Know Your Instrument

Artistworks Online Guitar Lessons: the FULL review!

With an idealistic goal of spreading music instruction across the globe, ArtistWorks is different from most, if not, every other guitar lesson platform.

First of all, ArtistWorks is more of an inclusive music school that offers instruction across a symphonic gamut of musical instruments including piano, saxophone, and flute – plus mandolin and banjo, two instruments than lend naturally to guitar playing skills – than a dedicated online guitar resource.

This one-of-a-kind online music school boasts more than 50,000 video lessons with an interactive element that is slowly becoming the norm on other sites. Whereas the general vibe of Guitar Tricks and TrueFire tends toward the painless acquisition of skill by students watching and copying the instructor,

Artistworks takes it to the next level and encourages interaction between student and teacher through their Video Exchange platform whereby students submit their own videos for their teachers to critique. That is what you are paying more for.

Now, it’s important to note that the video exchange program is no longer unique to ArtistWorks. Competing online lesson platforms like JamPlay are offering similar, if not, slightly different versions of these interactive one-on-one lessons.

Beginner Lessons

ArtistWorks consists of two primary elements – the aforementioned Video Exchange and standard professional lessons taught by some of the best guitar players in the world.

On the whole, Artistworks is aimed more at the complete beginner market.

They have lots of lessons focusing on the basics and getting you on course for your long and rewarding learning journey to guitar mastery. Hence, there is a lot of focus on ensuring that all students get the basics nailed before moving on to some of the harder stuff – unlike Fender Play and lots of Youtube channels where there is a tendency to keep on pushing through the material.

Beginner lessons consist of 60 videos, covering everything from an introduction to basic guitar and holding the instrument, running through lessons on power chord syncopation, string bending and hammer on pull-offs. Videos range from 2 to 10 minutes, with an option to film yourself and submit your video for an instructor to critique via the Video Exchange – which is ultimately what sets these lessons apart.

The video player is relatively intuitive, although not nearly as functional as other platforms such as JamPlay, where the tab scrolls in real time with the video. Here at ArtistWorks, you’ll grab the tabs and notation from the lesson pages. However, the video player features a slow motion looping function that should be helpful for picking up on the subtleties of advanced techniques.

For beginning rock guitarists, your instructor is none other than Paul Gilbert, who’s generally considered one of the top shredders in the world, and now, a skilled and engaging instructor. Think about that when you’re going through the fundamentals – you learned how to tune your guitar from the guy in Mr. Big.

Intermediate and Advanced Lessons

While ArtistWorks caters to beginners, there is a similar amount of material – in the same format – for experienced players – 24 Intermediate lessons and 32 Advanced lessons. In both sections you’ll receive introductions before moving to lessons that mainly focus on pentatonic scales in the Intermediate sections, with arpeggios, string skipping, and scales covered in the Advanced section.

There’s no reason to sugar coat this: more experienced guitar players are better off looking elsewhere for instruction, since most of these skills are already in your repertoire – at least they should be.

Artistworks sample lesson

Acoustic Guitar Lessons

ArtistWorks offers a modest collection of acoustic lessons covering Flatpick and Classical. The flatpick lessons are strictly Bluegrass, and move quickly from fundamentals to learning techniques from traditional songs such as “My Home Across the Blue Ridge Mountains”.

Meanwhile, the Classical lessons get you started on right hand technique before dropping into the world of Segovia scales and Tarrega studies. Experienced Classical players will recognize nearly everything from their beginner studies. As a former student of Classical, I’d highly recommend these foundational courses, although you could just as easily develop these skills on your own.

Electric Guitar Lessons

In addition to Rock, Blues, Jazz, and Country electric lessons, ArtistWorks also offers an intriguing Electric Fingerstyle course from the Martin Taylor Guitar Academy, which focuses on a musical approach to the instrument, including: The Flow: The Psychology of Music and the Guitar Parts 1-2. Additionally, you’ll study somewhat esoteric concepts such as Finding Transition Points While Moving the 7ths.

By the way, it’s also very nice that ArtistWorks has their courses clearly defined as Electric or Acoustic. Some sites just gloss over that detail.

