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So, you’re thinking about learning guitar.
These days, one of the most convenient ways is with the help of a membership site like Fender Play or Guitar Tricks.
In this guide, we’re going to be looking at how these two sites compare. Let’s get to it!
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Fender doesn’t need much of an introduction. They are best known for their legendary electric guitars, bass guitars, and guitar amps.
These days, their product line is quite diverse, with acoustic guitars, effects pedals, audio equipment, accessories, and more.
So, it seems like a natural extension of their business to offer guitar lessons too, right?
Regardless of whether you agree with this statement, Fender does offer guitar lessons in the form of Fender Play, and that’s what we’re going to be exploring in more depth here.
What Fender Play Will Help You Achieve
Fender Play’s promise is simple – to help you learn guitar online.
They offer lessons for electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, and ukulele.
In addition to video lessons, they also have a song library.
With the membership, you also get access to a community of students who are learning to play.
How Much It Costs
Fender Play offers a free trial but asks you to make a commitment to one of their plans upfront. I’m not a fan of this system, but it is one way to get a deeper level of commitment from prospective students.
The plans are as follows:
- Monthly Plan: $12.99/month
- Annual Plan: $10.17/month ($121.99 billed annually)
Note: Pricing may differ depending on region and promotions. The above should not be taken as final.
Fender Play can be accessed from any device with internet and a browser. They also have iPad, iPhone, and Android apps.
Once on the Fender Play website, you can click on the free trial button.
After creating an account, you’ll be asked to choose a plan – monthly or annual. You will also need to enter your payment details to get access to the content.
Once inside, you’ll be asked whether you have an acoustic guitar, electric guitar, ukulele, or bass. Our focus in this review is guitar, and we’ll mostly be examining the electric guitar material.
Fender Play also asks you to choose what style you want to learn – rock, blues, folk, country, or pop. I chose rock.
From there, you’ll finally get access to course material. On the left sidebar, there’s a menu you can use to navigate through the content, and on the right side of the screen, you’ll see course material.
Here’s a basic rundown of the content you can access:
- My Path: This is where you start, and the course content you see onscreen will depend on which instrument you chose, as well as which style you opted to learn.
- Songs: You can find songs for guitar, bass, and ukulele. Fender isn’t clear on exactly how many songs they have in their library, but they are organized by instrument, type (song or riff), and genre.
- Collections: In this section, you will find song collections, such as The Beatles Collection or the Holiday Songs collection. Basically, if you wanted to learn songs in a specific category, you’d access this section.
- Skills: Within this section, you can find video lessons to help you learn chords, techniques, exercises, and more.
- Chord Challenge: Use Chord Challenges to work on difficult chord transitions and improve upon your chording skills.
- Favorites: A place where you can save your favorite songs, lessons, etc.
- Articles: A space where you can read about learning your instrument.
- What’s New: The latest updates are all recorded here.
How Is The Learning Material Presented?
The course material is mostly in video format. Lessons contain quite a bit of additional information.
In the Info section, you get basic information like lesson type, instructor, and time to finish.
Tabs is exactly like it sounds, and as a student you get access to the guitar tabs for the lesson.
With the Tone section, you can download a tone preset for your Mustang GT/GTX amp (based on the song), if you have one.
You can get support under Feedback, find related lessons under Related, and essential tools like a guitar tuner under Tools.
Overall, there’s quite a bit of supporting documentation for each lesson.
Within the Chord Challenge section, you can choose whichever chords you want to learn to transition between. The chord diagram for each chord will appear onscreen.
Having done so, you can set the tempo and begin working on the transitions to the beat of the metronome.
How Is The Learning Material Delivered?
The moment you log in, you can access all courses, songs, and other content.
How Much Training Is Available?
Each “path” is broken down into levels (usually five). Within each level are multiple courses, with somewhere in the range of 15 to 22 courses – sometimes more, sometimes fewer.
Each “course” should be considered more of a module though, and some do have multiple activities to complete. To be fair, lessons can last 15 to 20 minutes or more, and if you’re struggling with the lesson, you might end up spending a lot more time on it.
Either way, a single “Path” contains roughly 100 modules with two to 16 activities each or more.
Of course, as noted, you also get access to hundreds of songs within Fender Play.
Usability & User Interface
The best part about the Fender Play interface is the high-quality videos. These feature top notch production values and are clearly professionally filmed and edited. They’ve leveraged multiple angles as well as closeup shots to ensure you can see what’s being played as well as how it’s being played by the instructor.
Each activity comes with supporting documentation, and if it’s a riff or song, guitar tab too.
The interface works, but for some reason it just feels awkward. The video takes up 50% of your screen, which in theory should leave plenty of room for the supporting documentation below it, but for some reason it just doesn’t feel sufficient. It's a little squashed.
