The JustinGuitar Review – Quality Free Online Tutorial (Revamped 2019 Version)
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Last Updated Apr-04-2019.
We decided to check in on Justin Guitar to see if anything major had changed since our last review. The good news is it hasn’t – it still offers the same quality free content, although with a few extra lessons and song tutorials since the last time we checked.
Established in 2003, Justin Guitar remains one of the most popular online guitar lesson websites around, with over 1,000 lessons, a dedicated beginner’s course and lots of reference material – there is a good reason it is endorsed by the likes of Mark Knopfler, Tommy Emmanuel, Brian May and Steve Vai!
The best news? It’s completely free!
Check out our video review of Justin Guitar:
With nothing to pay, is Justin Guitar able to compete with the leading online guitar tuition sites like GuitarTricks and JamPlay? Or does it fall a little short in its offering? Let’s take a closer look…
Last year, Justin Guitar changed its design and format, giving everything a cleaner look and making it much easier to navigate. Instead of the previous sidebar menu, everything is now accessed from a streamlined dropdown menu at the top of the page, which feels intuitive and more inline with other platforms.
Lesson pages also feel similar in layout to what you would find on the leading tutorial sites, such as GuitarTricks. The majority of lessons – whether song, chord or technique – follow a similar structure. On the lesson page you will find the video lesson itself, as well as some accompanying tips and text including notes on the song and the chords used.
Justin Guitar uses YouTube as the platform, meaning the video player is incredibly simple and very familiar to use. This comes with a decent list of functions, including full screen options, speed settings and subtitles. It lacks the polish and features of some other dedicated video players, but YouTube is still a pretty good platform.
The filming of the videos is probably the biggest giveaway that this is a free site. There is no pristine studio, crystal clear audio, or simultaneous multiple camera angles – just Justin sitting wherever he is that day, playing his guitar and showing you what to do. The quality has improved over the years and now features some things like on-screen tab, but it still falls a bit short compared to other tutorial sites.
It’s called Justin Guitar for a reason! The website was created by the well-known Australian guitarist Justin Sandercoe, who presents every single video lesson, as well as writes the text and various reference materials.
While there may be a lack of tutor choice compared to others, such as JamPlay – which boasts 92 different instructors – you still get a very experienced guitar teacher in Justin. He’s performed around the world, played with professional, original and cover bands, and featured in guitar media regularly. Due to his popularity, he has even been branded ‘one of the most influential guitar teachers in history’ by a major British newspaper.
Always wearing his trademark flat cap, Justin is a friendly and engaging teacher, with an easy-going attitude that makes learning with him a pleasurable experience. He explains techniques clearly and demonstrates how to play songs in an easy-to-follow way, making him a very good teacher for both beginners and advanced players alike.
At times he does include some others in his lessons, like the new for 2019 videos with Ariel Posen who gives tips on slide playing. But – most of the time – it will just be Justin.
Despite being free to access, Justin Guitar offers a complete course for beginners that actually rivals some other online courses when it comes to content.
Accessible from the left sidebar, the Beginner’s Course features nine main stages (or 12 if you include the initial module, the Master Rock Power Chords stage, and the chord shape explorer), with more than 100 video lessons in total. This course starts with the essentials – such as the guitar’s anatomy and how to tune the instrument – before moving through chords, power chords, picking exercises, practice schedules and more.
In addition to the Beginner’s Course, there is a page dedicated to songs for beginners. This features popular songs that use all the chords learned in the Beginner’s Course, with the songs split into various stages so you know which will match your ability.
Justin Guitar is not solely for beginners, as the site offers many song and technique lessons for guitarists that have progressed past the fundamentals. Accessible from the new top menu, you will find a list of lessons for both intermediate and advanced guitarists.
These include an Intermediate Foundation course as well as further Intermediate Modules, while you can then move onto Advanced Modules. The intermediate lessons cover more complex techniques, such as a variety of barre chords, playing scales with a metronome, advanced chords and playing legato scales, among many other techniques.
There are also several songs that complement these lessons, not to mention the plethora of other popular songs that can be found elsewhere on the site. Lessons tend to be added weekly, with around 10 to 15 new lessons per month.
There’s a good selection of styles available on Justin Guitar, whether you want full songs or technique lessons. While it may not be as extensive in its choices as some of the paid-for sites, you will still find some decent courses for blues, funk and folk, while rock, acoustic and jazz are all well catered for.
