Due to major events in the last year, many people have spent a great deal of time in their own homes. Now the world of online instruction has grown to such a proportion that in-person education is becoming obsolete.
Prior to the pandemic, online instruction (guitar instruction in particular) was a growing market and continues to show promise of even further expansion.
Thousands of guitar teachers (myself included) either had multiple students drop out of classes due to quarantine measures, or moved completely online, and we were left to figure out how to move forward with the new changes.
I had no idea until about a year ago that things like TrueFire even existed, and honestly, I’m glad they do because they give newcomers loads of information on top of powerful tools to help them progress. So much so, I decided to write a Truefire review article about it.
TrueFire is yet another online guitar lesson platform offering thousands of video lessons, live lessons, weekly video blogs, and more. Compared to competitors, TrueFire definitely holds its own and delivers good value for your investment.
Is It Any Good?
TrueFire is actually pretty good. They’ve got a lot of video lessons and reputable instructors. One thing I noticed once I logged into my account was that you’re almost completely on your own to find a lesson plan.
So if you’re a complete beginner and don’t know where to start, it might seem a little daunting initially, but once you find the ‘Beginner’ course, you’re off to the races. Make that process even easier and simply select a Learning Path.
But before going and signing up for TrueFire, or any lesson program, there are some things you need to first consider.
Key decision-making factors
- Consider your own interests
What genre of music do you enjoy listening to and what style would you like to learn to play? This is the first step in deciding whether or not a lesson program is right for you. TrueFire is offering a wide array of styles, as well as lessons for complete beginners, and there’s plenty of material to keep even experienced players interested and busy learning new things.
- Who your instructor will be
I’ve heard too many horror stories of new guitar students being bored to death with beginner guitar lessons. Having an instructor with experience and possibly even some notoriety in the guitar world will give you some confidence in knowing you’re getting good, useful instruction.
Having gone through several lessons on TrueFire from different levels and styles myself (just to see what they’re like), I can say that the quality of instruction is great, they have a long list of highly reputable instructors, and the production quality of the videos themselves is top-notch.
- The course curriculum
The biggest motivation killer for any student is having no sense of direction. Practicing small, meticulous technical things is important, but knowing what all of that work is going toward makes a huge difference in your daily motivation to continue.
TrueFire has tons of different courses to choose from, and they’re designed to help you progress quickly and efficiently. So you won’t have to deal with a plateau in your playing – as long as you keep practicing.
- How much you’re willing to spend on a lesson program
I’ve said this in previous reviews, but some private guitar teachers can cost up to $200 per hour. With that level of instruction, you should definitely be receiving the best instruction on the market, but you could also pay rent on a second apartment with that kind of monthly investment.
Even if you don’t pay a college professor for guitar lessons, you’re still likely to be paying $20-$40 per lesson.
This is definitely a benefit to online guitar instruction. You might lose a little bit of that university-level quality, but you’ll definitely be saving a whole lot of money in the long run, and that’s great if you’re a student.
- User Interface
When you commit a lot of time to something like guitar lessons and practicing, it’s important that the website itself is easy to navigate. I’m not too proud to admit that I had a little bit of trouble figuring out where to go to begin working through video lessons.
I figured out that it’s much easier to use if you download the app instead of using the website. The app will save your progress and remember which videos you left off on.
- Easy to follow lessons
TrueFire guitar lessons are simply structured and not difficult to follow along with. The instructors do a great job by assuming that you need to be taught at a reasonable pace.
There’s nothing quite as annoying as a teacher who rushes through the material. Sure, it’s a video lesson and you can go back and rewatch, but there’s no need to do all of that in TrueFire’s lessons.
- Tools to help you progress through manageable goals
Unfortunately, TrueFire falls short in this area. While the app does keep track of what lessons you’ve covered, the platform itself lacks any and all proprietary reference sources.
You won’t find any chord charts, scale diagrams, or interactive modes to test your knowledge and skills as you will find in other platforms like JamPlay and Guitar Tricks. This isn’t a massive setback, however, because there is still loads of good material in the lessons themselves.
- How much time you’re willing to practice
You can have the best instructors in the world with perfect lesson plans, at an affordable price, but if you don’t put in the time to practice, you’re not going to see any results, and that’s the best way to judge a lesson platform – give it your absolute best and then judge based on your results.
How Does It Work?
TrueFire, along with nearly all online guitar lesson platforms, works as a subscription service. You sign up through the website, pay either a monthly or an annual fee, and they give you access to all of their lesson content.
It’s going to cost you less in the long run if you pay for an annual membership, but if you don’t have that kind of money upfront, a monthly subscription will cost you about the same as a few trips to your local overpriced coffee shop.
Large variety and number of courses
This might seem like an obvious thing to expect from an online guitar lessons platform, but you might be surprised to learn that some platforms are severely limited when it comes to offering lesson content. TrueFire is not one of them.
