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In another article we pitted Guitar Tricks against JamPlay. This was an interesting comparison, since these are the two biggest online guitar lesson platforms in the world.
Comparing Guitar Tricks vs. Fender Play is equally interesting because:
Fender Play is a newcomer to online guitar lessons, and they’re backed by an iconic guitar brand
Of all the online lesson platforms, Guitar Tricks and Fender Play are the ones most focused on beginner guitar players
A Little History
Guitar Tricks has been around since 1998, and in that time they’ve built a massive catalog of guitar and song lessons. They’ve honed in on how to build an effective beginner-friendly experience (their famed Core Learning System), while also having ample material for more advanced guitarists to get lost in. Over time, they’ve introduced iOS and Android apps.
Fender Play is very new by comparison, having launched their website, iOS, and Android apps in 2017.
Fender is entering the online guitar lesson game at an interesting time. Their CEO Andy Mooney has observed that 50% of new guitar players are female, the ukulele is having a meteoric rise, and perhaps most surprisingly:
...45 percent of the company’s guitars sell to first-time players, but 90 percent abandon the instrument within a year and never become repeat customers.
So in a way, launching Fender Play is self-serving to Fender’s own guitar business.
This definitely explains why Fender Play makes no qualms with being very targeted towards beginning guitar, bass, and ukulele players.
Guitar Tricks vs. Fender Play - Feature for Feature Comparison
Who doesn’t like a good chart? Here is a quick summary comparing the features offered by Guitar Tricks vs. the ones offered by Fender Play. Winner in red.
Is Guitar Tricks or Fender Play better for beginners? This is essentially the meat and potatoes of this review, since the biggest strength of both of these lesson websites is their aim at the budding guitarist.
Once you’re signed up and logged in to Guitar Tricks, from your dashboard go to BEGINNER LESSONS and you’ll see the large diagram for the Core Learning System, which they center all beginner-related lessons around.
Just by glancing at that it’s super easy to understand. All beginners are encouraged to go through Guitar Fundamentals Level 1 and 2. After that you choose a style - Blues, Country, or Rock - and go through two levels of those.
Guitar Fundamentals are divided into 7 chapters each, and each of those chapters is made up of a handful of tutorials, each with a series of short, easily digestible videos.
The instructor Lisa McCormick teaches the fundamentals, and the lessons are really good and easy to follow along with.
Every tutorial in Guitar Tricks has a difficulty rating from 1 to 5, so you have an idea of what to expect.
The table of contents in each tutorial shows you the list of videos in it, but one thing we wish Guitar Tricks included is the length of each individual video, so you could have an idea of what time commitment is required to finish the current course.
Luckily, Guitar Tricks videos are rarely longer than 3-5 minutes.
Within a tutorial, you’ll alternate between learning techniques and playing some tunes, which helps you apply what you’ve learned and keeps things interesting.
Fender Play has its own system for beginners called My Path. First you choose your instrument - acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, or ukulele - and then you pick from five styles - rock, blues, folk, country, or pop.
Picking your instrument and style creates your My Path curriculum, which is comprised of 5 levels (each level increases the depth and complexity). Think of a level like a course, and you can easily see the lessons contained within laid out on a timeline. They get checked off green as you complete them. You can click on any lesson title to expand it and read a quick description as well as see the length of the video lesson - very nice touch!
Song lessons are thrown into the mix as you go; for instance by Level 5 in the rock & blues My Path you’ll be playing “La Grange” by ZZ Top.
It’s worth mentioning that by Level 5 the concepts covered by Fender Play are still very basic. By contrast, when you reach the end of the Core Learning System in Guitar Tricks you’re already playing some intermediate level stuff.
This comes down to Guitar Tricks simply having more content and a more complete video library, which they have built over the years. Remember, Fender Play is still pretty new!
The instructors in My Path vary by video, which can be good or bad. Guitar Tricks’ Lisa McCormick is consistently good, and while Fender Play keeps things fresh by switching it up, not all teachers might be to your liking.
We have to mention that Fender Play looks very polished and clean (it makes Guitar Tricks look slightly dated). Being a newer service, they were able to shoot all beginner videos in HD and the production value is very high.
One large omission is that the Fender Play video player doesn’t allow you to adjust the playback speed. On Guitar Tricks you’re able to adjust speed in 25% increments, which is an essential practice tool. We hope Play adds this feature soon.
Both services offer intuitive learning paths to help you learn the guitar, and while Fender Play is a little more polished Guitar Tricks is a little more thorough.
For Intermediate & Advanced Guitarists
For players moving beyond the beginner stage, does Guitar Tricks or Fender Play offer better content?
Guitar Tricks makes things pretty easy. From the main dashboard you go to EXPERIENCED LESSONS, or better yet LEARN STYLES OF GUITAR. From there, you can select from 12 musical genres (like Metal for instance) and go into a course.
