I’ve never been a fan of online guitar lesson platforms. I’ve always taken in-person lessons because whether you like it or not, there’s a natural pressure to practice when you have a teacher who expects you to show up knowing how to play something new.
I’ve shown up to my fair share of guitar lessons unprepared, and I’ve had my fair share of students quit because they hated showing up week after week unprepared. It makes you feel like your money is going to waste.
But the trend I see happening is online platforms giving guitar students a way to browse lessons so they can practice whatever and whenever they want.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a healthy trend for all of the hobbyists out there. Those who want to go pro will go the extra mile whether it’s online or not.
Of all the online guitar lesson platforms out there, Fender Play probably has the most widely recognizable name. Fender has been around since 1946, so in the world of guitar building, they’re a super heavyweight contender. However, in the world of online guitar instruction, they’re new to the crowd.
This platform looks and operates well. It’s user-friendly, with apps for several different devices, and has a clear, well-developed course curriculum for brand new guitarists.
But that’s just it – Fender Play is for new guitarists. If you’ve read any other Fender Play reviews, you’ve probably heard this already. If you’re an experienced guitarist, you probably won’t find anything new on Fender Play.
If you’re a brand new guitarist, keep reading because I’m going to share with you my professional opinion on Fender Play – from a guitar teacher’s point of view.
Fender Play Overview
Fender Play is a new online guitar lesson platform offering instructional material for new guitarists in five major styles of guitar: Blues, Folk, Country, Pop, and Rock.
When compared to other online lesson platforms, this list seems a bit lacking. From what I’ve seen between platforms like JamPlay and Guitar Tricks, it’s not uncommon to have up to twelve different styles covered, but all things considered, Fender is offering a valuable product at a reasonable price.
Is Fender Play Any Good?
It may be lacking in terms of materials offered to advanced players, but this is a great starting point for newcomers (maybe even better than in-person lessons).
One thing that bothers me is that Fender Play says they offer lessons in five different styles. The problem is that they’re all beginner-level lessons, and true beginner lessons should cover the same basic ideas and concepts no matter what style you’re learning (with the exception of the classical guitar).
Overall, Fender Play has a pretty substantial library of lessons. The styles covered are limited to just a handful, but if you’re a beginner I’m sure you’d want to worry about that a bit later.
There’s enough material here to last any complete beginner at least a few months before moving on to more advanced music (assuming you’re practicing well and regularly). As always though, there are some other things to consider before purchasing any guitar lessons.
- Consider your own interests
What genre of music do you enjoy listening to and what style would you like to learn to play? This is the first step in deciding whether or not a lesson program is right for you.
As I’ve said before, Fender Play offers lessons in a pretty limited range of musical styles, but the styles they do offer are for their own targeted audience. I believe they may be going by the “quality over quantity” mentality here.
- Who your instructor will be
I’ve heard too many horror stories of new guitar students being bored to death with beginner guitar lessons. Having an instructor with experience and possibly even some notoriety in the guitar world will give you some confidence in knowing you’re getting good, useful instruction.
Fender is a massive company, and they wouldn’t hire just anyone to represent their brand as a guitar instructor. That being said, you can be certain to find some notable names among their instructors.
- The course curriculum
The biggest motivation killer for any student is having no sense of direction. Practicing small, meticulous technical things is important, but knowing what all of that work is going toward makes a huge difference in your daily motivation to continue.
Fender Play offers plenty of variety in terms of lesson content. My biggest concern would be the level to which you’re able to progress by going through Fender Play’s lesson program.
- How much you’re willing to spend on a lesson program
Some private guitar teachers can cost up to $200 per hour. With that level of instruction, you should definitely be receiving the best instruction on the market, but you could also pay rent on a second apartment with that kind of monthly investment.
This is definitely a benefit to online guitar instruction. You might lose a little bit of that university-level quality, but you’ll definitely be saving a whole lot of money in the long run, and that’s great if you’re a student.
- User interface
When you commit a lot of time to something like guitar lessons and practicing, it’s important that the program is easy to follow. Fender Play’s website and apps are intuitive and easy to use.
When using their platform myself, it was easy to follow, and I’m an old-school lesson book/practice-journal kind of guitarist – technology is not my strong suit. I was able to navigate through the lessons easily, so you should be able to with no problems at all.
- Easy to follow lessons
You’ll see later on in more detail how Fender Play’s program is structured, but for now, you can rest assured knowing that the lessons are taught well, and concepts are explained clearly and understandably.
As I already mentioned, they’re beginner lessons, so you won’t run into anything terribly confusing here. Fender Play has made it very easy for anyone to understand each lesson as you progress through the levels.
