Tonebase for Guitar: A Quality Resource for Classical Guitar Enthusiasts
A review of everything tonebase for guitar has to offer: from its lesson library to other resources such as blogs, podcasts, and PDF toolkits.
It’s official — the online music education market has never been bigger, or its offer more varied.
If you’re looking for remote music lessons, you can now build your skills with the help from over a dozen of music education platforms: GuitarCompass, Zebra Keys, InsidePiano, Jamorama… Not to mention the millions of tutorials you can find on YouTube.
Out of this host of recently launched educational platforms for musicians, tonebase, specializing in guitar, piano, violin, and cello lessons, has quickly established itself as leader of the pack.
In this tonebase review, we take a look at how the platform stacks up when it comes to their guitar lessons. Is it worth the price of subscription, and can instructional videos fully replace having a teacher with you in the room?
What is tonebase?
Tonebase is the brainchild of classical guitarists Igor Lichtman and Christopher Garwood and developer Abhi Nayar – who all met at Yale during their studies.
This is where Garwood and Lichtman first got to talking about the limited accessibility of high-quality music education. Their idea of creating a platform that would be accessible to anyone, and would share lessons from some of the world’s leading classical music artists and educators, soon became tonebase.
And it’s precisely tonebase’s unique mix of expert teachers that makes it stand out from its competition. Their lesson library includes hundreds of videos by world-class performers and professors from the Curtis Institute of Music, Yale, Juilliard, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and others.
When it was first launched in 2017, tonebase was a learning platform for guitarists only. So, it makes sense that their current offer of guitar lessons — 5 years in the making — is very varied and rich.
The guitar lesson library covers pieces from almost every period of music history. You’ll find videos about Dowland’s Frog Galliard, Bach’s Preludes and Suites, the music of Francisco Tárrega and Isaac Albéniz, all the way to the works of contemporary authors like Dušan Bogdanović, Leo Brouwer, and Nikita Koshkin.
There is a much wider range of lesson difficulty here, too, than there is for tonebase’s violin and piano lessons. For example, the platform offers a great two-part series of lessons for absolute beginners, led by Daniel de Arakal and Mircea Gogoncea. The course focuses on building the player’s understanding of basic guitar technique. So, it covers everything you’d consider absolute guitar fundamentals: from holding and plucking the instrument, proceeding to four note chords, basic music theory and harmony, to arpeggio technique, etc.
NOTE: While tonebase for guitar has a lot of useful lessons for beginner players, if you’re truly starting from scratch, you may need to consider taking in-person lessons, too. Having that extra support, at least for the first couple of months, will make a world of difference.
On the other end of the guitar skill spectrum, tonebase again has a lot to offer. Advanced players will find plenty to do and learn with studies of Villa-Lobos’s Etudes and Bach’s Goldberg variations, or workshops on baroque ornamentation, polymeters, and polyrhythms.
Tonebase also makes sure to approach the art of guitar playing from many different angles. The platform correctly understands guitar playing is not just as a set of repertoire standards you have to master. Instead, the course designers treat it as a complex activity that creates real and impactful bonds between the musician’s body and brain, and shapes their understanding of music overall.
So, in addition to lessons covering how to play different pieces, you’ll also find videos on arranging folk melodies (by Laura Snowden), an entire 8-lesson course dedicated to mastering tremolo (Stephanie Jones), lessons on dealing with focal dystonia (Badi Assad), a guide to fretboard geography (Bokyung Byun), and so much more.
These skillbuilding lessons should be of great use to both beginner, intermediate, and advanced guitarists, enriching their understanding of guitar playing as both a practice and an art.
There’s also the added bonus of the platform’s and the lessons’ interface. Unlike some other music education websites, tonebase’s interface is easy to understand and designed to keep the users’ intention. Here’s an example of how tonebase’s video lessons look, and all the little extra features you can use during the lesson:
Lastly, we need to comment on the most important technical aspect of the platform’s offer – the lesson audio. It is recorded and produced beautifully. Tonebase’s audio equipment is very obviously top-notch, and we’d like to tip a hat to the engineers and editors who record these courses and work on their post-production.
Want to experience it for yourself? Get 30% off your tonebase subscription with our special code: MORDENTS.
Tonebase for Guitar: The Teachers
Tonebase hosts guitar greats such as Emmy winner Frederic Hand, Carlo Marchione from the Maastricht Conservatory, and early music specialist Nigel North. Then, there’s also GRAMMY winner Sérgio Assad, the legendary Pepe Romero… The list goes on.
Accompanying these esteemed artists is a bunch of fresh faces and rising stars: young virtuosos like Tengyue Zhang, Emmanuel Sowicz, Bokyung Byun, and others.
Altogether, more than a hundred guitar experts!
If you’re interested in exploring more of what tonebase’s guitar teachers have to offer, you can watch their lesson excerpts on tonebase’s YouTube channel.
For example, take this absolute masterclass on articulation and interpretation by the great Pepe Romero:
Tonebase for Guitar: The Extra Features
Apart from its course offer, tonebase also has other resources that accompany its guitar lessons.
In the Resources section of the website, users can access:
the tonebase guitar blog, with handy guides on just about everything guitar-related under the sun – from performance tips and advice on practicing, to posts about music theory and key lesson takeaways;
PDF workbooks covering warm-up routines, effective practicing, and technique essentials;
a score library including 20th century and contemporary pieces discussed in tonebase’s lessons;
the tonebase guitar podcast – four seasons of interesting interviews with various performing and recording guitarists, with host David Steinhardt.
In the years since its launch, tonebase has also worked hard to establish a sense of community for its students. Its community forum encourages users to exchange opinions, ask questions, and participate in monthly challenges, while its live workshops and webinars connect the users to the teachers in a more direct way.
You’ll find a ton of 5-star reviews on tonebase’s website. Still, we wanted to explore what people are saying about the platform on other corners of the internet, too.
Here’s a selection of what we found:
“Tonebase channel has been an amazing recent discovery. The amount of musical insight available here is astounding.” – sehetw, Twitter
“I’ve just signed up and so far I’m really happy with the quality and variation of the videos. There’s a good range of players and composers to learn from. I’m a more advanced player and have already started on changes to my playing technique, phrasing and understanding of pieces. Would recommend.” – Calvin Beadle, Facebook
“Beautifully explained and so helpful for someone like me who has struggled with the guitar for 40 years !” – Sean Kavanagh, YouTube
Tonebase for Guitar: Pricing
Tonebase’s pricing comes in 3 subscription packages: Monthly ($49.95), Yearly ($24.95), and Lifetime (one-time payment of $695). There is a 14-day free trial available.
Subscriptions can be canceled any time. However, the platform currently does not offer partial refunds on Yearly or Lifetime memberships after the 14-day free trial period.
Tonebase guitar lessons offer a lot to both the beginner, intermediate, and advanced guitarist.
The platform has clearly established itself as a key online resource for guitar players and lovers, thanks to its expert teachers, interesting lesson topics, and well-produced videos.
Whether you’re an absolute beginner, or someone who plays the guitar professionally, you’ll find plenty of interesting insights in tonebase guitar lessons.
It’s up to you to decide what you want to use the website’s 500+ lesson library for: go back and perfect your basics, expand your repertoire, or uncover some amazing new insights about the pieces you thought you already knew well.