Updated by Bobby
Updated on September 9th, 2021
Updated the banner graphic and the home pages for both Guitar Tricks and Fender Play. Also made minor changes to article formatting and some corrections.
Guitar Tricks VS Fender Play (Comparison)
Our pick: Guitar Tricks
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Parent article: Guitar Tricks Review
While Guitar Tricks is the most popular online guitar lesson program to date with over three million members, Fender Play is the newest offering, having gotten their start in 2017.
Fender developed the program in order to cater to beginners and to help new players stick with the instrument longer. Since Guitar Tricks got their start in 1998, the difference between the two programs - and what they're able to offer - is significant.
I've reviewed both programs individually, in depth, here:
Since the early 2000s I've been a Guitar Tricks member and have consistently used and recommended their program as one of the best available. In contrast, if you read my Fender Play review, I've found their program to be fairly behind the gun in terms of content quality and completeness of their courses.
In fairness to Fender Play, they have dropped the price of their program in the past year, which we'll cover in this comparison. Seeing both programs side-by-side will help you see where the strengths and weaknesses are in relation to one another.
Compare to Similar Programs
Listen to the Comparison (Video Summary)
Guitar Tricks vs Fender Play: A Direct Side-by-Side Comparison
For starters, we'll separate all the FAQ-type highlights like price, membership and other front-line specs.
Members as of 2018
Free Trial Period
Total Number of Lessons
Styles (Genres) Covered
Monthly (non-promo) Price
Below is a quick look at the home pages for each program, both of which contain an informational to link and a predictable call to action.
Fender Play is now cheaper, though doesn't come even remotely close to matching the amount or scope of content that Guitar Tricks provides. It's also worth noting that Guitar Tricks often runs promotional offers that drops their yearly price to $99, which is closer to the yearly Fender Play price of $89.
One of my primary complaints with Fender Play is that it was overpriced for the amount of content you get. They've improved on that by slashing the price, so I want to give credit where credit is due.
Let's get into a more detailed comparison in terms of the skill levels covered and material depth.
Skill Level, Depth and Challenge
To actually compare the two programs you need to look at their strengths and weaknesses in terms of what difficulty areas they address and how well they address them. While both programs have material for all skill levels, I've found that Guitar Tricks is better in the realm of broad beginner guitar lessons while Fender Play focuses on beginner material, though doesn't cover a very large scope.
In terms of intermediate guitar lessons - and certainly advanced content - Fender Play has very little to offer its members, though again makes no attempt to hide the fact that they're focused on introductory and beginner content.
The intermediate and advanced material from Guitar Tricks is extremely good, though still not as prevalent as their beginner courses.
This is where Guitar Tricks - with their long tenure in this industry - starts to really pull ahead of Fender Play. One of Fender Play's most glaring weaknesses is in the area of substance and depth of material, even concerning their beginner lessons. Guitar Tricks substantially outperforms them in this area.
Site Structure, Design and User Experience
Regardless of a web site's topic, it's hard to talk about how good or bad it is without talking about design and user interface. In the case of Guitar Tricks vs Fender Play, you've got a lot of different design topics and aspects of user interaction to consider.
In this regard Guitar Tricks is more effectively organized and intuitive from a learning or usability perspective, while Fender Play feels a little more modern and trendy, with better overall aesthetics.
Home Page (logged out)
Interior Course Navigation
I'd like to see Guitar Tricks get a little more minimalist with their interface, as it often feels a little bit darken and less sleek. However, the substance of their presentation - namely navigation and ease of use - is extremely good. With that in place, it's hard to complain too much about aesthetics. Fender Play's situation is exactly the opposite.
Video Player Quality and Features
Video players are generally the focal point of online guitar lesson programs. In the case of Guitar Tricks and Fender Play, both are presented in HD and perform without technical issue that I've noticed. Fender Play's video player has less in the way of features and functionality, though seems to look a little better on large format displays.
Slow Down/Speed Up
Full Screen Quality and Pixelation
Guitar Tricks Wistia backend is a big positive, meaning they have the power of Wistia's servers behind their content. With Fender Play, I miss the additional features like slowing down and looping, which are omitted from their video player.
Supplemental material (meaning written, audio or graphically-presented content) is another area where Guitar Tricks firmly outpaces Fender Play. Tabs, sheet music, diagrams, audio files and text summaries are all consistent features of Guitar Tricks lessons, while Fender Play is usually just giving you tabs and/or chord diagrams where applicable..
Tabs and Notation
Guitar Pro Files
You can see where Fender Play does a simple "In This Lesson" tab with a bullet-point summary of what's covered in the video. While this is helpful, I wouldn't consider it supplemental. On the left screen shot, Anders Mouridsen (one of Guitar Tricks' instructors) provides notation and a jam track along with his video lesson.
Song Lessons Section
Both programs have a licensed song section where they teach song lessons specifically. With Fender Play, these songs are dispersed throughout their courses and are actually a component of each course. This dilutes the material a bit, and feels like they're getting you into songs in a kind of gimmicky and hasty manner.
The quality of the instruction and the thoroughness is also much better on the Guitar Tricks side.
Song Coverage (completeness)
Easy Song Versions
To be fair, Guitar Tricks has had a lot more time to get this right than Fender Play has. But they still just have a much more complete and better-quality song lesson section than Fender Play, and just about every online guitar lesson resource out there.
Concluding the Guitar Tricks vs Fender Play Comparison
Both these programs are attempting to cater most to the beginner guitarist. Yet, Guitar Tricks does a better job of this than Fender Play while also having a spectrum of lessons and courses that are broad enough to cover intermediate and advanced material as well. The quality of content that Fender Play provides simply does not meet the same scope or standard that Guitar Tricks has set.
I like Fender Play's modern site design and their focus on application, though it feels a bit gimmicky and less organized/focused than the Guitar Tricks program. If you're looking for more details on these, or other programs, here are a few reviews I've done that might be helpful:
Questions about the Programs
If you have questions about either of these programs, feel free to drop me a line in the comments section below. I've worked for Guitar Tricks before and have a good relationship with their organization. They're good folks, and they do care about putting out a quality product.