When you don’t have the money or the time to take guitar lessons with a teacher, it’s often hard to know where to start, and stay consistent by learning new songs and techniques regularly. That’s why it’s important to choose a method that works and designed FOR beginners.
In that regard, eMedia decided to build a software to help new guitarists to find their way into the vast guitar world, and hone their skills. The eMedia Guitar Method v6.0 contains 195 lessons, 70 techniques, and over 50 guitar lesson videos, for $59.95.
Okay, great, you say… But is the software actually worth the price? Yes, it is, and to prove that, I have tested the application thoroughly.
1. First steps
The installation was simple and made without experiencing any issue. When you first launch the software, you are required to enter the product serial number you obtained with the software.
The application loads quickly and gives you the opportunity to register the product. If you choose to do so, you are then redirected to a webpage where you have to fill a form (you even have the opportunity to win a free guitar!).
You then arrive on an introductory page where is presented the software and how to proceed with lessons. There’s a video you can play. You are introduced to Kevin Garry, the instructor, playing “House Of The Rising Sun”, and welcoming you to the “guitar world”.
The first thing you’ll notice with the first video is that it feels a bit outdated. Quality-wise, it’s definitely not HD, but it’s clear and we can see the chords and the instructor.
Later on in the course, you’ll observe that the screen is cut in half when a chord is shown, to see which strings are played, and where the fingers are placed on the fingerboard.
The sound quality is decent, we can hear everything the instructor says when he’s speaking to the camera, and what he’s playing as well.
Technically speaking, it’s not the cream of the crop. There’s no button to view the video in full screen, but you can activate that option by clicking on “Options” > “Full Screen Video”.
The video player is Apple QuickTime, which is definitely not the best multimedia framework available on the market, but it does the job.
The available options are to increase and decrease the volume, play and stop, and go to the next or previous frame with the left and right arrow buttons. These are standard but limited options. We would’ve liked to be able to zoom in and out (with better image quality of course), and adjust the size of the popup window for example.
Also, an annoying feature is the fact that the video disappears if you ever decide to click anywhere on the screen when the video is playing.
If you ever want to stop the video at some point, you have to press the space bar or click on pause, which is a bit less handy than with YouTube videos, where you can stop them with a single click. But nothing unusual if you’re used to VLC or QuickTime.
3. The Table of Contents
After a short introductory page, you click on the arrow at the bottom right corner, and you then arrive to the course content page, where you can see all the lessons from 1 to 195, grouped under a total of twelve chapters, and an Appendix. You can click on the different chapters, and you are automatically directed to the first page of the chapter, just like a book.
It actually feels like a book.
All you have to do is to click on the left and right arrows at the bottom-right corner of the screen to go to the next page, and follow the lessons in the right order. The only issue is that you cannot go to a specific lesson directly from the Table of Contents, which is counter-intuitive but understandable as you can access them elsewhere. You have to click on the “Goto” menu at the top of the screen and then click on “Lesson”. The complete list of lessons will then appear:
And to go back to the Table of Contents, you have to click on “Goto” again, and then “Contents”. It’s not a fastidious task, but it requires more time than it should have, if the developers had put a button on each page to go back to the “Contents” page.
The Table of Contents, however, is clearly presented. The lessons order is well-chosen. Nevertheless, like the video, it feels austere. The menu is a bit unappealing, and looks a bit like a basic website. See for yourself:
4. The course contents
The lessons are well-made and explained. As you go through them, the difficulty will increase. You will learn new techniques, chords, strum patterns, the songs will become harder, etc.
The lessons are supported by a combination of illustrations, audio (for songs, exercises and chords), backtracks, audio comments (when you click on a speech bubble), videos (for chords, songs and techniques), diagrams (for chords), and finally, chords and music sheets (for songs).
You will also learn some music theory through the guitar course – like basic chords progression – but you won’t be overwhelmed by technical terms.
There are links to Appendix pages within the lessons, in order to explain you in more details how something is done (for example, directions to string a steel-string acoustic guitar). The appendix pages have a link to go back to the current lessons, so that you don’t get lost.
5. The songs
The tunes you’ll learn are not difficult, but they’ll usually make you practice chords or techniques you’ve just seen in the lessons before, and that’s a very good point.
As for the diversity of the songs, let’s see what we can learn: traditional folk, classical, blues, rock, heavy metal… It’s quite varied. Which is perfect for a beginner.
It’s interesting to observe that the developers incorporated recaps of the chords learned so far at the end of most chapters, so that the guitar apprentice does not get lost or confused about which chord is which.
