Fender Play review: can you learn guitar online?
Learning to play the guitar isn’t easy and the idea of trawling the internet to find a reputable - and inexpensive - tutor can also be intimidating for some.
Much like the world of watches and high-end audio systems, the music industry is finally making its way over into the digital realm to help its customers – in this case, those with musical flair who are keen to pick up an instrument.
Fender, the American guitar maker whose instruments have been played by music legends through the ages, launched its Play subscription service last year to help players learn guitar on their smartphone or computer.
The service has since grown substantially, allowing electric, bass and acoustic guitar owners to hone their skills through a series of videos hosted by professional musicians.
We’ve been trialling Fender Play over the past few weeks to see whether the service can match - or maybe even replace - guitar lessons in the real world.
There are two plans to choose from after signing up to Fender Play, both of which come with a 14-day trial period.
The cheapest plan is a year’s subscription for £7.50 per month, which includes all the lessons and songs to play along to - as well as a 10% discount on Fender guitars and amps.
Then there is the £9.98 per month plan. This provides all the content of the first plan, but users aren’t locked into a yearly contract. There’s also no discount available with this offer.
Choosing a style
You don’t have to own a six-string electric guitar to make the most of Fender Play, as the service allows users to select lessons for bass guitar, acoustic and even the ukulele. This means electric guitar players can try a different instrument without having to fork out for extra lessons.
Once an instrument has been selected, the service prompts users to choose a musical style they want to learn. These include blues, rock, pop and country, each coming with their own set of licensed songs to learn.
This particular feature solves a big problem that people learning a new instrument often face. Many are put off learning an instrument when they are forced to study countless scales and classical songs, so the inclusion of a set of popular songs to play along to from a host of genres is a welcome addition.
Learning the ropes
Every lesson, whether it’s finding out how to plug a guitar into an amplifier or learning the riff from ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man, is available to access from the start. Each song comes with a rating out of three, with one being the easiest and three the most difficult.
Lessons, meanwhile, are split into categories ranging from levels 1 to 5. Levels contain around 15 lessons, with each tutorial taking anything from two minutes to a quarter of an hour to complete.
Users will no doubt want to repeat tutorials to ensure they master a given technique before moving on to the next lesson.
We found tutors were easy to understand and provided all the information learners need before more technical terms and techniques were used. Videos also come with multiple camera angles focusing on both the tutor’s hands, so users can focus on an area they’re finding more difficult to grasp.
The only issue we found with learning guitar through online videos is that you can’t ask the tutor questions if you get stuck. Users will also need a lot of self-discipline as the tutor can’t criticise any bad habits picked up.
Whether you’re picking up a guitar for the first time, or you’ve been playing for years, there will be something new to learn with Fender Play.
The video tutorials are way better than those found on YouTube, providing all the information learners need to get playing a guitar in no time. The videos are also professionally filmed, making it easy to mimic what the tutors are playing.
However, nothing beats having a professional point out your bad habits or analyse your playing style. Tutors in the real world are also great at providing feedback to players looking to write their own songs.
Therefore, we think the Fender Play app is ideal for those looking to simply start messing around on a guitar or who are returning to the instrument after a short time away from playing.
However, players looking to take up an instrument professionally may want to use the app while also receiving tuition in the real world.
Fender Play, fender.com/play, from £7.50 per month