Also, some of the content seems to be inside frames, so scroll bars appear where it seems like they shouldn’t.
There’s nothing wrong with the sidebar menu, but it feels like a lot of links, where maybe fewer would have worked fine. There is a lot of content within Fender Play, which somewhat justifies it, but pages like Collections and Skills are basically just a reworking or repurposing of other content that’s already there.
Fender Play does have progress saving, so you’ve got to like that. Its functionality is basic though.
They’ve also settled on a relatively attractive and minimalist design, but again, it feels a little awkward. If you were to ask me what they should do, I wouldn’t immediately be able to tell you, but if I spent more time fiddling around with their site, I would probably identify a few things.
Fender Play – Bottom Line
Fender Play has got plenty to offer for beginner to intermediate players. And while you can always tackle more difficult material as an advanced player, you’re unlikely to find anything that challenges you overly much. I couldn’t. So, advanced players should probably skip it.
They’ve done a good job of making the process of learning the guitar fun, and they must be commended for that. The “courses” don’t just walk you through rote exercises and boring theory, and instead focus on a specific style or genre, as well as techniques and songs that would be appropriate for your level.
Putting together customized curriculums was always an interesting challenge as a guitar teacher. And while no curriculum is likely to strike you as “perfect,” I do think they’ve put some serious man hours into it at Fender Play.
Overall, the asking price for Fender Play is more than reasonable. If you’re looking to learn guitar online at your own pace in a fun, convenient way, then you will probably like it. But again – it will only appeal or prove helpful to beginners and intermediate level players. Advanced players need not apply.
Guitar Tricks is a dedicated online guitar membership.
So, where Fender has its fingers in multiple pies, Guitar Tricks is focused entirely on guitar instruction.
Even so, their reputation probably precedes them, at least in the guitar community. They may not be a household name like Fender, but if you’ve ever wanted to learn guitar online, it’s more than likely that you’ve come across their name.
They’ve been around since 1998, have had over three million students, and claim to have won multiple awards, just to give you an idea.
What Guitar Tricks Will Help You Achieve
Guitar Tricks claims to be an award-winning online guitar lessons site and says they will help you learn guitar the fast and easy way.
They also claim they have the best songs and easiest system to learn with.
How Much It Costs
Guitar Tricks has two plans:
- Basic Access – 100% Free. Comes with 12 instructors and 24 sample lessons.
- Full Access – $19.95/month. Gives you access to 45 instructors, 11,000+ guitar lessons, 1,000+ song lessons, beginner course, and advanced techniques.
You can access Guitar Tricks if you have a browser and an internet connection. But they also have iOS and Android apps.
On the Guitar Tricks website, you’ll be prompted to get started for free. Once you’ve clicked on the button, you’ll be asked to enter a few personal details.
You will also be asked:
- How long you’ve wanted to learn guitar
- What your dream is
- How important it is for you to learn guitar
- How long you’ve played for
- What your skill level is
- Whether you know how to read guitar tabs and standard notation
- How well you know your chords and scales
- What your guitar playing ability is
- What styles you’re interested in playing
- Whether you’re interested in acoustic, electric or both
- How often you see yourself practicing
- Whether you’re willing to pay for lessons
Yes, I know that’s a rather long set of questions. Still worth mentioning since this will also be your experience when you first sign up at Guitar Tricks.
Finally, you’ll be asked to choose between Basic or Full access before getting started.
Once on the dashboard, you'll see a rather crowded set of links and options, but our tip would be to consider your skill level and choose appropriate learning material from there.
How Is The Learning Material Presented?
Guitar Tricks is primarily made up of video lessons.
Each lesson features supporting text, testimonials, as well as some other basic information pertaining to the lesson – difficulty, focus, and style. Some lessons also have tab notation.
You can also mark lessons as favorites or download them. You can access a guitar tuner at any time too.
Links to other modules and lessons within the course are also available.
How Is The Learning Material Delivered?
You basically get instant access to everything once you’ve logged in.
How Much Training Is Available?
As noted earlier, once you become a paying member, you get access to 45 instructors, 11,000+ guitar lessons, 1,000+ song lessons, beginner course, and advanced techniques.
That’s quite a bit of content and there’s no way we could possibly cover it all. But we will offer some thoughts on the available training.
Once inside, you’ll be brought to your dashboard, where you can access the main training content – beginner lessons, experienced lessons, songs, and styles.
Inside beginner lessons, you’ll be taken to the “Core Learning System,” where fundamentals are covered. Once you’ve completed the fundamentals, you can progress through to blues, country, rock, or acoustic styles.
