Disclosure: We are a professional review website that may receive compensation for the products we review. All recommendations are genuine and/or verified by myself!
Fender has a huge name for itself synonymous with the guitar. It was only a logical leap when they began to offer an online guitar lesson app of their own, Fender Play.
The demand for online guitar lessons is pretty high, especially in light of a year filled with lockdowns. Learning online brings a few modern conveniences with it and Fender was right to cotton on.
The competition from other learning platforms such as Guitar Tricks and JamPlay is stiff. With Fender being relatively new to the game, the question on everyone’s lips is does the content hold its own?
We took an in-depth look at the user-friendly app and put the content to the test to give you all the information you need to make an informed decision, discover what we found out in our ultimate Fender Play review below!
Fender Play Overview
Fender has a legacy that precedes it and launched its online learning Fender Play as a desktop and App-based educational tool in 2017. It was recently commended at the EdTech Cool Tool Awards and given a CES innovation award as well. It offers lesson content for acoustic and electric guitars, ukuleles, and bass guitar.
The videos and library of over 1,000 songs cover multiple genres and there are several contributing instructors that cover different playing styles and techniques. All are shot in great quality although it is fair to comment that the newer content trumps some of the older.
The platform is easy to navigate, it has great organization, and even presents a few appealing extras. It tailors content towards the individual learner via a brief questionnaire.
You can tell the course content has been developed with beginners in mind so it might not impress some of the more seasoned players out there.
How much does Fender Play cost? Fender Play subscription will only set you back $9.99 per month. This covers and gives access to all instruments taught. If you pay upfront for a year’s subscription you can save a little extra at the $89.99 asked.
Before we move on to our breakdown here our some of Fender Plays strong suits.
- Plenty of content
- Beginner-orientated lessons
- Customized lesson content
- Professional Instructors
- High-quality videos
- Progress tracking
- Affordably priced
Fender Play Breakdown
The Sign-up Process
The platform itself is modern, streamlined, and well-thought-out. Upon sign-up, there are a couple of questions to answer that help the app determine the best course of action for you. This is pretty limited but has the potential to evolve into a much more intelligent process where courses could be structured around the user giving it a much more personal feel.
For now, it is essentially what instrument and what genres are you keen on getting to grips with. Importantly, it distinguishes between the acoustic and electric routes to guitar. The playing techniques of which are dramatically different.
This is Fender’s answer to creating what they deem a customized course, providing lessons with content you are going to enjoy and instructors you will benefit from the most. While not groundbreaking, this sign-up process does help narrow down some of the content, filtering out what is useless to you and streamlining things to make navigation a doddle.
The Five Musical Paths to choose from are as follows; Rock, Blues, Folk, Country, or Pop.
Once chosen, you will then be greeted with a personalized pop-up screen that will take you to course 1 level 1, or you can ‘explore on your own’.
You can change your chosen path at any time and even learn all 5 if you want to although some of the content is across-board.
The Lesson Format
The lessons, like other guitar learning platforms, are centered around video learning. The videos are bolstered with information around the edges pertaining to what you are learning, there is a user menu so you can skip or replay parts of the course you are on. The amount of info displayed and video production is relative to how far you have progressed. More difficult courses will display multiple camera shots and tablature as well as chord diagrams.
Lessons are automatically bookmarked. You can sign-in across the different operating systems and your progress is tracked and saved with updates on each. This really helps you keep track and means you can learn on your laptop at home or watch something on the go and still keep a shared history of your progress.
The tracker is a simple tool but very beneficial for monitoring where you are at and what you are doing. It gives you a great visual and motivates you forward. It’s basic, but it does what it needs to. You can see everything you have completed clearly which can help you set goals.
When you log-in you get suggested refresher lessons that are relative to the last thing you learned which is also a nice touch.
The five musical paths have tailored genre-defined course content, each of the 5 pathways features 5 levels of progression. The step-by-step program teaches in easy to digest chunks. Many of the videos are actually pretty short and sweet, great for anyone with a busy schedule to fit in around their lives with ease.
The difficulty progresses steadily and fairly rapidly, through the necessary fundamentals. The content is tailored to the genre path chosen and within it you will learn common chords, strumming and picking styles, and popular riffs. Song library choices are available that allow you to put what you have learned into practice.
The beginner levels are set-up to keep momentum. You very quickly (around 20 minutes in) learn to play some famous riffs and as a newbie, you will likely feel pretty accomplished from the get-go.
A typical lesson takes just 10-15 minutes with a skills or exercise video around 2-5 minutes. Riffs are taught in 3-5 minutes and chords between 1 and 5 minutes of footage.
