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Fender Play review: Learn the guitar, bass or ukulele without leaving the house

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £9.98
per month

If you're committed to practicing regularly, Fender Play's video-based lessons can improve almost anyone’s musicianship


  • Lots of content covering multiple instruments and styles
  • Learn from scratch or focus on specific skills
  • Streak system helps keep you motivated


  • No feedback on your technique
  • No backing tracks to play along with

If you’ve ever wanted to learn to play the guitar – or the bass, or the ukulele – but have never managed to find the time then Fender Play could be just what you’re looking for, and there’ no better time to invest in your musical talent than now.

Fender Play is a structured programme of video-based lessons that starts by walking you through the absolute basics of each instrument, then builds your skills through exercises and techniques appropriate to your chosen musical genre. By the time you’ve completed the whole course, you’ll be more than ready to join a band and even perform confidently in public.

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Fender Play review: Price and competition

A Fender Play monthly subscription costs £9.98, or you can sign up for a full year for £89.99, which works out to just £7.50/mnth. The price may seem steep for an app, but a real guitar teacher will charge you at least £20 for an hour-long lesson, which means you don’t need to make a lot of progress to justify the cost. If you go for the yearly plan, you also get 10% off almost all Fender products for the duration of your subscription, so if you plan to buy a new Fender guitar or amp in the near future, then the app could well pay for itself.

Needless to say, Fender Play isn’t the only way to learn an instrument online. One of the most popular resources for budding guitarists is, a free YouTube channel on which professional musician Justin Sandercoe offers a huge range of instructional videos, suitable for both complete beginners and intermediate players. The production quality can be variable, and it only covers the six-string guitar, but much of the content is excellent, and at worst it’s a very easy way to find out if video lessons are for you.

SHOP: Fender guitars and amplifiers

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s At $160 per year, this is considerably more expensive than Fender Play, and again it only covers the six-string guitar. It does, however, cover an impressive range of musical genres, from fingerstyle to surf and shredding, so if Fender Play doesn’t cover the particular style you’re looking for, it’s worth a look.

Finally, if you’re someone who prefers to learn by doing, check out Yousician. It’s again pricier than Fender Play, costing $20 a month or $120 per year, but it takes a more interactive approach: the video lessons are interspersed with exercises where you play to backing tracks, while the app monitors and appraises your performance. Pay extra for a “Premium Plus” subscription and you also get access to over 400 licensed pop and rock tunes to play along with, like an educational version of Guitar Hero. And like Fender Play, Yousician supports not only the guitar but also the bass and ukulele, plus the piano.

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Fender Play review: Getting started

After you’ve signed up for Fender Play, you can instantly access all the lesson videos and other resources via the dedicated app for Android and iOS, or in a web browser on your computer. It doesn’t matter which you use – the features are the same on every platform. You can even hop from device to device and the app will smartly pick up from where you last left off.

The first thing to decide is which “path” you want to pursue. Within the acoustic and electric guitar courses, you can choose from rock, blues, folk, country or pop styles, while bass players can opt to focus on either rock or funk. Naturally, there’s considerable overlap, but this approach ensures that you don’t waste hours on genre-specific techniques you’re not interested in.

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That said, completists don’t need to worry about missing out on anything. You’re free to switch paths at any time, or even to switch to a different instrument should you fancy a change of pace. If you already have some musical experience, you can also skip over lessons, or go back and repeat any that haven’t fully sunk it.

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Fender Play review: The lessons

The lessons in Fender Play take the form of videos that are mostly under five minutes long, in which experienced musicians sit on a sofa and talk you through a particular technique, piece of music or aspect of performance. Where appropriate, you’ll see tablature below the video, while close-ups of the players’ hands give you a good view of their positioning and movement.

If you follow your course all the way to the end you’ll end up watching around 220 videos in total, depending on the specific path you’ve chosen. Many of the videos are accompanied by “practice mode” sessions, in which you play along with a metronome while a moving cursor guides you through the tablature. If you’re struggling to keep up, you can adjust the metronome speed by 75% or 50% until you get the hang of keeping time at full speed.

