JamPlay Review (2020) – Effective for Learning Guitar?
If you ever thought about picking up a guitar and learning a few songs to impress the opposite sex, you should know that that’s been done before. In fact, your grandparents probably did that and their parents too before them.
As technology progressed and instruments became more available to the masses, simply learning some cheesy licks and chords is no longer enough to stand out.
On the other hand, if you’re serious about learning an instrument, the guitar remains one of the most popular and most versatile string instruments in existence.
You can go the traditional route and take music lessons, try your luck at getting into a conservatory, or learn on your own like millions of other successful guitarists before you, with a bit of help from some professionals, such as those that you can find on JamPlay.
JamPlay - Overview
One of the world’s largest and most popular online guitar learning platforms, JamPlay caters to everyone from complete beginners to advanced guitarists.
The platform contains thousands of lessons, tens of teachers, and immense libraries, all with high-end video production that allows students to better understand the instrument and how to get good at it.
JamPlay says that it covers 19 genres in total. While that may be true, not all genres are represented equally on the platform. For example, blues comes with 24 courses and 837 total lessons. This covers everything you need to know to start playing blues and more.
On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find genres like reggae, funk, and gospel with just one or two courses each. Even genres like metal feel underrepresented in comparison to blues or rock (579 lessons and 27 courses). There are only 12 metal courses and about 245 lessons – who knows, maybe they think metal is not as popular.
Celtic guitar is another genre that comes with just a single course and only 23 lessons to its name. This is surprising given the rising popularity of acoustic-themed guitar playing, and especially since pop music receives the attention of three courses and 71 lessons.
Country is another genre on the rise but seems somewhat underwhelming in terms of materials on JamPlay. The genre has just seven courses so far and around 156 lessons. That’s less than the number of courses and lessons available for fingerstyle guitar and rock, and just slightly above folk guitar content.
That said, there’s a separate section for bluegrass which is categorized as a country sub-genre. This section contains an additional five courses and 99 lessons, which you may add to the total of country-style guitar courses.
In the end, there will always be discrepancies like these between genres for most guitar learning platforms. JamPlay is not an exception. Anyone may feel slighted if their preferred genre is underrepresented, but I’d advise you to hold your horses and don’t go anywhere. There are other things on JamPlay worth your attention.
The difficulty progression on JamPlay is not the best, to be completely honest. Because there’s so much stuff to assimilate on the platform, coupled with many genres, styles, techniques, and songs, there’s no real feel of a difficulty progression.
You’re really left to your own devices on JamPlay, which can be a great thing if you’re an intermediate to advanced guitarist, but as a beginner, you may be a bit overwhelmed. Or at least tempted to skip ahead a few essential steps in your development.
That said, there is in fact a beginner-dedicated platform. This contains 21 beginner courses with a total of 664 lessons that take you from the most essential fundamentals to everything you need to know to start playing songs.
There’s a good amount of information on how to tune your guitar, how to figure out the proper hand posture (left and right), how to read sheet music, how to connect chords to scales, and some simplified music theory so that you can understand what it is you’re playing along to.
The attention to detail regarding time signatures, optimized practice routines, rhythm vs lead concepts, etc. is beyond reproach. You can start from scratch or fill in the gaps if you’re a self-taught guitarist with lots of questions.
I should also point out that the lessons are split between basics, acoustic, and electric guitar lessons. This makes it even easier to apply the knowledge and follow along.
The problem really concerns those that have taken everything the beginner lessons have to offer and mastered them. Now you’ll want to learn some songs or practice some advanced techniques correctly. Maybe even learn more about music theory.
Unfortunately, JamPlay doesn’t offer separate curriculums for intermediate and advanced players. What they do offer are songs, styles & genre courses, and master class lessons, all in dedicated website sections. The thing is that you will have to sift through all those courses and pick them out one by one based on the indicated difficulty level.
It doesn’t happen automatically like getting new course suggestions or getting redirected to a specific style page or song tutorial after you’re done with your beginner training. At the end of the day, this won’t be an excruciating process, but things could’ve been simplified in the interest of saving time.
The Master Class section contains lessons by some of the most prolific guitarists, solo artists, and band members. Think of it as an ‘in the style of.’ Some of these courses are more approachable than others, but the majority of them will require a good grasp of music theory, knowledge of the fretboard in any tuning, and sometimes even an extra string on the guitar.
In the Live Courses section, things are once again structured, with the courses arranged by difficulty from easiest to hardest. You can take specific courses too, most of them spanning the course of 10 weeks. As a member, you’ll gain access to all current, past, and upcoming lessons.
There’s also an archived section of the Live Courses which contains all past courses archived in full. The best thing about live courses is that you can interact with the instructor either via chat or by calling. Although, that does cost extra if you’re not a Year Pro member.
