Learn how to play an instrument online

If you want to learn how to play an instrument, why not go online to do it? We have a list of online apps that will help you rock with friends.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
4 min read

If you're trying to learn how to play an instrument, you might be thinking about hiring a local tutor. After all, it's the way it has always been done. But you might be surprised to learn that the Web is a great place to learn how to play that instrument.

Start playing

All Guitar Chords It's a simple app, but All Guitar Chords provides you with a full listing of all the guitar chords you might want to learn. Simply pick the chord you want, click the "Get" button, and it will display where to put your fingers. It's not the best tutorial app in this roundup, but it works better than you might expect. It's a simple and efficient tutor.

Guitar Chords
All Guitar Chords will help you learn how to play the guitar. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Chordbook Chordbook is the place to go if you want to learn how to play guitar. The Flash-based site displays guitar strings. You can then choose which chord you want to play. Upon doing so, it automatically places circles on the guitar strings to help you learn proper placement of your fingers. When you're ready to learn a chord, you can click the "strum" button and it will play a chord to help you determine what your guitar should sound like when you play. If you're beginner, Chordbook is the place to be.

Chordbook will help you learn how to play the guitar. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Drums Database Drums Database lists a variety of different tutorials that you can access based on your skill level. When you find what you're looking for, the site sends you to a video on the Web showing you how to perform that particular lesson. Sometimes, the videos are gathered from YouTube. Other links send you to how-to videos across the Web. I was extremely impressed by the number of lessons included in its database. You will be too.

Drums Database
The Drums Database has any lesson you might be looking for. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Guitar Tricks Guitar Tricks is a well-designed site that helps you learn how to play guitar through online videos.

Guitar Tricks has a variety of lessons for those looking to play any kind of guitar, including electric, acoustic, or bass. You'll be able to learn how to play songs in several genres, including bluegrass and metal. According to the site, it has over 3,000 lessons available. But to see tutorials from advanced instructors, you'll need to pay $12.95 per month for access. The site also offers a free, basic version, but that only provides you with 12 instructors and 24 sample lessons. If you're serious about learning how to play guitar, Guitar Tricks might be a good place to start.

Guitar Tricks
You'll have quite a few options on Guitar Tricks. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

iPerform3D iPerform3D features a variety of free lessons for beginners. But where it shines is in its paid content, which makes it extremely easy to learn how to play both guitar and drums.

What makes iPerform3D so compelling is its 3D element. It shows a virtual character playing the drums or guitar, while instructing you on where to place your hands. As the character plays, you can mimic those movements to replicate what's happening on-screen. It's a great site. And for $11 to $20 per month, depending upon the membership plan you pick, it's relatively affordable. (If you want to learn more about iPerform3D check out our full review.)

Besides virtual characters, iPerform3D also features beginners' videos. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

TakeLessons TakeLessons is a search engine for finding music instructors. The site asks you to input the instrument you want to learn, as well as your location. It then finds other TakeLessons users who are also certified instructors in your area. You can set up appointments online and pay them through the service. The site also provides you with a phone number, if you'd rather call your instructor to set something up. TakeLessons guarantees those lessons, so it might be a better option than looking for tutors in the newspaper.

TakeLessons will help you learn how to play an instrument. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

VirtualDrumming If you're looking to learn how to play the drums, VirtualDrumming will show you how a variety of simple to advanced beats are played. You can then mimic those movements to play those beats yourself.

When you choose to try out a drum lesson on the site, you can start with basics, like coordination and drumstick control. When you choose an option, you can set the tutorial into motion, which displays how to play a particular beat on your own set. If you follow those beats, you should be on your way to learning how to play the drums. Once you get past the basics, VirtualDrumming teaches you advanced rhythms. Since it's free, it's worth considering.

Virtual Drumming
Virtual Drumming will help you learn to play the drums. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

My top 3

1. iPerform3D: It's too cool and too useful not to give it the top spot.

2. Chordbook: It's a simple app, but Chordbook is highly useful.

3. Drums Database: With so many lessons available, it's perfect for the beginner drummer.