For every song, you get an audio showing how the song is played and sung, and a backing track for you to practice. You can adjust the tempo of both audio files, but keep in mind that if you do, the audio will be replaced by a midi soundtrack, which is fine, but a bit less pretty and robotic.
For some exercises and for all the songs, you will have access to the instant feedback option at the top-right corner of the screen.
The instant feedback option is convenient if you want to monitor the sound you’re making with the guitar, and check that you’re not doing any mistake when you play the notes you’re required to perform.
You will actually get an evaluation every time you reach the end of an exercise or song, to see how well you’ve performed, rated out of 5 stars. For that you need to click on the “play” button, but you can practice by clicking on the “ear” button beforehand.
Notice that you’ll need a quite fast CPU and – preferably – a good-quality microphone or the possibility to plug your guitar in your computer to benefit fully from that option. You can also change the tempo to play a song or do an exercise faster.
6. The chords
When you’ll click on a chord diagram, you’ll get the audio of what the chord should sound like, which is also very helpful to avoid doing any mistake. If you’re already familiar with chord diagrams, you will see that they are represented the same way in this software.
The chord sheets are clear and tell you exactly what you have to do: which chord you have to strum, the strumming pattern, where the accented strum is, and the chord diagrams to help you form the chord on the guitar.
There are also chord quizzes where you are asked to play a combination of chords without any help material – you have to remember how they are done.
7. The techniques
“Technique” is a pretty vague term, and when it comes to learning guitar, you’ll get a bunch of them. It can be as simple as learning how to hold a pick, or how to perform arpeggio finger-picking. But it can also be complex skills like tapping or sweep-picking.
Don’t worry, you won’t learn the last two techniques I mentioned before, but you will see the first two. You can actually go to the 70 techniques found throughout the course simply by clicking on “Goto” > “Techniques”.
You will also learn how to read tabs and notes on a music sheet with this guitar method.
Sometimes, you’ll be prompted to answer flash card quizzes, where you’ll be required to play a certain note on one particular string. It works the same way as the chord quizzes, you’ll have to remember where to play on your fingerboard.
Now let’s talk about some of the most important features you’ll see in this software.
You will have the option to activate (or deactivate) the animated fretboard, which will show up when you play an audio track or a backtrack for a song. This way you’ll be able to see how the chord is done on the fingerboard while the audio is playing. Very useful feature.
You can also change the skin of the animated fretboard if you don’t like what’s shown to you. I tried them all (6 in total), but I finally liked the first one better.
Good news if you’re left-handed, you’ve got the option to change the orientation of the fretboard, in order to match what you see on your own guitar. That’s pretty thoughtful of eMedia, as left-handed guitarists are generally left out of the loop (no pun intended here). You can even see the fretboard upside-down, should you want to activate that option. I personally don’t find this feature useful, but you might.
Do you have a lot of background noise as I have? You can say that to the software by clicking on “Options” > “Guitar Input Setup”. Here, you’ll see three different options:
- No background noise (direct connection)
- Microphone with low background noise
- Microphone with high background noise.
There’s even a level test below the options, in case you need to see if the audio is captured correctly by the microphone. And that’s very handy to troubleshoot any issue you may encounter with your configuration setup. Here’s a screenshot of the “Guitar Input Setup” option:
You also have the possibility in this software to improve audio and MIDI synchronization on your computer. Audio and MIDI synchronization issues can happen depending on your computer’s performance, audio drivers, and other various factors. I have tested the option, and it actually works.
9. Ear training
A thing that I particularly liked with this software is the ear training at the end, before the Appendix. The whole course is obviously designed for beginner guitar players, and one of the biggest challenges a new starter encounters when he’s not been playing for long, is to be able to recognize the chords and notes played by other musicians.
Ear training is not going to make you a better guitarist, but you’ll be able to pick up more easily the chords, notes and patterns played by other musicians.
And it’s a perfect transition before starting an intermediate guitar course. I believe that’s why eMedia decided to end with ear training, as you can also purchase the intermediate guitar method on their website.
10.1 Track your progress
When you learn guitar on your own, it’s sometimes hard to keep track of what you already know and where to go next, unless you’re a very organized person. If that’s the case, props to you. If not, don’t worry, with this guitar method, you can track your progress.
All you need to do is to click on “Tools” at the very top of the screen, and “Progress”. The list of lesson will then appear, and there will be a check mark for every lesson that you’ve already viewed:
You can also decide to reset your progress any time. That option is rather useful in case there are more than one person learning guitar with the same software and license.
