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Saturday, March 16, 2024

Best free online guitar lessons 2024: Where learning guitar costs nothing

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1. Our top picks
2. Full product guide
3. Expert advice
4. How we choose

With the advent of an infinite universe of free online guitar lessons, learning the guitar is now easier and more affordable than ever before. As a result, fewer players are now less likely to jack it in, blaming a lack of direction and a dearth of accomplishment. Which is a very good thing indeed.

So, where should you start? What’s the best platform and who’s the best online teacher? It depends on your preferred learning style, your current skill level and the kit you’re likely to have to hand. There are online tuition sites, streaming long form content that’s best consumed on a tablet or laptop. Then there are mobile apps aimed predominantly at novices, which typically offer short, fun lessons as part of a gamified learning path. Finally, there’s YouTube, where thousands of tuition channels take deep dives into specific guitar skills and individual songs.

The catch? Well, like anything that’s freely available online, there’s an awful lot of poorly taught dross out there. So, to sort the wheat from the chaff, read on for our expertly curated list of the very best, free online guitar tuition sites, apps and channels. If you’re looking for consistent, paid-for options, check out our guide to the best online guitar lessons ↗ overall.

Our top picks

Over the past couple of decades, session musician turned guitar instructor Sandercoe has helped millions worldwide learn how to play the guitar for free. Zilch. Nada. JustinGuitar is an online learning resource that’s just as professional and every bit as comprehensive as any of the major paid-for platforms.

Ok, we might be biased, but we genuinely believe that Guitar World features some of the very best free online tuition available on the net. On our site you’ll find thousands of diverse tutorials that’s constantly being fed into by journalists, teachers, session players and even famous guitarists, with every conceivable genre covered

Guitar Tricks is one of the best-known and most well-respected names in online guitar tuition. What sets it apart from its paid-for competitors is that you can sign up for a free account that’ll give you access to a good chunk of content. Then, the Guitar Tricks’ YouTube channel reveals a hoard of additional free videos – currently around 850.

Product guide

Proof that the best things in life really are free

Specifications

Price: Predominantly free, with a limited number of packages from $8.99/£7 per month

Free trial?: Most of the content is free

Key features: Huge variety of content with clear learning paths, extensive song library including some contemporary numbers, genres covered are predominantly blues, rock and jazz

Platform: Website – justinguitar.com, YouTube – @JustinGuitar, App – iOS and Android

Reasons to buy

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Vast amount of free content

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Well structured

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Professional production values

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Superb teaching from Justin

Reasons to avoid

If you’re after zany, madcap instructors, look elsewhere

No female instructors

Three great mysteries of the Universe trouble me the most. Is there life beyond Earth, why aren’t pizza boxes round, and why hasn’t Justin Sandercoe been knighted for services to music yet? Or at the very least, awarded with an Order of Australia?

Over the past couple of decades, session musician turned guitar instructor Sandercoe has helped millions worldwide learn how to play the guitar for free. Zilch. Nada. Probably the most influential guitarist the general public has never heard of, he’s been endorsed by legendary talent as diverse as Mark Knopfler, Sir Brian May, Tony Emmanuel and Steve Vai. Simply put, JustinGuitar is an online learning resource that’s just as professional and every bit as comprehensive as any of the major paid-for platforms. 

There are graded learning paths for beginners, intermediates and advanced players, a well-stocked song library plus scores of lessons on technique, tone and basic music theory. A handful of courses do demand a small fee, but everything else costs nothing, unless you fancy stumping up a donation.

You can just surf the JustinGuitar YouTube channel, but for the best possible experience I recommend starting at his website, justinguitar.com. Here you’ll find all of his videos plus a wealth of additional tools and resources. There’s also a library of clearly written JustinGuitar books and a smartphone app for novices.

Read our full Justinguitar review

2. Guitar World

The most inspiring place on the internet?

Specifications

Price: Free

Free trial?: It’s free!

Key features: Massive library of lessons for all abilities, across all genres

Platform: Website – guitarworld.com, YouTube – @GuitarWorld

Reasons to buy

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Bite-sized, expert tuition

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Contributions from Guitar World, Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar Techniques and Bass Player

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Most video lessons have in-depth guidance notes

Reasons to avoid

No complete learning pathways

We’re a modest bunch here at Guitar World, a team that takes its promise to provide you with the very best, unbiased, independent content very seriously. However, sometimes you’ve got to stand up and be counted, to step forth into the limelight while yelling, “Look at me, yes, over here, me!”

