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Fender Play review

Fender delivers an online instrument learning program for beginners that lives up to its name

Fender Play review: Man plays an electric guitar sat on the couch
(Image: © Fender Play)

Our Verdict

An excellent product for anybody looking to start their journey with the guitar, bass, or ukulele though advanced players will probably have limited need for the program in its current form.

For

  • Very user friendly - both desktop and app versions
  • Comprehensive at levels covered
  • Well paced lesson plans
  • High quality audio and video, including multi-cam
  • Eclectic song library

Against

  • Lacking advanced material
  • Some early song choices aren’t suited to oversimplification

It may be due to the fact that people are spending more time at home these days, but online guitar lessons have never been more popular. And while this isn’t a new concept, it’s an industry that has been rapidly developing over the last five years and many of us are only just catching on. Fender Play is something of a newcomer to this industry, but since their launch in 2017 they’ve become one of the most recognizable online guitar learning services out there. While this iconic brand may have had a leg up in that department, Fender Play is a service really befitting of its name.

Claim your Fender Play 2 week free trial
Head to Fender Play right now and sign up for an account; it's that simple. Select your preferred instrument (from electric or acoustic guitar, bass or ukulele), your chosen genre and playing level, then you’re free to access hours of tailored guitar lesson content for the next 14 days.View Deal

How does it work?

First time users will log on and be asked what instrument they would like to learn (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, ukulele) followed by the genre they want to play in. If selecting guitar, you will have a choice of five genres – rock, pop, blues, country and folk. Once you make your selections, you immediately go onto a path which is made up of five levels. Each level contains numerous courses made up of bite-sized (3-5 min on average) video lessons and play along tablature which cover the theory and practical elements you will use to learn well-known songs as the course progresses. 

One of the key reasons online guitar lessons have become a go to option for many is that technology now allows users to easily access high quality audio and video at home – gone are the days of playing along to power tabs that sound like old school polyphonic ringtones. Fender has done a great job on the production here; making use of multiple camera angles that show what the tutor is doing with their hands in such detail that it probably surpasses the experience of learning in person. Coupling that with the aforementioned high resolution audio and video and you have yourself an uber-realistic learning experience you can access in your own time.

This is also an important point. As it’s a self-paced learning system, some people may struggle to motivate themselves to show up. However, the content here is digestible enough that you really just need to put in 10 mins a day to get something out of it. At the same time, it moves fast enough to keep users engaged and they will likely want to spend a lot more time there once they log on.

It has to be stated that Fender Play, both the app and the desktop version, is a very user friendly platform. It is well laid out and everything you need is essentially accessed via the sidebar, including your progress and the song library, which can be accessed outside your course and includes everything from Taylor Swift to Pantera.

One area of criticism here is that while users will have almost immediate opportunities to apply the skills they are learning to play popular songs, some of the material chosen for the lessons, especially in the first couple of levels, are simplified beyond recognition. I think perhaps Fender may have tried too hard to engage users with familiar sounds and real-world examples and it falls a bit short of the mark. Songs like Little Red Rooster are too complex to be replicated with simple one-measure downstrokes and this might leave some users feeling like they still have a mountain to climb rather than highlighting their progress to date.

Who is it for?

Essentially, Fender Play is for anybody who is looking to learn the fundamentals of guitar, bass, or ukelele. In this realm it does its job superbly. The lessons are very well paced, concise, and comprehensive. Everybody learns in a different way and Fender Play has effectively balanced the theory with the practical. As someone who had a few guitar teachers growing up, achieving that is no mean feat. These lessons are designed to be easily digestible as well, so users shouldn’t feel as though they are getting too bogged down in either side of the learning process.

Fender Play review

(Image credit: Fender)

The biggest criticism that can be leveled at Fender Play is that while it’s a great tool for teaching the fundamentals, there isn’t a lot on offer here for the advanced player. Having said that, if you’re anything like me and have a few blind spots in your playing this can be a great way to cover those off. For example, I’ve used Fender Play over the last couple of weeks to improve my finger picking and have found it to be a really efficient way to develop a new technique. At the same time, coming to the end of my course I’m left looking for a bit more. Future updates to Fender Play should focus on material for players with a higher skill set to make it a much more all-encompassing educational tool.

Conclusion

Overall, as a tool to help people learn the fundamentals of an instrument, Fender Play does an exceptional job. The lessons are concise, comprehensive and fun. Thinking back to my early guitar education, I would have really benefited from having this option, especially in the early stages. And while it could benefit some advanced players who want to cover off gaps in their knowledge, ultimately it’s targeted at beginners - and it excels in this area. 

Specs

  • Price: $9.99/£9.99 monthly, $89.99/£89.99 yearly, currently doing 3 month free trials
  • Key features: Guided paths; bite-sized lessons; suitable for guitar bass and uke players; 700+ popular songs to learn; multi-angle camera
  • Genres: Rock, blues, folk, country, pop, funk
  • Platforms: Desktop, iPhone, iPad, Android
  • Contact: Fender Play