The JamPlay Review: A Solid Alternative to GuitarTricks (Revamped 2018 Version)
Last Updated Nov-23-2018.
It is hard to ignore JamPlay when it comes to popular online guitar lesson communities, as they are one of the most used with more than half a million members and counting.
Since launching in 2006 they have amassed more than 5,500 guitar lessons and 89 instructors. But how do these impressive numbers translate when it comes to learning the guitar? Read on to find out everything you need to know.
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JamPlay has a familiar easy-to-follow format, similar to other sites such as GuitarTricks.
At the top of the dashboard, simply locate the Lessons tab and you will be offered four phases to tackle – Beginners; Genres & Skills; Songs; and Songwriting.
When you settle on a lesson, you will be presented with a lesson page that has everything you need to learn the technique or song.
The video player naturally takes centre stage, with a Scene Selection sidebar on the right (allowing you to choose which part of the song you want to learn) and a list of other lessons from the instructor on the left.
At the bottom of the lesson page is another toolbar which gives access to the tablature/notation (under ‘Supplemental’), as well as the option to download a song, make your own notes about the lesson, comment, or even ‘Ask A Teacher’.
Most of these sidebars are collapsible so you can toggle what you want on the screen at any one time, making this a very versatile and customizable format.
The website is attractive to navigate and the video player is smooth enough to use, with tools including speed adjustment (change playback rates to 10%, 25%, 50%, 75% and full speed) and A/B looping to focus on a specific section.
The majority of videos are filmed in high-definition and clearly recorded in a dedicated studio – there is nothing amateur about this operation.
In fact, the videos on most lessons are split between a variety of different angles to aid learning – these include a student view, an instructor view, and close-ups of the picking hand.
A word on the TAB – this comes as standard and printable text notation in GIF, PDF or GPX formats, but is also present as an interactive tablature, with audio playback so you can hear the notes in action, as well as adjust the playback speed. Very comprehensive!
JamPlay caters very well for beginners, with plenty of easy-to-follow lessons. Complete beginners should start with Phase 1, where a variety of instructors have created a range of foundation lessons for either electric or acoustic guitar.
It can be a little daunting as there is no set start point, although it gives you the freedom to read some course descriptions and decide which course appeals the most to you.
For example, Lisa Pursell offers a basic foundation course which spans a huge 68 lessons (that’s 684 minutes in total) and covers everything you need to know to start playing electric guitar – with a focus on rock and blues – from your first open chords right up to creating a solo.
Elsewhere, over 67 lessons (an in-depth 1,218 minutes!) Eve Goldberg will hold your hand when taking your first steps on the acoustic guitar, teaching you chords, scales and strumming patterns, among many other lessons.
And for youngsters learning the instrument for the very first time, JamPlay’s friendly and easy-going instructor Steve Eulberg offers a modest 19-lesson guitar series just for kids.
However, these are just a couple of examples of the many complete series that JamPlay produce, so it’s up to you to decide which direction you take.
While beginners have a huge variety of foundation courses to get their teeth into, experienced guitarists are also pretty well catered for, with some very advanced songs and techniques to learn.
These can be found by looking through what’s on offer in Phases 2, 3 and 4. The second phase, as we shall discuss below, allows members to embark on a new playing style – be it rock, blues, jazz, or many more.
For example, Megadeth’s Glen Drover has developed a 27-lesson course dedicated to metal, covering aspects and techniques such as matching a drummer’s rhythm, fast alternate speed picking, alternate tunings, and how to build fret hand dexterity.
Phase 3 has a list of songs that are friendly to both beginner and experienced player, although there are many lessons that are solely for advanced guitarists – no beginner should ever be taking on a lesson by Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal!
Finally, there is Phase 4, which focuses on song writing. Similar to Phase 1, this phase allows members to choose a series and watch as their instructor covers the techniques and theories behind creating a song.
These series vary in length, and mainly cater for acoustic guitar, although Lauren Passarelli offers an in-depth 41-lesson electric guitar songwriting series.
