Today, I'm comparing the online guitar lessons from TrueFire vs Fender Play. These observations and reviews are coming from the viewpoint of a relative beginner. My name's Trina and I'm guest posting today At the Whammy Bar.
Anyone can rattle off stats, look at song lists and compare two companies like TrueFire and Fender Play, but we wanted to give you some real live perspective, too. I want to share what it's like to learn, from the beginning, from these online guitar lessons.
I will tell you that I'm not new to music. I had some piano lessons as a kid, played cello in 3rd grade and then trombone from 4-12th grades. After college, I did a short stint working in a musical instrument store where I took a few guitar lessons (99% forgotten), many years ago.
So I know music, but am mostly extremely new on guitar. Using these perspectives, I should be able to give a pretty good view of what it's like to learn guitar from online guitar lessons, and evaluate how these lessons and the materials provided will satisfy more advanced players.
Now that you know me, let's get started.
*This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.
Is it Easy to Learn Guitar Online?
I love learning online and have tackled many subjects this way. Learning guitar online is no exception. I like being able to take things at my own pace, back-up and replay the video, or skip over basics I already know.
Having said that, I have to admit some procrastination on my part. For the length of time I've had the guitar, I should've gotten started sooner. I dabbled, and stopped, and dabbled, and stopped. Procrastinating is harder to do when you take scheduled classes, or are paying for private lessons.
However, learning guitar online has suited me overall and I am committing to it now. Also, being on my own schedule lets me easily take a day off when I over-practice and my fingertips need some rest.
As far as class structure and quality of learning materials for Fender Play and TrueFire, I'll be covering that in a little bit.
I can definitely recommend learning guitar online. If you're enough of a self-starter to stick with it, this option can be great for beginners.
Important Note for Intermediate and Advanced Players:
I looked at some classes and materials that are beyond my abilities as a guitarist. Knowing what I know about music, I can tell you that there is plenty of material for you to advance your training and guitar knowledge, especially on TrueFire. All of the things I say about the beginning classes applies to intermediate and advanced techniques.
No matter how good you are, there's plenty more to learn here.
Am I Too Old to Learn Guitar?
Absolutely not! There's no such thing as being too old to learn guitar. As long as you're physically able to play, the guitar is ready for you to learn.
Put that question away and keep reading to see which online guitar course is right for you.
Beginner Guitar Gear Check
Great Beginner Guitar!
If you want, or need, a smaller guitar, check out the Yamaha FG Junior, JR2 on Amazon.
If you want the full-size acoustic-electric version of this great guitar, here's the Yamaha FGX800.
And if you want to check out our list, here's the Top 20 Budget Acoustic Guitars, great for beginners.
Okay, one more plug.
We also have a page for Best Beginner Electric Guitars.
If you're wondering, I'm learning on a steel string acoustic guitar.
I chose the Yamaha FG Junior. It's a ¾ size acoustic. I chose this size because I'm traveling full time (when not in quarantine lockdown). I needed something that would fit easily in an airplane overhead. There are specific travel guitars, but honestly, where we've been traveling, they've been impossible to find.
So I went with Yamaha's FG Junior, JR2. I'm 5'7", with average sized hands. Sometimes the frets are a little cramped for certain chords, and I have to hold it differently than I would a larger guitar, but neither is a big issue.
My guitar came with a strap, padded gig bag, some picks and a spare set of strings. Bundles can be a great thing.
Besides, I'm super impressed with the sound on this ¾ size guitar, both for its quality and volume.
Free Trials, Costs and Other Vital Details – TrueFire vs Fender Play
TrueFire Costs and Benefits
Free Trial? Sign-up is free, classes can be purchased a la carte, or you can get a 30-day free trial of the All-Access Pass. Plus, as soon as you sign up, you get $10 TrueFire Cash to use on classes. They offer classes in many instruments beyond the guitar.
