Neoclassical Inspirations (Guitar Lesson)

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Kris Norris

Neoclassical Inspirations

Kris teaches neoclassical examples from three of his favorite guitar players. The first example is from "The River Dragon Has Come" which is on the Dead Heart In A Dead World album by Nevermore. The Second Example is from "As Above, So Below" which is on Rising Force by Yngwie Malmsteen. The third example is all about Jason Becker and "Serrana". The guitar version of this musical etude is not on any album, Jason only played it live.

Taught by Kris Norris in Kris Norris Artist Series seriesLength: 29:17Difficulty: 5.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (00:57) Introduction Kris tears into this lesson with an improvisation using many techniques and ideas essential to shredding including sweeping, symmetrical diminished arpeggios, and 3-note per string scale patterns. He starts in B minor and ends in G minor, mostly using the harmonic minor version of each scale.

As usual, Kris is tuned to D standard (all strings down a whole step). All notes and chords in this write-up will be written in relation to E standard tuning.
Chapter 2: (05:19) The River Dragon Has Come "The River Dragon Has Come" is the 5th track off Nevermore's 2000 release Dead Heart in a Dead World. Jeff Loomis is highly regarded among modern metal guitarists, and Kris demonstrates a short excerpt from the song that shows us why! The lick Kris teaches in this lesson occurs at around 3:27 of the Nevermore recording.

For this lesson, Kris has arranged the lick so that it is less challenging from a technical perspective. Jeff Loomis switches positions more frequently, while Kris remains close to a single position. Kris altered the left hand fingering to shift the focus of the lick from the left hand to alternate picking skills. This is a prime example of adding creativity into your practice sessions. Instead of simply playing the lick as it was recorded, Kris rearranged it to specifically improve an aspect of his playing. This kind of goal-oriented thinking is very effective when practicing. Using parts of songs you already know or like can make this type of practice more enjoyable.

Kris plays the first 4 measures slowly at 1:11 in order to clearly demonstrate the lick. He performs some slurs that are not written in the tab; he starts with a pull-off from the 18th fret on the 1st string to the 15th fret. He plays slides from the 18th fret up to the 21st and back down in the middle of the second measure. Feel free to practice picking the entire passage as well as working in some slurs. Measures 5-8 are the same pattern as measures 1-4, just down a half step (or one fret). On beat 3 in the first measure, he plays C# at the 14th fret on the B 2nd string instead of the 18th fret of the 3rd string. He also ends the passage by playing the A# at the 15th fret of the 3rd string instead of the 20th fret on the 4th string.

The lick is based around a Bb diminished 7 (from here on written as a "o7") arpeggio (Bb/A#-Db/C#-E-G, with enharmonic spellings) with some chromaticism thrown in for extra dissonance. All of the intervals in this chord are minor 3rds, or 1 1/2 steps apart. This structure gives the chord a strong "spooky" characteristic. Also, any note can be considered a root note since each of the notes are equidistant from each other. At 1:55 Kris demonstrates a short exercise using the physical pattern created by the first 4 notes of "River Dragon." This exercise includes sweep picking as well as shifting the pattern up and down every 3 frets, or the interval of a minor 3rd.

At 4:17 Kris plays the full example up to speed with the slurs and alternate fingerings mentioned above. While discussing the 3 fret slide (from 18 to 21 and back on the 1st string), he also demonstrates this figure with tapping. Notice how the tapped version creates a slightly different sound. Always feel free to explore new and creative ideas you may have while practicing; this is your inner musical self trying to emerge.
Chapter 3: (09:07) As Above, So Below Yngwie Malmsteen is a name among guitarists that always elicits some kind of strong reaction, either positive or negative. Regardless, no one can argue with the fact that he always plays VERY FAST and CLEAN. "As Above, So Below" is the 6th track off his 1984 debut album, Rising Force. This lick starts after the second chorus of the song around 2:00.

NOTE: This lick is written as the last example on page 4 of Supplemental Content.

