As time goes on, we’re seeing the standard of online guitar lessons continue to rise. Most of the big names have seen dramatic increases in the user friendliness as well as the usefulness of their websites and apps over the last few years, so the bar has really been set high for relative newcomers like Pickup Music.
Pickup Music was founded in 2015, and actually started life as a jazz account on Instagram. Founder Sam Blakelock built a huge community around his personal Instagram account, and started the @pickupmusic account, which was far less niche than the jazz feed.
Eventually the following became so big, that Blakelock decided to launch an online lessons platform to help his community really succeed at what they loved most – playing guitar.
Since then, Pickup Music has risen from startup, to being spoken of in the same breath as the likes of Fender Play and GuitarTricks – no mean feat!
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we spent some time getting to know the Pickup Music platform. If you’ve been curious to know more about it, we highly suggest you keep on reading!
Who is This For?
Pickup Music is literally suited to guitar players of all levels. Never picked up a guitar in your life? Great – Pickup Music has lessons to get you going. Got a bit of experience but you’ve hit a wall in your progress? No problem! Pickup has classes just for you. Even if you’re an experienced or advanced player, Pickup Music has whole courses designed to help you hone your skills.
Genre-wise, while Pickup started as a jazz/neo-soul platform, they have since expanded into other genres such as rock, country, worship and others – there’s something here for everyone.
Who Are the Pickup Music Instructors?
One of the big selling points of Pickup Music is the array of big name instructors on their roster. They’ve got everyone from household name artists to big time session musicians, and some of the foremost educators in the jazz, blues and neo-soul space – think Jamey Arent, guitarist for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Matthew Morrison, and B. Slade. There’s Arianna Powell who has played with Halsey, the Black Eyed Peas, and Nick Jonas. Nicholas Veinoglou is also in the lineup, with big name credits like Sam Smith, Fletcher, and Iann Dior to his name.
On top of that there are a huge number of first class artists teaching on this platform, like Ariel Posen (one of John Mayer’s favorite guitarists), and viral neo-soul artists like Simon Kempner, Sophie Giuliani and Melanie Faye.
It’s not just the on screen talent making the difference at Pickup Music – there are backroom staff helping with syllabi with incredible resumes, too! Namely Karl Kerfoot, Head of Education at Pickup, who has toured with the likes of the Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr.
As Pickup Music grows, as does their authority in the music education space. Sam Blakelock is definitely using this to the company’s advantage as he leverages the site’s increasing popularity to tap leading talent as instructors for each of the genres they teach, as well as to introduce new genres to the site’s repertoire.
How do They Teach?
The format of Pickup Music isn’t completely revolutionary, but the way in which they execute the lessons is really outstanding. Material is broken down into 5 distinct areas, with each appealing to different types of learner.
Pathways are set up as guided practice sessions, with a suggested time commitment of around 30 minutes per day over the period of a few weeks to a few months. The intent is to build sustainable habits, rather than to overwhelm you with lengthy sessions that don’t really fit into your lifestyle.
These courses are aimed at various levels of players, with some being focused on rank beginners, while others are aimed at intermediate and more advanced players. They offer tests at the outset of each course to establish whether you’re ready, or whether you need to go back to cover some more fundamentals before jumping into the course.
Pathways are available in different genres like blues, neo soul, jazz, and country, or specific techniques and styles like the CAGED system, and general music theory. Within the courses there are swathes of high quality, professionally recorded backing tracks, and many of them even allow you to record your progress for feedback from members of the Pickup Music Team. This really adds something of the personal touch that’s missing from so many online learning platforms.
These really are the flagship courses on the platform, and they provide a great way for players who really want to learn something specific, but don’t have a clue where to start or how to practice effectively. The instructors practice along with you during the sessions, and many of the videos even have dualling licks sections, in which you can go back and forth with the instructor to practice what you’ve just learned, and see how they would apply it.
The Essential Licks are lessons focusing on licks and riffs in certain styles. There are CAGED jazz licks, beginner lead lines, gospel triads, spanky rhythm riffs, modern jazz minor arpeggios, trap guitar, slide licks and tons more. Each package contains 10 licks that the instructor plays through at normal speed, then slowly, and then walks you through note by note, along with tabs on screen.