Free Classes? Yes. There are dozens and dozens of free sampler classes for all playing abilities. If you're brand new to guitar, Part 1 of their full beginner class is free and it takes you through guitar basics, rhythm basics, beginning chords and chord changes.
Song Library? No. TrueFire does not teach song-by-song, but they are partnered with JamPlay. TrueFire covers styles and techniques rather than individual songs. If you put your favorite guitarist's name in the search, they'll return to you the classes that cover that player's technique. From their website: 900+ Courses: 40,000+ Lessons, 30,000+ Tabs & Notation, 20,000+ Jam Tracks All Styles & Skill Levels | 200+ Top Educators
Guitar Instructors? More than 300 instructors, collected over 20+ years of guitar instruction, with decades of professional experience, include names like Steve Vai, Carl Burnett and Ana Popovic.
App, Desktop, or Both? Both
Membership Cost? Membership is free, and you can buy classes a la carte. During special sales events they feature quite a few classes for $5. The All-Access Membership costs $29.99/monthly, or $249/annually (but they often run sales – as of August 2020, it's $149/yr). All-Access includes access to everything listed above.
Fender Play Costs and Benefits
Free Trial? 14 Days, but you must provide a credit card
Free Classes? Everything is included while you're a member, but no materials are free otherwise. Articles are free with no sign-up and they sometimes have mini-lessons.
Song Library? More than 800 songs, almost 200 riffs, and dozens of videos covering various skills and techniques.
Guitar Instructors? More than a dozen experienced and educated professional musicians. Most with degrees in music and extensive backgrounds in music education.
App, Desktop, or Both? Both
Membership Cost? $9.99/monthly, or $89.99/annually
Beginner Guitar Lessons – TrueFire vs Fender Play
TrueFire Beginner Guitar Lessons
TrueFire guitar lessons start out explaining the parts of the guitar, how you should hold it, how to practice, etc.
The early lessons jump quickly into 2 easy to play chords which they use to teach the rhythm lessons. Already knowing music, I didn't need these, but I went through them and used them to get comfortable making the simple chord changes and feeling more comfortable with my guitar. I was impressed with the way the lessons introduced rhythm without making it complicated.
There is consistent encouragement to practice, but absolutely no guilt throughout the lessons. In fact, I found the level of enthusiasm from the instructor, without pushing, encouraged me to practice more. There is a sense of fun in the TrueFire lessons.
Then there's a jump to a common set of chords that take somewhat more practice. This is where it starts to get challenging and you will get some – completely normal – soreness in your fingertips.
I like that when they show the fingerings for the chords, they tell you which fingers to use where, and then explain why. This is especially important when you look at a chord, and the recommended fingerings and think, there's an easier way to finger this, but what you don't know, as a beginning guitar player, is that the fingering they're recommending will make your chord changes easier. Important stuff.
By the end of the free first course, you'll have learned 5 chords, how to change between them, play in rhythm and also 5 songs that use these chords (there are hundreds possible). Click this link to try these lessons now.
Fender Play Beginner Guitar Lessons
Fender Play takes a more traditional approach to music instruction. While covering similar material to TrueFire, like guitar basics, Fender Play spends a lot of time on very basic, sometimes mind-numbing, drills.
Maybe these are designed for very young players, but for most people the early lessons could move a little faster.
However, amidst the basic lessons, Fender Play throws in various riffs to learn, so you can feel like you're playing real music. The problem is, sometimes what they've taught and what you need to play the riff, don't match. You can probably keep up, playing by copying, but I can't say I felt much satisfaction with these bits of fluff that were tossed in.
In fact, one of my complaints with their tab notation, even in the riffs outside of the lessons, is the lack of rhythm notation. If you don't already know the riff, they don't play it enough times for you to hear and copy it. And they don't have the rhythm notation for you to figure it out on your own.At once, I felt like some of the Fender Play lessons were painfully slow, and then others were too fast. Let's just say that the pacing of the lessons felt inconsistent.