Kris starts by playing the excerpt slowly at 0:33. Notice that only the first 3 strings are used, and multiple position shifts are required. The first arpeggio played is A minor, but Malmsteen adds some signature flair to it. He adds a quick hammer-on/pull-off at the start, as well as a short ascending scale line from the A note at the 10th fret of the 2nd string back up to the E note at the 12th fret of the E 1st string. As Kris notes, this keeps it from sounding run of the mill. The first measure alone works well as a short loop. Kris then demonstrates the first measure in different positions with different chords. At 3:33 Kris shows a different way to play the second measure, using 3 strings instead of 2. It's important to experiment with these variables before settling on the way that feels best to you.

The whole example is played in A minor (again, Kris is down a whole step so he's in G minor, and Yngwie plays it tuned to Eb standard, so the recording is in Ab minor). Each chord is arpeggiated for a whole measure, and the progression goes A minor, G#o7, A minor, G#o7 (in a different position) for 2 measures, A minor (moving down the neck on each beat), D#o7 (moving up the neck every 3 frets on each beat), and Esus4 for 2 beats followed by E for 2 beats. Basically the G#o7 chords act as a kind of E7, which is the V chord in the key of A minor. The D#o7 acts as a kind of B7 chord, which is the V chord to E. This sets up a resolution from the E in the final measure back to A minor.


Glad you asked. The notes in E7 are: E, G#, B, and D. The notes in G#o7 are: G#, B, D, F. The G#o7, because of the F note, is a more dramatic substitute for the E7 chord. Play a regular, open position E7 (check out the chord library if you have to, it's at the top of the 2nd page of E chords), but add an F on the 1st fret E (1st) string. You might have to finger this creatively. This is called "E7(b9)." There's a separate fingering for this in the chord library, but stick with this one. You might think, "This sounds gross." Next, play a regular A minor chord. Notice how the notes within this chord are remarkably similar to G#o7. An E7(b9) chord is spelled E, G#, B, D, F. A G#o7 chord is found within the upper structure of the E7(b9) chord. Listen to the resolution as that F note in the E7(b9) becomes an E note in the A minor. Go back and forth from chord to chord for awhile and feel the tension of the E7(b9) dissolve when you land on the A minor chord. This is a hallmark of Yngwie's writing, improvising, and playing style.

NOTE: As Kris plays through the rest of the example, he occasionally adds slurs that aren't written in the tab.

As with "River Dragon" feel free to practice picking and slurring. Kris also mentions the option of sweeping vs. alternate picking, and you are welcome to explore both methods depending on what you want to work on.

Performance Example

At 8:32 Kris plays the entire example up to speed.
Chapter 4: (02:52) About Jason Becker and Serrana Jason Becker's story is simultaneously tragic and inspiring. A teenage prodigy, he rose to fame on Shrapnel Records in the '80s in a mostly instrumental group called Cacophony, alongside Marty Friedman. At 20 years old, he earned the highly coveted spot in David Lee Roth's band, but shortly after Jason was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or "Lou Gehrig's Disease"). ALS degenerates the neurons that control voluntary muscle movement. Doctors gave him 3-5 years to live, yet as of 2009 he is still composing music via a special typing system his father set up.

"Serrana" is a famous guitar solo Jason performed live. There is video footage of Jason from 1989 at the Atlanta Institute of Music performing the piece on guitar, and it's quite a workout! A recorded version was released in 1996 on his album Perspective, but it was played by a synthesizer.

At 1:39, Kris performs a passage from the piece slowly. "Serrana" is mostly in D major, with some chromaticism added as it goes on. The chord progression consists of D (2 mm.), G (2 mm.), A (2 mm.), D (2 mm.), with some chromatic neighbor tones (Bb/A# and G#) surrounding the 5th of the D chord in that last measure. A brief rest occurs. Then the chord progression moves to F# minor (2 mm.). Measure 18 in the tab is blank, but it just repeats the previous measure. Next, B minor is played (2 mm., like the F# minor, repeat the written measure) with upper neighbor scale tones added for melodic variation. Kris' demonstration ends here, but he mentions there is more. In the full solo, the harmony gets much more chromatic after this point, and includes minor chords moving in minor 3rds and diminished chords. The piece ends with a G.

