With more than 465,000 members and counting, JamPlay is one of the most popular online guitar lesson communities, and for good reason!
Table Of Contents
Some quick links to the sections discussed in this review:
JamPlay has a familiar format, and is similar to others such as GuitarTricks. You’ll find the Lessons tab at the top of the dashboard, which will offer you four phases to tackle – Beginners; Genres & Skills; Songs; and Songwriting.
When you settle on a lesson, you’ll be presented with a lesson page/dashboard 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 the 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 dashboard 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’ – more on this later. 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 – 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.
JamPlay caters very well for beginners, with plenty of easy-to-follow instruction. Complete beginners should start with Phase 1, where a variety of instructors have created a range of foundation series for either electric or acoustic guitar. There’s no set start point – you read the description and decide which course you may get the most use from.
For example, Lisa Pursell takes a foundation series which spans 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 guitar series just for kids.
However these are just a couple of the many complete series that JamPlay produce, so it’s up to you to decide which direction you take.
While beginners have some super and varied foundation courses to get their teeth into, experienced guitarists are also well tended to, with some very advanced songs and techniques to learn.
These can be found by looking through what’s on offer in Phase 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, 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, among many others.
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 be taking on a lesson by Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal!
Finally we have Phase 4, which focuses on songwriting. 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 the different genres of guitar music, and feature 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. Phew, that’s quite a list!
JamPlay certainly do offer bass lessons, with some 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.
Something special that JamPlay offer to their members is a series of live courses, where an instructor (or instructors) will stream lessons live from the studio over a couple of weeks to teach a certain technique/style, and offer tablature and even homework. Recent live courses have included ‘Pursuit of Tone’, ‘Play and Sing’, and ‘Pentatonic Personalities’. If you join late or miss a lesson, don’t worry – an archive of past week’s lessons are available.
Forget learning from one instructor – try 82! JamPlay offer a lengthy and diverse list of instructors; most of them 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 some background stories of how it came to be.
The same goes for Nick Catanese teaching Black Label Society hits, Korn’s Shane Gibson, former Megadeth shredder Glen Drover; 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 renown country guitarist Brent Mason, guitar guru Dave Isaacs, acoustic virtuoso Tyler Grant, 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 artists that span a variety of styles and genres; both electric and acoustic.
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.
Then, as we mentioned earlier, you have the guitarists from the likes of Machine Head, Korn, Megadeth, Black Label Society and others teaching you their own songs – where else could you find that kind of personal tuition?
Before you get too excited, 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, it’ll take you years to get through them all, so it still offers good value.
In addition to the free trial membership, JamPlay offers an array of free guitar lessons, which include series introductions, chord and scales lessons, technique lessons and a range of song lessons. You can find a list of these lessons here.
JamPlay are aware that guitarists need tools, and offer a range of web-based apps to use as needed. 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 leaderboard glory!
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 Apple Watch, along with an Android app that’s compatible with most Android phones. There’s even an app for the Amazon Kindle.
Even if they don’t offer an app for your specific device, JamPlay is compatible with pretty much all systems, so you are good to go.
Another thing JamPlay prides themselves on is their community, which is always full of activity. For example, there’s JamChat, which is an instant messenger/chat room, that allows all active online members to have a discussion through a simple pop-up window – 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 instructors. These 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’s also a thriving dedicated Facebook page, where nearly 300,000 followers enjoy regular updates, tips and videos from the instructors.
JamPlay offers both simple and competitive pricing. There’s 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. What’s more, they also offer a full money-back guarantee, should you change your mind within the first week.
The price for JamPlay is competitive enough, but they also offer two very useful promotional codes for extra discount.
By entering the code A7ECB81ADC you get 10% off any JamPlay membership.
You can also enter the code 7A508817CB for 25% off the first month of a monthly membership.
Want a risk-free way to try JamPlay? Then good news, because they offer a completely free, no-strings-attached trial membership for one week. This allows you to access and sample everything JamPlay has to offer – lessons, songs, instructors and community, before making a decision on whether it’s the right platform for you.
How To Use The Course
As you will have read by now, 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 allows them to understand who you are and your guitar goals. You’ll 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 – 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 than you may be used to, or check out Phase 3 to start learning a couple of songs from the archive.
In all, JamPlay is up there with the best guitar tuition websites online today – and well worth the price you pay.
In fact, it’s hard to fault. With more than 5,000 lessons there’s enough content for guitarists of any experience level, with a great bunch of instructors ready to share their knowledge. The video player and lesson formats are attractive and easy-to-use, and there’s lots of support – from full song tablature to the bustling community of instructors and fellow members. There’s also some unique features, such as the Live Courses and Live Q&A that will enhance your learning experience further.
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. I’ve also noticed that some of the song lessons in the list aren’t complete guides – for example, ‘Spaghetti’ taught by Bumblefoot is a complex song, but he takes you through just random parts of it, not the complete song.
However, these are minor grumbles. For the affordable price, the amount of content, and the depth of instruction, JamPlay really impresses and, for that, is well worth checking out.