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Practice Sessions – TrueFire vs Fender Play
TrueFire Practice Sessions
TrueFire's practice sessions have a slow version, a faster one, and then playing with the band. The idea being, of course, that when you've mastered one, you move onto the next.
Throughout the practice sessions, you're playing along with the instructor and there is a metronome in the background. Playing with the instructor creates a very comfortable environment. If you goof, it's easier to get back on track, and the air isn't filled with the silence of failure. Also, hearing what you're supposed to be doing, as you're doing it, is good reinforcement.
The instructor's playing is usually shown from 3 angles simultaneously so if you're having trouble, one of the views will probably help clarify what you're doing wrong.
TrueFire's format takes the ugh! out of practicing and makes it into a more positive, moving forward experience.
Fender Play Practice Sessions
The practice session in Fender Play has the music notation, a moving line to tell you where you are, and a metronome.
Honestly, Fender Play's practice sessions really leave you to your own devices. And the metronome is sharp, and to me, unpleasant. I've never been fond of metronomes, so I had to just practice their skill levels on my own. Their metronome drives me nuts and makes me not want to practice.
For someone who likes to be utterly independent and enjoys working with a metronome, the style they use here may be enough.
To Tab, or Not to Tab
I understand why some people like to read tab (or tablature), because it gets you to be able to play songs quickly.
And I understand why it is used for certain notations, especially before the student has learned to read music by notes. Of course, guitar is one of the few instruments that you can start playing fairly easily before understanding how to read music.
My personal take is that learning to read chord diagrams is better. They're not any harder to read, and it sets you up better for learning the full music notation as you progress.
Regardless of what I prefer, you should use whatever tools you prefer that make learning guitar fun for you. It can be a bit of a slog at times, so any advantage a learning tool can give you is worth a try.
TrueFire includes all of the notations. Chord chart, tab and notes, as appropriate. You are free to learn in any way that suits you. There is no expectation in the opening lessons for you to be able to read the music, but if you can, it's there for you.Fender leans a little heavier on tab in the beginning. This is partly because they're teaching riffs, but as I mentioned earlier, their tab lacks rhythm notation. At times, the learning method is a little more, copy me, than learn the music.
Video Quality Comparison – TrueFire vs Fender Play
The visual quality of the playback of both TrueFire and Fender Play is fine.
TrueFire Video Quality
TrueFire videos are generally brighter and more energetic. They also have lots of 3-camera shots so it's easy to get a look at what the instructor is doing. You can adjust your view and other playback options, like loop and fretboard visualizations, to suit your preferences.
The TrueFire sidebar holds the lessons for the class you're in. This is nice because you can easily navigate around the class. If you need to go back and review something, and then jump back to the practice, it's just a click each way. This lets you peek ahead, too.
Fender Play Video Quality
Fender Play instructors are somewhat low-key in their presentations. While they'll often make it a point during instruction to show you an alternate view, it's still a single camera shot. There are not many adjustments to be had on the screen.
Sometimes there are demonstrations, like chords, that would benefit from an added graphic, like the chord diagram, that come up late, or not at all. The information is below the video, however, if you need it or have any trouble seeing what the instructor is doing.
One major Fender Play regret is that you have to get to the end of the video to move onto the next one. If you need to go back and forth, this results in a lot of back/forward in your browser, or manipulating the slider on the video player constantly.
Yeah, some of these things slide into talk about the user interface, but we're headed there next, so…let's get on with it.
Site Design and User Experience – TrueFire vs Fender Play
TrueFire Site Design and User Experience
TrueFire's site design is logical and easy to navigate. The app has everything you've downloaded, various filtering options, the Explore page where you can look at available classes, and all of the free lessons.
While looking through the classes, it's frustrating not to be able to filter them by difficulty, but you can do this on the actual TrueFire website.