You can also access songs made easy, practice for beginners, and tuning & guitar maintenance for additional material.
Similarly, experienced lessons come with a roadmap that has you progressing through fundamentals and styles. You can also access styles, techniques, artist studies, practice, chords & scales, and gear & tone for more.
The song library is just as described, with over 1,000 songs. And depending on the song, you can learn a simplified version or the original version.
Finally, within styles, you can choose from the following – acoustic, bluegrass, blues, classical, country, funk & soul, jazz, metal, rock, rockabilly, surf, and world.
Again, there is a significant amount of training here, but it shouldn’t come as any surprise considering how long the site has been around.
Usability & User Interface
Guitar Tricks’ user interface is fine, though we don’t think of it as anything special.
We would venture to guess that new users are going to be overwhelmed by the amount of content available and are going to be distracted by all the elements onscreen. The forum can help steer you in the right direction, mind you.
Now, the menu and other elements all make the site look professional, but they don’t necessarily help users focus on the core content or the lessons they’re supposed to be engaging in.
Finding what you’re looking for is gong to take some time, too. Not that the interface is confusing. But you’re probably going to be digging multiple levels deep (several clicks) if you’re trying to find something specific.
To be fair, in the lessons section, you can see various lessons at a glance, and even who teaches them (keeping in mind that the site is home to thousands of lessons).
And within the Songs section, you can search by artists, songs, collections, and famous riffs. And that can refine your search somewhat.
We couldn’t find anything broken on the site, and for that Guitar Tricks gets high marks.
Guitar Tricks – Bottom Line
Guitar Tricks features thousands of quality video lessons with many instructors who specialize in different styles. So, no matter what you’re looking to learn, and no matter what level you play at, you should be able to find something of interest here.
And that creates a rather wide gap between Guitar Tricks and Fender Play – on Guitar Tricks, you can find lessons at any level – beginner, intermediate, or advanced. From acoustic fingerpicking to sweep picking with scales, you should be able to find something that matches your current level of development.
The video content may not be as professional as Fender Play’s, but it’s good enough quality that you’re not going to notice the difference all that much.
We also like the diversity of teachers specializing in different playing styles, but that’s something Fender Play also has.
There’s nothing lacking about the user interface, but again, if you’re new, we feel you’re probably going to feel a little overwhelmed wading through all the content. At least Guitar Tricks has done the hard work of creating a roadmap for you, helping you progress through fundamentals and simple songs to help you develop faster.
Further, Guitar Tricks has got a forum where you can get your questions answered. If you ever need any guidance, that’s not a bad place to look. You’ll probably want to exercise some patience when it comes to getting answers, though.
You might pay slightly more for Guitar Tricks compared to Fender Play, but keep in mind you also get access to considerably more content.
Fender Play Vs Guitar Tricks, The Verdict
At long last, it’s time to crown one of these online guitar lesson sites the winner.
Here, we will briefly summarize the pros and cons of each and let you know who came out on top.
Both Fender Play and Guitar Tricks have got great content.
In terms of video production and quality, Fender Play is the clear winner.
But in terms of lesson quantity and diversity, Guitar Tricks wins hands down. Where Fender Play is more beginner and intermediate oriented, even advanced players are likely to find some lessons to cut their teeth on inside Guitar Tricks.
So, while there are pros and cons to each, Guitar Tricks has an advantage in the realm of content.
In all honesty, neither site is perfect.
Fender Play is a little slicker than Guitar Tricks, and that’s reflected in the quality of their videos as well.
Fender Play also has a great color scheme and modern design elements. Guitar Tricks is a little more “old school” if you will.
Overall, Fender Play is a little easier to navigate, even if there’s a lot you can click on at any given time. Meanwhile, Guitar Tricks has so much content that it can be difficult to move around, even if you’ve got a decent idea of what you’re trying to find.
Fender Play comes out on top in this category, but it doesn’t count for much.
Both platforms are excellent value. Guitar Tricks costs a little more, but when you consider how much more you’re getting, it’s worth the asking price.
Fender Play might be great for the occasional beginner or intermediate, simply because they’re new to guitar and would like to be shown the basics and mix it up a little. It’s easy to get started, too.
If you have some experience, or you’re thinking about playing guitar long-term, however, your best choice is Guitar Tricks.
So, Guitar Tricks wins this category too.
Guitar Tricks Vs Fender Play, And The Winner Is…
We’ve got to give it to Guitar Tricks.
We like both platforms for different reasons, and they both have certain advantages.
But the sheer volume of content available at Guitar Tricks gives it more utility overall. Perhaps Fender Play will grow into a resource with equal depth one day, but it’s got some ways to go.
You can’t go wrong with Guitar Tricks if you’re serious about learning the guitar.