Justin Guitar focuses solely on the six-string guitar, so there are no specific bass guitar lessons. We think this is fair enough – it is a free site after all and there is only so much one guy can do!
Reference and Course Material
Justin Guitar offers a section dedicated to reference – items that will help you develop as a guitarist. There are multiple reference pages (located under the ‘Knowledge’ tab on the top menu) on scales, chords and arpeggios, as well as pages that cover guitar gear, including amps, pedal boards and tone settings. You will also find some useful printable PDFs of blank TAB pages, blank chord boxes, blank manuscripts and more.
As you may have gathered by now, there is a lot of content on Justin Guitar and many individual song lessons are available in addition to the technique lessons. Perhaps not as many as the 700 different song lessons on GuitarTricks, but still a fair few – ranging in style and difficulty, which you can search for and filter via the left sidebar.
A quick search shows that Justin Guitar covers many of the iconic guitar classics, with lessons from bands and artists including AC/DC, Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Iron Maiden, Soundgarden, Motorhead, The Eagles, Elvis, Simon and Garfunkel, The Who, and Rage Against The Machine, among many others – with more added every week.
Tools and Apps
Surprisingly, for a free site, Justin Guitar offers a few free tools and apps to help guitarists with their lessons. The most interesting of these are the series of apps available for download on the iTunes store (so they will only work with iOS). These include a Time Trainer Metronome, a Guitar Note Trainer, and a Blues Lick app – which brings together Justin’s weekly Blues Lick series.
Some of these apps are not free – for example, the Blues Lick app costs a few bucks. However, none cost more than a few dollars and feel worthy of the small investment.
Because Justin Guitar is a free tool, it attracts many users from around the world and therefore has a very strong community feel.
This can mainly be experienced in the forum, which can be accessed from the top menu (via the ‘Interact’ tab). As with any guitar forum, there’s nothing particularly mind-blowing, but you will find plenty of activity and chatter on a range of subjects, all centering around guitar playing and the Justin Guitar lessons.
In addition to this, the Justin Guitar Facebook page – which shares everything from site updates to tutorial videos – has more than 250,000 followers, while he’s also very active on Twitter and Instagram. There is also an occasional podcast available.
Finally, it is worth pointing out the ‘Musicianship’ tab, which unfolds into several lessons pages all centering on the theory side of things. This is a useful feature as guitar is often much more than just strumming.
If you have ever wanted to write a song or produce a track, this is the section that will give you the lowdown on these topics. You will find complete courses on things such as music theory, technique, ear training and song writing. These are free to use, although – as we mention below – there is a charge for progressing past Grade 2 in the Theory course.
If you have been paying attention you will know Justin Guitar is a completely free site – no need to pay a penny for 99% of the content. However, there are some ways to support the free lessons.
Justin gives away hundreds of hours of lessons for nothing in return, but he runs the site as a full-time gig and works with an honor system. This allows members to donate what they wish, depending on what they can afford and feel they have gained from using the site. There is also an online store – selling songbooks, DVDs, clothing, and accessories – allowing you to contribute to the site financially, in return for something physical.
Plus, as we have mentioned, some paid-for lessons on music theory (found under the ‘Musicianship’ tab) have been added to the site. While the early stages are free, Grades 3 onwards are only accessible after a small payment of $9.99 for six months, or a new $99 fee for lifetime access.
In 2019, you can find thousands of guitar lessons on YouTube as well as many free tutorial sites, although none are quite as extensive or committed as Justin Guitar.
The sheer volume of lessons for all abilities is staggering, and the reference material and extras make the site feel very complete. The list of songs is very impressive and the format – while a little rough at times – is very user-friendly.
So, while it may not have the refined feel of GuitarTricks, the huge range of teachers like JamPlay, or the virtuoso instruction of ArtistWorks, Justin Guitar is a winner for both beginners and advanced guitarists who want to test the water or progress on guitar using free instruction.
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+ It is completely free to use!
+ A simple but stylish design
+ Justin is an experienced and likeable teacher
+ Plenty of lessons and songs for beginners
+ Good community feeling
- Lacks the content and song list of paid-for sites
- Advanced guitarists may run out of things to learn
- Although getting better, the videos do not have a high production value
- Still feels a little rough around the edges