A bass-ic approach
We got a musician to try out iconic guitar manufacturing company Fender's digital learning app. Here's why Sanam's Venky gave it a thumbs up
It is no secret that music education can be expensive but it is also easy to pick a legendary musician who didn't go to a posh school. That gap between talent and accessibility has largely been bridged due to technology, and that's what guitar manufacturers like Fender are capitalising on. Last week, the American company best known for its solid-body electric and bass guitars, launched Fender Songs on iOS devices in the US — an app that allows users to learn the chords of millions of songs on the guitar, piano and ukulele. However, it's digital platform Fender Play that offers a complete learning experience with bite-sized videos, is available in India with a 14-day free trial and a Rs 4,000 annual subscription. So, we got a musician to decide if the app is a bang for your buck.
City-based musician Venky S is the bassist of the popular Indian pop band Sanam, often referred to as India's One Direction. The 32-year-old who first picked up the guitar in 1995 has his share of music-related mobile apps. "Fender Tune is a good tuner app and iReal Pro is great to practise jazz standards. The Metronome by Sound Brenner is also nice — playing in time or according to the tempo is necessary in daily practice. I have also used several Fender guitars," he shares.
Fender Play is available for a free download on Apple's App Store. According to Venky, the sign-up process is quite simple. One gets to choose between an annual or monthly package and create an account by logging in via Facebook or setting up a user name and password. "I would best describe the app as a one-stop-shop to pick up the guitar and play it. It is not an easy instrument to learn and I think the main purpose is to create awareness about it," he says.
The interface is impressive, too; you can see exactly where you want to go and what you want to learn. Features include tutorials, tablature, and a progress tracker. But what Venky liked the most were the articles on various aspects of and techniques related to the instrument — like how to select your tone with your playing hand. "It's not something that a teacher might tell you," he tells us. Another feature that caught the guitarist's interest was the practice mode that enables you to see how you fare in a practice session and playing while keeping time via the metronome, after you learn a lesson. The app also lets you categorise your learning.
Even though the app might seem like it is only for beginners, Venky shares that it could be useful to trained artistes, too — because practice never stops. "I would definitely recommend the app to those giving guitar lessons as well as players looking to brush up their skills — it's good to do this every now and then as players tend to forget their basics. It's also the most effective for people who like learning on their phones," he explains, adding that the only update he can suggest is that the practice mode could've included a rhythm with a metronome. But does Venky feel the pinch for a full subscription? "Playing the guitar can be therapeutic — whether playing for personal pleasure, for parties or on stage. I'm happy with the way the product is priced and I think I'm going to pay."
One note at a time
The app comprises articles on the aspects and techniques of guitar playing — like strumming, for instance. It also includes accurate tab and rhythm notation and categorised lessons.
LOG ON TO fender.com/play
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