On this platform, you’ll find courses covering musical styles such as Blues, Jazz, Rock, Metal, Country, Fingerstyle, Classical, Funk, Americana, and more. You’ll also find courses devoted solely to Beginner level students, which is something I believe is necessary to distinguish.
You’ll also find lessons in improvisation, applied theory, soloing, various special techniques, and even lessons in songwriting. To top it off, TrueFire is offering lessons on Bass, Banjo, Ukulele, and Harmonica.
The amount of instructional content on this website is pretty awesome, and there’s enough to keep even someone like myself interested.
You can even download any courses when you have a membership. That’s a big selling point for me. If I’m traveling and want to learn some guitar while I’m on an airplane or on a bus, it’s really nice to not have to worry about internet connection!
Loads of teachers
One of the most important factors in any lesson program is going to be the teacher. You can be the most motivated, disciplined, and consistent student in the world, but if your teacher doesn’t know what they’re talking about, you’re going to be getting nowhere really fast.
TrueFire has a powerhouse list of educators including Tommy Emmanuel, Laurence Juber, and Andy McKee just to name a few.
Granted, you’re not going to meet these people once every week as you would in a regular guitar lesson, but having access to the lessons they put their own time into creating is priceless, considering you can rewatch them if you have TrueFire’s All-Access membership.
I’ll start off by saying that TrueFire is doing it right by including Beginner lessons at the start of every Learning Path. Not to mention, it’s the same beginner lesson for every path.
So every beginner that uses TrueFire is getting the same solid foundation no matter what Learning Path you choose. This is similar to Guitar Tricks, which also has a single beginner guitar course.
Each Learning Path takes you from Beginner through advanced materials. It’s not like Fender Play where Level 5 is still beginner material. At least with TrueFire, you know the higher levels will actually be more challenging – like playing real guitar.
Most online guitar lesson platforms offer some sort of interactive feature that allows users to practice improvising over a backing track.
TrueFire has gone the extra mile with their Jams. You have to download a separate application either to your computer, phone, or tablet, but once you’ve downloaded it, it’s extremely user-friendly and actually blew me away with how innovative it is.
It’s a live recording of a jam session. You’re able to adjust the volume of every instrument, you can choose between watching the video performance or the chord chart. There’s even live commentary on what the soloist is playing which can be muted along with the soloist’s playing in case you’d like to have a turn playing the lead.
As I said, once you have the application installed, you just log into your TrueFire account, and you’re ready to jam with either free samples or specific Jam Packs from the website. Either way, this is a valuable tool for any aspiring lead or rhythm guitarist (yeah, did I mention that there’s also live commentary on the rhythm guitar parts too?)
The biggest drawback to any online course is the absence of human interaction. There’s no teacher-student banter at the beginning and end of lessons, which removes the entire relationship between teacher and student from the equation.
These are just a couple of minor things that online video lessons lack, but TrueFire (and other platforms) have made efforts to rectify this issue with Live Events.
Whether it’s a live performance, a masterclass, or a simple Q&A session with an instructor, TrueFire provides opportunities for its members to make up for the inherent lack of human interaction that comes with online learning.
If you have a TrueFire all access membership, you still have to pay an extra subscription fee to access each individual Channel. Don’t let that deter you because you’re getting what you pay for.
These Channels all include self-produced content from loads of different artists, covering various topics. Not everything is strictly related to playing the guitar. Some Channels feature artists talking about their methods of songwriting, or their artistic approach to playing in general.
Remember what I was saying about missing out on top-notch instruction when you pay for online lessons? That’s no longer completely true.
For example, I could subscribe to Tommy Emmanuel’s TrueFire Channel and gain access to 127 video lessons, tablature, chord charts, and a monthly zoom workshop with Tommy Emmanuel, the world’s greatest acoustic fingerstyle guitarist.
If TrueFire’s Channels aren’t satisfying your need for teacher-student interaction while learning guitar, TrueFire also offers one on one online guitar lessons with its instructors.
Just click on the Private Lessons link underneath the “More” tab from the home page.
Then you’ll have the option to either sign up for a single consultation/lesson or request ongoing private lessons with one of TrueFire’s top instructors.
As someone who’s been teaching online for the last year, I can say that TrueFire, and several other online lesson platforms, are already offering what I can offer and then some.
If you’re willing to put up the money for an All-Access membership on top of paying for lessons with a TrueFire instructor, you’d be setting yourself up for great success, despite everything being online. Don’t forget though -you still have to practice…
TrueFire Pros & Cons
- Massive list of teachers
The more teachers you have to choose from, the better. Sometimes you come across a teacher who just makes no sense to you. So having options to choose from takes the pressure off of you. This is characteristic of most online guitar lesson platforms, and makes the most sense because not everyone learns the same way!