JamPlay offers lessons in a huge variety of different styles – both songs and techniques. Phase 2 in particular allows you to explore specific genres of guitar music and features lessons on (take a deep breath…): blues, fingerstyle, metal, rock, classical, jazz, pop, Hawaiian slack key, bluegrass, Celtic, country, surf, funk, flamenco, folk, R&B, reggae, Brazilian, gospel, and acoustic rock. That’s quite a list!
Good news for bassists as JamPlay offer many bass lessons. In fact, some are taken by one of the greatest bassists of all time, Billy Sheehan, as well as David Ellefson from Megadeth; Steve Vai’s bassist Bryan Beller; and the award-winning artist, Freebo.
However, to access these bass lessons, you are required to have a separate subscription (see below for details).
Artist Series and Live Courses
A special feature JamPlay offer to their members is the Artist Series, where some of JamPlay’s most notable teachers give in-depth instruction (over several lessons) about their own styles.
In addition to these, the Artist Series features lessons ‘In The Style Of…’ a certain artist. For example, in one series, instructor David Wallimann teaches us how to play in the style of Joe Satriani, including lessons on creating a melody, improvising and tapping like the virtuoso.
Further to the Artist Series you will find a series of live courses, where an instructor (or instructors) will stream webcam lessons live from the studio over a couple of weeks with the goal of teaching viewers a certain technique/style, while offering tablature and even homework to complement the lessons.
An example of some live courses that have taken place in 2018 include ‘Modes Made Easy’, ‘Starting to Record’ and ‘Fretboard Roadmap: CAGED’. If you join late or miss a lesson, don’t worry – an archive of past lessons is always available.
Since our last review, JamPlay have added another seven instructors, taking the grand total up to 89! That’s a very diverse list of teachers, many of whom are very noteworthy.
For example, in many cases, you get to learn songs from the actual artists that recorded them. Want to learn ‘Darkness Within’ by Machine Head?
Both Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel are on hand to teach you how they play it and give you a behind-the-scenes look of how the song came to be.
The same goes for Nick Catanese teaching Black Label Society hits; Korn’s Shane Gibson; former Megadeth shredder Glen Drover; and Mike Mushok from Staind; while there are some intense songs taught by former Guns N’ Roses star Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal.
While the world of metal is well-represented, it’s more than just the heavier styles catered for, with acoustic instructors including the renowned country guitarist Brent Mason, guitar guru Dave Isaacs and acoustic virtuoso Tyler Grant, as well as Dustin Prinz, Orville Johnson and Mary Flower, among many others.
Compared to some other online lesson sites – such as the more technique-based ArtistWorks – JamPlay has a wide range of song lessons, from a good mix of artists that span a variety of styles and genres for both electric and acoustic guitar.
These include The Beatles, Fall Out Boy, Jimi Hendrix, Willie Nelson, ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton, Nickelback, Goo Goo Dolls, Good Charlotte, Creedence Clearwater, System of a Down, and Slipknot, among many others.
As we mentioned earlier, you also have the guitarists from the likes of Machine Head, Korn, Megadeth, Black Label Society and others teaching you their own songs – this is a unique feature that sets JamPlay apart from some of the others.
Before you get too excited, note that these names tend to repeat quite a bit. For example, there are many songs from The Beatles – great if you are a fan of them (and, let’s face it, who isn’t?). But the actual range of bands and artists on offer could be seen as a little limited in comparison to some other sites.
Still, with many different songs on offer and more added regularly, it’ll take you years to get through them all.
In addition to the free trial membership, JamPlay offers a range of free guitar lessons, which include series introductions, chord and scales lessons, technique lessons and an array of song lessons to sample the format. You can find a list of these lessons here.
The guys at JamPlay are aware that guitarists need simple tools to make the most out of their lessons, which is why they offer a range of handy web-based apps.
These comprise an online guitar tuner – as well as a separate bass tuner – and an online metronome. There’s also a huge chord database – featuring more than 900,000 voicings – as well as a chord finder.
This in particular is a very useful tool, allowing you to input the notes you are playing to reveal the name of the chord.
