Fender Play is an online learning portal for budding guitar, bass, and ukulele players to pursue their dreams on a platform with a reputable history of more than 70 years.
Even non-musicians have likely seen the iconic Fender logo while watching their favorite musicians perform.
So, to determine if Fender Play lives up to its promises, we’ve delved deep into the platform, putting it to the test for an extended period of time.
While the desktop software is available for macOS 11 and Windows 10, we prefer the mobile app for its lack of clutter and ease of use.
The app is compatible with iOS 13 and higher, as well as Android 8 and higher, and can be downloaded straight from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
Fender Play can also be linked to your TV through Chromecast for a more immersive experience. I encourage you to check it out since Fender Play’s high-quality 4K video production with several camera perspectives is truly a game-changer in the world of guitar instruction.
You can get started by getting a monthly subscription for $19.99.
The annual subscription will set you back by $149.99/year, which comes up to $12.50/ month (as of the time of writing).
You can start with the 7-day trial, which gives you full access to all content on Fender Play. We found the 7-day trial quite satisfactory regarding the time a student would need to gauge what they would be learning before committing.
The coolest part about an annual subscription is that you can get a 10% discount on most Fender products.
However, you can’t avail of this discount on the Fender custom-shop guitars, basses, and amps. This is understandable as those instruments are custom designed by world-class luthiers using Fender’s best collection of high-end woods.
The heart-wrenching disclaimer, in the end, states that the 10% discount only applies to U.S. and U.K. residents. It’s a shame since Fender could’ve gotten a ton of worldwide annual subscriptions with this offer alone.
Choosing Your Path
As you enter the home page, you’re greeted by Fender and asked for your preference of instruments. You can select from an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, a bass, or a ukelele.
While the acoustic and electric guitar sections are similar for the most part, they branch out while talking about instrument-specific topics like capos and tone settings.
The lessons are mainly laid out according to genres. You can choose Rock, Blues, Folk, Country, or Pop. While rock seems to be the most populated genre within Fender Play, the other genres are done justice with ample songs and techniques to choose from.
If you choose the ukelele, you can get on with your lessons directly as there aren’t any genre choices. The electric and acoustic guitars have the most variety, followed by the bass.
With options to deviate from your chosen genre or path at any time, the learning process isn’t strictly linear, making it accessible to a large variety of learners.
Fender Play is quite comprehensive, with a corpus of over 1500 songs, stretched across 200 courses.
With bite-sized lessons that dive straight into the topic, the lessons have very little fluff. Lessons that involve skills and techniques go on for 10 to 12 minutes with detailed instructions, whereas shorter topics like learning riffs and chords wrap up in less than 5 minutes.
Adding an element of achievement, the lessons are structured in difficulty levels, ranging from 1 to 7.
Each level is based on the core techniques and skills you’ll need to learn within your selected path. With a plethora of songs, chord games, and articles that accompany the core techniques, the learning process is quite engaging, to say the least.
Going Through The Levels
While the ukelele and bass have similar sections like songs & riffs, collections, and skills, they don’t have separate lessons under the levels section. So, to walk you through the five levels, we’ve chosen the Rock and Blues sections under the guitar category.
Levels 1 & 2
Level 1 helps you get started on the right way to hold a plectrum and balance your guitar on your lap. Along with learning the notes on the fretboard, you also quickly run through the different parts of the guitar.
The instructors have you working on your basic strumming patterns, along with finger shapes for holding down open chords.
As you get more comfortable, you’ll find yourself being introduced to chewable and easily playable riffs, which keep you excited along the way.
Understanding how to relate the notes to fret numbers and strings couldn’t have been easier. Simple, digestible, and applicable, Levels 1 and 2 set the tone for things to come in future lessons.
Levels 3 & 4
Levels 3 and 4 branches out into detailed techniques within your selected genre.
Exercises to do before attempting the aforementioned techniques are an effective way to approach any topic. Fender Play follows this approach throughout all levels, which is worth mentioning.
Complex riffs, odd meters, and different styles of picking techniques are introduced as we get closer to completing Level 4. The practice track included after each lesson is a great way to try out what you’ve just been taught.
If you’re sticking to a genre, you’re likely to go through the necessary training to be able to play along to the practice tracks. We found the sound quality of the practice tracks to be quite admirable too.
The inclusion of fundamental ear training is generally missing on run-of-the-mill guitar platforms. Engaging lessons on identifying minor or major chord qualities with Solfege singing make level 5 worth the grind.
Levels 5-7 seems like a melting pot of all the techniques and ideas learned up till now.
Additional lessons on building augmented and diminished chords are a breath of fresh air in this section. The beauty of such a lesson is its inherent ability to open more doors for the curious student.
Although by no means a platform for advanced guitarists, Fender Play prepares you to delve into more intermediate-level topics once you’re done with their 7 levels.
