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Fender Play vs Guitar Tricks: which is better?

White Fender Telecaster next to a laptop
(Image credit: Getty/Westend61)

Choosing the best online guitar lessons site is almost as tricky as selecting the right guitar, there are just so many out there. Choice is good, after all everybody is different and we all have our idiosyncrasies when it comes to learning, but committing to a subscription is not something you want to get wrong.

To help you out, we're going to compare two online tutorial heavyweights: Fender Play vs Guitar Tricks. We’ve signed up and paid for both platforms to get a full insight. Both are excellent teaching platforms, and either can teach you the rudiments of playing and a whole lot more. But which one will really resonate with you? Which one will transform you into a guitar wielding deity? Let's find out.

Fender Play vs Guitar Tricks: At a glance

You can enjoy Fender Play and Guitar Tricks with a standard web browser on a Mac or Windows desktop/laptop. Both services are also available via dedicated mobile/tablet apps for iOS and Android, which is handy when you're on the move.

At the heart of both Fender Play and Guitar Tricks is their extensive library of video tutorials featuring real teachers, you won't find just animated fretboards/tab here. Instead, there's always a person engaging with you, showing you how to play note-by-note, finger-by-finger. 

Similarly, neither take the computer game approach, the kind that forces you to complete a challenge before you can move on to the next level. Admittedly, while most of us find the gamified approach great fun, some players find it downright irritating.

These platforms require a paid subscription, but you can try both Fender Play and Guitar Tricks for free. More on this later.

You can sign up to Guitar Tricks with a monthly payment plan, cancellable at any time, or save 25% with an annual subscription. Guitar Tricks offers a 60-day guarantee on both plans, promising to pay you back in full if you don't get along with the platform within the first eight weeks or so.

Fender Play also offers a monthly plan but its annual plan is much better value. It doesn't offer a money-back guarantee.

Fender Play

  • Read our full Fender Play review
  • Pricing: $9.99 monthly or $99.99 per year
  • Free trial: 7 days
  • Platforms: Accessible via a web browser on a laptop or desktop, Fender Play app available for iOS and Android
  • Try Fender Play

Guitar Tricks

Latest offers

Fender Play: 50% off an annual subscription
Sorted a free trial but now you want to continue getting all the benefits of Fender Play lessons beyond your trial? Fender is offering 50% off an annual plan for all Guitar World readers, dropping the price from $99.99 to just $49.99. Just add the code guitarworld50 at checkout.

Guitar Tricks: Save 50% off your first month
Enjoy your first month of Guitar Tricks for half price using the exclusive Guitar World code GW50MONTH at checkout. Guitar Tricks features plenty of great content for beginners, but really shines when it comes to intermediate and pro players, with over 11,000 videos across the site.

Fender Play vs Guitar Tricks: Usability

Fender Play vs Guitar Tricks screen grabs side by side

(Image credit: Simon Fellows)

Logging in to Guitar Tricks for the first time is a breeze, possibly the most painless experience you'll have in your whole guitar playing journey, which is nice. Simply enter your email address and a password, or your Google or Facebook credentials and you're in.

Reassuringly, there's no need for credit card details at this stage, Guitar Tricks sets you up with a free account from the off, though it's never too shy to ask you to upgrade to Full Access status at every opportunity. 

The free content is understandably limited but there's enough available to give you a good insight into what's on offer for beginner, intermediate and advanced players. Signposting is clear, so it's easy to find your way around, and even though there's a huge amount of content here, using the site is not the least bit intimidating. 

That said, while some sites will guide you down a particular path, based on your experience or intentions, Guitar Tricks is decidedly hands-off, leaving you to navigate the site on your own.

Our only criticism of Guitar Tricks is that it's beginning to look a little dated. While the user experience is fine, the aesthetic is a bit 2008. Guitar Tricks is a pioneer of online tuition, first making an appearance way back in 1998, which explains its vast library of professionally produced content (over 11,000 videos and counting). However, it's time to do a 'Bowie' and reinvent itself stylistically.

As you'd expect, the app pretty much mirrors the desktop experience but in a more compact format.

Fender dabbled with online guitar tuition for decades but didn't really get its act together until 2017, with the launch of Fender Play. It finally figured out that teaching people how to play its instruments has a positive impact on repeat business, so it's now a key component of the company's marketing strategy.  