- Numerous lessons and styles
Once you get past the initial beginner lessons, you have the freedom to explore different musical styles to find what you enjoy the most.
- Interactive Jamming app
I talked about this quite a bit earlier, but I can’t say enough about it. A basic membership comes with over 200 tracks to jam with, and TrueFire gives you an app with which you’re able to jam with real musicians (not a midi track), and even control your own mix.
- Affordable monthly membership
Most online guitar lesson platforms cost about the same, but each one varies slightly based on what you get for your investment. TrueFire comes in at $29 per month or $249 per year without any discounts. Compare that to regular weekly guitar lessons, and you’ve already saved hundreds of dollars per year.
- Option for private online lessons
This is a big selling point for me, and may also be for many others. It’s not necessarily just about having a teacher to go to with questions when you need as much as it is about having the option. Not everyone will take advantage of this, but it’s great that TrueFire is offering this.
- All Access Membership doesn’t give you access to the TrueFire Channels.
This was disappointing for me, but in order for TrueFire to have access to so many big-name artists, it’s probably necessary. That’s just how it is sometimes, folks. But while it might increase your monthly cost for guitar lessons, it may not increase it beyond what you might pay for traditional in-person lessons. So, is it really a con after all?
- May be difficult for beginners to follow
For complete beginners, finding the beginner guitar lessons isn’t a huge challenge. But once you’ve gotten through all of the beginner material, you’re on your own if you haven’t started down a Learning Path (that’s what they’re for after all). So I’ll ask again, is this really a con after all?
Who Is This Course Best For?
This course is best for anyone from beginners to advanced players, wanting to refine their playing. This is great for beginners because there is plenty of material available to you, and their program will get you playing guitar almost right away.
For advanced players, there are courses in many different styles challenging enough to keep you interested. The only thing lacking in the advanced area is for classical guitarists, and that isn’t exclusive to TrueFire.
JamPlay and Guitar Tricks are beginner-centered in this genre as well. Aside from that, JamPlay is an excellent avenue for intermediate and advanced players to explore and improve.
TrueFire, and any online lesson platform is best for the highly disciplined self-starter. Anyone can sit down and fumble through a few video lessons and feel good about it, but you might be wasting your money if that’s all you get out of it.
If taken seriously (or even partly seriously), TrueFire can provide you with everything you need to go from beginner to advanced player. But you’ve got to put in the time to practice every day.
However, part of the appeal to online learning is that you can take things at your own pace, and you don’t have to worry about feeling judged every week.
If you just want to spend twenty minutes every few days to blow off some steam, there’s no harm done. I’m only saying that what you get out of TrueFire is entirely up to you. They’ve done a great job at putting the proverbial ball in your court.
JamPlay or Guitar Tricks present themselves as comparable alternatives to TrueFire. On the one hand, both alternative platforms are offering similar products and services, while on the other, TrueFire seems to have more reputable instructors and exclusive content – which is more value added.
As I briefly mentioned earlier, TrueFire, JamPlay and Guitar Tricks offer great beginner courses, and cover topics and styles to also suit the needs of intermediate and advanced players. However, none of them offer much in terms of classical guitar instruction for advanced players.
With all of that said though, JamPlay offers the best instruction for classical guitarists, and has technical content which can be useful even for advanced players. Sadly, TrueFire and Guitar Tricks are sorely lacking in this area.
If you’re an acoustic or electric guitarist, there isn’t much that sets TrueFire apart from JamPlay and Guitar Tricks aside from their list of instructors, and their exclusive content featured in the TrueFire Channels.
What Makes TrueFire Special
And that brings me to my last point – What truly sets TrueFire apart from its competitors are its exclusive TrueFire Channels.
TrueFire itself may not be the less expensive option when compared to JamPlay or Guitar Tricks, but the platform is offering, in my opinion, the added value simply by having well-known artists available to learn from.
People who are hesitant to place their trust in an online guitar lesson platform will be more likely to trust the names of artists that they already know.
This is happening on other platforms as well, but TrueFire is doing a great job at taking the lead by allowing these names to charge extra for their lessons and services. It will only ensure that you’re getting what you pay for.
TrueFire Review – Final Thoughts
I’ve been a guitar teacher for over ten years, so I’ve always been immediately skeptical of online guitar lesson platforms. The advertisements come across as gimmicky and disingenuous, but the more I’ve researched and tried them out for myself, the more I see benefits to the online learning process.
TrueFire is no exception. It’s a solid platform with a well-thought-out curriculum. If you’re a complete beginner, you can select a Learning Path and take off from ground zero. If you’re an advanced player, you have tons of lessons to refresh your memory and tons of lessons to take your playing and artistic approach to the next level.
Bottom line, TrueFire is a great option amongst all of the online guitar lesson platforms.