That’s right, Guitar World really does feature some of the very best free online tuition available on the net. It’s a bold statement but trust me, it comes from the heart, not our marketing department.

On our website, guitarworld.com, you’ll find thousands of tutorials under the Lessons tab in the top menu bar ↗. The beauty of this content lies in its diversity. The lesson vault is constantly being fed into by journalists, teachers, session players and even famous guitarists. Every conceivable genre is covered – a quick glimpse at the site today reveals tutorials on blues, rock, funk, neo-soul and jazz. Also under the spotlight are the playing styles of Gary Clark Jr, Steve Morse, Joe Bonamassa and B.B. King. The remarkable thing is that all this content was posted within the last few hours. Tomorrow there’ll be more, and the next day more still.

Editorial is one of our strengths, evident in the quality of our written guides and tutorials that delve deep into technique and theory. These bite-sized gems, written by experts from Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar Techniques and Bass Player magazines as well as Guitar World, are perfect for guitarists looking to spend 15 minutes or so learning a new technique or brushing up on an old one.

The Guitar World YouTube channel is just as varied with, admittedly, some bias towards rock and metal. Here you’ll find a massive number of technique, riff and song videos, plus method playlists featuring Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Joe Satriani and more.

Guitar World doesn’t offer a clear learning path like JustinGuitar. Instead, it focuses on bringing variety into every guitar player’s life – fresh, quality content from some of the world’s greatest musicians, and plenty of it. 

Free beginner lessons from this paid-for stalwart

Specifications

Price: $19.95/£16.99

Free trial?: 14 days, but a lot of beginner content is freely available

Key features: Impressive library of lessons and songs for all abilities. Many genres well served. Beginner content free

Platform: Website – guitartricks.com, YouTube – @GuitarTricks

Reasons to buy

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Generous number of beginner lessons freely available on site

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First-class tuition, by professional tutors

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Clear learning path 

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YouTube channel reveals hundreds more video lessons

Reasons to avoid

You’ll run out of free content eventually

Guitar Tricks is one of the best known and most well-respected names in online guitar tuition. What sets it apart from its competitors, such as Yousician, JTC Guitar, Truefire and Simply Guitar, is that it’s possible to sign up for a free account that’ll give you access to a good chunk of meaningful content.

At the very heart of guitartricks.com is the platform’s Core Learning System, which kicks off with a two-level guitar ‘Fundamentals’ pathway before funnelling users through one of four specialisms – Acoustic, Blues, Rock and Country. Sign up for a free account and you’ll have access to some of the first Fundamentals level and a smattering of the second – about a dozen lessons in all. The tuition from featured instructor Anders Mouridsen is top rate, as are the production values. GuitarTricks doesn’t take a gamified approach to learning, instead an instructor guides you, helped along the way with multiple camera angles, full notation and plenty of notes for guidance.

Guitar Tricks’ YouTube channel reveals a hoard of additional tuition videos – currently there’s about 850 and counting, across 26 playlists. Often, these videos are the first couple of installments of a paid-for course, the hope being that, once hooked, you’ll sign up for a full subscription. That’s not always the intention, many have been produced solely for the channel. All share Guitar Tricks’ affinity for quality tuition.

You can try month of full-fat Guitar Tricks for a single dollar right now ↗

Read our full Guitar Tricks review

Free Fender taster is a treat for novices

Specifications

Price: $19.99/£17.99 monthly or $150/£89 annually

Free trial?: 14 days, but some content is freely available

Key features: Expert tuition beautifully presented but geared mostly towards novices

Platform: Website – fender.com, YouTube – @fender

Reasons to buy

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A dozen beginner lessons freely available on website

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Aesthetically pleasing

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Clear learning path 

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Expansive library of contemporary genres, styles and songs

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Diversity mix evident in the tutor roster

Reasons to avoid

Not much content for upper intermediates and above

Fender Play is the slickest online guitar tuition service that’s ever graced my screen by far. The aesthetic is clean, the videos are beautifully shot and the tutorials are impeccably executed. There are clear learning paths for acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass and ukulele, which span a broad range of genres including rock, blues, pop, country and funk. 

Refreshingly, it’s a service that embraces a good amount of contemporary music, rather than just the ’60s and ’70s blues/rock content that many of its competitors peddle. Diversity is evident within its teaching team too, with a mix of ethnicity and genders represented. 

