Who is Bryan Sutton? Primarily known as a flatpicked acoustic guitar player, Sutton also plays mandolin, banjo, ukulele, and electric guitar. He’s played with the likes of Dixie Chicks, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Béla Fleck, Hot Rize, Chris Thile, Tony Rice…
…he’s played with everybody.
Sutton is a Grammy Award winner and a nine-time International Bluegrass Music Association Guitar Player of the Year. His current big gigs are as an A-list Nashvile session player and leading his own band.
Despite these many and varied accomplishments, his main reputation remains, however, as a consummate acoustic flatpicking guitarist.
Based on that deep expertise, he’s created a course focused on flatpick guitar (hosted on www.artistworks.com) and we’re going to take a look at the course and whether it’s the right fit for you.
Flatpick Guitar With Bryan Sutton
The official course description reads:
“Bryan Sutton captures his Grammy-winning bluegrass sound in this rich library of flatpicking guitar lessons. Students have unlimited access to hundreds of video lessons, guitar tabs, backing tracks, and much more. Learn how to play bluegrass guitar from a true master.”
So let’s dive in and take a closer look.
What Is In The Course
ArtistWorks courses are unique in the world of online video lessons in two key ways:
- They are extensive…so much material. You’ll see what I mean in a second; and
- There is a student feedback system. The student submits a video of themselves playing exercises from the course and get feedback from fellow students and from Bryan Sutton himself.
So let’s do a quick walkthrough and check out the course materials:
When you log into the course, you get right to the dashboard. The dashboard features the community aspects of the site. So you see comments, video exchanges, and featured blog posts right up front.
If you’re like me, you’re probably going to skip right past that at first and go right to the lesson content.
Now here is where we see the huge amount of lessons available. Let’s take a quick peek in these so you can see the scope of the sections.
Basic Guitar gets you started from scratch. Tuning, picking, open chords – if you’re a complete beginner, this is where you start. Sutton will walk you through all the foundational details.
And there are a TON of example songs to practice – really popular and common bluegrass tunes like Blackberry Blossom, Soldier’s Joy, and more.
Intermediate Guitar – this will start to expand your guitar vocabulary. There’s lessons here on alternate chord choices, how to play single-note lines, scales, and cross-picking. Also, there are a lot more song examples here, arranged in a slightly more advanced way to keep you challenged.
Here in the Advanced Guitar section, Sutton takes things up a notch. We’ve got material on mixing chord and single-note scales, improvisation, more cross-picking exercises, and, of course, a ton of real songs to learn.
In this Advanced section, the songs are not just for practicing the rhythm parts – he also has you start practicing improvisation (i.e. soloing).
The Improv Workshop is pretty cool. Here, Sutton records some standard Bluegrass tunes, both backing tracks and the standard melody. and then he records three of his own solos over those tunes.
You get access to tabs of the melody and all three solos, and backing track mp3s to play over. Really, really good stuff.
The 30-Day challenge doesn’t have much content, it’s simply an invitation to record yourself playing a song, improve it for 30 days, then record it again and have Sutton review your progress.
The +Music section includes some special performances recorded just for ArtistWorks (sort of like Spotify sessions), as well as some interviews and dialogues between Sutton and various guest artists.
VIP Bonus Content
The Bonus content is wide-ranging and worth the price of admission. What they’ve done here is pull relevant content from other courses and package it in one place. So you’ve videos on Jamming, electric guitar, Improv, Ear Training, and Practice and Warm-up. And these are from outher course, so you’re seeing stuff from Chuck Loeb’s jazz course and from the mandolin courses, etc.
So, let’s wrap this up.
What about the course really worked? Well…
- There is SOOO Much stuff. The written notation alone is worth the value. And then the backing tracks. And then the bonus content, and the Improv workshop… Geez. The only danger is that you’re going to drown in choices for what to watch.
- Beyond the pure abundance of content, we should also point out Sutton is not just an amazing player, but he clear and to-the-point on camera, which is sort of unusual for a great player. So you’re getting great content and great presentation.
- Video and sound quality is good, ArtistWorks seems to always do a professional job on that count.
- Though they don’t have an app, the mobile experience of the site is decent.
What about the course could have been better?
- The guidance on soloing makes a big jump. I didn’t catch a lot of explanation of the analysis of solo licks that Bryan demos. There’s basic theory, and then lots of demonstration. Maybe I missed it, but the analysis of putting together licks, sort of the way jazz players analyze ii-V-I licks and then extrapolate and string them together to make a big solo, we don’t see that here in the course. I missed that.
How much does it cost?
All plans include:
- Unlimited Access to Lessons
- Limited Access to Video Exchange Library
- Up to 5 Video Submissions to Teacher
- Music Theory Workshop
- Slow Motion & Looping on videos
- PDFs, Tab, and documentation of all lessons
Pricing is in three tiers:
- 3-month plan – $105
- 6-month plan – $179
- 12-month plan – $279
Who is this course best for?
I think this course works well for players of all levels. And that’s because there’s a lot of onramps for players coming from different experience levels.
If you’re getting started with your first “G” chord, then just start at the beginning and Sutton will walk you through it. Or, as was my case, if you’ve been playing a while but are looking for flatpicking insights, you can skip ahead and get insights on more advanced topics. (things like incorporating cross-picking in your boom-chick accompaniment.)
The key to this course is that you have to be willing to scan through the modules and find the right starting place. It may take some back and forth, but if you’re willing to navigate a bit, you’ll find the right “push” for your expertise level.
And the truth is, there’s nothing like hearing Sutton blaze through some flatpicking licks to keep you inspired and playing.