The chromaticism gives the piece a more Romantic (as in the musical period from around 1820 to 1900, not "lovey-dovey") feel. Most "neo-classical" rock and metal steals from the Baroque period (1600-1750), but "Serrana" is a refreshing exception.
Chapter 5: (10:53) Serrana Kris begins by explaining the basic idea behind "Serrana." This solo is primarily a study in chord inversions across the fretboard. Jason uses slurs (hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides) to connect all the different shapes he's using, and he uses anywhere from 3 to 6-string arpeggio patterns throughout.

NOTE: For sweep picking arpeggio patterns, check out these other lessons here at JamPlay:

Dennis Hodges - Phase 2 Lead Concepts and Technique: Lesson 5
Nick Greathouse - Phase 2 Speed and Technique: Lessons 3, 6, and 8
Matt Brown - Phase 2 Rock: Lesson 8
Kris Norris - Phase 2 Artist Series: Lesson 6

The etude Dennis performs at the beginning of Lesson 5, Lead Guitar is similar in nature to "Serrana." Study the shapes in this lesson for more practice with various inversions.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

chodypthchodypth replied

Damn, Now I'm going to be "TRYING!" to play the seranna sweeps all my guitar career haha

kris.norriskris.norris replied

hahaha i know its not 'herb' its sitting in 6 degree weather all day doing a video with these amazing guys and then for 2 weeks your hands not being the same!!!! i apologize!

J.artmanJ.artman replied

great lesson though - I love neoclassical guitar.

mariemusicmariemusic replied

Great! please i want flamenco diablo by Yngwi Malmsteen!

bany_rockbany_rock replied

Great lesson! i´m a big fan of Yngwie Malmsteen, even when i dont listen much of music now, but because the first time i heard his music i started to take guitar seriously, Thanks for this great lesson kris! keep on rockin, greetings from Mexico

flyrerflyrer replied

Wow, I really miss Brad, D-Mac and Matt Browns stuff.

J.artmanJ.artman replied

Great lesson, but I have a hunch you smoked some 'herb' before this lesson. Still, great lesson!

Kris Norris Artist Series

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Kris Norris kicks off the Artist Series with a wide array of ideas and lessons; from changing strings on a floyd rose, to advanced sweeping / legato techniques and soloing applications.

Changing Strings - Floyd Rose StyleLesson 1

Changing Strings - Floyd Rose Style

Kris Norris demonstrates how to install new strings on a guitar equipped with a Floyd Rose tremolo system.

Length: 13:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Warm-up Exercises with KrisLesson 2

Warm-up Exercises with Kris

Kris Norris shows you his favorite warm-up exercises. These exercises will prepare you to play the guitar from a physical and mental standpoint.

Length: 12:16 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Scalar Exercises: Left and Right Hand SynchronizationLesson 3

Scalar Exercises: Left and Right Hand Synchronization

Kris covers chromatic and scale pattern exercises. Also, he explains some variations on these exercise and provides you with the knowledge to create your own variations. Now you don't have any excuse...

Length: 20:23 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Scalar Exercises: LegatoLesson 4

Scalar Exercises: Legato

Kris shows you the in's and out's of legato playing. These examples will benefit beginners and and advanced players alike. The patterns Kris uses in this lesson are based on the examples shown in "Scalar...

Length: 11:01 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Chuggin' n Skippin'Lesson 5

Chuggin' n Skippin'

Kris covers right hand techniques such as palm muting, tremolo, palm muted string skipping, and upstroke accents.

Length: 13:26 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Advanced Sweep Picking ApplicationsLesson 6

Advanced Sweep Picking Applications

Kris covers the right and left hand components of sweep picking separately. Then, he shows you how to synchronize the two. Three string arpeggios and five string arpeggios with hammer-ons are both included...

