as bass and drums. For others, you’ll be able to find many similar resources online.
How to learn guitar online
During lockdown, many people decided to learn to play the guitar. So much so that companies such as Fender and Gibson reported record sales of the instruments. One of the reason for this (apart from the fact that guitars are so popular) is the wealth of free and affordable training available to new and improving players. We’ve outlined a few below, but there really is so much more out there – this really is just the tip of the iceberg.
In the past, if you were trying to work out a song or get to grips with scales, your options were theory books or finding a local guitar teacher. While we would still advise the latter, things are different now thanks to a huge selection of YouTube channels that can take you from beginner to a shred master. Whether it’s music theory, soloing techniques, mastering basic chords or anything else related to guitars, you’ll find several channels that are eager to help.
Some of our favourites are
Guitar Pilgrim and
Samurai Guitarist, but there are many others. One bonus is that if you like the style of teaching, most Guitar YouTubers offer paid courses that can help take you to the next level.
Truefire has a YouTube channel that offers taster clips of its full tutorial videos, but to get the real experience you’ll want to download the app on your smartphone, PC or iPad and take advantage of the advanced features that accompany the lessons. These include fully tabbed notation, slow motion and section looping to get those notes under your fingers, plus multiple camera angles of the tutors.
The lessons themselves cover a wide range of music styles, from the very basics right up to learning fingerpicking, bebop jazz, metal shredding or even bass. You need to buy each lesson individually, but Truefire often has sales and promotions that allow you to quickly build a collection without breaking the bank.
If you want to unlock the entire library, there’s an All-Access subscription that costs $249 (£190) per year, but again this is often on sale and reduced by around 40%.
Another popular tutorial app is
Fender Play. Fender is arguably the biggest guitar brand in the world, but it turns out it’s also a dab hand at putting together a great tuition app. Fender Play is a great starting place for those who are new to guitar, bass or ukulele. Lessons take you from the absolute basics of how to hold a guitar through to playing complete songs from the likes of The Beatles, Billie Eilish, Ed Sheeran and many more.
There are various styles for guitar and bass, so you can choose which ‘path’ to follow. In certain lessons there’s a feedback mode which records your playing and highlights where you’re doing well, as well as specific notes and areas you need to improve upon.
The services costs £9.99/$9.99 per month or you can pay for the whole year up front and save some money, with the annual cost being £89.99/$89.99. For more details, read our full
Fender Play review.
How to learn piano online
The other most popular instrument to learn is of course the piano. Again, there are plenty of options including online and apps.
As with guitars, you’ll find plenty of piano channels on YouTube where you can learn how to tickle the ivories without the need to spend any money. Some highly regarded channels include
Instant Piano Genius,
Piano in 21 Days.
You may have seen
SimplyPiano advertised online. This app uses your phone or tablet to listen to you playing along to lessons, then analyses your performance to help you improve. In many ways it feels a bit like playing Guitar Hero, but you’re using a real instrument and can learn to play popular songs surprisingly quickly.
The subscription is a bit pricey, with no monthly option available you need to select between 3 month (£52.99/$59.99), 6 month (£78.99/$89.99), and 1 year (£104.99/$119.99), but it’s such a fun app to use that we think it’s worth the money. Plus, there’s a 7-day free trial available to let you give it all a test run.
Similar to SimplyPiano,
Yousician is an app-based tutorial service that uses interactive games to teach you how to play the piano (or guitar, bass, ukulele and singing). You play along with the on-screen lessons, while the app listens to your efforts and rewards you for making progress. It’s a great way to take the plodding repetition of those early learning stages and turning them into entertaining games instead.
Again, the cost might seem high, but it’s far cheaper than paying for private lessons. Yousician maked it difficult to see how much it costs when you’re on the website, but for £19.99/$19.99 per month you get a single instrument and plenty of lessons, while the £25.99/$29.99p/m Premium+ Personal tier opens up all five instruments plus adds in thousands of popular songs you can learn.
If you pay for the whole year in advance then you can save up to 50%, which is a significant saving.
One of these apps or websites could set you on the road to musical stardom but, more likely, they’ll make it possible for you to reach a stage where you can play a song at the next social gathering, or even join a local band. For more inspiration on what tunes you might want to learn, read our guide to the
best music streaming services.