Quality of this kind costs money – $150 a year to be precise, more if you pay monthly. However, as well as providing a 14-day trial, Fender has also made 13 beginner guitar lessons available on its website for free, by following this link. ↗ These lessons cover a gamut of useful beginner topics to get you up and running quickly, including primers on chords and scales. There are also five songs you’ll be playing in no time, from the likes of Green Day and the Jackson 5.

The same 13 lessons can be found on Fender’s YouTube channel, together with a stack of product vids, jam tracks, music documentaries and star player interviews.

Read our full Fender Play review

(Image credit: GuitarApp)

5. Guitar App

A time-saving YouTube aggregation site for guitar players

Specifications

Price: Free

Free trial?: It’s all free!

Key features: Well structured curation of the best lessons on YouTube, tuner, metronome, ear trainer

Platform: Website – guitarapp.com, App – iOS and Android

Reasons to buy

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Does the YouTube sifting s you don’t have to

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Clearly categorised content

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Useful extra tools such as a tuner and metronome

Reasons to avoid

No original content

If navigating your way through the often wild and unfiltered world of YouTube guitar lessons fills you with dread, GuitarApp has taken on the role of lessons aggregator, filtering the best that YouTube has to offer into clear categories. Site layout is clear and well-structured, making it easy to find the content you’re looking for – from beginner lessons and song tutorials, to genre guides and artist content.

Full disclosure, the team at GuitarApp don’t create any of their own content, but we feel they do offer a valuable service to those who find YouTube a minefield of varying quality and consistency. They’ve also seen fit to branch out beyond guitar lessons to highlight recording tutorials, DIY guitar projects and popular channels like That Pedal Show. So, in short, GuitarApp is a useful, curated tool for guitarists looking to consume quality guitar content without YouTube’s algorithm serving up videos you would never watch.

A cool feature built into both the app and desktop versions of Guitar App is the ability to loop a section of the video you’re watching, enabling you to zero in on a particular part and dial it in. You can also adjust playback speed to something more manageable should you need it.

Away from the video content, you’ll also find a tuner, metronome, interactive chord library and ear training games available within both the web and mobile versions, which are also useful tools on their own.

6. Jazz Guitar Online

Extensive jazz and jazz-blues resource for all levels

Specifications

Price: Free with individual courses from $49

Free trial?: N/A

Key features: Essential jazz guitar resource with beginners lessons, ebooks, gear guides, courses and forum

Platform: Website – jazzguitar.be, YouTube – @JazzGuitarOnline

Reasons to buy

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Jazz is poorly represented by the competition

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Extensive library of lessons, songs and guides 

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Free ebooks available to download 

Reasons to avoid

Jazz isn’t for everyone

Jazz guitar barely gets a mention on most tuition sites and apps, often just a cursory lesson or two if that. In their defense, there are some good reasons for this. First, as a genre, jazz polarizes the guitar community. Second, jazz guitar is theory heavy, which means that it’s rarely suitable for complete novices, the demographic that most tuition sites target. 

On a more positive note, if you’re an enthusiastic intermediate or advanced player who wants to broaden your playing horizons then jazz is a great option. If you feel the need to dig deeper into music theory, then jazz will make an excellent companion. And, if you’re into blues, neo-soul or funk then a little jazz, a close relative of these genres, will enhance your playing skills, chops and licks immeasurably. You’ll be in good company. Nile Rodgers was a jazzer before he turned to funk, Jeff Beck frequently dabbled with fusion and five-time Grammy Award-winning guitarist Mark Lettieri is an active member of the ‘jazz collective’ Snarky Puppy. 

Jazz Guitar Online has everything a jazz novice needs to get started and then some. There are detailed free lessons covering jazz chords, arpeggios, scales and licks, plus studies on two classic jazz standards – Autumn Leaves and Summertime. All lessons are exceptionally comprehensive, commonly featuring video, audio samples, notation/tab, guidance notes, chord diagrams and fretboard maps. Jazz-blues is often referenced too, which will make many players feel more at home with the content.

Additionally, Dirk Laukens, the jazz teacher behind Jazz Guitar Online has made two ebooks freely available – The Beginner’s Guide To Jazz Guitar, which runs to 198 pages, and The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary. Paid-for courses and a small library of e-books can be purchased from the online shop, but frankly it could take months, if not years, to work through all the free stuff.