Length: 35:40 Difficulty: 4.5 Members Only
Remaining Foolish: Arpeggios & Scalar LinesLesson 7

Remaining Foolish: Arpeggios & Scalar Lines

Kris presents excerpts from his song "Remaining Foolish" from Icons of the Illogical. He explains the arpeggio patterns used in various parts of the song and also talks about alternate picked arpeggios....

Length: 17:40 Difficulty: 4.0 Members Only
Sweep Exercises Based on Canon in DLesson 8

Sweep Exercises Based on Canon in D

Kris uses Pachelbel's "Canon In D" as a way to practice arpeggio sweeps. He shows how to sweep and alternate pick arpeggios.

Length: 10:08 Difficulty: 4.5 Members Only
Counterpoint: A Shift In NormalcyLesson 9

Counterpoint: A Shift In Normalcy

This lesson is about the concept of counterpoint and harmony. Kris explores contrapuntal examples from his song "A Shift In Normalcy" off of his solo record Icons of the Illogical.

Length: 8:52 Difficulty: 4.5 Members Only
A Closer Look At Pick ThicknessLesson 10

A Closer Look At Pick Thickness

Kris analyzes different pick sizes and their effect on his playing. Using a slow motion camera, he is able to point out the differences in pick thickness.

Length: 32:24 Difficulty: 0.5 FREE
Satriani Inspired TappingLesson 11

Satriani Inspired Tapping

Kris Norris explains how to play a Joe Satriani inspired tapping etude.

Length: 11:13 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Extending Your Musical Reach With 8 String GuitarsLesson 12

Extending Your Musical Reach With 8 String Guitars

Kris Norris takes a look at 8 string guitars and their possibilities. He demonstrates the versatility of an 8 string with jazz and metal applications. Kris also performs a short improv jam at the end.

Length: 10:34 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Neoclassical InspirationsLesson 13

Neoclassical Inspirations

Kris teaches neoclassical examples from three of his favorite guitar players.

Length: 29:17 Difficulty: 5.0 Members Only
Rock & Metal Chicken Pickin'Lesson 14

Rock & Metal Chicken Pickin'

Kris displays some adventurous ways to use chicken pickin' in a rock and metal environment.

Length: 15:25 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Exotic Embellishments In The Style Of Marty FriedmanLesson 15

Exotic Embellishments In The Style Of Marty Friedman

Kris teaches arpeggio examples that use notes outside of a scale. He also demonstrates an example using the Chinese scale.

Length: 12:19 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Connecting Scale PatternsLesson 16

Connecting Scale Patterns

Kris shows you how to connect the patterns of a G major scale together.

Length: 15:28 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Mastering Modes: Basic Scale Theory PrimerLesson 17

Mastering Modes: Basic Scale Theory Primer

This is the first lesson in the "Mastering Modes" mini series. Here Kris explains the fundamentals of scale basics.

Length: 19:08 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Mastering Modes: IonianLesson 18

Mastering Modes: Ionian

In this lesson, Kris explains the history behind the modes and then explains the Ionian mode.

Length: 9:59 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Mastering Modes: DorianLesson 19

Mastering Modes: Dorian

In this lesson, Kris covers the Dorian mode, which is the second mode of the major scale.

Length: 13:39 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Mastering Modes: PhrygianLesson 20

Mastering Modes: Phrygian

Kris explains the basics of the Phrygian mode, which is a minor sounding mode of the major scale.

Length: 7:43 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Mastering Modes: LydianLesson 21

Mastering Modes: Lydian

In this installment of the "Mastering Modes" mini-series, Kris covers the Lydian mode. This is the fourth mode of the major scale.

Length: 9:47 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Mastering Modes: MixolydianLesson 22

Mastering Modes: Mixolydian

Kris explains the basics of the Mixolydian mode, which is a major sounding mode of the major scale.

Length: 10:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Mastering Modes: AeolianLesson 23

Mastering Modes: Aeolian

Kris explains Aeolian, which is the 6th mode of the major scale. This is also known as the natural minor scale.

