Best software for guitarists in 2021: 10 best apps to learn guitar

Whether you’re a total beginner or lapsed player, these are the best apps and websites to help you learn how to play guitar.

So you’ve got yourself a six-string and have gingerly strummed your way through Wonderwall. What now? Sure, you can keep on googling for guitar tabs to other songs, but to really improve as a guitarist, you’ll need some help.

There are dozens of digital learning tools available today. Some can be used as a supplement to your regular, in-person guitar lessons, while many others can replace those entirely. We’ve rounded up some of the best apps and websites to learn guitar – and don’t forget to check out our own Guitar.com lessons and in-depth tutorials.

What to look for in the best guitar learning apps

Not all guitar learning apps are created equal. Some offer great features for beginners, such as real-time feedback on your playing, play-along tabs and even instructional videos. Others are better suited to more experienced guitarists, allowing you to record and listen back to your playing in order to learn, from hearing, exactly where you need to improve.

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If the app offers play-along tabs or chords, its song library is probably the most important factor to consider. Even if you’re just starting out, you’ll likely have an idea of the kind of music you’ll want to learn on guitar. Being able to play along to your favourite songs will keep you motivated – but playing outside of your comfort zone can also be a useful learning tool.

Keep in mind the level you’re at with the guitar – and the level you want to reach – while looking at learning apps.

The best guitar learning apps at a glance:

  • The Gibson App
  • Fender Play
  • Yousician
  • GarageBand for iOS
  • AmpliTube
  • Songsterr Guitar Tabs & Chords
  • BandLab
  • Ultimate Guitar: Chords & Tabs
  • Chordify
  • Justin Guitar Beginner Lessons: Play Real Songs

The Gibson App

The Gibson App
Image: Gibson

+ Real-time feedback thanks to Audio Augmented Reality
+ Free to try
– Sheer volume of features can be overwhelming for beginners

Gibson’s new smartphone app is aimed at guitarists of all levels. Alongside things such as a tuner, play-along tabs and direct access to Gibson’s online store, the app is built around what the brand calls Audio Augmented Reality.

Essentially, this is a system that responds to you as you play along to lessons and exercises, making the experience feel like an interactive lesson. And, handily, no equipment other than a smartphone, an acoustic or electric guitar and a pair of headphones is required.

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Tabs for songs by artists such as Eric Clapton, BB King, Tom Petty, Dolly Parton, Santana, Aerosmith, The Beatles, Foo Fighters, Thin Lizzy are accessible through the app, with each song being able to be adjusted to your skill level. And it’s not just the legends who are on there – tabs for younger, more contemporary artists such as Billie Eilish are available on the Gibson App, too.

What we especially like about the app is how players get a free one-on-one video consultation with a professional Gibson guitar tech. The video call will cover a variety of basic guitar tune-up and maintenance tasks – great for beginners who want to take care of their new instrument.

Price: £13.49/$14.99 a month or £79.99/$89.99 a year

Platform: Android and iOS

Fender Play

fender play

+ In-depth ‘learning paths’ to keep you engaged
+ Long-running and constantly being improved
– A little pricier than other options

Since Fender introduced its tuition platform back in 2017, the brand has added consistent upgrades to make Fender Play arguably the best digital learning tool today.

The app contains hundreds of easy-to-follow lessons and guides to improve your playing and ability. Once you sign up, you’ll answer a variety of questions on preferred instrument and genre. Your responses will then guide the creation of a comprehensive, customised curriculum comprising what Fender describes as personal “learning paths”.

The platform was created with the guidance of educational advisers from Thornton School of Music at University of Southern California in Los Angeles and Musicians Institute in Hollywood. There’s plenty going on under the hood here to ensure you stay engaged, such as a progressive new micro-learning strategy, for those of you that have had your concentration levels zapped by endless scrolling on social media. It’s £15.99 a month, but given the research and quality of tuition, it’s more than worth the price. Did you really expect a bad product from Fender?

Price: £15.99/$9.99 per month

Platform: Android or iOS

Yousician

+ Instant feedback
+ Large song library spanning a lot of genres
– Video-game-like approach not be for everyone

Have you always wanted to play the guitar, but the beginning always seemed slow and frustrating? Well, Yousician is here to help you along the way with a curriculum written by music teachers to help both beginners and intermediate players alike.

Suitable for guitar, bass and even ukulele, the app offers step-by-step video tutorials with a library of over 1,500 “missions” and exercises, plus the ability to provide instant feedback on your performance. The app is free to download but it does require a premium subscription for unlimited and uninterrupted playtime across all platforms.

Price: Free (subscription service offered starting at £14.99/$19.99 per month)

Platform: Desktop, Android and iOS

GarageBand for iOS

GarageBand for iOS
Image: Apple

+ Teaches you basic recording techniques
+ Lets you experiment with a wide variety of virtual guitar gear
– Not for beginners looking for more structured learning

Almost every millennial’s beginner DAW, GarageBand is now available in your pocket, too. It’s perfect for when inspiration strikes and you simply have to record that bossa nova-trap beat that you’ve been humming to yourself at your local café. GarageBand allows you to turn your iPhone or iPad into a respectably deep DAW, particularly due to its price and array of quality on-board amplifier and pedal sims.

