I have been a multi-instrumentalist for years, and I currently play guitar, bass guitar, piano, and drums. I started my journey into playing instruments years ago through private study, but in the past five years, I have been using software like Rocksmith and Yousician to help me improve my technical skills on guitar and piano. I love the fact that these programs provide basic lessons for a beginner like simple strumming or even adjusting your strap while also delivering lessons that can work for more advanced players such as pinch harmonics. As a result of this versatility, I have become very well-versed in Yousician as both a learning tool as well as a game that I use to unwind.
We all have to start somewhere, and fortunately, there is a wide array of methods in which to learn guitar. These days, there are tools like Rocksmith and Fender Play, but have you ever heard of Yousician? Yousician is a software package that’s available on iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows that allows a user to learn to play guitar using a structured methodology and fun lessons.
Yousician is quickly becoming a popular means for aspiring guitarists to up their game. The game has become so popular that additional instruments are now supported, so if you’re satisfied with your guitar playing and want to branch out, you can also learn piano, ukulele, and bass guitar using Yousician.
Yousician in a Nutshell
Yousician is an interactive music service that’s designed to really provide a fully-formed experience for just about everyone to better their instrument playing. In my opinion, the guitar experience is the most well-rounded because the service can teach you more guitar songs via licensing agreements with popular bands.
As mentioned, this software is definitely a multi-platform option because it’s available on just about every platform except the gaming consoles, and you don’t expressly need a USB guitar cable to learn. In fact, with Yousician, you can just use the microphone of your smart device to pick up the specific tones you’re strumming on your guitar.
By itself, Yousician is free, but it has a ton of “premium” content that you can download to do things like learn how to play your favorite songs, unlock more advanced lessons, partake in teacher-crafted lessons, or learn using guitar workouts.
The DLC songs that are available also allow you to learn how to play some of your favorite tunes as sung by their original artists and the UI of the software is very easy to learn on. When I first started, I’ll admit that I was a bit confused by the fact that Yousician’s learning system is significantly different than Rocksmith’s (which we have also reviewed), but with a few sessions under my belt, I was quickly able to adapt to both systems.
Where Yousician Stands Out
Speaking of systems, Yousician teaches using a method that’s not unlike tablature. As the “fretboard” progresses, you are presented with many notes that range from zero to 23 – with zero being open notes and 23 representing the 23rd fret on the neck of your guitar. The fretboard slides continuously to the left, and the notes appear as a constant stream, and when a number appears on the string, you strum the corresponding note.
Insofar as systems, this is different from other software services, but this is also a great way to learn tabs, which means that you can extend your playtime outside of the game to the hundreds of tab services like Songsterr and Guitar Pro. Once you’re playing Yousician, you’ll also notice that the notes are color-coded.
What sets Yousician apart from other programs is the fact that while you’re learning, your fingers will each represent a color. For example, if you need to hit the fourth fret on the G string and then the sixth on the same string, the game will have you use your index finger(orange) for the four and your ring finger(blue) for the six. This is a great system that really drives home the fingering for each song. I found this VERY useful because the program really incorporates the pinky, which is a finger that many beginner guitarists tend to disregard.
Additionally, unlike other music programs like Rocksmith, Yousician takes its time teaching you. With a game like Rocksmith, you’re thrown into the song, and while the songs may have many of the notes cut for your skill level, they won’t necessarily sound right while you’re playing. Yousician, on the other hand, starts you off with lighter fare such as lullabies and very simple songs. This is very similar to the experience you’d receive with an instructor so that a newer guitarist may find value in the experience.
Some of the Features of Yousician that Can Help New Guitarists
One of the features that make Yousician stand out is its exhaustive choice of learning options. With a game like this, there needs to be a varied learning structure so that you can play without getting bored. In my opinion, this learning service does a pretty good job at providing you with a plethora of learning options that can help you learn a reasonably wide variety of guitar skills. Of course, there’s always a chance that you’ll just play to learn your favorite songs, but if you want to get a full experience, you’ll want to really explore the various options, which I’ll be listing in the next section.
Yousician is very much set up like a browser, and all of the functions are presented as tabs at the top of the screen. The first selection is the Home section, which features warm-up exercises, the game’s library of songs, the newest songs offered, your recently played selections, and the library of songs separated into easy, medium, hard, and very hard difficulties.