The app-driven approach has some definite plus points. The short lessons mean you can easily squeeze in a quick session whenever you have time. Or, if you find yourself with a spare weekend you can binge for as long as you like without being at the mercy of anyone else’s timetable.

There’s also an element of gamification to encourage you to stick at it. Fender Play tracks your usage, and lets you build up regular “streaks” by logging in at least three times a week and spending seven minutes using the app. Even though streaks have no real-world value, I found that the threat of missing out on one did help motivate me to practise more regularly than I otherwise would.

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There are downsides too, however. While the videos themselves are individually short, the pace of progress is glacially slow at first: a real music teacher will draw up a lesson plan to suit your current level of aptitude, but the app has to ensure that complete beginners won’t get left behind. If you’ve already taught yourself to strum a few chords or pick out the odd bassline, then you may find your first few hours in Fender Play quite tedious, but thankfully you can skip over this.

Conversely, if there’s something you don’t quite get, you naturally can’t ask the instructor to slow down and spell it out for you. You can wind the video forward and back in ten-second jumps, but that can be fiddly when you’re sitting holding your instrument.

The biggest issue is that the app can’t proactively identify and correct any specific mistakes you make. This could be a problem for beginners in particular, who may not recognise where they’re going wrong and entrenching bad habits, or even potentially injuring themselves through poor technique. Sadly, all of these can result in giving up learning the instrument for good.

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Fender Play review: Skills and songs

If you don’t want to follow a specific path, you can also freely browse through the app’s video library, filtered by instrument and skill. With a few clicks or taps you can, for example, quickly find all videos that teach you about guitar chords, or all those pertaining to bass plucking technique, along with the accompanying exercise drills.

This really reveals just how much content there is built into the app, and for improvers, it might be the best way to experience Fender Play – you can focus on the specific skills you want to develop, or just dip into whatever sounds interesting. For example, I wouldn’t normally call myself a walking bassline kind of guy, but my curiosity was aroused when I spotted a video on the subject, and this introduced me to the idea of moving around the neck in fifths, which is something I’ll certainly use in future. Not bad for an investment of seven minutes.

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Sadly, the other main module of Fender Play – the song library – is a missed opportunity. At first glance it looks fantastic, offering a wide range of popular songs from artists ranging from Aaliyah to ZZ Top, which you can explore by instrument and genre. Click on one and you get a video talking you through the chords, riff or bassline, along with a helpful tablature visualisation.

What the app doesn’t offer, however, is any music to play along with. Progress into practice mode and you just get an animated version of the tab, along with a bare metronome tick to keep you in time. You can, of course, call up the song on YouTube and jam to that, but then you don’t get the synchronised tab. If only Fender had licensed some proper backing tracks, or even just come up with a few original ones, the whole experience would have been far more fun and engaging.

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Fender Play review: Verdict

The Fender Play app has something to offer almost any guitarist, bassist or ukulele enthusiast. It can help beginners get over the initial hump and progress to making actual music, while players with a bit more experience are free to focus on the techniques they want to develop, or just click around the various lessons to see what appeals to them.

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I can’t say that it’s a perfect replacement for regular lessons with a real teacher, who can chart out a lesson plan that’s tailored to your specific goals and abilities, and give you interactive feedback to keep you on the right track. With this app, or any online learning tool, you’ll need to work harder to identify and correct your own faults, and to keep yourself motivated.

Still, if you’re struggling to cram regular lessons into a hectic lifestyle (or if you simply can’t find a suitable teacher) then Fender Play is a hell of a lot better than nothing, not to mention far cheaper than one-on-one tuition. It’s a shame that the app doesn’t provide backing tracks for you to play along with, but if you’re committed and follow the course to the end, it won’t be long before you can start to jam along with original recordings – at which point the whole rewarding and inspiring world of musical performance opens up before you.

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