- Tools to help you progress through manageable goals
Fender Play doesn’t have a toolkit like JamPlay and Guitar Tricks. When starting out, it’s not completely necessary, but at some point, you’re going to need to have some reference materials for chords, scales, modes, etc. Fender Play is for beginners (I’ve already said that a lot haven’t I), so you won’t need them right away.
Some practice lesson modules in Fender Play’s program are interactive, and there is a section devoted specifically to Skills (technical things, chords, scales, etc) which is good, but they don’t as far as their competitors in this area.
- How much time you’re willing to practice
You can have the best instructors in the world with perfect lesson plans, at an affordable price, but if you don’t put in the time to practice, you’re not going to see any results, and that’s the best way to judge a lesson platform – give it your absolute best and then judge based on your results.
How Does It Work?
Fender Play, along with nearly all online guitar lesson platforms, works as a subscription service. You sign up through the website, pay either a monthly or an annual fee, and they give you access to all of their lesson content.
It’s going to cost you less in the long run if you pay for an annual membership, but if you don’t have that kind of money upfront, a monthly subscription will cost you about the same as a few trips to your local overpriced coffee shop.
Choose between multiple instruments
This is something I’m not used to seeing in online guitar lessons platforms but points to Fender Play for offering more than expected. You can select an instrument you’d like to learn how to play, and you have the option to go back and change instruments at any time.
Choose between multiple styles
I was very surprised when I realized that Fender Play only offered lessons in five styles of guitar for electric and acoustic, no specific style for ukulele, and two styles for bass guitar. This limitation probably has something to do with Fender’s tailoring this platform for beginner guitarists.
Oftentimes when learning new music, it’s easy to get carried away playing more than a few notes. When this happens, guitarists unintentionally skip over wrong or missed notes, which creates bad habits in the long run.
One of the hardest things a guitarist can do when practicing is staying focused on the task at hand. Five minutes of good, focused practicing is better than an hour of mindlessly playing notes. In these “Practice Modes,” the problems are broken down into several notes, giving you just one simple task to practice.
Clear structure and lesson planning
Level 1 is broken down into 15 Courses, and each course covers one or two basic concepts. As a teacher, I think this is great. For beginner guitarists (or any guitarist for that matter) it’s really important to focus on accomplishing basic movements with good technique.
Every complex movement can be broken down (and should be) into small, simple, manageable movements, and then progressively pieced together until you’ve created the final product.
Fender Play is structured in a way that this is accomplished for you. All you have to do is follow each module step by step.
In other online guitar lesson platforms like JamPlay or Guitar Tricks, you’ll find that their lessons are more comprehensive. This is more useful if you’re an experienced guitarist, but as I’ve said before, Fender Play is for beginners.
Learn specific songs
Fender Play provides members with a pretty extensive library of songs to learn covering almost everything from classics to modern popular hits. All you have to do is access the library and browse, or use the search bar to find a specific song or genre you’d like to play.
Once you’ve selected the song, you’ll be taken to a page where you’ll find video lessons walking you through how to play each section of the song.
The only thing to be aware of is the level of technical proficiency required to play these. Don’t get me wrong – they’re not hard to play – many of the songs are simplified. I’d be willing to say oversimplified, but for beginners, this isn’t necessarily a problem.
If you’re like me and you put a lot of time and attention into refining your technique, then this feature of Fender Play is just for you. You’ll find plenty of things to work on from new chords to scales and moveable fingerings.
Aside from the Practice Mode, I think the chord challenge is the coolest feature of Fender Play. I’m slightly biased towards interactive features, but this one could prove to be extremely useful for the devoted guitar student.
This is another feature I really like about Fender Play, especially given that it’s designed for beginners. Almost every aspect of the platform places a huge emphasis on starting slow with small pieces and gradually building on what you’ve learned.
That might sound obvious, but you might be surprised to know how many guitarists out there can’t (or don’t know how to) practice properly. Fender Play, if nothing else, walks you through the process of practicing well.
Pros & Cons of Fender Play
- Easy to use
As mentioned earlier, Fender Play is easy to use. Once you’re logged in, everything you need to see is right in front of you. Your progress is automatically saved, and you can see everything that’s coming next clearly on the left-hand side of the page.
There’s no getting around this. Fender Play is very affordable. Coming in at $9.99 per month, or $89.99 per year, Fender Play appears to undercut the entire online guitar lessons market – but then you remember it’s also offering beginner-only lesson materials. So it’s absolutely wonderful for the first-time players just wishing to get their feet wet.