They also offer an array of training games, with the attitude ‘Music Theory Sucks a Little Less with Games!’. These games – including fretboard memorization and time-based quizzes – are designed to help you learn music theory in a fun way, and even allow you to pit yourself against fellow JamPlay members to gain leader-board glory!
Compared to the other online lesson sites, JamPlay leads the way when it comes to mobile apps, allowing you to take your lessons with you wherever you go.
They offer both an iOS app compatible with iPads, iPhones, iPods and even an Apple Watch, along with an Android app that is compatible with most Android phones. They even offer an app for the Amazon Kindle.
Note that, even if they don’t offer an app for your specific device, JamPlay is compatible with pretty much all systems, so you should be good to go.
Another thing JamPlay prides themselves on is their community, which is always full of activity. For example, there is JamChat – an instant messenger/chat room, that allows all active online members to have a discussion through a simple pop-up window. This is a good way to find like-minded friends and get some much-needed moral support.
Another cool feature offered by JamPlay is a live Q&A with the teachers. These daily sessions allow members to engage with expert instructors and ask them whatever is on their mind.
The full schedule of upcoming Live Q&As – which stream for up to eight hours every day – is listed on the homepage.
As you may expect, there is also a thriving JamPlay Facebook page, where more than 300,000 followers enjoy regular updates, tips and videos from the instructors.
With all this content, it is good to see that JamPlay offers both simple and competitive pricing.
There is no varying membership structure or sliding scale – just one price of $19.95 per month for full, access-all-areas membership.
This works out at only 67 cents a day, which proves superb value for the amount of content on offer. Note that they also offer a full money-back guarantee, should you change your mind within the first week.
As for bassists, you can purchase a bass subscription instead of guitar for the same price ($19.95 for 30 days) or $159.95 for the full year.
While the price for JamPlay is very competitive, they also offer two very useful promotional codes for extra discount.
By entering the code A7ECB81ADC you get 10% off any membership.
You can also enter the code 7A508817CB for 25% off the first month of a monthly membership.
More good news – JamPlay offers a completely free, no-strings-attached trial membership for one week. In fact, you don’t even need to enter credit card details, simply register and you are good to go.
This trial allows you to access and sample everything the site has to offer including lessons, songs, instructors and community, before making a decision on whether it is the right platform for you.
How to Use the Course
As you will have gathered from reading this review, JamPlay is simple enough to get to grips with and there are several ways to get started.
On signing up, you will be presented with a quick form that tells them who you are and your guitar goals.
You will then be able to set up a profile and add a photo of yourself (for use in the community) – then you are up and running!
From here, if you are a complete beginner, it would make sense to check out Phase 1 under the Lessons tab, so you can watch videos of instructors taking you through the fundamentals of guitar – from how to hold the instrument, right up to playing your first chords and songs.
For more advanced players, head to Phase 2 where you can gain an understanding of a completely different style of guitar music than you may be used to, while you can simultaneously check out Phase 3 to start learning a couple of songs from the archive.
All in all, we really can’t fault JamPlay. It is certainly up there with the best three guitar tuition websites online today and well worth the price you pay.
With nearly 6,000 lessons there is enough content for guitarists of any experience level, with a varied bunch of instructors ready to share their knowledge.
The video player and lesson formats are attractive and easy-to-use, and there is a lot of support – from full song tablature to the bustling community of instructors and fellow members.
There are also some unique features, such as the Artist Series, live courses, and live Q&A that can enhance the sense of community and your learning experience.
Of course, everything can be improved, and it would be nice to see some more songs in the list from a broader range of bands and artists.
We have also noticed that some of the song lessons in the list aren’t complete guides – for example, ‘Spaghetti’ taught by Bumblefoot is a complex piece, but he takes you through just random parts of it, not the complete song. That was a bit of a shame.
However, these are minor grumbles. For the affordable price, the amount of content and the depth of instruction, JamPlay really impresses. For that, is well worth checking out.
+ Nearly 90 different instructors
+ Excellent for both beginners and advanced players
+ Learn iconic songs from the artists who wrote them
+ Great range of Artist Series and live courses
- Some iconic artists are missing in the song list
- A few advanced song lessons feel incomplete