Updated by Bobby
Updated on July 13th, 2022
Checked link accuracy and made minor changes/fixes to article formatting. Updated home page screenshots for both Rocksmith and Fender Play.
FENDER PLAY VS ROCKSMITH & Rocksmith+ (Comparison)
Our pick: Fender Play
Though both programs target a similar audience (beginner guitar players looking to learn songs), Fender Play's instructor-led system is broader and better at teaching than the video game system of Rocksmith that relies more on an addictive game system and passive memorization.
Parent article: Fender Play Review
Both Rocksmith and Fender Play are targeted to beginner guitar players. However, the two programs take a dramatically different approach in terms of how they teach said beginner.
While Fender Play relies on a more traditional, pre-recorded instructor and lesson model, Rocksmith was designed to be a mimic of Guitar Hero with an on-screen video game interface teaching you songs with less emphasis on lessons. However, there are enough similarities between the two systems to pit them against one another and compare them in a number of common criteria.
Before we get started, here are a few things to note about Fender Play and Rocksmith:
- Rocksmith is all about songs: Though Rocksmith does have some lessons and tutorial-style content, the bulk of their game is taking you through well-known songs written by popular artists, similar to Guitar Hero.
- Fender Play is a fairly new program: Having launched in 2017, Fender Play is still fairly new by online guitar lesson standards.
- Rocksmith does not use any instructors: Like Yousician and Guitar Hero, Rocksmith presents its content entirely through their playalong interface and video-game system.
- Fender Play is a collection of both instructional material and song lessons: Fender intersperses their lesson content with song tutorials, but covers a lot of both.
A Quick Comparison Chart
In this section we've compared Rocksmith and Fender Play with a couple other programs we partner with, but also recommend sincerely based on our own objective reviews. If you sign up for a membership or free trial with Guitar Tricks or JamPlay, it helps support Guitar Chalk at no extra cost to you.
Rocksmith and Rocksmith+
Fender Play VS Rocksmith (the basics)
Fender Play has a big advantage over Rocksmith in the free trial department, simply because you have to buy Rocksmith outright before you can even try it.
Fender Play will give you 30 days free, just for acting interested.
Other differences include the multiple instrument format of Fender Play, which dilutes the depth of material for each instrument, but also gives you some more variety to work with.
Memberships (copies sold) as of 2020
Free Trial Period
Total Number of Lessons
85 edu lessons (it's mostly songs)
Styles (Genres) Covered
5 total (multiple instruments)
$19.99 (billed monthly)
$40 one-time fee
$12.50 per month when billed annually
In most situations, Rocksmith is going to be a far cheaper option because you only need to buy the game once. However, if you want more songs than what is included in the game (it comes with 50), you need to buy them as downloadable content, which you can browse here for XBox live, the Playstation network, and a Steam account.
Skill Level, Depth and Challenge
Though both programs struggle to provide much value outside the early guitar stages and topics, we like Fender Play a little better for beginners. It has better structure and scores higher in the topical order segment with actual course arrangements, whereas Rocksmith doesn't provide full courses.
Both programs focus heavily on songs, and Rocksmith does make the process a lot more fun and engagement.
Yet both programs struggle to form any kind of consistency or chronological learning paths within their content.
Beginners can and should be learning songs, but we'd argue that both Rocksmith and Fender Play are over-committed to the song learning aspect of their content and don't provide enough foundational skill-building to help a beginner really tackle the cover song realm of their instrument.
Structure, Design and User Experience
The aesthetics and design of both platforms are quite good, though Rocksmith falls off a bit in regards to course navigation. In the game, it isn't always clear where you should go or what you should do next. While you can always pick out a song you want to learn in Rocksmith, there's no real guidance or clear learning path to follow, which makes it a little more difficult for the user.
Fender Play's navigation is far better, giving you a linear system within each course that is less confusing and easier to find your way around.
As a website, Fender Play also gets updated more regularly, while Rocksmith is a static game released in 2014, that will age as time goes on.
