Summary:

As print magazines continue to struggle through a digital transition, it’s nice to see some “old school” journals embrace digital medium in new ways, the latest being Guitar World. Today, GW launched a free app that teaches guitar licks daily for a relatively inexpensive subscription fee.

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As print magazines continue to struggle through a digital transition, it’s nice to see some “old school” journals embrace new mediums in a search for both a wider audience and profits. Take Guitar World, for example, which launched in July 1980 — a time when smartphones, tablets and the Internet didn’t exist. Today marks the launch of Guitar World‘s “Lick of the Day” application for Apple’s iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. The free software includes a handful of sample lessons, but after you learn to play those licks, prepare to subscribe for more.

As a new guitar owner myself — yes, I needed a new hobby — I’ve already taken the free app for a spin on my iPad, which is an ideal device for brief, multimedia guitar lessons. Each daily lick offers a video demonstration by either a Guitar World instructor or a celebrity teacher, such as Zakk Wylde or Joe Satriani. The music appears below the visual lesson in either standard or tabular notation, and a virtual fretboard showing the position of each finger press in real time. Playback tempo can be controlled in a practice mode, which also includes an optional metronome.

With its latest iteration of Garageband, Apple offers similar music lessons, and several are free. Apple also sells song-specific lessons by the artists that recorded the songs. For example, I can pay $4.99 and have Sting teach me “Roxanne” on my new guitar. But at $5.00 a song, I doubt I’ll hit up Apple or my computer for my music lessons when there are mobile options available.

Instead, I’ll forgo the full songs and learn small sound snippets from the Guitar World app for far less. The same $4.99 for a lesson with Sting in Garageband is good for a full month of daily licks on the iPad. Guitar World also sells three- and six-month subscriptions for $12.99 and $19.99, respectively. And, there’s no need to be stuck in front of a computer, like I have to be when using Garageband: the Lick of the Day subscription and app are good across all of Apple’s iOS mobile devices and are tied to a user’s iTunes account, so you don’t have to buy different subscriptions for multiple devices.

Guitar World’s print magazine isn’t going anywhere and perhaps that’s the real lesson learned here, because the new app is just one of many approaches the magazine is taking to move beyond print. Guitar World has partnered with Joost for online video, has a dedicated channel on both YouTube and Comcast, and sells transcribed tabular music notation via the web. For traditional print publications looking to jump over to the digital world, offering value-add apps and mobile services to complement printed media could be the next number one hit.

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