Ultimate Guitar is by far one of the most popular sites out there for free tabs and chords, and thanks to its huge database of both new and old songs, there’s more than a good chance that they have any track you might be looking for.
If you’ve used Ultimate Guitar before, you’ve probably also seen that they offer a paid service called “Ultimate Guitar Pro”. Unlike Fender Play, the Gibson App, and other online learning systems, Ultimate Guitar Pro does not provide lessons, instead it provides improved access to chords and tabs, and a few other features to help you learn songs.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we spent time using Ultimate Guitar Pro to learn all about its pros and cons. If you’ve been on the fence about paying for this service you’re definitely going to want to keep on reading!
Who Is This For?
After spending some time getting to know Ultimate Guitar Pro, we’ve concluded that it’s best suited to the late stage beginner and above. It doesn’t teach any kind of theory, technique, or any of the fundamentals, so true beginners will quickly find themselves lost.
This program is really aimed at guitarists who already understand how to read tabs, and who have already learned the major chord structures. It isn’t so much designed to make you a better guitarist, rather, it’s a way to learn how to play specific songs.
How Much Does Ultimate Guitar Pro Cost?
If you are happy with user generated content, which is often very good, then you can access chords and tabs from Ultimate Guitar for free. However, if you want access to the pro features, then you’ll need to pay.
UG don’t make it favorable to pay on a monthly recurring subscription – if you want to pay this way, it’ll cost you a whopping $24.99 every month. Paying annually nets the best value, with a standard price of $99.99 a year at the time of writing, which you’ll pay after the 7 day free trial ends.
They also run frequent sales on the price of annual memberships, with as much as 80% slashed off the price of an annual membership. We highly recommend waiting until these sales are running before committing to a paid account.
Ultimate Guitar Pro Features and Review
As mentioned, Ultimate Guitar is a tab and chord based learning system. The site as a whole features over 1.1 million songs and counting between user generated chords and tabs, and those created by the Ultimate Guitar Team as “official” and “pro” selections, both of which are exclusive to Ultimate Guitar Pro subscribers.
After getting signed in we really wanted to see what the value in paid membership was, so we initially set out to better understand the differences between the free site, and Ultimate Guitar Pro.
The website interface remains the same for free users and paid subscribers, so if you’re already used to UG, then there’s nothing new to learn. So, as we would do before, we searched for songs we wanted to learn to play using the search bar.
The major difference here was that the top results, the pro and official chords/tabs were now available. Pro tabs and chords are still user generated, but they are highly rated by the community, and show in the Pro format rather than the txt style that you might be used to from the free version.
Official chords and tabs are actually generated by the Ultimate Guitar team, who are purportedly professional musicians and theory experts. There are no credentials given, and we found that they aren’t always entirely accurate, so we did take these claims with a grain of salt.
Once you’re inside the pro or official tabs and chords you’ll see the biggest difference. The Pro format is visually very nice. Tabs are laid out on a stave that looks like standard sheet music, so you’ll find much greater consistency between songs, something that can’t be said for the free version.
Along the bottom of the screen is a virtual fretboard. We really liked this, because as the progress bar moved across the tabs/chords, we also got a real time visual representation of how to play the notes or chords.
Besides the obvious interface difference, it gives a lot of other good information, including the tuning and key of each song, as well as the tempo.
It features a backing track mode, which we found to be a really nice tool. Playing along with a backing track puts what you’re learning into context, which really can help to speed up the process. Another neat feature with the backing tracks is that we were able to select which guitar line we wanted to cut out.
So, if you want to learn the rhythm section of a song, you can cut that from the backing track and leave the lead line in. Conversely, if you want to learn the lead line, you can cut that in order to play that part with the backing track.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to download the backing tracks to use offline, which we think would be nice, even if they were only accessible from within the UG app.
Pro mode also offered us the ability to modify the tempo in order to learn passages at a reduced pace, which is always helpful when piecing together sections of difficult songs you’re learning for the first time. It even gives the ability to loop specific sections that you want to work on, so you don’t have to manually stop and scrub back.
Tonebridge is another interesting feature of UG Pro – essentially it provides patches to get the correct tone for the song you’re learning, but the serious limitation of this is that it only works with iPads (not even iPhones) running AmpliTube through an IK Multimedia iRig.
Other Programs to Consider
Ultimate Guitar Pro does have some great features, but it isn’t the only option out there. Take a look at these alternative options for learning songs if you’d like to see the other solutions on the market.
Fender Play is a fantastic learning platform, and while it doesn’t have as many songs to choose from as Ultimate Guitar Pro, it does still have a huge selection of popular songs broken down into easy to digest lessons. It offers basically every feature of the UG pro membership, including easy to read chords and tabs, tempo control, and the ability to loop sections, but in addition, it provides theory and technique lessons to help true beginners and above become better guitarists.
Yousician is a super popular mobile app that is much more of an instructional tool than both Songsterr and Ultimate Guitar. They offer royalty free lessons, as well as lessons based on thousands of real songs. It’s a mobile only program, with a unique interface that falls somewhere between guitar hero and a “sing along” video. Unlike the others, it uses AI to listen to your playing and actually gives you feedback on your performance.
Final Thoughts on Ultimate Guitar Pro
Ultimate Guitar Pro does have some nice features, but in our opinion, it doesn’t offer enough beyond those to justify the price tag. The website is also incredibly resource heavy, and while using it we found that it used a significant portion of our computer’s memory, sending the fans into overdrive.
Truthfully, there are enough accurate tabs and chords in the free section of the site to satisfy the needs of most. We’d suggest using those and signing up to a service like Fender Play to take advantage of their huge suite of lessons based on popular songs.