The courses are organized by instructor, and they show the difficulty level of each.
Sporting over 11,000 lessons, Guitar Tricks has an enormous catalog to explore. Between their 12 genres and 30+ teachers, there is little that is not covered.
Fender Play doesn’t have near the number of videos Guitar Tricks does. The material is also a little harder to find.
From the main dashboard you can go to Skills, but we found the organization of content there to be lacking. Eventually you will find the Guitar Skill Courses list, but at a glance it’s hard to tell what level of proficiency is required in order to tackle a certain subject.
In terms of very advanced stuff, Guitar Tricks has plenty of it, while Fender Play skews heavily towards the beginner level player.
If it’s intermediate and advanced content that you seek, there’s really no contest. Guitar Tricks wins hands down.
For Bass and Ukulele Players
For all the years Guitar Tricks has been around, they’ve exclusively focused on acoustic and electric guitar lessons.
Right out of the gate, Fender Play has offered guitar, bass, and ukulele lessons. The quality and depth of their bass and uke lessons is top notch.
We would not hesitate sending the budding ukulele or bass player to Fender Play, there’s nothing to lose since they offer a free trial.
Which Online Guitar Lessons Have the Best...
1. Website Layout & Ease of Use
Both Guitar Tricks and Fender Play’s websites are easy to use and navigate. The dashboards when you’re logged in offer easy access to everything there is to do, from looking at your progress to accessing lessons and tools.
Guitar Tricks feels a little more complete - for instance their Toolbox gives you a scale finder, chord finder, metronome, tuner, and more.
Play on the other hand only has a tuner in their Toolkit.
Guitar Tricks also makes it easier to browse by instructor, in case you find someone whose style you click with and want to see more of their videos.
Fender Play is the sleeker and more modern of the two websites.
This also extends to their iOS and Android apps. While both have mobile apps, the Guitar Tricks app feels like a stripped back version of the website. The video player loses the ability to slow down or speed up the video. Fender Play is a bit snappier and more modern looking, retaining the aesthetic of the website.
Fender Play has a more modern and polished website and mobile app.
2. Video Lesson Player
Guitar Tricks’ video player has everything you need - the ability to go full-screen, adjust playback speed, loop a section of video, and even download a lesson to your computer (at no extra charge).
The only issue is that since Guitar Tricks recorded a lot of their content years back, not everything is in HD quality. The majority of lessons we took were in 540p. This is not a deal breaker because the production value is still high, and the instructor’s playing is shown from multiple helpful angles.
Fender Play’s content is all in HD and looks beautiful and well produced. The huge problem is you cannot loop the video or adjust playback speed. The ability to adjust speed is crucial when you’re trying to nail down a more complicated passage.
Despite more HD video, Fender Play’s lack of looping and playback speed adjustment makes Guitar Tricks’ video player superior.
3. Song Library
Guitar Tricks has a collection of over 1,000 songs which you can search by name and sort by genre, difficulty, and more.
For instance, we sorted by Metal and easy difficulty, which gave us songs from Judas Priest, Deftones, and Godsmack to name a few.
Next we sorted by Newest and found “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga, “My Way” from Calvin Harris, “A Little Too Much” by Shawn Mendes, and “Salute Your Solution” by The Raconteurs.
That’s just a tiny sampling; there’s good depth in this catalog.
Fender Play has a slightly smaller library of tunes, but it appears to be growing rapidly. A collection of songs written by George Harrison was featured, and recently added are songs from Grace VanderWaal, Future Islands, Blake Shelton, Sia, and many more.
Songs have a difficulty indicator from 1 to 3, which is helpful. One caveat is that many songs in the Play library are actually just riffs and not the whole song.
Guitar Tricks has slightly more songs, but Fender Play is catching up and both services offer very good song lessons spanning several eras in a wide variety of styles.
However, while the website and mobile app have a more modern look and feel than Guitar Tricks, there’s just no comparison for the amount of quality content Guitar Tricks provides.
So, if you are an intermediate or advanced player, we cannot in all honesty recommend Fender Play.
If you’re a beginner, both options are suitable, and cost is a consideration.
Guitar Tricks: $19.95/mo, or you can pay an annual fee of $179.99 (which saves $60).
Fender Play: $9.99/mo, and annual plan is $89.99. Half of what Guitar Tricks costs!
(On top of that, a Play membership includes 10% off Fender guitars, amps, and gear)
It must be said that there’s ALWAYS a coupon code available for Guitar Tricks which is good for 20% off the annual plan, which knocks the price down to about $143. Still, it’s pricier than Fender Play. Here’s a chart summarizing the costs of Guitar Tricks vs. Fender Play.
Michael bought his first guitar, a Fender California Series Stratocaster in Candy Apple Red, in 1998. He likes rock of all types, from classic to punk to metal. Michael co-founded Equipboard to satisfy his curiosity around what gear his guitar heroes use. Read more