Just like Guitar Tricks, setting up an account, sans-credit card, is easy peasy. The free trial period is limited to 7 days, but that's more than enough time to tell whether it's for you or not. No, you don't need to own a Fender instrument to use it, any old (or new) guitar, bass or ukulele will do.

This time on login you're prompted to choose an instrument – electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass or uke – and a style – rock, blues, pop, R&B, country, funk or folk – before you can get started, which enables Fender to place you on the most relevant of its learning paths. 

This is a great approach for complete beginners, but on choosing Blues I was immediately struck with the urge to discover what I was missing from the other genres. Fortunately, your choice is not set in stone and you're free to change pathway at any time.

Fender Play looks fabulous, a real riot. The user experience is bright, colorful, thoroughly modern and a joy to navigate. Fender may have arrived at the party late, but it's dressed to impress.

Winner: Fender Play successfully looks and behaves like a tuition site should in 2022. Meanwhile, Guitar Tricks is playing catch up.

Fender Play vs Guitar Tricks: Ability level

Fender Play vs Guitar Tricks screen grabs side by side

(Image credit: Simon Fellows)

Fender Play ranks its skill course content on a scale from one to seven, and its song library from easy through 'making progress' to challenging. Of course, when you're a beginner everything is challenging, and level seven may well appear unattainable. 

In reality though, all of the top tier content is no more than intermediate. Take 'Little Wing' for example, which we would rate as a difficult song to play, provided you get the phrasing, dynamics and timing correct. Sure enough, Fender Play has it listed as a 'challenging' song but frustratingly the lesson only covers a simplified version of the intro. That's it. Great for beginners, but disappointing for more advanced players.

Why is this? Fender research reveals that the vast majority of beginners give up in their first year. However, the 10 percent that do successfully progress to year two and beyond go on to spend about $10,000 on guitars and associated kit during their lifetimes. Fender's smart idea is to help more players reach intermediate status because, well, it's good for business, which explains Fender Play's focus on beginners.

Guitar Tricks boasts comprehensive content across all levels of expertise. Want to learn how to tune your guitar? It's got you covered. How about a masterclass in extended harmony jazz chords? Yep, that too. 

Its scale of difficulty is broken down into five increments, with one being the easiest and five being very challenging indeed. There's no dumbing down here.

Winner: Guitar Tricks genuinely has something for everyone, it’s a platform that'll keep you on your toes for years. Fender Play is a fantastic tool and resource for beginners, but advanced players will find it lacking.

Fender Play vs Guitar Tricks: Content quality

Fender Play vs Guitar Tricks screen grabs side by side

(Image credit: Simon Fellows)

As we've alluded to, Guitar Tricks boasts an impressive library of content that'll appeal to most players. But is it any good?

In short, yes, absolutely. Guitar Tricks recommends that most guitarists, even intermediates, begin with its Core Learning System. This takes beginners through two fundamental stages before they go on to specialize in Blues, Country, Rock or Acoustic. To give you an idea, Fundamental Level one includes videos on basic chords and strumming patterns, while Blues Level two looks at Blues slide techniques and regional Blues styles. It's some journey.

Each level comprises approximately six chapters with about five videos in each. So, that's something like 30 videos per level, each lasting between six and 15 minutes long. A significant amount of content.

Let's be honest, skills classes can quickly become a bit boring when all we really want to do is thrash out a favorite song. Guitar Tricks' solution is its Songs Made Easy library, which does exactly what it says on the tin – provides simple versions of famous songs. There's a large body of vintage classics here, plus the occasional song by Ed Sheeran but it would be fun to find more contemporary tunes.

Intermediate to advanced guitarists can obviously skip the fundamental levels to study one of 12 styles, from Rockabilly to World and everything in between. Alternatively, you can get stuck into some advanced techniques or study a legendary artist such as B.B. King, Buddy Guy or Chet Atkins. In addition, there's also an extensive library of more advanced songs, again mostly classics.

Videos are professionally shot in high resolution (the newer ones in 4K) and show multiple angles, including right- and left-hand positions. Tab and notation are included, as are Jam Tracks.

Guitar Tricks has an impressive roster of about 40 teachers, but only three are women. Come on Guitar Tricks, you can do better!

Finally, Guitar Tricks also has its very own informative blog plus a lively member's forum, which many of the teachers contribute to.

Fender Play vs Guitar Tricks screen grabs side by side

(Image credit: Simon Fellows)

Fender Play also recommends you start on a set course, which it calls a learning path. These are available in the genres we've already mentioned, and unlike Guitar Tricks' guitar-only tutorials Fender throws Bass and Ukulele into the mix too.