- Quality instruction
Fender Play’s teachers are reputable in the guitar world, but the quality of instruction doesn’t just begin and end with the instructors. A large part of the quality comes from the actual video and audio quality of the lessons.
Other lesson platforms like JamPlay or Guitar Tricks have great instructional content, but the video and/or audio quality isn’t always the greatest. Some lesson videos might come across as cheesy or low-budget (not all), while every single one of the video lessons on Fender Play is top-quality video and audio.
These video lessons also show the instructor’s hands from different angles to give you a better perspective on how to play what they’re showing you.
Video and audio quality aside, the lesson planning isn’t too progressive, and it isn’t too stale. If you’re a complete beginner, you’ll find that the content is very manageable. But this brings me to my first con about Fender Play.
- Limited Scope
For a company as massive as Fender, you’d think that they would be capable of offering instructional video content spanning well beyond the level of a complete beginner working through their very first guitar book.
I was sorely disappointed to find that even the “Level 5” lessons were still rudimentary at best. The entire Fender Play platform seems to be an introductory course.
For the price, this is not awful, but you could find something to suit your long-term guitar needs elsewhere, as Fender Play might only be able to teach you new things for a few months if you’re practicing regularly. After that, you’ll need more advanced lessons.
- Oversimplified Songs
Yes, there are plenty of songs to choose from, they’re progressive if you learn them as you go through the levels, but the highest levels of songs you can learn are still beginner level, and they’re not even great arrangements of the songs they’re claiming to represent.
- Overpriced for what you’re receiving
You could pay close to the same amount of money at another online guitar lesson platform and receive video lesson content that takes you well beyond the level to which Fender Play will take you. When it comes to committing to learning a new instrument, you might as well go ahead and commit to something that will serve you long-term because Fender Play will not.
Who Is This Course Best For?
In my honest and professional opinion, Fender Play is for complete beginners. I don’t know if you’ve ever worked through a beginner guitar book, but when you reach the final songs and exercises, you realize that the music is still rudimentary at best.
Fender Play walks you through songs step by step, but the versions of the songs you’re learning are very scaled-down, basic versions of these songs. There’s a pretty wide selection of music, but as I said, it’s all dumbed down.
That being said, Fender Play is best for complete beginners. If you have any experience playing guitar, you’d be better off spending your time in a program like JamPlay or Guitar Tricks.
If you’re a complete beginner, JamPlay and Guitar Tricks are still great options, because they will cover all of the same fundamental materials that you’ll get from Fender Play, but they’ll be able to take you even further.
Some of Fender Play’s competitors include JamPlay, Guitar Tricks, and TrueFire. A monthly subscription to one of these platforms will cost you twice the price of a monthly subscription to Fender Play.
However, when compared to regular, weekly, in-person guitar lessons, even JamPlay and Guitar Tricks are going to save you hundreds of dollars per year.
Given that these platforms offer lessons spanning beginner-advanced levels of playing, I would strongly recommend you go for one of these over Fender Play just because you’ll have more upward mobility within the platform itself.
These other platforms also offer lessons geared toward not just developing technical prowess on the guitar, but developing every guitarist as an artist with a unique voice.
Fender Play sort of halfway teaches you how to play guitar, and then congratulates you for completing five levels of halfway playing guitar, without ever going in-depth on creativity or artistry.
The biggest thing that sets Fender Play apart from its competitors is the production quality of its video lesson content. Fender has gone to great lengths to make its lessons look and sound great in the same way that any marketing team would, if it had to sell something that wasn’t as good as its competitors.
Aside from the video quality, the layout of the platform itself looks very nice and is easy to navigate.
Fender Play Review – Final Thoughts
When I first opened an account with Fender Play in order to write this review article, I was very impressed with the layout, the user interface, the apps, the production quality of the videos, etc.
I was impressed with the way Fender breaks down complicated concepts into manageable movements for the beginner guitarist to practice and master. I was glad to see that there are several options to learn different styles, but that’s where my doubts about Fender Play began to creep in.
Beginner guitar isn’t something you can fit into any particular style. Unfortunately, if you’re a beginner, there are things you have to learn before you can move into playing anything specific to a particular style.
You can’t play jazz chord changes without first understanding what a triad is and how to play them anywhere on the fretboard. You can’t improvise a melody over the 12-bar blues until you can play a complete scale.
You can’t write a popular song until you know how to play and strum at least a few chords, and yet Fender Play somehow categorizes all of these things.
At best, Fender Play is an overpriced and over-produced introduction to the guitar. It’s a newcomer to the online guitar lesson game, and it has a long way to go if it ever wants to compete as a platform devoted to education (in the actual sense of the word), and not as a platform designed to prop up sales of its own brand-name products.