7. Rick Beato on YouTube

A far-reaching cornucopia of musical insights

Specifications

Price: Free, with Beato Club membership from $15/month

Free trial?: N/A

Key features: YouTube channel with vast assortment of guitar-related content

Platform: Website – rickbeato.com, YouTube – @RickBeato

Reasons to buy

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Beato is a bona fide pro musician and educator

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Covers everything from guitar lessons to life lessons

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Features many famous guests, including Sting, May, Lukather, Malmsteen…

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1,300 videos, no filler

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3.9m subscribers can’t all be wrong

Reasons to avoid

A bit haphazard for those who crave structure

At the time of writing, Rick Beato’s YouTube channel has a staggering 3.94 million subscribers and 751,680,877 views. Figures that will, no doubt, have risen by the time you get to read this. What do his viewers flock to see? How does this silver-haired guy in late middle age have such a hold over his audience?

In short, Rick’s an authentic, engaging host with a gift for creating a huge spread of feel-good content. He’s the real deal, just as capable of dishing out life lessons as he is guitar lessons. That air of authenticity is born of decades working as a session musician, audio engineer, producer, studio owner and university lecturer. He knows his stuff too, having earned a master’s degree in jazz guitar studies from the New England Conservatory of Music, and having lectured at Berklee.

Whether you’re looking to enjoy guitar lessons, song breakdowns, theory explanations, insights into chords and scales, or just the odd rant about music and the music industry, then Rick’s your guy. Just don’t look for too much structure because I sense that when an idea takes Rick’s fancy he just puts it out there, regardless of what came before or is likely to appear after.

He’s an attentive, knowledgeable interviewer, never trying to steal the limelight from his very famous guests – Sting, May, Lukather, Malmsteen, Frampton, Johnson, Trucks – always giving them plenty of time and lots of space to talk.

If you aspire to become a guitarist then subscribe to a platform like Guitar Tricks or Simply Guitar. If, however, your ambition is to become a well-rounded musician head over to YouTube and let Rick educate and entertain you in equal measure.

8. Lauren Bateman on YouTube

A channel unashamedly for beginners

Specifications

Price: Free, with optional courses from $97

Free trial?: N/A

Key features: YouTube channel 600+ beginner tutorials. Paid-for courses available on Lauren’s website

Platform: Website – laurenbateman.com, YouTube – @LaurenBateman

Reasons to buy

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Fun and engaging

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Not in the least intimidating for beginners

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Lots of upbeat songs with easy arrangements

Reasons to avoid

Not much here for advanced players

Song choices a little cheesy

Hard sell is crude and unnecessary

Lauren’s a self-taught guitarist on a quest to help novices learn the basics with fun and ease. I’m focussing on her YouTube channel here, but you can also sign up for a free crash course in guitar playing on her website. Just be warned that you will be subjected to an awful lot of guff persuading you to enroll on to one of her paid-for courses, of which there are about half a dozen or so. Sure, everyone has to make a living, but this level of hard sell feels a little unnecessary.

Stick with Lauren’s YouTube channel and you’ll find an abundance of well-organized content that’s perfect for complete beginners. There are more than 600 videos here, primarily covering rhythm skills, finger dexterity and fingerpicking techniques, plus a seemingly infinite number of tips and tricks. There’s also a whole bunch of fun, if a little cheesy, arrangements of newbie guitar classics such as Yesterday, Brown Eyed Girl, Cecilia – you get the picture.

It’s easy to get a bit sniffy about this kind of ‘camp fire’ content, but Lauren’s an enthusiastic teacher and a great communicator. Her lessons are enjoyable, easy to follow and rarely last more than eight minutes – bite-sized nuggets that are easy for beginners to digest. So often tutorial sites expect novices to dive in at the deep end way too soon, leaving many confused, disappointed and disillusioned by the whole learning process. Not so with Lauren. You’ll be splashing about in the shallow end for quite a while, but at least you’ll be having fun!

9. Marty Music on YouTube

Prolific YouTuber proves quality and quantity can co-exist

Specifications

Price: Free, with optional courses from $20 (some are free)

Free trial?: N/A

Key features: YouTube channel 3,000+ tutorials. Paid-for courses available on Marty’s website

Platform: Website – martymusic.com, YouTube – @MartyMusic

Reasons to buy

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Staggering amount of free content

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Amazing number of free songs to learn and play

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Biased towards beginners but plenty here for everyone

Reasons to avoid

Marty has his detractors, but you can’t please everyone

Ask around about free guitar lessons and two names are certain to crop up – Justin Sandercoe of JustinGuitar fame, and Marty Schwartz of Marty Music. Marty was a conventional, face-to-face music teacher, working in elementary schools and with private clients, before posting to YouTube changed his life for good. His audience numbers are now so large, they’re almost impossible to comprehend. More than 4.1 million guitarists subscribe to his channel which, to date, has been viewed almost 790,000,000 times.

