TrueFire is among the biggest names in the online guitar and bass learning section.
With over 30 years of work put into developing a platform with over 50,000 lessons taught by more than 600 tutors from various backgrounds, TrueFire has remained steadfast in making guitar-playing dreams come true.
In this TrueFire review, I’ve explored the platform in-depth to showcase all its highlights and shortcomings, helping you determine if it’s the right learning platform for you!
The True Fire App is designed to be used on all your devices.
The app is compatible with Android 4+ and iOS 10+ devices, as well as desktop platforms including Mac 10.13+, Windows 7+, and Linux.
You can download your lessons and have a systematic learning routine, or sign in and stream TrueFire’s lessons on the go.
TrueFire’s courses also generally come with Guitar Pro 8 (an excellent notation and TAB software for reading guitar and bass scores) compatible files, so downloading Guitar Pro is a good idea.
Though, with the plethora of fretboard, notation, and TAB material provided with every lesson on TrueFire, you’ll rarely need to look for additional information elsewhere.
Anyone can give TrueFire a try with an easily accessible 14-day trial. All you need to do is sign up with your email. TrueFire generously offers a lot of material in the 14-day trial, giving you a good feel for what lies ahead.
The ‘All Access‘ streaming pass is priced at $19/month, which can be brought down to around $8.25/month if you can commit to the yearly $99 subscription.
While it might seem a little confusing, TrueFire have marketed their individual courses as purchasable downloads. Paying for the ‘All Access’ bundle means you can get streaming access to all the purchasable course material too, but can’t download them.
Overall, I found that you can enjoy the platform in its entirety with the $99 per year subscription. While it might be a bit of a stretch for a casual user, it’s worth it if you wish to use TrueFire as your primary platform to take your playing to a professional level.
As you sign-up and enter the platform, you’re greeted with eight pull-down menus. Depending on how you want to learn, you can choose to go down different paths.
If you’re an absolute beginner who would prefer to be guided through your favorite style of music, then it’s better to follow the ‘Learning Paths.’ Learning paths are also designed for intermediate players who want a structured syllabus to follow.
The system is quite well-designed and helps you first assess the level of playing you’re currently at. Once done, TrueFire presents you with a personalized curriculum of video lessons to follow.
If you’re comfortable with this format, you can have an accelerated learning experience, as the courses are quite practical in nature. There are very few music theory lessons or exercises leading up to the courses or songs. So most concepts can be picked up as you’re going through the course.
For example if you chose the Jazz learning path, you’ll first be greeted with a series of beginner jazz lessons called as ‘Core’. Along with that, True Fire provides a few ‘Supplementary’ lessons from their ‘Courses’ selection, which they feel might suit you.
You don’t have to go through them all, but its convenient to know which courses fall under your current level, according to TrueFire’s assessment.
The learning paths are categorized into the following genres:
If you’re a bass player who wants to start from scratch, it’s better that you go through the bass learning paths as the bass lessons don’t have genre-specific lessons until you reach individual courses.
Basically, the learning paths begin with the fundamental techniques you would need to be able to enjoy the advanced individual courses within the platform.
Selecting a Specific Course
You will be spoilt for choice with a plethora of courses to choose from under the ‘Courses’ drop-down menu. Other than being able to select courses branched into “Styles” and “Techniques,” you’ve got a ton of other categories to choose from.
Selecting courses by style or technique allows you to access all the lessons on the platform under that category. While the learning paths allow for a structured curriculum, the courses section gives you the freedom to choose whatever you want.
This section is especially helpful if you are an intermediate or advanced guitarist who wants to learn something specific from a certain tutor.
With such a vast pool of renowned guitarists and bassists, it’s quite tempting to want to pick up a curated course designed by some of your favorite musicians.
While genres, techniques, and exercises are covered on most guitar-centric platforms, there are some highly innovative course combinations on TrueFire that you’ve probably never come across. For example, singing and playing upright jazz is a topic that is seldom covered.
Nicki goes into great detail about playing and singing at the same time, including scat singing, breathing exercises for singers, bass tricks, and embellishments.
Outlining her approaches to 2-5-1 chord progressions, followed by her insight on creating interesting walking basslines, the lessons get more and more profound as you go deeper.
While most platforms provide niche topics in one or two lessons, for the sake of variety, TrueFire plays none of these tricks. The course is as comprehensive as possible, with a staggering collection of 46 lessons.
Additional Instrument Options
While TrueFire primarily specializes in acoustic and electric guitars and bass, it also has an interesting collection of courses for other instruments. While the course collection is modest, it’s still worth checking out.
These are some of the additional instruments covered:
- Saxophone (accompanied by the guitar)
From Grammy-nominated artists to prolific guitar players to session players with decades of experience, TrueFire has got some of the best musicians in the world signed up with them.
With excellent camera angles, focusing on the picking and the fretting hands separately, it’s hard to miss a note!
