There are so many resources available for learning guitar that it’s no surprise that it is the most commonly self taught instrument of all. Even before the internet, people were learning from books, and even learning by ear through listening to their favorite records.
Today, learning guitar on your own is easier than ever thanks to online instruction systems like Fender Play. Fender Play has been running since 2017, and promises to help players advance quickly from day 1 beginner, to ready to gig status by following their chosen “path”.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we took a look at Fender Play to how it stacks up in what is becoming a pretty crowded field. Keep reading to find out whether or not you should subscribe.
How Much Does Fender Play Cost?
Fender Play offers a couple of different payment options, allowing users to choose from an annual renewal or monthly subscription. Choosing the annual renewal is the cheaper option in the long run, with a one time (per year) payment of $89.99. If you choose the monthly subscription, you’ll pay $9.99 every month recurring.
Fender often runs sales on their annual renewal plan, frequently slashing the price of membership to as little as $49.99 for the entire year. If you’re interested in trying it out, but you’d prefer to check it out for yourself before committing, they offer a free 14 day trial, or if you purchase a Squier or Fender guitar or amp, they’ll extend the trial to 3 months.
Who is it For?
Fender Play is designed (in theory) to provide value for players of all levels. It starts out with the most basic principles, right down to how to actually hold and tune the guitar, and tops out with some relatively difficult theory that can really test the skills of intermediate to advanced players
We’d probably say that the lessons are suitable for kids 8+, and adults of all ages. Fender has done a great job of masking the theory to keep things entertaining and easily digestible for those who just want to play songs, while still ensuring that you pick up the fundamentals as you progress.
How is the User Experience?
When you register and log in for the first time, the site will offer you a path – this is the unique selling point of Fender Play. You’re given the choice of electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, and even ukulele.
Within each of those instrument selections there are a number of different genres to choose from, allowing you to start out your journey learning your favorite style of music. For electric and acoustic guitar, the categories include rock, blues, pop, R&B/soul, country, and folk, which gave us a broad range to choose from.
When Fender Play first started, there were only 5 levels to choose from within each path, but now you’ll find 7 levels, giving advanced players more lessons than were previously available.
When you start your path, you’ll choose your starting level – there is no requirement to proceed in chronological order. Within each level you’ll find a number of courses, which include general overviews, warm up exercises, technique sessions, theory, and the big draw, lessons on how to play popular songs.
Following the course in chronological order delivers the best results, but let’s say you’ve been playing for a year or so, already know some basic chords, and you don’t want to start over, you can dip into whichever courses you feel will be most beneficial.
Each of the lessons in the courses features a bite size video, usually under 5 minutes in length, in which one of Fender’s virtual instructors talks you through the section. We found that the instructors were personable, and really explained the concepts well. The videography was also well done, showing closeups of the guitar and fretboard in the right places at the right time to make it easy to follow along with what to do.
Underneath the video player there are a number of interactive features. On the left is the inf box, providing information about the song you’re learning. Next, you can click to show the tablature on screen under the video. Another cool feature is the tone button – if you own a Fender Mustang GT or GTX amp, you can directly download a patch to get the exact tone for the lesson you’re on. You can leave feedback, using the feedback button, you can find other similar lessons using the “Related” button, and finally, you can access features like Fender’s tuner app using the tools button.
Once you’ve finished the lesson, you can go straight into practice mode. In this mode you get the tabs on screen with a moving bar to help you keep the tempo. It features a metronome that you can turn on or off, and if you’d like it to, it can play the track along with you, so you know what you’re playing is correct. While you’re trying to perfect your understanding, you can even slow down the tempo.
When it’s time to test your knowledge, you can go into “Feedback Mode”, which is of the coolest updates to Fender Play since its launch. Feedback mode is AI driven and listens to your playing using your device’s microphone, giving you real time feedback on your performance, just like a live instructor would. While using it we found it to be quite accurate, although background noise did occasionally derail it.
Other Apps to Consider
Fender Play is, in our opinion, the best online lesson system, but that’s not to say that the other options don’t have something to offer. Check out these alternatives to Fender Play if you’re wondering what else is out there.
The Gibson App
The Gibson App is one of the newest on the market and is trying hard to emulate Fender Play. It also offers an AI driven feedback system, and like Fender, there’s a lot of product placement in the lessons. The lesson layout is somewhere in between Fender Play and Yousician, which might not be to everybody’s taste, but regardless, it’s simple to use and the lessons are entertaining.
GuitarTricks.com offers a very traditional course layout that feels very much like a YouTube playlist. There are tab and chord sheet downloads to accompany the video, and like the others we’ve suggested, there is a mobile app that can be used to follow the lessons. GuitarTricks.com often give away free guitars as promo items for subscribing, and they are the only online guitar instruction platform to do so.
Final Thoughts on Fender Play
Fender Play has made huge improvements since its initial release. Many of the early complaints were about a lack of material for more advanced guitarists, but they heard the feedback, and actioned it with some excellent technique and full song lessons aimed at more experienced guitarists, while maintaining the quality of their beginner and intermediate instruction.
We think Fender Play offers incredible value for money, and if you have the drive to commit to following the program, you’ll absolutely notice a big difference in your playing, no matter which level you’re at when you start.