The Fender Play Review: Growing Into a Good Platform
Last Updated Apr-08-2019
A lot had changed on Fender Play since our last review, so we decided to revisit the platform to see what was new.
In addition to plenty of new songs and technique lessons, we were pleased to see the addition of several features that were missing last year, including bass lessons and a smartphone app. Ultimately, things feel more well-rounded in 2019!
Table Of Contents
It’s only existed for two years and is still the baby of the online tuition world. As you’d expect, they have a lot of catching up to do if they are to truly complete with the likes of GuitarTricks (running for 20 years) and TrueFire (with 27 years’ experience). Nevertheless, initial impressions of this platform were good – although there are several issues worth considering.
Now it’s had time to settle in, we are taking a closer look to see what it can offer guitarists in 2019.
Check out our video review of Fender Play:
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Some quick links to the sections discussed in this review:
Format Overview of Fender Play
First impressions of Fender Play are great – the website and format are very clean, stylish and easy to navigate (much like a Fender Stratocaster!). Everything you need to access lessons, songs and tools can be found on the menu bar at the top of the page.
The lessons and the lesson pages share qualities with other sites such as JamPlay, although Fender keeps things even cleaner and fresher in design. You are presented with the main video lesson, with everything you need under this video, including lesson information, tablature, a glossary and tools section.
As you scroll down the page, the video itself shrinks and takes its place on the left-hand side of the screen, which is handy when you want to see the video and tab at the same time.
The video player is one of the more basic when it comes to functions, with only a 10 second rewind / forward feature alongside the usual play, volume and full screen buttons. It’s not bad though and tracking through the video is pretty straightforward.
One big plus is that the actual video quality (4K) and shooting style is some of the most attractive around, with an incredibly modern feel to them. They are all filmed in a relaxed studio with contemporary instructors and multiple camera angles, so you are never left wanting for a different view.
Fender Play offers a handful of experienced and qualified teachers that come across very well. It is hard to compare them to the some of the iconic instructors that feature on more established sites – such as Paul Gilbert with ArtistWorks and Steve Vai with TrueFire – but Fender’s team of teachers are young, friendly and articulate, clearly communicating the lesson content, even if they don’t always come across as the most engaging.
Fender Play is very comparable to other systems when it comes to what’s available for beginners. There is plenty of content and the courses are set out in a way that makes them easy to progress through, with various levels and content clearly marked. It feels like you are on an actual journey, and that’s a great way to learn for complete beginners.
The exact content of your course will naturally depend on the path you have chosen to take. After you sign up, you are presented with a choice of four instruments (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, ukulele and bass), then a selection of styles (including rock, blues, folk and country).
Whatever style you choose, the first Level 1 video is universal – ‘Guitar 101: First Things Fast’, which offers a look at setting up your guitar and familiarizing yourself with the instrument. From there, the next course will throw you straight into playing notes. You can then progress though Level 1 and onto Levels 2, 3, 4 and 5.
This is a straightforward platform and – combined with the easy-to-follow layout, progression system and clear instructors – it offers plenty for beginners to get involved with. Follow this for a few weeks and you are guaranteed to be playing complete songs very soon.
Our main gripe when we first reviewed Fender Play was that, being such a new site, it fell short in its content for more advanced players. Sadly, not much has changed.
Of course, more songs and techniques have been added – and there is still some worth for intermediate players who want to learn a new style of guitar – but the content for advanced players is very limited. If you have been playing for more than a few years, there’s not much here for you at the moment.
As we have mentioned, several styles are covered on Fender Play, comprising rock, blues, folk, country and pop, over both acoustic or electric guitar, with a more general course for ukulele.
These will certainly satisfy beginners, although the styles remain a little broad and don’t delve too deeply into the myriad of sub-genres, such as surf rock, gypsy jazz or funk.
Last time, we said ‘watch this space’ and we hope you did, because Fender Play now caters for beginner bassists!
With just rock or funk to choose from, the styles are still a little limited, but you can have two very solid foundation courses for beginners to the instrument. Like guitar, you’ll find the same path comprising five levels, allowing you to get acquainted with the bass guitar with ease.
A bonus is that these bass lessons are included with your Fender Play subscription, which is great if you fancy learning a few different instruments over the course of a year.
