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Launched in 2012, Center Stage Guitar Academy is a relatively new comer in the online video guitar lessons industry. Unlike many other massive video guitar lessons websites such as Jamplay and Guitar Tricks, it has only 1 guitar instructor. At least 10 new lessons will be added monthly. It may not excite those intermediate guitarists who want to accelerate their learning but it’s definitely more than enough for the total beginners. The best thing is that you can sign up for its 7-day free trial to gain full access to all its guitar lessons via subscription. The site also offers bass lessons and ukulele lessons but both don’t offer free trials. You also have the options to buy these lesson packages separately, thereby master any of these genres you are interested in: Beginner Lessons, BB King Artist Study, Blues Style Guitar, Classic Rock Songs and Pop Songs. The packages are all online video guitar lessons.
I’m quoting from the website: Center Stage instructor Bryan Billhimer is a 20 year guitar veteran with experience in teaching, live performance, and studio recordings. Bryan began his guitar playing career at the age of 14. Over a few years he learned all the fundamentals necessary to further his craft via self teaching and motivation.
During high school and college Bryan performed in several bands on a regular basis playing blues and rock. In this time he earned a Bachelors degree from the Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. Upon graduating college he worked in a local studio where he met producer Emosia (produced Blessid Union of Souls, Lakeisha Berri, etc.) and members of Blessid Union. After a year or so he was asked to join the band and toured for nearly ten years with the international recording artists covering the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Afghanistan.
Throughout his career in music, Bryan has also taught multiple students. Beginning in college and to the present, he has taught over 50 students in private lessons.
Center Stage Guitar Academy full access subscription is mainly categorized into as follows:
- Beginner Guitar Lessons
This category is perhaps the backbone of the site because it contains all guitar fundamentals for the beginners to prepare their way to guitar mastery. You will learn about basic music theory, major scales, minor scales, notes, chords, chord progressions, 12 bar blues, arpeggios, strumming, etc. Bryan’s teaching style is concise, clear, steady and relaxed.
- Genre Lessons
Before you want to start genre lessons, you’d better complete the beginner guitar lessons first. It’s amazing for a guitar tutor to be able to teach so many music genres. Bryan teaches you these guitar styles: rock, blues, country, bluegrass, classical, flamenco, jazz, funk, R&B/soul, folk and reggae. I believe he is a master of rock, blues, country, bluegrass and classical.
- Skill Lessons
If you want to focus on improving your skills, you’ll need to study these skill lessons. They include sight reading, scales, modes, chords, improvisation, exercises, guitar theory, articulations, finger style guitar, slide guitar, arpeggios, alternate tunings, ear training, tone and maintenance. Some of them have already been covered in beginner guitar lessons.
- Song Lessons
As of this review, there are 298 song lessons available on the site. These songs encompass many music genres i.e. rock, blues, country, pop, acoustic, fingerstyle, folk, soul/R&B/motown, metal, classical, reggae/world, christian/worship and holiday. Downloadable notations and tabs are also included for reference.
- Artist Studies
There are only 4 artists whose specific styles were taught by Bryan, namely Jimmy Page, B.B. King, Jerry Garcia and Keith Richards. You’re going to learn the nuances that give the artists their signature sound. Covered topics include specific improvisational techniques, licks, riffs, and chord voicings in the style of the particular artist.
Let’s talk about the video quality. All the videos are of HD quality. They have multiple cameras shooting from the top, from the front, on the right hand and on the left hand where necessary. I think that most of the close-ups are great. Besides, I don’t find any short video snippets which don’t explain anything. Therefore, you can expect all videos demonstrate how to play the guitar step by step in an organized way. If you want to keep track of your learning progress, you can always add the video lessons into a playlist.
The written online materials which include chord diagrams, scale diagrams, notations, tabs and other diagrams are all downloadable. If you’re looking for written instructional texts, you won’t find them on the site. In other words, you have to rely solely on the video lessons for instructions and explanations.
If you have a dial-up internet access, you can forget about this website. The reason is that these guitar lessons are all online videos which cannot be downloaded and saved to your PC. They only work well with broadband internet access.
You won’t find any software and games on Center Stage Guitar Academy website like you’d find on Jamplay and Guitar Tricks website. All the tools are just in the form of diagrams, pdf files and audio files. It’s not all that fun. Having said that, 45 jam tracks and 5 ear training audio exercises are all playable and downloadable.
Online contact form and phone number are the only 2 support options for customers. After I submitted my question about the lesson package via the contact form, it said they will answer my question within 24 hours. I have waited longer than that (around 2 days) so obviously their response is not as fast as they claim. There is also no community of forum available to help one another. Anyway, you can always call their phone number at the bottom of the page.
Subscription fee of USD 9.99 per month is one of the most inexpensive in the industry. Judging by the level of support they offer, you get what you pay for.
Unfortunately, there is no money back guarantee because you can have a 7-day risk-free “test drive” period. After the free trial period, you will be charged USD 9.99 per month. If you’re not satisfied with the site within the free trial period, simply cancel your subscription at no cost.
Center Stage Guitar Academy is designed for total beginners. It may benefit some intermediate guitar players too. It’s enough to aid you in your journey to beginner guitar mastery. The subscription fee is affordable but the customer support is not up to par. Another tiny drawback is that the bright orange color of the text links is really hard on the eyes.
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