Each pathway has a healthy number of levels comprising more or less a dozen 'courses', and within each course you'll find a handful of lessons. To give you an example, the Electric Guitar Blues pathway has seven levels, each with about 15 courses that comprise between one and four lessons.

At around the six-minute mark, each lesson is relatively short as Fender believes bite-sized chunks are the optimum length to keep beginners fully engaged. Certainly, this length is engaging, and moving on rapidly from one to the next does give the impression that you're making good progress. However, the lack of depth will be frustrating for more advanced students.

Video quality is excellent, in fact the whole production is first class. The vibe is very contemporary, with the teacher sat on a cool designer sofa in a minimalistic room with just their guitar, a single amp, concrete walls and bare wooden boards. If Bang & Olufsen did guitar tutorial videos we reckon they'd look something like this.

Many of the teachers are women and, call us shallow, but all of them regardless of gender look a touch trendier and better turned out than the Guitar Tricks lot. We could be wrong, but we suspect that Fender has a stylist on the payroll.

Is it a case of form over function? No, not if you're a beginner. Delivery is warm, confident and professional, and the multiple camera angles enable you to catch every note that's being plucked, strummed and fretted. There's also tab, which is animated in practice mode, but sadly no notation option.

At the time of writing, Fender is showcasing its new Feedback Mode in Beta. Using the mic from your device, this listens in to your playing and rates your performance with a score, highlighting troublesome spots that need more practice.

If you're here looking to learn songs, Fender Play now has a library of hundreds, including a swathe of contemporary material from the likes of Billie Eilish, John Legend and Tom Odell to name but a few. It's worth recognizing that not everybody wants to be Eric Clapton – heck, some youngsters picking up their first guitar won't even know who he is.

Techniques are well catered for too in the Skills section, where you'll find scores of punchy videos demonstrating everything from basic power chords to Delta Blues fingerpicking. Once again, there's nothing too challenging but plenty for beginner to intermediate players to augment their skillsets.

Fender also publishes a blog that's rammed with tips on theory, equipment, tone and how-tos. Then there's Fender Play Live, a studio show that provides a weekly fix of legendary gear and high-profile guests.

Winner: Both platforms boast excellent content taught by outstanding teachers. Fender Play edges ahead with better technical features and a more modern song library, albeit for less experienced guitarists.

Fender Play vs Guitar Tricks: Verdict

Man with blue guitar sits in front of a laptop

(Image credit: Getty/patrickheagney)

If you're a complete beginner with a taste for contemporary music then Fender Play is a no-brainer. It's slick, smart, looks fantastic and has some incredible content that you'll be delighted with. The teachers are engaging and professional, and the bite-sized videos are easy to follow.

However, if you're a beginner who wants to eventually rock out like Hendrix, Clapton, Gilmour and Beck then you'll get more value from Guitar Tricks. Granted, the platform isn't as glossy as Fender Play but it does feature more classic 60s, 70s and 80s content in both breadth and depth.

Currently, intermediate and advanced players won't find much to entertain them for long on Fender Play. Who knows? This may change in the future, but for now they're better off with Guitar Tricks. Once you're beyond Guitar Tricks' fundamental levels you can start to experiment with a dozen different genres and take a deep dive into more advanced playing techniques.

So, for the majority of players Guitar Tricks just about takes it. 

Guitar Tricks: Save 50% off your first month
Enjoy your first month of Guitar Tricks for half price using the exclusive Guitar World code GW50MONTH at checkout. Guitar Tricks features plenty of great content for beginners, but really shines when it comes to intermediate and pro players, with over 11,000 videos across the site.

Fender Play: 50% off an annual subscription
Sorted a free trial but now you want to continue getting all the benefits of Fender Play lessons beyond your trial? Fender is offering 50% off an annual plan for all Guitar World readers, dropping the price from $99.99 to just $49.99. Just add the code guitarworld50 at checkout.

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When Simon's childhood classical guitar teacher boasted he 'enjoyed a challenge', the poor man had no idea how much he'd underestimated the scale of the task ahead. Despite Simon's lack of talent, the experience did spark a lifelong passion for music. His classical guitar was discarded for an electric, then a room full of electrics before Simon discovered the joys of keys. Against all odds, Simon somehow managed to blag a career as a fashion journalist, but he's now more suitably employed writing for Guitar World and MusicRadar. When not writing or playing, he can be found terrifying himself on his mountain bike.