Learning to play the guitar isn’t easy, and the idea of scouring 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 moving into the digital realm to help its customers — in this case, those with musical flair who enjoy picking up an instrument.
Fender, the American guitar manufacturer whose instruments have been played by music legends throughout the centuries, launched its Play subscription service last year to make it easier for players to learn to play guitar on their smartphone or computer.
The service has grown significantly since then, allowing owners of electric, bass and acoustic guitars to hone their skills through a series of videos moderated by professional musicians.
We’ve been testing Fender Play for the past few weeks to see if the service can compete with, or maybe even replace, real-world guitar lessons.
After signing up for Fender Play, you have two plans to choose from, both of which include a 14-day trial period.
The cheapest plan is an annual subscription for £7.50 a month, which includes all the lessons and play-along songs – plus 10% off Fender guitars and amps.
Then there’s the £9.98 per month plan. This offers all the content of the first plan, but users aren’t locked into an annual contract. There is no discount with this offer either.
Choosing a style
You don’t have to own a six-string electric guitar to get the most out of Fender Play, as the service allows users to choose lessons for bass guitar, acoustic, and even ukulele. This means that electric guitar players can try out another instrument without having to take additional lessons.
Once an instrument has been chosen, the service prompts users to select a style of music they wish to learn. These include blues, rock, pop, and country, each with their own licensed songs to learn from.
This particular feature solves a major problem that people learning a new instrument often face. Many shy away from learning an instrument when forced to study countless scales and classical songs, so the inclusion of a range of popular play-along songs from a variety of genres is a welcome addition.
Learn the basics
Any lesson, whether it’s figuring out how to hook up a guitar to an amp or learning ZZ Top’s riff Sharply dressed man, is available from the start. Each song has a rating of three, with one being the easiest and three being the most difficult.
The lessons, meanwhile, are divided into categories from level 1 to 5. The levels consist of around 15 lessons, with each tutorial lasting between two minutes and a quarter of an hour.
Users will no doubt want to review tutorials to ensure they’ve mastered a particular technique before moving on to the next lesson.
We found the tutors to be easy to understand and provided all the information the learners needed before using more technical terms and techniques. Videos also come with multiple camera angles that focus on both of the tutor’s hands, allowing users to focus on an area that is more difficult for them to capture.
The only problem we found with learning guitar through online videos is that you can’t ask the tutor questions if you get stuck. Users also need a lot of self-discipline as the tutor cannot criticize bad habits.
Whether it’s your first time picking up a guitar or you’ve been playing for years, there’s something new to learn with Fender Play.
The video tutorials are much better than those on YouTube and provide all the information learners need to be playing guitar in no time. The videos are also professionally filmed, making it easy to mimic what the tutors are playing.
However, nothing beats a pro to point out your bad habits or analyze your playing style. Real world tutors are also great at providing feedback to players who want to write their own songs.
As such, we think the Fender Play app is ideal for anyone who just wants to start playing around with a guitar, or is returning to the instrument after a short while of playing.
However, players looking to learn an instrument professionally may want to use the app while receiving real-world lessons.
Fender Play, fender.com/play, from £7.50 per month