On the website you can look at all of their options, including Jams, Courses, Learning Paths, Sales, Live Events, Channels, and more.
When you sign up for the website, they ask which style of music you want to pursue. From there, they establish your Learning Path, which you may, or may not, choose to follow. You can change paths any time. However, when you're on the website, you can see the whole path laid out for you. Supplemental courses to suit your interests are always an option.
If you're not on the All-Access plan you'll want to buy these classes as you are ready for them. The nice thing about being able to see the whole path is it tells you where you're headed. You have a real sense that there's a specific direction and if you follow it, you will do well.
Both the TrueFire app and website are designed to make finding things easy.
Fender Play Site Design and User Experience
I'll admit, I never downloaded the app, so here I'm only referring to the website.
The website design for Fender Play is acceptable, and organized, but could be more enticing.
I do like the Articles page. The layout is attractive and gives a sense of what I'm going to find.
The song library has few filter options available. You can search by genre, which is good, but you can't filter by difficulty, or get specific within the genre, like Classic Rock, or Heavy Metal.
The topics on the Techniques, and Exercises are excellent, but it also lacks filtering. If you don't know the title of the topic you're looking for, you have to go through the whole alphabetical list – which is about as attractively organized as Windows Media Player.
Fender Play also lays out your learning path, in the form of a sequence of lessons. Beyond that, though, I feel a little lost. In the Techniques section, what should I spend my time on? I don't know.
All-in-all, not a bad interface, but it could be way better.
Which Online Guitar Lessons Should I Take – TrueFire or Fender Play?
Both of these online guitar classes will teach you the basics and give you a good, foundational set of skills for your further learning. And both have plenty of advanced techniques so you can easily continue your guitar education on whichever platform you prefer.
However, if you've read this far and have been paying attention, you can probably tell that I prefer TrueFire. While it's a little more expensive, I think the depth of the classes, the upbeat style of teaching and the ease of use make for a more robust experience that far outweighs what Fender Play offers.
I don't take extra expense lightly, but sometime the better value costs more.
If you want to try out Fender Play, or you get a free trial when you buy a guitar, go for it. Their site may suit your learning style better than it does mine. And don't get me wrong, I like Fender guitars. But in the realm of online guitar instruction, this feels like a bit of an afterthought by them.
I hope this comparison review of TrueFire vs Fender Play has been helpful to you.
FAQ - TrueFire vs Fender Play
Is Fender Play any good?
Fender Play is good, but it's not as amazing as you'd expect from a company with such an incredible guitar history. The beginner lessons run a bit inconsistent in pacing and they err on the side of too slow, even, or especially for, young players. Of course the information is solid, but it feels like the lessons could be delivered with a little more enthusiasm. If you've got a free trial then give it a go, but if Fender Play isn't your style, don't get discouraged. Other online guitar lessons have better offerings.
Is TrueFire any good?
Yes, TrueFire offers good online guitar lessons. I've seen some reviews that say that TrueFire isn't for beginners, and I have to disagree. Maybe those reviews are outdated, but I guest posted my review with At the Whammy Bar as a beginning guitarist, and I really enjoyed TrueFire's beginning guitar lessons. They're thorough, and enthusiastic and I like a lot of their other features, many of them free and giving me future learning to look forward to. I can tell from their catalog of lessons that more intermediate and advanced players won't be left wanting either.
Is Fender Play just for beginners?
Fender Play is geared toward beginners but there are more advanced technique lessons available. It feels like you have to seek them out, though. The organization of their content leaves something to be desired. The intermediate and advanced lessons are there, you just have to do a little hunting to get to what you're looking for.
Is Fender Play worth the money?
Fender Play is certainly one of the least expensive options when it comes to online guitar lessons, so if that's what your pocket can afford, then they're worthwhile. However, the more expensive options offer a greater volume and quality of content. If other options are within your budget, I'd explore those before settling on Fender Play. You'll stand a better chance of getting your money's worth.