Fender Play offers a good list of individual songs to learn in addition to technique lessons. This is great news for guitarists who simply want to add a new song to their repertoire.
However, be warned – not every lesson shows you the complete song. Many simply teach you the main riff to the song. This is quite useful, but it still feels a little incomplete and definitely reveals that Fender Play is targeted towards beginners.
Having reached their second birthday, there are more songs than before, although still very few when compared to GuitarTricks and JamPlay. Still, some key bands and artists are well-represented in song lessons, including the Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters, Green Day, The Offspring, and Deep Purple.
A bonus for ukulele students is that Fender Play offers a separate section dedicated to both traditional ukulele songs and covers from top artists including Maroon 5, The Zombies, Elvis and Johnny Cash, while bassists have their own dedicated song section too.
Again, due to the age of the site, Fender Play is still short of extra content. You would assume this will come with time, but for now there isn’t much more than the courses themselves.
However, one new thing we stumbled across while revisiting Fender Play for 2019 was the new Skills section of the site. This page allows you to look up a specific chord, exercise or technique. Sure, it’s nothing mind-blowing, but being able to identify and isolate a chord you are having trouble with is a very handy thing. A good addition.
Tools and Apps
The site offers an online tuner for both acoustic and electric guitar, which is handy – especially for beginners. It is good to see the inclusion of several different tunings too, such as Drop D, Drop C and DADGAD. In addition, you can find the Fender Tune app (which does the same job) free for both iPhone and Android smartphones.
Since last time, we are pleased to see the addition of a new Fender Play app, available for both Android and iOS smartphones and tablets. These smooth, attractive apps allow you to take your lessons on the go with ease.
Something that Fender Play still lacks is a community feel. It’s difficult to match some of the more established sites in this regard, but it would be nice to see a forum or dedicated chat room. Still, a Facebook page with around 10,000 members exists, which allows you to check updates and chat with other users.
The good news is that Fender Play is very competitive – in fact, it is cheaper than most of the other paid-for online lesson sites.
A full subscription to Fender Play works out at just $9.99 per month, with a yearly subscription of $89.99, which is the best value package. As we’ve mentioned, both ukulele and bass lessons are included with all subscriptions.
If you want to experience the format before using your own money, Fender Play offers a 14-day free trial, which has been reduced from the original 30 days (a bit of a shame, but two weeks is better than nothing).
Simply register and enter your payment details, then you have two weeks of tuition for nothing. You will have to manually cancel the subscription before the month ends if you decide the site is not for you, or you can keep going if you find it’s working out.
How to Use Fender Play
As we have said throughout this review, Fender Play is a very simple platform to use. From the moment you register you will be able to select which instrument you want to learn (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, ukulele or bass) and then a genre (including rock, blues, folk, country or pop).
Then, for beginner basics and the most simplified songs, you should start with Level 1, Course 1 and work your way through it.
More experienced players may wish to explore later levels, which bypass the very basics and offer tuition on more advanced techniques. You can also dive into some song lessons if that’s the route you would prefer to head down.
While it’s still young, Fender Play has shown a lot of promise in its first two years and is always improving – we look forward to seeing how they develop over the next year!
We find it is more suitable for beginners – perhaps those who have just bought a new Strat and want to learn from the guys who made it! The website is very easy to navigate and feels very high-end in its design, while the courses are structured sensibly.
The lessons themselves are helpful, stylish and are pitched well for newbies. Even intermediate players who want to learn a new style of guitar would be wise to at least check out the free two-week trial.
However, there are several downsides – most of which are down to the age of the site and the lack of content. The song list isn’t as comprehensive as other paid-for sites and the lessons don’t provide experienced players with much to get excited about.
Ultimately, Fender Play is a great addition to the world of online tuition and has a lot of potential. At this stage its certainly worth checking out, but be aware of their shortcomings in several areas.
+ Beautiful site design and slick videos
+ Great content for complete beginners
+ A growing list of song lessons
+ Ukulele and bass tuition at no extra cost
+ Competitive price
- Lacking content for advanced players
- Some song lessons are not complete
- No forum or chatroom
- Low on extra features and tools
- Still a little low on content