Bass Lessons

Bass Campus is ArtistWorks’ program of three individual bass courses with a heavy emphasis on Jazz. The Electric Multi-Style Bass with Nathan East looks amazing – starting with the second lesson, which jumps straight to harmonics and then, intonation, something most guitar players don’t cover until much further down the line.

Ukulele Lessons

ArtistWorks ukulele program features hundreds of lessons by Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel, and like some of the other courses, you start with Submit a Video: Introduce Yourself & Find Your Starting Point. From there, you’ll advance through Hardware Vocabulary, Warm Up Exercises – Exercise 3: Caterpillar, and Basic Chord Shapes. Eventually, you’ll get to down to business with lessons such as Key of C: Basic 12 Bar Blues.

To be honest, the ukulele program is very impressive – especially the backing tracks – although for the price, it’s probably not great value for money, considering that you’ll get comparable stuff at Fender Play for about a third of the cost.

Artistworks ukulele

Ease of Use

ArtistWorks is the antithesis of Fender Play when it comes to making things easy. Therefore, it might take some time to acclimate to the program. Otherwise, once you have a handle on the Video Exchange system, it’s fairly uncluttered and easy to navigate.  Each ArtistWorks course opens with a What You’ll Learn introduction, which makes the curriculum very clear from the outset.

Songs

If your primary objective is song-based learning, you’re looking in the wrong place. ArtistWorks is a technique-based program, with the focus on developing your skills as a guitarist instead of an arbitrary approach to popular songs.

However, if you’re of the mind-set that it’s important to build up your arsenal of techniques and skills before tackling some songs, then ArtistWorks might be what you’re looking for.

Styles

ArtistWorks covers most styles of guitar music – focusing on rock, blues, jazz, classical, country, and fingerstyle. However, you’ll notice that the course categories are fairly limited to: Electric Rock Guitar, Electric Blues Guitar, Electric Jazz Guitar, Electric Jazz Improv Guitar, Electric Country Guitar, Electric Fingerstyle Guitar, Acoustic Flatpick Guitar, Acoustic Classical Guitar, and Acoustic Dobro & Lap Steel.

Vibe

You’ve arrived at ArtistWorks to learn, and they exist to teach you. It’s by no means the cheapest option out there, but it does cater to those players who want challenge themselves in a vaguely academic environment.

Tools and Mobile apps

ArtistWorks offer no extra tools – aside from the videos and forum – so you’re on your own when it comes to using a tuner or a metronome. And that’s probably a good thing. So many of these online lesson platforms make these tools and apps too accessible. Meanwhile, you’ll get the drift that ArtistWorks is preparing you for some type of performance routine, where you’ll want to have a standalone tuner in your gear kit.

Likewise, ArtistWorks does not furnish a mobile app. However, it’s just as accessible as any other website through a browser with a mobile device or from a desktop.

Instructors

ArtistWorks has an impeccable staff of 9 instructors who are considered to be at the top of their game. From Paul Gilbert to John Pattitucci, ArtistWorks has the smallest roster of teachers of competing platforms, but they’re all studs in their own right. So, here it’s a matter of quality over quantity.

If you’re inspired rather than intimidated, ArtistWorks is the perfect site for a dedicated beginning guitarist who wants to be more than competent.

Artistworks instructors

Community/Forums

Based on the interactive sharing of the Video Exchange system, it’s clear that community is the engine of the ArtistsWorks vehicle. And surrounded by a group of talented and motivated players, you might enjoy the inclusive environment. All paying members have access to the archive of exchange videos, and thus, you could ostensibly find some useful hints and tricks from your fellow guitarists.

Additionally, the dashboard hosts a mini-chat room called Shoutbox, where you can receive instant feedback from the ArtistWorks community.

Finally, ArtistWorks have a Facebook page with more than 50,000 followers, and post a variety of guitar related content – although you’ll see other instruments featured. Overall, you get the sense that the ArtistWorks support system goes to great lengths to make everybody feel welcome – and more importantly – stay focused on their instruction. You can’t say that about a lot of other platforms, where community seems like more of an afterthought, and all marketing material is geared toward promo codes and giveaways.