For me, this is one of the most useful features, at least when it comes to daily utility. I carry my guitar with me a lot, and I’m not one of the musicians that can just tune by ear (I know, I should use Yousician to learn this skill), but Yousician, on all platforms, has a built-in tuner that can be very useful when you need to tune to just about any common tuning.
For me, this stands out because I have the Android and Windows version, and the Android version comes with an app called GuitarTuna, which I use consistently to tune my guitar. The Windows version works in much the same way, but as you might expect, this version isn’t quite as portable unless you have a laptop. To tune, you simply strum each string and the tuner will automatically progress to the next string once the previous string is in-tune. There are options for both 3+3 and 6-in-line variations of the classic guitar headstock, so it shouldn’t be an issue to get an accurate and easy to adjust tuning.
When you’re starting, you can tackle the standard lesson structure, and as I mentioned, the lessons ramp up at a very comfortable pace. To start, you’re presented with some songs from Yousician itself – a song like “Birds of Steel” by The Yousicians is an example of a less complicated rock song that newbies can practice to cut their teeth playing guitar.
It’s crucial to note that if you’re going for the purely free structure playing Yousician, then you’re going to be fairly limited – the software will curtail your daily practice time, but if you opt to subscribe to the service, which is about $120 a year, then you will have access to unlimited lesson time.
One aspect of the Learn feature of Yousician that sets it apart is the fact that you can actually fail out of a song. While the songs are fairly simple, if you miss too many notes, Yousician will ask you to stop so that you can try again. This can be a bit frustrating, but fortunately, there is a ‘practice’ option in the pause menu that will allow you to play the song as much as you want without the possibility of failure.
You start out fairly simply in this mode; the first options for lessons are play strings and play frets, which are about as basic as you can get. After you’re done with these lessons, you’ll progress to a point where you can select either a lead or rhythm guitar path. Each of these has its own set of lessons, which is fairly impressive in my opinion.
What’s also impressive is the fact that the lessons aren’t all standard guitar playing techniques; in fact, Yousician goes out of its way to even train your ear so that you can do things like tune without a tuner or learn note progression. For example, in the beginner section entitled, Ear Training: Up and Down, you are presented with puzzles that are designed to help you recognize how the tones on your guitar progress from lower to higher. This is very valuable and having this feature and truly understanding it will make learning song making much easier. This mode even has an up, down, or stay the same puzzle structure that allows you to really understand how tonal changes can affect the sound of your guitar. Each of these puzzles is guitar-free, so it’s nice to see the service incorporating some exercises that work your brain instead of your fret hand.
Another mode in the Learn section that’s useful is the Note Finder, which can be used to help you match notes with their musical annotation. The software plays one of three tones, which you are then expected to match. Once again, this helps you differentiate the different tones a guitar makes, which can really help when making music.
As a subdivision of the Missions section, the Workout section is a part of the game that you can use to really warm up and maintain the basics. The first section of this is designed specifically to help you master some of the previous lessons and songs that you’ve tacked. Included in this Star Hunter section are three modes that allow you to recapture some of the stars, which are the game’s signpost for progression, which you may have missed. Additionally, there are also Go for Gold and All Gold sections, which try to help you achieve a gold-level performance in some of the same songs.
Also in the Workout section, you’ll find skill builders, which will help you keep a grip on chords, barre chords, power chords, and even triads. These can be the basis for many genres of music, which is why this is a really good section to really make you more comfortable with them. You’ll simply be presented with a series of chords that you’re tasked with playing; sometimes, the software will ask you to play a certain amount of chords in a short period, and if you succeed, you’ll be presented with gold stars.
This section of the game even features an area that helps you learn standard notation via a series of videos. This is a very in-depth section that can help you learn music. This is definitely a standout part of Yousician because it’s very rare for a guitar education service to teach this skill, which is useful for a wide array of musical instruments.
The Workout section also features fingerpicking drills, tutorial videos, a section of arpeggios, and more ear training exercises. Overall, this is one of the best supplemental features of Yousician, and it’s one that beginner guitarists should come back to often.