Alternate Ways To Access The Course
While going through the levels is the ideal way to learn, there are ways to customize your learning to suit your needs. Laid down under three elaborate sections called Songs & Riffs, Collections, and Skills, you’re likely to come across something you resonate with.
Dedicated courses on Singer-Songwriters, Heavy Metal, Walking Bass, and Montuno Picking for the Ukulele are just some of the wide variety of skills and courses you can take up.
This learning approach is probably best for learners who know a bit about their instrument and have had prior lessons. Rather than going through levels 1 to 7 diligently, they can hop, skip and jump through these three sections.
With a vast collection of genres like blues, pop, country, R&B, funk, and soul, you’re sure to stumble upon a song you’d like to learn to play. Based on 3 difficulty levels, you can slowly work your way up toward more challenging riffs and chord changes.
Lessons follow the same format, with bite-sized tutorials followed by a practice round. The note-by-note teaching style ensures that you get every part of the song you’re learning.
The sheer size of Fender’s collection of songs to choose from is bound to prompt you, a prospective customer, to buy into their subscription model.
The teaching style is reasonably constant across songs and doesn’t get refined as you go up the difficulty levels. While placing your finger on the right fret is all you might be concerned about initially, it does get to you after a while.
The Collections section, which gets updated periodically with new courses, is as exciting as it is extensive. With classes ranging from slap bass to whammy bar tricks to full-length rock songs, it’s an instant eye-catcher.
A typical course under collections would range anywhere from 3 to 10 lessons. The studies here are a bit more detailed than the songs section.
Completing a collection would give you a basic understanding of the topic you’ve picked up. Upon completion, you can be reasonably confident in going fishing on your own on more intermediate platforms.
I found this section to be absolutely fantastic! Fender could rival the experience of learning from a physical teacher in front of you.
Excellent videos outlining all the issues a beginner would have while starting with chords and picking techniques. Also, considering different hand sizes and finger lengths, Fender lays down various options for learners with other physical forms.
The instructors demonstrate different ways to play the same chords and scales by choosing different fingerings and showing the right way to stay relaxed.
Crucial finger movements involved in string bending, vibratos, and hammer-ons are sometimes not entirely understood on other platforms.
It’s not entirely the instructor’s fault, as it has more to do with camera angles. Fender Play’s ‘over-the-shoulder‘ camera angles are a game-changer as the videos show the fingers exactly the way the student sees them
One advantage of being on a reputed platform like Fender is the sheer diversity of instructors they can afford to have on board. With 22 instructors on board and 8 teaching ukelele, too, all the instruments on the platform are well-represented.
With most of the instructors passed out from reputed music colleges like Berkley, Cal Arts, MI, and UCLA, the instructors aren’t just good instrumentalists but are trained in all aspects of music as well.
With careful attention to demographic and genre representation, most students who choose their preferred genres should feel well-represented and in safe hands.
Pros And Cons
Now that we know how Fender Play is organized and what courses and features are available, we can discuss the benefits and drawbacks of Fender Play so that you can make an informed decision.
There is a plethora of material that is seriously jaw-dropping at first glance.
Well-structured, well-designed and easy to navigate.
Instructors from different musical backgrounds allow for a larger audience to connect with the material being taught.
Over-the-shoulder camera angles and high-quality production ensure you don’t miss a single note.
Owning a Fender Mustang GTX, GT or Rumble makes your life super-easy with detailed videos on tone settings that are otherwise very hard to find.
With ‘Fender-only’ products, the teaching environment and the platform seem to be aimed at marketing Fender products in general.
While there’s nothing wrong with that, we wish they would at least mention a different guitar, ukelele, amp, or pedals when necessary.
The tunes and riffs are occasionally oversimplified. When the learner attempts to play along with the original record, he may be disappointed.
The courses could’ve easily spanned beyond the beginner stage with such vast resources at Fender’s disposal.
Who is Fender Play Best For?
Fender Play is for you if you are an aspiring instrumentalist seeking a dependable and trustworthy platform to complete all of your early learning under one roof.
This is definitely not the best platform for you if you are currently at an intermediate level and aspire to reach a professional one.
Fender’s strategy makes sense, given that people today have short attention spans and dislike watching lengthy videos. The lessons are predominantly bite-sized, with little to no jargon about the song or topic being taught.
However, in the interest of a well-rounded education, we wish there was more being said. In addition to learning the technique, students must also know why they are playing something.
For example, in the case of songs, it would be beneficial if the instructors were to explain the essential functions of the chords that the learner is switching between. To know that one is going from a dominant back to the root is enough for a student to pay attention to these changes the next time they encounter them.
With Fender Play already having invested in such an extensive learning program, we see no reason to not go that extra mile to make it a more holistic learning experience.
Having said that, Fender Play is still a highly effective platform for learners from all backgrounds, with varying work commitments and time constraints. Given the flexibility that Fender Play offers, you can pursue your dreams at your own sweet pace.