Artistworks pricing

Value for Money / Cost

The Basic 3 Month plan ($35 a month / $105 one-time charge) comes with unrestricted access to the video library, plus 5 video exchanges per month. Opt for the 6 Month plan ($30 per month / $179) and receive a total of 12 video exchanges and throws 25 bonus jam tracks into the mix.

The Unlimited 12 Month plan ($279 all-in) is probably the best value deal offered – with complete access to lessons, the Video Exchange archive, unlimited submissions to your course tutor, plus more backing tracks and additional bonus material.

In terms of value, it’s really hard to say if this platform is going to be worth the price for you. However, I’ll say this: $105 for 3 months of private guitar lessons sounds like a steal. You’ll pay upwards of $50 an hour for private instruction in other places.

Trial Period

ArtistWorks offers no free trial period and suggests that you try the course for a minimum of three months to see if you can hang with one-on-one lessons from hotshot players.

Peculiar Aspects

Generally speaking, nobody cares who founded a random online guitar lesson platform, unless of course, it happens to be a person of note. Former AOL executive David Butler, created ArtistWorks out of a desire to learn jazz guitar. Apparently, Butler couldn’t find a suitable teacher, so he and his wife Pamela created an online platform to empower anyone with an Internet connection to receive ongoing personal instruction and feedback from virtuoso teachers. That, in and of itself, informs the brand’s unique selling perspective, and sets the tone for the academic environment.

Meanwhile, ArtistWorks is a music school that teaches everything from Bluegrass Vocals to World Percussion. The online guitar lesson platform may have been part of its genesis, but ArtistWorks may be the only guitar instruction outfit that places the gift of music and musicianship above everything else.

How Does it Compare?

Up against the competition, ArtistWorks feels more like Berklee School of Music, with a price tag to match. If you’re paying this much for guitar lessons, I certainly hope you plan on making the most of it. However, having said that, you can’t beat $279 for a year of guitar lessons with interaction with your teacher included.

Artistworks video exchange sample

Strong Points/Weak Points

More than a few online commenters have complained about ArtistWorks’ customer service, particularly the auto-renew credit policy. Apparently, some users felt misled – thinking they’d only signed up for 3 months, and that was the end of that, only to get pinched for another $105. One commenter said something along the lines of: ArtistWorks’ attitude toward customer service can be summed up in four words: “Read the fine print.”

Now, most online guitar platforms try to be as upfront and transparent with their pricing and policies as humanly possible. They go out of their way to hit you over the head with reminders about EVERYTHING. Support experts from Guitar Tricks send me approximately an email a day – and I’m not even a member anymore!

This is an interesting point of contention that drives home the overall ArtistWorks experience. They’re trying to be a type of Berklee School of Music for Guitar, which is an elite program that doesn’t take any slacker off the street. You have to be on the ball to achieve and excel at ArtistWorks, and they don’t come right out and say it, but if you don’t have the discipline and desire to become an accomplished guitar player, then your money is welcome – but you’re completely on your own. Grow up. Deal with it.

The only true weak point about the ArtistWorks video program is a question of self-confidence – you’re going to need it. All video exchanges between tutor and student are linked together on the site and accessible by all other members, which could be a trigger for performance anxiety.

Update Frequency

Because you’ll be working with the Video Exchange program, ArtistWorks is perpetually updating. However, the course library is constantly expanding, so new material seems to be flowing at a steady rate.

Conclusion

Unless you live and breathe guitar, ArtistWorks is probably not going to be as satisfying as any number of other platforms. That said, let’s focus on the good stuff.

ArtistWorks has an unmatched roster of instructors and a vibrantly supportive community. It provides a solid fundamental learning environment where you exchange videos with amazing and enthusiastic teachers who provide useful feedback. And finally, between the community and the price tag, you should be motivated to see progress in your playing.

ArtistWorks will teach you to be a Guitarist with a capital G, as opposed to a lower case guitar player. Guitarists write and perform songs, play in bands, make records, and if they’re good enough, get to see the world – all because they took the time and effort to master their craft. Guitar players just want to learn the solo from “Stairway to Heaven” so they can annoy other patrons at the local music store. That’s a joke, by the way, but hopefully, you have gotten the idea here.

Just want to strum out some jams around the proverbial campfire? Fender Play or Jamorama have what you need. ArtistWorks is for serious students.

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