Yamaha TRBX605 Bass

FENDER TURNS ITS AT­TEN­TION TO GUI­TAR ED­U­CA­TION WITH BITE-SIZE LESSONS AIMED AT HELP­ING BE­GIN­NER GUI­TARISTS BE­COME LIFE­LONG PLAY­ERS. WORDS BY PETER HODG­SON.

Australian Guitar - - Contents -

One of the big­gest chal­lenges fac­ing the gui­tar in­dus­try is re­ten­tion: how do we en­cour­age peo­ple to not only buy gui­tars, but be­come life­long play­ers? Fender’s re­search has shown that for ev­ery 100 peo­ple who buy a gui­tar for the first time, only 10 of them tend to stick with it beyond the first year. Ob­vi­ously, a gui­tar com­pany has a vested in­ter­est in con­vert­ing more of those play­ers into life­time cus­tomers, but there’s more to it than that – and from talk­ing to some of the peo­ple be­hind Fen­derPlay, it re­ally seems that there’s some­thing more per­sonal at play here: Fender wants more peo­ple to make more mu­sic on more gui­tars, be­cause mu­sic is awe­some, and we all ben­e­fit from it.

OFF TO SCHOOL

So that’s where Fen­derPlay comes in. It’s an ed­u­ca­tional plat­form de­signed to give new gui­tarists those ‘lit­tle wins’ that keep you en­gaged with the in­stru­ment, es­pe­cially through those dif­fi­cult first few months when you’re strug­gling with hold­ing the pick, fret­ting a note with­out it sound­ing like a muf­fled buzzing night­mare, moving from one note to an­other, form­ing a clean­sound­ing chord, play­ing a riff, play­ing a song…

The ser­vice is avail­able on the Fender web­site as well as on iOS and An­droid, and the cur­ricu­lum was de­vel­oped in con­sul­ta­tion with a panel of ed­u­ca­tional ad­vi­sors from the Thorn­ton School of Mu­sic at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia in Los An­ge­les, and the Mu­si­cians In­sti­tute in Hol­ly­wood.

Con­cepts are taught through bite­sized video lessons us­ing songs from pop­u­lar artists such as U2, Green Day, The Rolling Stones and Foo Fight­ers. Be­fore you even sign up for an ac­count, Fender gives you a trio of sam­ple lessons: Guitar101, which de­scribes the parts of the gui­tar and the string names; PlaySomeNotes, which tells new play­ers what frets are and how to fret a note; and PlayARiff, which will have you play­ing a good chunk of Green Day’s “When I Come Around” af­ter two min­utes.

Lessons are divided into cat­e­gories of Ba­sics, Chords, Ex­er­cises, Glos­sary, Tech­niques, The­ory and Tone. The lessons are shot in 4K qual­ity with mul­ti­ple cam­eras, and em­ploy­ing pro­duc­tion el­e­ments like splits creens and over­the­shoul­der an­gles to re­ally give view­ers a sense of what’s go­ing on. Chord di­a­grams ap­pear on­screen, and a handy rat­ing sys­tem lets you know how easy or dif­fi­cult a piece might be be­fore you dive in.

You can sign up to try Fen­derPlay for a 30­day free trial right there on the web­site, and mem­ber­ship cards are be­ing in­cluded with Squier gui­tar kits. There’s also a ukulele sec­tion, and Fender will add bass lessons soon.

TEACH ME THE WAYS OF THE FORCE

As some­one who taught the gui­tar for many years, I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate how Fen­derPlay takes con­cepts and breaks them down into sim­ple chunks. It’s a tech­nique that a good teacher will use to help you to lock down a con­cept, but it’s also some­thing that a bad teacher might gloss over.

You re­ally want to get those very fine ba­sics down in the early stages of your play­ing life, oth­er­wise they can hin­der your progress later. So what’s par­tic­u­larly great about th­ese mi­cro­lessons is that you can re­play them as many times as you need to, work­ing at your pace rather than a teacher’s.

There’s a great ‘Got 5 Min­utes? Learn a Riff!’ part of the song sec­tion, which in­cludes ev­ery­thing from tra­di­tional songs and Christ­mas car­ols to oldies to re­cent pop hits, with plenty of clas­sic rock thrown in.

Spe­cial men­tion should go to the Tone lessons, which use Fender gear to ex­plain what var­i­ous ef­fects are. Whereas this could eas­ily have been glossed over and used to shift some Fender prod­uct, Play goes much deeper than just a mere de­scrip­tion and a sales pitch. For in­stance, the les­son on De­lay tells you not just what de­lay is, but also how to dis­tin­guish be­tween dig­i­tal and analog de­lay, and how to use de­lay ei­ther as an am­bi­ent or a rhyth­mic ef­fect. It im­me­di­ately and ef­fec­tively in­tro­duces new gui­tarists to some of the re­ally fun gear-based nu­ance and de­tail that we all even­tu­ally start ob­sess­ing over, but it also places it in the con­text of ac­tu­ally mak­ing mu­sic.

An­other handy fea­ture is the Cour­ses mod­ule, which takes you through skills like learn­ing spe­cific keys and scales, chord types, time sig­na­tures, phras­ing, strum­ming pat­terns, read­ing tablature… Some of this stuff might seem like it be­longs un­der the (equally ex­cel­lent) The­ory mod­ule, but by putting them into a course-based for­mat, the stu­dent is eas­ily led through the con­cept in­stead of be­ing over­whelmed by the dreaded ’T’ word.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

Fen­derPlay re­ally nails the fun­da­men­tals of play­ing the gui­tar, and it keeps the prac­tice fun in­stead of be­ing daunt­ing. You can learn at your own pace and with songs that are in the con­text of what you want to learn.

It’s still a good idea to have lessons with a real live hu­man teacher if you can – they can help guide your play­ing in a more in­ter­ac­tive way, which is es­pe­cially help­ful if you ever feel like you’ve hit a brick wall – but Fen­derPlay is an in­valu­able tool for show­ing new play­ers just how easy it can be to achieve things on the gui­tar, and how rewarding it will be to stick with it for a life­time.

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