Each path has some crossover video lessons early on, the songs available, of course, differ completely. The lessons begin with guitar 101, a short but informative 5 lesson course that teaches all your basic guitar etiquette. You then have skill-based lessons that cover chords, exercises, technique, theory, and tone.
The course content, as mentioned in our overview, is very beginner-orientated. It is tailored towards breaking things down and letting the learner make progress at their own pace.
There are over 1,500 video lessons hosted across 200 courses. In addition, there is a large library of songs to play through. They cover a lot of popular genres and are constantly being updated with new releases. The Fender Play notification system will tell you personally when new content is added.
There are plenty of beginner-friendly tracks as well as more difficult songs available. The level is indicated by the number of guitar picks depicted.
The difficulty progresses from the initial fundamental videos, even including guitar set-up and tuning advice. Ideal for complete beginners.
Video Quality & User Controls
Following in the footsteps of those that came before it, FenderPlay has its own proprietary video player.
The videos are custom designed to suit the lesson contents needs. There are split-screens and close-up shots. With multiple camera angles available and diagrams. Many of the newer videos on the platform are 4K resolution.
However, there are a lot of what would be considered average quality at best videos. Fender is currently working to revisit some of their older video lessons to update the content and improve the quality to match the newer video lesson specs.
The sound is great so instructors speak clearly at a good pace for learning so that you don’t miss any details. They have a friendly delivery and the content doesn’t feel obnoxious or condescending.
Fender only has a handful of tutors on their roster but it appears that those contributing know their stuff. Many in fact may be familiar faces to you from YouTube.
In a recent addition, Fender has created two new features. Practice mode and Streaks, each has been developed to encourage practice routines and help you form good habits.
If you log in for three days consecutively and rack-up a minimum of 7 minutes in lessons then you can get a streak going. This helps develop consistency and commitment and could be the incentive you need to keep going.
Fender Play has an active Facebook account where some of the instructors upload weekly challenges, with Fender products and merchandise or vouchers as prizes to provide further encouragement to progress.
The platform provides a few little extra features that are useful. Users have access to a tuner for their acoustic, electric, bass, or ukelele. There is a huge glossary to help you understand the lingo. There is a chord chart available too.
You can also use their Fender Tone Amp Control App via Fender Play. That means you can control your amp remotely if you have a compatible Fender amplifier such as the Rumble or the Mustang GT.
When you subscribe to Fender Play by selecting their up-front annual pass you get a complimentary bonus of 10% off Fender products including amps and guitars.
So, How Does Fender Play Compare to Its Top Competitors?
Fender Play is a well-structured option for learning the guitar, especially if you are going from zero-knowledge. It has plenty of pros going for it. It is only when you begin to look at the other resources available that the caveats begin to stack against its favor.
The majority of its flaws are minor and we still think it has plenty of redeeming features but it is only fair to give a little comparison to our readers. There are a few key points to consider with any online guitar lesson platform. So here’s how Fender Play stacks up against the rest in each important category.
We can’t stress enough how important the content available is. Once the fundamentals are grasped boredom will soon set -in if the variety isn’t up to scratch.
The library doesn’t need to be staggering, quality over quantity should be your rule of thumb.
It is never a bad idea to browse the platform beforehand where possible because If you are looking to play precision jazz and the library is stacked full of rock tutorials you are in the wrong place.
Side by side, Fender Play has over 200 courses ranging anywhere from 3-10 lessons in each totaling somewhere in the region of 1,500 lessons. JamPlay racks up more than 5,500 and Guitar Tricks has around 11,000 video lessons at the opposite end of the spectrum (but is a good decade of production ahead of Fender). TrueFire trumps them all at a whopping 33,000!
As far as the song library is concerned, Guitar Tricks and Fender are around the same mark and both are adding to the list on a weekly basis. However, Fender launched their Songs app last year so if you are looking to exclusively learn to play songs, you might be better off accessing that with its library of 750,000 songs.
No one is going to screw their nose up at thousands of songs but if you are learning online we think it is important to make sure you branch out into the theoretical side of things as well.
Music theory is invaluable for progress, the fundamentals can’t be skipped over. The beginner-tutorial content on Fender Play might be one of its best qualities. The fundamentals are well and truly taken care of.
Having a high-quality level of production is paramount when your course revolves around video tutorials. You need a high-resolution recording with multiple camera angles that cover each hand.
As far as video quality goes, Fender Play is pretty impressive. As we said there is some older content letting the site down but the same is also true for other competitors. Many of the Fender Play video tutorials are available to stream in 4k just like Guitar Tricks and JamPlay.
Speaking of JamPlay, their advanced technical videos provide up to 6 shots on screen. Something Fender Play doesn’t do, but then again Fender Play doesn’t really get too advanced so it isn’t really a requirement.