Length: 7:32 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Mastering Modes: LocrianLesson 24

Mastering Modes: Locrian

Kris covers the Locrian mode, which is the 7th mode of the major scale.

Length: 5:48 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Song Workshop ExperimentLesson 25

Song Workshop Experiment

Aaron Miller sits down with Kris in the JamPlay studio to discuss songwriting techniques.

Length: 78:38 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Song Workshop Experiment - FinaleLesson 26

Song Workshop Experiment - Finale

Kris Norris and Aaron Miller are back to finish up what they started. Get ready for more songwriting, playing tips, and inside information. Enjoy

Length: 32:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Picking Practice With Drum RudimentsLesson 27

Picking Practice With Drum Rudiments

Kris shows how some drum rudiments can be used to make exercises for your right hand.

Length: 18:33 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Sliding ArpeggiosLesson 28

Sliding Arpeggios

Kris teaches how to use sliding techniques with arpeggios. He uses an example in the Lydian mode and also plays over a backing.

Length: 15:11 Difficulty: 4.0 Members Only
Left Hand Finger IndependenceLesson 29

Left Hand Finger Independence

Kris teaches exercises focused on getting the left hand fingers to be more independent.

Length: 26:19 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Building Triad ArpeggiosLesson 30

Building Triad Arpeggios

Kris explains root triad arpeggios and their first and second inversions.

Length: 25:12 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Practicing Triad Arpeggios ChromaticallyLesson 31

Practicing Triad Arpeggios Chromatically

This lesson focuses on sweep picking major, minor, and diminished triad arpeggios chromatically.

Length: 16:33 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Re-voicing Progressions with InversionsLesson 32

Re-voicing Progressions with Inversions

Kris shows you how inversions can be used to create smooth voice leading within a progression.

Length: 14:34 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Dual Tonality PentatonicsLesson 33

Dual Tonality Pentatonics

Kris shows how to combine pentatonic scales from different keys to form new and interesting sounds.

Length: 24:06 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Betcha Can't Scale ThisLesson 34

Betcha Can't Scale This

Kris shows you how to learn scales vertically and horizontally on the fretboard.

Length: 16:11 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
The Neapolitan ChordLesson 35

The Neapolitan Chord

Named after the "Neapolitan School" from the 18th century and not ice cream, this chord is a major chord built on the lowered 2nd scale degree.

Length: 7:13 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Diatonic Chords In G MajorLesson 36

Diatonic Chords In G Major

Kris shows the diatonic chords of G Major.

Length: 19:42 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Diatonic 7th ArpeggiosLesson 37

Diatonic 7th Arpeggios

Kris teaches you how to play diatonic 7th arpeggios and their inversions in the key of G major.

Length: 15:47 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Tapping 7th ArpeggiosLesson 38

Tapping 7th Arpeggios

Kris shows you how to play seventh arpeggios with tapping, legato, and string skipping.

Length: 7:45 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Popular Chord ProgressionsLesson 39

Popular Chord Progressions

Kris shows some common major and minor chord progressions.

Length: 27:24 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Quick Connect EMG Active PickupsLesson 40

Quick Connect EMG Active Pickups

Kris installs these new EMG pickups into his guitar.

Length: 26:15 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Workshop With ChodypthLesson 41

Workshop With Chodypth

Kris Norris sat down with Chodypth, aka Cody, and this video is the result of a day of jamming and practicing.

Length: 77:35 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Kris Norris

About Kris Norris View Full Biography Mr. Kris Norris was born August, 31 1978 in Canton, Ohio. He began playing around the age of 14. Early on the self-taught guitarist took an interest in metal and began playing in a local Virginia metal band. Kris' early influences were rooted in Swedish metal, bands include In Flames, Dark Tranquility, and Edge of Sanity. Norwegian Black metal also played a part in Kris' interest including early Mayhem, Emperor, and Ulver. Kris started Disinterment with future Darkest Hour bandmate Ryan Parrish. Disinterment lasted over 6 years and developed a local following in the Virginia metal by being some of the first players to incorporate Swedish metal and 3 guitar players.