This subsection of the Learn section of Yousician is also very useful for just about any level of guitarists. It is designed to present you with several songs, all set in different genres, that will allow you to practice some of the trademark skills of that genre. For example, there are Shredding Solos, Fingerpicking Songs, Barre Chord Songs, Cowboy Chord Songs, and Songs with Riffs. Each of these sections is very educational, and if you practice a section or two each day, you’ll see some excellent gains when it comes to your guitar playing. Most of the songs are by the service’s go-to band, the Yousicians, but each song that they present has all of the definitive trademarks of some classic genres.
This section, which is more of a “free play” section, is designed to present you with hundreds of songs that you can play at will. Each of the songs has its unique structure, so unlike a game like Rocksmith, you can’t expect Yousician to provide you with easier versions of each. If you are trying to learn using this section, the experience is a bit like diving into the deep end of the pool.
Still, Yousician groups all of these songs into ways that you can recognize them based on the Yousician lesson structure. For example, with a song like “Interstate Love Song” by the Stone Temple Pilots, the game groups it into Cowboy Chords, which is really appropriate for this particular piece even though it is an alternative song.
If the varying difficulty concerns you, it’s probably good to know that the software keeps track of the difficulty of each song, so if you’re new, you might want to stick with difficulty zero songs rather than songs that have a difficulty of 15, which is the highest. Just like in the Learn section, the Song section provides you with extensive controls for each song. For example, if you’re struggling on a certain part, you can shift to practice mode and downgrade the tempo so that you can better understand the mechanics of each riff or chord.
The final section presented to you by Yousician is the Challenges section. This section presents you with a series of guitar challenges that you can perform to become better. This section constantly renews on a weekly basis, so it becomes fairly easy to use this as a go-to practice session when you don’t have a lot of time.
Typically, these challenges are presented as songs, and you will have to play them section-by-section to complete the challenge. For example, “Party on the Boulevard” by the Yousicians is the current first challenge as of this writing, and to get into the first chorus of the song, you must first play verse one in its entirety without failing out. Once you’re done, you are then ranked based on others that played the song that week, which is a fun little feature that may bring out your competitive side, which is always a good side to use for learning.
This section is organized based on difficulty so the first song of the week will be the easiest, and as you might expect, song number four will have the most challenge.
One of the cooler features of the Challenges section is the fact that each week can take on a theme, so while one week might be dedicated to metal, another week that falls within the Christmas season may be designed to get you to play carols on your guitar.
Some of the Best Guitar-Learning Songs in Yousician
Before I start on this section, it’s a good idea to note that many of the songs on Yousician are covers of popular songs. While this can be a dealbreaker for some, it’s essential to understand that all of the guitar playing basics are presented in the songs that are made available. Also, these are some fairly high-quality covers, and I think it’s understandable that the folks at Yousician wouldn’t want to pay top dollar for original recordings.
In any situation, here’s a list of the songs that you can learn using Yousician:
1) My Friends – Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers always provide some awe-inspiring music that just about any new guitarist can learn from, and their song, “My Friends,” which debuted in 1995, is covered expertly in Yousician. If you’re looking through the song section, you’ll find that there are two arrangements available – the first one has a level one difficulty and is fairly easy for new players to tackle. If you’re ready for a challenge, there’s a five-star arrangement available as well. Each version is somewhat fast-paced, but the more complex version has some chords as well as some nice-sounding power riffs to learn. For those that are a little more advanced, you can also select the rhythm section of this song, which is tuned to drop D and is a blistering level nine difficulty.
2) Shimmer – Fuel
This 90s classic has four arrangements that allow you to really explore. The most beginner-friendly of the four are the basic and the main riffs of the song, and these are difficulties two and four respectively. The first option provides you with plenty of easy single notes and is very useful in helping you learn your fretboard. The second has more than a few basic chords that you can learn with relative ease. If you’re looking to play harder, then the final two don’t have any standard notes at all – both are presented as chords, which you have to memorize before you start your performance. Overall, this song is great for a wide range of challenge levels.
3) Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers
This cover is near-perfect; the singer that they selected almost had me thinking that it was a recording by Bill Withers himself. The basic riff is very easy and serves as a great way to practice. For a little more difficulty, the cowboy chords for this song sound great and serve as a great way to help your hands learn basic chord shapes. As is the tradition, two other arrangements are much harder, which include a level five chord riff section, and a level seven difficulty variation that requires some fast fingerpicking. Those looking to learn should love this song because it has some complexity, which can help you advance your playing significantly if you stick it out.
4) Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
“Seven Nation Army” has more than four variations to choose from, but to be fair, two of the arrangements are designed specifically for the learning mode and are listed as tutorial arrangements. Excluding those, the difficulty ranges from level one all the way up to level seven in difficulty, which provides a lot of potential variation. For this reason, I consider this a go-to for those that are looking to progress – you can start up with very easy singular notes and move all the way up to some fairly complex chords. This is also a song that requires some fast playing, and you can even practice playing with your pinky.
5) Silent Night (in A)
This is a great seasonal song, but I wouldn’t suggest learning this one right away if you’re brand new to the instrument. This is because this song is very chord-heavy, even in its most easy difficulty of level five. That being said, if you’re feeling advanced enough, this is a great song to learn chord shapes and make them feel more natural, which is why I considered this as a great song to use for learning in Yousician. While you may want to wait until you have a few months of daily practice before you tackle it, the three difficulties that range from level five to level seven will yield results.
6) Losing My Religion – R.E.M
This is often considered to be R.E.M.’s seminal song, and it’s well-represented in this music service. There are five levels of difficulty for this song that range from level two to level seven. The easiest variation of this song has single notes that are relatively easy to play and are very beginner-friendly, but when you go to the next level of difficulty, which is level four, you start to see chords. Chords like F, Am, and Em are very highly-used in this variation, and if you opt to try harder difficulties, you’ll be presented with a very entertaining challenge.
7) Moonlight Sonata – Ludwig Van Beethoven
Are you ready for a classic? This is a complex piece of classical music that will test your guitar playing skills, but should you learn it, you’ll be a better guitarist. The first version that’s available is only a level one option that only represents a relative snippet of the music, but if you want to test your guitar, try out the second arrangement, which is set at a level seven difficulty. I found it really cool that this entire song is played on the highest strings of the guitar, and there are no chords at all. Still, you are going to need fairly practiced fingers to really hit every note appropriately, and you can expect to slip from time to time.
8) The Scientist – Coldplay
If you’re looking for difficulty representation, “The Scientist,” which is a song from Coldplay from 2002, is a great place to start. This song has six variations that scale from a level one difficulty all the way up to level seven. With this song, you can learn basic notes using the basic riff variation, or you can pump up the complexity by trying moveable chords at the seventh level of difficulty. It’s just important to know that after you’ve mastered the melody, which has a level four difficulty, you’ll need a capo for the two following arrangements of the song, which are the fancy and cowboy chords sections of the song.
9) The Gentle Art of Pumping – The Yousicians
Not every useful song in Yousician has to be a second party song; in fact, some of the most useful songs for learning guitarists come from the company itself. “The Gentle Art of Pumping” is a song with a lot of heavy riffs, so you should have a bit of practice under your hat before you try to play this semi-advanced song. The available difficulties for this one are five, seven, and eight. The level eight arrangement encompasses both rhythm and lead, so expect to sweat a bit. This song is consistently in the workout section of the game, which fits because you’ll have to be strumming a lot in order to really master the intricacies of the piece.
10) Fireflies – Owl City
This is possibly the poppiest song on this list, but it’s also the song that has the most steady progression from easy to hard. There are four versions of this song here, and the easiest of these is at difficulty level two. The next teaches you the basic melody and is set to difficulty three, and you can definitely hear the catchiest part of the song here. After this, you’ll need a capo for the cowboy chords, which are at level five, and the final version of the song can be experienced at level seven. Level seven is the full melody and will test most guitarists.
Learning to play guitar is made all the more fun by music services like Yousician. The software presents you with a unique experience that even manages to teach you classic annotation, which is a very valuable skill in my opinion. While I admit that a few more gamified features could have been baked into the game, there’s more than enough sections and challenges to keep anyone looking to learn how to play guitar satisfied.
- Frye, P. (2019, January 10). Personal Interview
- Paul Riario. (2015, September 10). Yousician is a Fast, Fun Way to Learn to Play Guitar –Video.
Retrieved from https://www.guitarworld.com/artists/yousician-fast-fun-way-learn-play-guitar-video/
- Reim Ossaily. (2018, March 24). Yousician Review – Is it a Good Tool to Learn the Guitar? Retrieved from https://guition.com/yousician-review-is-it-a-good-tool-to-learn-the-guitar/