I go back and try to learn the blues basics I should have learned almost 10 years ago as a beginner.
You don’t often see my writing about online guitars lessons here, but that’s not without reason. In fact, I actually cover the best online guitar lessons in great detail over at Guitarniche.com. In addition to individually reviewing each website, I also compiled my findings to rank each site and tell you where the best guitar lessons are on in the internet! However, recently I decided to dig into something that I actually wanted to try out for myself and got introduced to Jon MacLennan along the way.
Jon has just released his own lesson site, focusing on intensive blues training course that teaches you everything from the basic chord shapes to turnarounds and scales. Growing up playing punk rock it would be generous to say that my blues technique and skills are passable. So I decided to do a bit of a more unique, personal review as I learn along from Jon’s new Essential Blues Guitar System.
About The Instructor
Jon MacLennan has no shortage of guitar teaching skills and expertise thanks to his current gig as a Fender Play instructor. And if I may so, Fender Play was the 2nd highest ranked lesson site in my roundup for Guitarniche.com, so you know his lessons are going to be good! Aside from that huge resume booster, Jon has over 20 years of guitar experience, songwriting, producing, and instruction in the Los Angeles area.
Who Is The Essential Blues Guitar System For?
Spoiler alert: I know how to play the guitar. So usually when I’m reviewing guitar lesson sites I’m approaching it as if I was 13 again and learning how to play Green Day and The Clash songs. But what struck me so positively about the Essential Blues Guitar System was how enjoyable it was to follow along as an 11 year guitar playing vet. Of course it was super beginner friendly, with detailed descriptions, definitions, and instruction of each chord shape, finger placement, and musical note. But I sat down to do a few lessons the other day and got sucked into an hour and a half of following along. I even finally had the discipline to finally learn chord shapes I had spent years modifying into lazy variations (looking at you B7 chord). Jon really did a good job making this appeal to a wide variety of guitarists, ranging from true beginner to undisciplined young adult punk guitarists like. I would say that this isn’t a true “beginner’s” course, because the Essential Blues Guitar System sets out to teach you the blues, not necessarily the guitar. If expects you to have the bare minimum skill to hold a few chords together and play a few pentatonic scales, so maybe start on Fender Play and then move your way over here if Blues guitar is your true passion.
What I Love About These Online Blues Guitar Lessons
There are many great features to highlight within this system, but perhaps my favorite is the lesson topics. You learn not only the essential blues “toolbox” so to speak, such as turnarounds, shuffles, bass lines, etc…But you also learn how some of the greatest blues players of all time actually play their instruments and developed their styles. Eric Clapton chord shapes, Jimmy Page triplets, Robert Johnson turnarounds, it’s all there. Even though I know so many of these riffs or styles, it serves as a sort of blues and guitar history lesson that is super entertaining and helpful. Much like some of the best guitar lessons on the internet, the Essential Blues Guitar System really entraps you into the culture, legacy, and story telling aspect of the blues, all without long winded rants by the teacher. When you’re watching the videos, it’s almost entirely playing and demonstrations while Jon speeds up or slows down the lesson, with helpful close ups of finger positions or picking attack.
Checking Out The User Interface
Because these lessons aren’t designed with true, new beginners in mind, there aren’t all of the features you’d find in Fender Play or Justin Guitar that make learning so easy for someone who hasn’t picked up a guitar before. The tab and notation doesn’t automatically stream across your stream along to the video, but personally I didn’t mind the lack of tab. You can of course download the notation and tablature as a separate pdf or get just the audio of the lesson if you want to take it on the go and listen to an MP3 version. All of this comes included with your one-time purchase too. What you do get is a sort of stripped down, no frills lesson that I personally prefer. Some may say that they demand a built in tuner or metronome or ear interval training for a subscription service, but the Essential Blues Guitar System isn’t here to teach you guitar, it is here to teach you how to be a proper blues man or woman. Overall, I’m a huge fan of the lesson-video interface and layout that Jon has created!
Final Thoughts On The Essential Blues Guitar System
The Essential Blues Guitar System costs a hefty $79.99 one time fee, but I will say I think you get a ton of value and included content, all with unlimited access over time. The 4 chapters contain over 43 lessons that culminates with you putting it all together and building a solid skill set from which to write songs, improvise solos, and hit a stage (after quarantine ends of course!). I would honestly say the $80 is more than worth it if you have a really solid base of guitar skills and really want to hone in on blues playing, which in my experience took far more dedication than just diving into the modern rock/metal scene as a young student. I’m avoiding putting any sort of quantifiable rating values here yet because I have a big online blues guitar lesson roundup coming down the pipe, but Jon MacLennan’s Essential Blues Guitar System is a very worthy competitor to say the least. The lessons are awesome and plenty detailed and Jon clearly knows what he is doing, these are no doubt some of the best guitar lessons on the internet right now.