Multiple factors account for his phenomenal popularity. He’s an engaging teacher for a start, amiable, sharp and witty, without ever letting too much humor distract from the topic he’s trying to explain. He also teaches a lot of beginner content, often using songs that are trending, such as highly searched for classics and contemporary hits. Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Murder On The Dancefloor was posted on the day I wrote this guide, a song that’s resurfaced due to the popularity of Saltburn, the Netflix drama. Tomorrow? Who knows, it could easily be something from Pantera. Finally, he’s one of the most prolific teachers on YouTube, typically posting a video a day. 

Somehow, despite his crazy release schedule, there’s a solid structural foundation to Marty’s posts. Technique videos are released on Tuesdays, riff lessons on Sundays, livestreams on Saturdays and so on. The tutorials are professionally shot, short and to the point. It’s hard to fault Marty, but if you don’t like today’s video don’t worry, there’ll be another one along tomorrow.

Expert advice

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to choose the best free lessons for you

You can trust Guitar World
Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing guitar products so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test. ↗

Costs can quickly mount when you’re learning to play the guitar, more than most of us appreciate. If we assume you’ll take an hour’s lesson every fortnight for five years at a cost of $50/£35 per session, that’s a total outlay of $6,500/£4,550. Sadly, not all of us have that level of disposable income to hand.

One alternative is to sink your money into an online tuition subscription, which will likely cost in the region of $600/£400 over the same period. That’s a huge reduction, but the most attractive option for the cash-strapped newbie guitarist must be free lessons. Quality tuition that won’t cost you a dime.

Are free lessons actually any good?

The old adage ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ may be sage advice for most things in life, but not guitar lessons. That’s because there are some astonishingly good free online resources out there that can be just as comprehensive, and equally as effective, as their paid-for competitors. How come? For the most part, these services aren’t totally altruistic, instead they are often funded through social media monetization, ad revenue or act as trial gateways to more extensive paid-for services.

Should I avoid YouTube for guitar lessons?

YouTube-based tutorial channels are a good case in point. Other than a minority of noteworthy examples, such as JustinGuitar, few feature complete learning pathways, instead choosing to focus on individual songs or skills. Why? Because it’s this kind of content that trends on YouTube, particularly classics by the likes of The Stones or current hits by Taylor Swift and her contemporaries. Posting trend-worthy content is a cornerstone of recruiting views and subs, which is why YouTube producers focus so much attention on it.

No matter, you still get to learn, while somebody else foots the bill. Just be wary of, quite literally, freely chopping and changing between channels or sites, because grazing half a tutorial here and a song riff there won’t get you very far in the long term. Instead, try your best to stick with a pathway or channel until you’ve exhausted it, deviating only if you need to find an alternative perspective on a particularly puzzling musical predicament.

Even if you do decide to go down the route of paid-for lessons or an app sub, these free resources are still wonderful assets for supplementing your learning.

How we choose products

Here at Guitar World, we are experts in our field, with many years of playing, creating and product testing between us. We live and breathe everything guitar gear and service related, and we draw on this knowledge and experience of using products in practice, live, recording and rehearsal scenarios when selecting the products for our guides.

When choosing what we believe to be the best free online guitar lessons available right now, we combine our hands-on experience, user reviews and testimonies and engage in lengthy discussions with our editorial colleagues to reach a consensus about the top products in any given category.

First and foremost, we are guitarists, and we want other players to find the right product for them. So we take into careful consideration everything from budget to feature set, ease of use and durability to come up with a list of what we can safely say are the best free online guitar lessons on the market right now.

Find out more about how we make our recommendations, how we test ↗ each of the products in our buyer’s guides and our review policy.

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When Simon’s childhood classical guitar teacher boasted he ‘enjoyed a challenge’, the poor man had no idea how much he’d underestimated the scale of the task ahead. Despite Simon’s lack of talent, the experience did spark a lifelong passion for music. His classical guitar was discarded for an electric, then a room full of electrics before Simon discovered the joys of keys. Against all odds, Simon somehow managed to blag a career as a fashion journalist, but he’s now more suitably employed writing for Guitar World and MusicRadar. When not writing or playing, he can be found terrifying himself on his mountain bike.

BFIA Admin
BFIA Admin
The big boss.

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