Interior Course Navigation
Main Menu Navigation
You can see in the screenshot below that Fender Play has their content organized into levels with a "path" provided to the user for each level. While their program is far from perfect, their path design is a lot better than Rocksmith's interface.
Game Interface/Video Player Quality and Features
It's difficult to compare the video player of Fender Play and the game interface of Rocksmith. Instead of grading specific features, we've given some more general grades for functionality and aesthetics, since these are the cores of the program users will be spending the most time with.
One of the things we dislike about the Rocksmith game is it just seems really dark sometimes, while the Fender Play interface is bright and inviting.
The game engine of Rocksmith does a good job tracking your notes and picking out mistakes, functionality which has no parallel in Fender Play. But Fender Play's video player is simple, cleaner, brighter, and does the basics without many bells and whistles. Both elements work as advertised without any kind of technical hang ups or complaints.
Full Screen Quality and Pixelation
Rocksmith's video-game platform makes it difficult for them to add any kind of downloadable or supplemental content. While you can "download" new song lessons to the game, you can't pull any tabs or content down from the game itself.
You have tabs and notation on-screen, but that's about it.
On Fender Play's side, they often provide tabs and even chord diagrams when it makes sense to present content that way. They also do a little better with instructor interaction, again because they actually have instructors.
Tabs and Notation
Guitar Pro Files
We should acknowledge that Rocksmith essentially has no supplemental content.
While I hate to say it this way, their biggest selling point is their song lessons which can't be downloaded, aside from being in the game itself. In that regard their entire platform hinges on the tabs that are already part of their game, without providing any additional content.
Licensed Song Lessons
Rocksmith comes with 50 songs already downloaded into the game, though there's a library of about 1400 songs available for download. While I'm not totally sure how often this is updated, they seem to be adding new content with some degree of regularity (a year ago they were around 900 songs).
Fender Play's song section seems to get regular updates for guitar, though they're also publishing song lessons for bass.
It's difficult to tell exactly how many song lessons Fender Play has published at this point, but we'd guess the number is around 300, based on the rate at which they're updating the "newly added" section of that page.
Number of Songs
Around 1400 available (50 included)
Song Coverage (completeness)
Easy Song Versions
Second Pay Wall
The only area where Fender Play performs better than Rocksmith in the song category is where they avoid a second pay wall, something we see with a lot of guitar programs these days, Yousician being the prime example.
This means you pay for a membership, then need to upgrade to a second more expensive membership to get access to the licensed songs.
Fender Play hasn't done this, yet.
Rocksmith sort of does this in the form of downloadable content that you have to pay for. Last we checked, it was $2.99 per song.
If songs are your priority, we'd say Guitar Tricks is a better option than either Rocksmith or Fender Play.
Concluding our Fender Play VS Rocksmith Comparison
Both of these programs have a lot of weaknesses, and neither would be our top recommendation.
However, in a direct Fender Play VS Rocksmith comparison, the only area where Rocksmith is a truly better option is in the song lessons category. Even there, Fender Play has made a lot of progress over the past couple of years, and doesn't require additional money to access their songs.
If you're deciding between the two, we'd say give Fender Play your business, or at least a 30-day trial, before you buy a copy of Rocksmith that you can't try for free.
Do you have questions about Rocksmith or Fender Play?
If so, feel free to leave us a message in the comments section below. I can check in there directly and do my best to help out.
See you there.
No mention of guitarcade in rocksmith? It’s not the greatest but I’ve found the scale runner game and a few of the other minigames to be interesting ways to practice particular techniques or at least get used to running scales.
Thanks for mentioning this, Stephen. Definitely a cool feature.
Rocksmith+ is currently in closed beta. My impression from Ubisoft is a desire to focus more on the learning aspect, but I guess we will have to wait and see what the final product looks like later this year.
Yeah I noticed that a few weeks ago. Interested to see what they come up with.