Many playing techniques have very specific picking and fretting hand movements, which are hard to follow in the performance view.
For example, following legato lines or funk strumming in the performance view alone is quite cumbersome.
TrueFire’s relationship with JamPlay (another top-tier guitar and bass instruction platform) provides us with the best of both worlds in terms of camera angles.
The player’s perspective camera angles are available in all videos that have come in from JamPlay. Watching the fretboard from the player’s perspective is a great way to gauge and understand the movement of the thumb.
Since so much of the fretting hand wizardry is dependent on a balanced thumb, it’s vital that a student has access to these camera views.
Technique-Specific Camera Angles
While dedicated cameras for fretting and picking hands have been around since the ’80s REH guitar instructionals, the additional camera angles are highly innovative.
While you could add a bunch of cameras and populate the screen, using the right camera angle for the right technique is crucial.
Video Synced Notations
The video-synced notation style is an excellent way for a student to follow along.
This style allows you to follow the picking hand and the fretting hand along with their dedicated tablature and notations.
With the time on the video marked on the notation and tabs, there is little confusion about how everything fits together. Generally, instructionals with accompanying notations hang at the bottom as the instructor speaks. So, there tends to be a bit of confusion as to which bar we’re resuming on.
TrueFire’s intuitive design completely eradicates this problem. A ‘breakdown’ signals a pause when the tutor is explaining. Tabs and notations playback automatically as the playing resumes, and you know exactly how long each passage or section is.
While you might not notice, all these little details reduce the time it takes to learn your favorite instrument on TrueFire.
Managing tabs or notations with the video and scrolling back and forth to the section of the song you want to learn are some of the pesky little activities that consume a lot of time while learning an instrument online.
Loop It ‘Til You Learn It
Identifying a certain passage in a record that you want to learn and rewinding it over and over until you learn it is something guitar players have been doing since the times of the tape records.
To this day, a lot of us sometimes scroll our mouse to the beginning of an interesting passage in an online guitar video and try to figure it out on our instrument.
TrueFire has tapped into this creative process and made it more convenient and user-friendly. With options for reducing the speed and looping a certain section until you learn it, TrueFire has preserved the essence of this learning style while eradicating its downsides.
Since the loop option loops the notations along with the video, I found that as you’re learning to play, you’re also getting better at sight reading to some degree.
While getting better at sight reading is not the aim here, it was interesting to note how different skills develop as a result of a well-thought-out learning process.
Songs & Jams
With a wide variety of songs to choose from, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you scroll down the list of songs to learn on your instrument.
The listed songs are divided into four categories:
As with all aspects of TrueFire’s learning system, the song section is well-thought-out. One of the most frustrating aspects of being a beginner is that you want to be able to play some of your favorite tunes, which are more technically advanced than what your skills allow.
All songs come with a full band performance, including the vocals.
Playing along to the performance track also gives you the confidence to be able to play the song in a band setting. The lessons are quite comprehensive, with dedicated screens for the comped rhythm parts and the solo or melody parts.
In the Premium version, you also get access to the TrueFire console. This allows you to change levels or mute and solo tracks on their mixer. I found this feature very useful in songs with dense arrangements.
Improvisation At Its Finest!
The True Fire jams are worth checking out.
The jam suite mainly deals with jam tracks in blues, rock, jazz, and funk and is divided into three parts:
- In The Jams
- Multi-Track Audio Jams
- Jam Packs
TrueFire’s jam section allows you to design your jam session the way you want it. With 20 multi-tracks recorded by top-quality session players in the ‘Multi-Track Audio Jams’, you can choose to focus on different aspects of your playing.
With TrueFire console, you can mute, solo, and adjust the levels of your multi-tracks.
One of the best aspects of the whole platform is the improviser’s take on how they tackled the specific jam track. While having top players improvise over backing tracks can be found everywhere on the internet, it’s quite rare to hear what the player felt and thought while playing over the backing track.
Called the ‘Artist’s Commentary Track,’ every jam has a recording of the artist talking about how they reacted to the track and the reasons behind their choices.
With so many licks’ packs being sold online, it’s very easy for a beginner to see improvisation as a series of licks played one after the other.
I find this quite common among students who primarily learn online. They tend to know a wide variety of licks but not enough about what makes those licks stick together and sound like a cohesive unit. Having the recording artist describe his choices in his own words is an invaluable addition to the jam tracks section.
Pros & Cons
Now that I’ve outlined the curriculum and discussed the services, let’s quickly look at some of the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision.
TrueFire is best for learners who wish to take their musical skills to an intermediate to professional level.
While anyone can access TrueFire and find value in the platform, I believe that the way the videos operate with notations, as well as the profound explanations on the process of improvisation and music making, distinguish TrueFire as a truly professional online platform.
That being said, you’re still going to enjoy accessing courses done by players you look up to and the thrill of being able to play your favorite songs. With so many tools, it couldn’t be easier to play along to your favorite tunes.