College Days
When Kris was 17 he attended Virgina Commonwealth University School of Music (VCU). He studied Music composition and focused on film with world renowned composer Dika Newlin. Kris also studied classical guitar with John Patykula, prize student of Jesus Silva who was the prize student of Andre Segovia. Kris left the University after 6 years of studies. After college, he began his teaching career instructing private students and giving lessons at Mars Music. Kris' teaching career would eventually be put on hold to join Darkest Hour.

Darkest Hour Days
Kris' first album with Darkest Hour ,Hidden Hands Of A Sadist Nation, the 2005 release was recorded at Studio Fredman in Gothenburg, Sweden with producer Fredrik Nordstrom. Ironically, the same studio facilitated many of Kris' influences 10 years prior.

Darkest Hour's next release, Undoing Ruin allowed Kris to stretch his wings and show what he could truly do on the instrument with the addition of several solos. The record was produced by Canadian metal mastermind Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad, Steve Vai). Townsend was a big part of pushing Kris to his own musical potential on Undoing Ruin and even more so on the follow up record, Deliver Us.

Deliver Us was released in 2007 and debuted at 110 on the Billboard Chart. This would be the last Darkest Hour record with Kris as a member. The album like its predecessor was also produced by Devin Townsend, who was able to take a bigger hand in its production. Devin pushed Kris to experiment with his own playing and to hone in on his strongest abilities.

Kris' career with Darkest Hour spanned 6 years, 23 countries, 4 continents, countless tours, 3 albums, near 200,000 album sales, and many lifelong friendships made along the way. With the birth of his son in 2008, Kris felt he needed to take his career closer to home while still focusing on music and guitar. In order for Darkest Hour to devote 100% to their music and touring, Kris came to the decision to amicably part ways with the band.

His Future:
As of early 2009, Kris has full sponsorships from ESP, EMG, Peavey, DigiTech, InTune, and Morley. Currently, Kris is producing and mixing aspiring metal acts while also working for Final Symphony Studios out of Charlottesville, Virgina. Kris also edits records for James Murphy (Testament, Obituary, Death) at Safehouse Productions. Kris has released his first solo record through Magna Carta Records, entitled Icons Of The Illogical. His solo effort was recorded at Karma Productions with Cory Smoot (GWAR) and features vocals from Lamb Of God frontman Randy Blythe.

Kris is excited to be an addition to the JamPlay Instructor Roster. Lending his metal chops and thorough education to his lessons make him a valuable teacher. Kris is excited to be making lessons for JamPlay and just as stoked to learn new things from our other instructors. Check it out and stay Metal.

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Mike H.

"I feel like a 12 year old kid with a new guitar!"

I am 66 years young and I still got it! I would have never known this if it had not been for Jamplay! I feel like a 12 year old kid with a new guitar! Ha! I cannot express enough how great you're website is! It is for beginners and advanced pickers! I am an advanced picker and thought I had lost it but thanks to you all, I found it again! Even though I only play by ear, I have been a member a whopping whole two weeks now and have already got Brent's country shuffle and country blues down and of course with embellishments. Thank you all for your wonderful program!

Greg J.

"With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace"

I'm a fifty eight year old newbie who owns a guitar which has been sitting untouched in a corner for about seven years now. Last weekend I got inspired to pick it up and finally learn how to play after watching an amazing Spanish guitarist on TV. So, here I am. I'm starting at the beginning with Steve Eulberg and I couldn't be happier (except for the sore fingers :) Some day I'm going to play like Steve! I'm self employed with a hectic schedule. With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace, rewinding and replaying the videos until I get it. This is a very enjoyable diversion from my work yet I still feel like I'm accomplishing something worthwhile. Thanks a lot, Greg


"I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students."

I am commenting here to tell you and everyone at JamPlay that I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students. I truly enjoy learning to play the guitar on Yes, I said the words, ""enjoy learning."" It is by far the best deal for the money.

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