If we were being picky, we would say that Guitar Tricks still wins in the proprietary embedded player department with its advanced user controls.
In terms of tutors on offer or contributors to the course content, Fender Play has far fewer, especially considering they cover a number of instruments. Here is a quick comparison against the other sites;
Fender Play: 18
Guitar Tricks: 33
When you consider that some of those sites even have celebrity tutors such as Steve Vai on the roster and that some offer one-to-one private live video lessons, then Fender Play is a little lacking in the tutor department.
The average price of an online guitar lesson subscription is generally between $10 and $20 per month. Fender Play is supposed to sit at the upper end of that but generally is on offer with a subscription of $9.99 monthly. The yearly price saves you a little more.
This makes it half the price of the big three; Guitar Tricks, TrueFire, and JamPlay which are all set at $19.99 per month. In fact, Fender Play is one of the cheapest options on the market and offers some of the best value for money when compared with similarly priced choices.
If you subscribe to their newsletter, then you generally get offered a 20% off email deal to take advantage of when you subscribe. Saving you even more!
Where Fender Play Falls Completely Short
Community and social aspects
At present, Fender doesn’t have a built-in Fender Play forum of any sort. Nor does it have a social platform set-up like some of the bigger sites do. This could change in the future, but the lack of interaction is a glaring difference to say JamPlay which has a huge community following, or Guitar Tricks where the instructors can be contacted directly and video exchange is at the heart of it.
They do have a following of active members on their Facebook page which is about as community-driven as it gets for the time being. That said, the weekly challenges and prize giveaways could be enough to sway some of you.
Intermediate and advanced tutoring
The genres on offer from Fender Play are more concise, Guitar Tricks, for example, covers Blues, Country, Rock, Funk, Soul, Metal, Rockabilly, Bluegrass, Jazz, Pop, Surf, and World-Music. Fender offers just 5 paths, although some of their courses include techniques found in other genres it isn’t anywhere near as widespread.
Because of this, Guitar Tricks is better suited to intermediate and advanced learners. It has an Artist Inspiration Series which includes lessons based on the techniques required for playing music in the style of B.B King, Chet Atkins, or Jimi Hendrix.
They also have a comprehensive Technique Reference Library of video’s covering specific things like bottle-neck slide, whammy bar tremolo, and vibrato, hammer-ons, and pull-offs, tapping and touching or pinch, and natural harmonics.
1 on 1 coaching
All of the content on Fender Play is pre-recorded. Many of the top-sites offer full-access features that go as far as actual contact with the instructors, picking a private tutor for live video lessons. This can be a part of a class or individually. Sure it costs more and isn’t something everyone opts for, but with Fender Play it’s not even an option.
Fender Play Review – Final Thoughts
In recent years, learning an instrument online has become the new norm. In place of expensive private tuition that needs to be scheduled around a busy lifestyle, you have professionals on-demand in your pocket.
The providers of such platforms are tailoring high-quality content with the learner in mind and there are plenty of them vying for that top-dog position.
Although Fender has a long and impressive list of accomplishments under their belts and can crown themselves in a lot of guitar related ventures, Fender Play probably honestly isn’t one of them.
That said, the content is varied and engaging, the production value of the video lessons is uncontestable. If you are looking to learn songs, the library is pretty vast and ever-growing. The provided scores and charts as well as multiple camera angles is a sure-fire way to add to your repertoire.
Despite a few gripes, it is still a very popular app among many, teaching plenty of users. We would recommend it for those starting out or anyone who has the desire to learn a multitude of instruments without having to pay a separate subscription fee for each of them.
The best thing about Fender Play is that it really gets you physically playing songs in a relatively short period. The videos are short, which could go either way depending on how much info you are really looking for.
But, we can’t help feeling that sooner or later you might outgrow the content as an instrumentalist and crave something far more advanced than they currently have to offer.
Because of this, we still lean heavily towards Guitar Tricks as one of the better options out there for learning guitar online. You can read exactly why in our recent Guitar Tricks Review article and decide for yourself.
Fender Play has its pros and cons, hopefully, we have highlighted each for you to help steer you towards the right tool for you. Without comparison to some of the more expensive providers, Fender Play is pretty commendable. In our recent review of the 10 best online guitar lessons, Fender Play still made the cut. You can head on over for a read to see how it fares comparably.
Fender offers a 14-day no-obligation sign-up so you can test the water for yourself. This will give you plenty of time for some of the fundamental lessons and if you are a quick learner you should be able to gauge whether or not the format and delivery will work for you.
As with most sign-ups, you are required to attach a debit or credit card as part of the sign-up process and payment will be taken automatically after the trial period ends.