You can use a Touch Instrument, microphone and a guitar, and instantly record them with support for up to 32 tracks. Free virtual instruments are also available via GarageBand’s sound library. Add to that a virtual drummer that’ll play along to your track to keep you in time, and you’re set.

Recording, mixing and exporting a song can be done at 24-bit audio resolution and you can also upload your track directly to YouTube and SoundCloud. Billie Eilish wrote Bad Guy in a bedroom – go one better and write your masterpiece with your phone in one hand and overpriced flat white in the other.

Price: Free

Platform: iOS only

AmpliTube

learning apps

+ Easy to use
+ Much more affordable than buying the actual, physical gear
– Not for beginners looking for more structured learning

Made by IK Multimedia, AmpliTube is the free companion app to iRig. It essentially allows you to use any device – be it your phone, tablet or wind-up radio – to process, play and record your guitar and bass while you’re on the move. It offers an extensive library of realistic virtual versions of some of the globe’s most sought-after gear. The app is super intuitive and easy to use, and it lets you drag and drop gear to create custom rigs.

It uses the same digital signal processor as the acclaimed AmpliTube Custom Shop for Mac and PC, so it’s easy to see why this has become somewhat of an industry standard. AmpliTube comes with a great collection of gear that includes 11 pedal effects (delay, fuzz, overdrive, wah, envelope filter, chorus, flanger, phaser, octave, noise filter and distortion), five amps (clean, crunch, lead, metal and bass), five speaker cabs and two microphones (dynamic 87 and condenser 87).

Price: £23.99/$19.99

Platform: Android and iOS

Songsterr Guitar Tabs & Chords

songsterr site screenshot

+ Enormous song library
+ Helpful playback features
– User-generated content

Songsterr has long been a go-to application for campfire guitarists due to its easy and user-friendly UI – and the fact that it has over 500,000 tabs and chords listed in its ever-expanding catalogue. And this isn’t one of those online libraries with dozens of tab versions for each song. Due to Songsterr’s high transcription quality, there’s just a single tab per song, and the music creators and writers get paid, too. Something to ensure your morals aren’t compromised while you’re learning your favourite Smiths track…

The app also offers a count-in as well as the ability to solo instruments and loop selected measures. Tabs will display and scroll across the screen while the song is played, which might take some getting used to for newbies. It’s reliable, updated regularly and only costs a couple of dollars a month.

Price: £3.56/$4.99 per month

Platform: Desktop, iOS and Android

BandLab

bandlab

+ Full-featured, especially given that it’s free
+ Collaborative learning experience
– Not for beginners looking for more structured learning

With over 30 million users and an in-built social networking platform, BandLab is the perfect DAW for collaboration. You can upload tracks to the cloud-based workstation to further your music with over 100 guitar and bass presets and the ability to record acoustic guitars, keyboards, pianos and synths with virtual MIDI instruments.

The app comes with unlimited cloud storage and a handy mastering tool, too, so you never need to use external apps or programs to complete your mixes. And the new BandLab Sounds offers a massive library of free loops to build your own backing track.

Not in the mood to write? Then discover and stream millions of tracks made by emerging and established artists to reignite your creative spark. It’s also totally free, with no paywalls or subscriptions.

Price: Free

Platforms: Desktop, Android and iOS

Ultimate Guitar: Chords & Tabs

+ Huge library of tabs that’s constantly expanding
– Accuracy of tabs is hit or miss

You’d be hard-pressed to find a guitarist that hasn’t used Ultimate Guitar at some point during their playing life. It has the largest online catalogue with free access to over 1.6 million tabs and lyric sheets.

The app also offers dark mode, so you can check your screen during a gig without blinding yourself onstage, plus the option to switch to left-handed mode, compile playlists and adjust font sizes. There’s also the option of a Pro account which offers interactive tabs, transposition and an autoscroll function.

Price: Free (Pro upgrade option also available at various prices)

Platform: Desktop, Android and iOS

Chordify

chordify mobile app

+ Learn the chords for any song that’s on YouTube
+ Affordable
– Doesn’t work as well for learning riffs

While similar to both Songsterr and Ultimate Guitar, Chordify differs in its ability to offer a capo option and the capacity to download songs as MIDI files for easy editing.

The programme has over 8,000,000 songs on tap, and integrates seamlessly with YouTube: It automatically recognises the chords via the audio signal and will synchronise this with your song in a simple and innovative music player. Pretty neat.

Price: £4.99/$6.99 per month

Platform: Desktop, Android and iOS

Justin Guitar Beginner Lessons: Play Real Songs

+ A more personal learning experience than some apps
+ Great for beginners
– Not the biggest library

Justin Guitar is one of the most revered tuition accounts on YouTube, so it’s fitting that his exploits have been turned into a useful app for beginners. Justin Sandercoe offers everything you could possibly need as a beginner, offering structured courses in different grades – there’s everything from technique exercises to chord theory to strumming patterns. Over a million players have learned to play using Sandercoe’s website, JustinGuitar.com, and now those lessons are available in an interactive format.

Price: £8.49/$9.99 per month

Platform: Android and iOS

For more guides, click here.

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