These are great for players who might already be pretty proficient, but want to add some new licks to their arsenal in order to help with improvisation.
In a nutshell, the Song Squad lessons feature a song with a solo that will help you to put a certain technique or style into practice within the framework of a piece of music. These are original songs and solos, and the instructors teach the ins and outs of the specific techniques required to play them properly. The intent here isn’t simply learning a solo, but more so how solos are built within the context of a song, and hopefully how you can start to write your own.
5 Minute Lessons
The 5 Minute Lessons are exactly how they sound! Quick, bitesize lessons designed to teach you a concept or technique without the background or the in depth structure. Some of the highlights of the 5 minute lessons section include drop voicings, finding the key of a song, vibrato, speed tips, developing a practice routine, bebop concepts, hand exercises and much more!
In addition to the lessons, Pickup Music hosts weekly “Office hours” on Zoom, where members can ask questions and get additional instruction and/or feedback on their own learning or technique.
These office hours sessions also often have the team focus on a specific topic (such as DAGDAD tuning or fingerstyle), or they talk about their own experiences as touring musicians, such as a recent session where Pickup’s Head of Education Karl Kerfoot spoke about his experience working as a pro touring guitarist with Albert Hammond Jr. (of The Strokes) and Lord Huron.
The community content offers a really nice break from actual lessons, and can really help to open up your musical horizons.
How Does Pickup Music Compare to Other Platforms?
It’s no secret that Pickup Music got their start in jazz, and that’s one of the many reasons they’re widely regarded as the best place on the web to learn jazz, neo soul, and even blues.
It’s true that the likes of Fender Play has more in the way of pop, country, and rock lessons, but Pickup is continuously expanding their range of genres, with rock and the various subgenres being the fastest growing sections of the site.
How is the User Experience?
Pickup Music has what we think is one of the most aesthetically pleasing interfaces of any of the major guitar lesson systems. We found it incredibly easy to navigate, and thought that the design was really slick.
We really liked the guidelines for how long a particular lesson would take. This isn’t something we’ve come across before, and we think it’s a great motivator, giving users a good indication as to how long they can expect to spend on a particular topic.
When going through the lessons, we were particularly impressed with the looping functionality. We were able to select specific sections of lessons or songs, slow them down, and play just those sections on a loop, which really helps a lot. Having to click to rewind and take your hands off the guitar constantly can be a real drag, but with this feature we found ourselves better able to focus on learning.
Pickup Music features over 300 amazing backing tracks. These aren’t just any old midi tracks, either! They were real recordings, and we think they made a huge difference when it came to practicing.
We found that the production quality was extremely high – potentially some of the best in the business. The array of available camera angles was outstanding, and really made it easy to see exactly what the instructors were doing at both ends of the guitar. One of the biggest gripes we have with many of the online guitar instruction solutions is the 2D feel, but with Pickup Music, we really felt like it was more like having a real instructor there with us who could show us proper technique.
One of the other cool features was the weekly live lesson. While it’s not exactly 1:1, it still mixed up the learning experience and kept us engaged and logging on regularly, and this is half the battle when it comes to breaking through the learning plateaus.
Not only was the production value high, but the instructor’s personalities were all great. They were all likable, and extremely engaging, which is always helpful when trying to learn difficult topics. We didn’t find that any of the lessons were overly complicated compared to the described level, either.
How Much Does Pickup Music Cost?
There are 2 plans available from Pickup Music with a monthly and an annual payment option. With the monthly plan, you’ll pay $14.99 per month, but if you opt for the annual plan, you’ll pay $149.99 a year – giving you a saving of $30 over the monthly subscription.
If you’re not sure if it’s for you, they offer a pretty generous 14 day free trial, which we think is plenty to experiment with the different lessons and ultimately decide whether or not you want to commit to a subscription.
Final Thoughts on Pickup Music
We really found that we enjoyed Pickup Music. The user interface is great, the instruction is world class, and there’s tons of variety – they’re always adding more features, too. Even after finishing our review period, the entire KGR staff has been continuing to log on and learn more, which really says all you need to know!
If you’re thinking of subscribing to an online lesson service, we can’t recommend Pickup Music highly enough.