10.2 Automatic Guitar Tuner
If you know eMedia and you’re familiar with their guitar Toolkit, then you’ll recognize some of the tools that come with the guitar method software. The first tool is the “Automatic Guitar Tuner“. With the help of the microphone on your PC (or external microphone), you can adjust the pitch of the six strings of your guitar. Here’s how it looks like:
Note that you can also click on the notes, and it will produce a sound. You can then turn the tuning pegs on your guitar to match the sound you’ve heard on your computer.
Pretty simple to use, as you can see. The only issue is that… it’s too basic. If you want to tune your guitar to a “Drop D” tuning, you can’t. You’ll have to do it using another software or hardware. Or by yourself.
You also can’t change the frequency. If you’ve listened to old tunes, and you try to play them, you may have noticed that they sound a bit differently. That’s because the frequency they used to tune their instrument was different back then.
So if you want to get the same frequency they were using, well… you’ll have to find another way. You cannot do it here. That’s not a big issue for a beginner, it’s however a bit of a shame.
10.3 The metronome
The metronome is also quite simple. You can adjust the tempo from 40 to 180 BPM, which is a pretty large range. I doubt that you’d ever need a slower or faster tempo than what they offer.
You can also decide to stop the audible tick and / or hide the visible tick. You won’t be able to change the sound of the tick if you don’t like it, but I didn’t find it annoying at all – and my ears are quite sensitive.
10.4 The recorder
Another tool you’ll get with the guitar method is the recorder. Keep in mind that it’s not Cubase nor Pro Tools: you won’t be able to mix your audio and make professional records with this little recorder, but you’ll be able to record what you’ve learned during the course, which is very handy to compare your recordings to the original audio tracks within the lessons.
You also have the option to save the audio, and load what you’ve recorded before. The format is *.wav, which is the Waveform Audio File Format. It’s not a lossless audio format, but the quality you’ll get – if you use a good quality microphone – is decent. Again, the goal here is essentially record what you’ve learned, and track your progress.
10.5 The finger tracker
The finger tracker tool displays the same fingerboard as the “Animated Fretboard” option. The only difference is that it will try to perceive the notes caught by your microphone, and show them on the fingerboard. If they don’t appear on the fretboard correctly, or if nothings shows up, that’s probably due to your audio configuration.
10.6 The chord dictionary
Finally, the best tool you’ll ever need is the chord dictionary. All the most common chords are listed here, and simply by clicking on a chord, you will see how it is played on the guitar with a chord diagram. The main regret here is that if you’re looking for the name of one specific chord but you can’t remember it, you’ll have to search through the whole catalog, or – best option – use internet to find it.
11. The help page
One of the let-downs of the application is the help page. First of all, no effort has been made in the design: it’s an old HTML page, with a few links of what the developers think you will need help on. Now, if I ever decide to click on “How to… Record and Playback”, here’s what it’s showing me:
Alright. Cool. You’ve got a point. But I was actually searching the answer on the help page. They could have at least copied/pasted the content of the Appendix. Instead, they just tell you to go somewhere to have your answer. Thanks eMedia, that was fruitful.
Now, you’d say… Okay, Ben, you’re a bit hard on the developers. The software was built very well, and the course content is perfectly adapted for beginners. Yeah, I know… But come on. It only takes 10 seconds to copy paste. That was not hard work.
Apart from that, the glossary shows you the terms used throughout the course, and that prevents you from looking up the term in the dictionary or Wikipedia.
12. Random crashes
The software crashed twice during the course of my testing, showing me an error message that Adobe Projector had stopped working. I had to re-launch the program and it went back to where I was before the error message. So if you ever encounter this kind of crash, it’s no big deal, it’s just a little bit annoying in the moment.
Overall, eMedia Guitar Method is a great application for beginner guitar players. It was definitely forged for new starters, and the developers understood perfectly what a guitar initiate truly wants: have fun playing, and be able to play songs. Adorned with helpful tools and features such as the chord dictionary, and the animated fretboard, the eMedia Guitar Method is beyond doubt one of the best guitar learning software for beginners you can find on the market.
eMedia Guitar Method$59.95
Design and look6.5/10
Ease Of Use9.0/10
- Quality of the course
- Variety of the songs
- Helpful tools and features
- Ear training at the end
- Instant feedback option
- Weak help section
- Outdated design
- Low image quality on videos
- Crashing a few times