Video Production Value
If you’ve read any of my past reviews then you know that I value the audio video quality on any blog, YouTube channel, or e-learning platform that teaches an instrument. When it comes to JamPlay, the production value is through the roof.
Not only are even some of the oldest uploaded videos high quality, but the platform now offers a bunch of 4K videos too. How cool is that? Most of the courses also feature up to six camera angles so that you can see everything the teacher does on the guitar.
The correct positioning of each finger, the picking pattern, any tricks of the trade for switching between chords or scales, a clear representation of the fretboard, and anything else you need to follow along. What’s even cooler is that some courses offer camera angles from the guitarist’s perspective.
You’ll be able to use those and compare to your own posture to see what you’re doing wrong. Now on to the video player itself.
You’ll have the ability to change the playback rates. These are for 10, 25, 50, 75, and 100% of the original recording speed. As a member, you’ll also be able to loop sections of the video that you find challenging or that you just love to practice to. Bookmarks are also available and you can customize titles for easier recognition.
Scale information, comments, notes, a progress bar, theme information – all of these and more are included in the JamPlay embedded player, whether you’re taking a video course or watching a song tutorial. This will make it very easy to switch between scales, modes, techniques, and styles so that you can pick up skill faster.
Last but not least, you should know that all videos are offered in multiple resolutions. This way you won’t be hindered by your device if you want to learn. Want 4K quality? No problem. Have a bad connection and want something that streams faster? That’s covered too.
Your Guides Through the Journey
In terms of the notoriety of the instructors, or perhaps you’re not totally buying the JamPlay instructors’ 5,063 years combined playing and teaching experience as advertised, here are just some of the names you’ll see featured: Andy James, Pete Griffin, Tosin Abasi, Bumblefoot Flattus Maximus, Lita Ford, Steve Smyth, Glen Drover, just to name a few.
At the time of writing this review, JamPlay has a list of 122 guitar teachers, of which some are actual life-long teachers and others are accomplished artists that can offer unique explanations of music theory, composition, styles, and so much more.
None of the teachers on JamPlay need any more validation. Another cool thing is that you can browse courses and lessons by teachers too. They are separated into sections for acoustic and electric guitar, with some of them obviously offering unique lessons on both instruments. Bass instructors belong to a separate category that’s well represented by names like Billy Sheehan, David Ellefson, Robbie Merrill, John Deservio, and others.
Set aside the fact that there are even more active teachers on JamPlay that are not listed in this JamPlay review. You have to acknowledge the value you’re getting from all the personalized lessons. Yes, not all teachers are available 1-on-1 and most of them talk as if to an audience.
But you’ll still be able to hear them clearly, see them clearly, and have them explain important concepts uninterrupted. This is something you just can’t always get from a real-world guitar class. Not even private tutoring may give you this much insight if you consider all the video looping you can do on the site.
And what makes these JamPlay online instructors even better? You’re getting one-month access to all of them for probably 25% of what it would cost to get a local lesson for two hours. Even better, you can study for as many hours a day as you want.
Libraries & Other Interactive Features
One of the best things about JamPlay is the interactive library and tools. JamPlay splits its library into four different sections: chords, scales, JamTracks, licks and riffs. Each one contains some truly unique features, a massive offering, and plenty of customization options.
For example, you can take any chords from the library and add it to your custom chord sheets, which you can then use to practice advanced stuff. There are also 950,000 chord voicings and over 30 tunings to explore and mix and match to your liking.
The scale library is as complete as you’ll ever find. You would be surprised to see how many guitar online learning platforms fail to offer good scale variety. But, you might be even more surprised to see just how much further JamPlay takes this in terms of interactivity.
The interactive fretboard diagram comes with note logic, demonstrations, pattern menus, different playing modes, and much more. I do have to note here that there is some video content missing in the scales library. The good news is that it’s constantly being updated, so you’ll eventually get a complete rundown of each scale in every way imaginable.
Another cool thing about JamPlay is the JamTrack library. This section of the website contains over 700 recorded tracks as composed by JamTrack teachers and guest artists, and they span all genres covered by JamPlay courses and lessons. Although all the tracks are available for members to download in mp3 and tab formats, you can also sample 14 free JamTracks as a visitor on the website.
Last but not least, the library section also has a lick & riff section, mostly dedicated to brainstorming and offering ideas for lead parts and composition. Some of the videos follow the ‘in the style of – ‘ format, while others present commonly used licks or riff patterns in various scales and modes.
This is one of the places where you’ll likely spend most of your time once you’ve reached an intermediate to advanced level of playing. The selection of videos is massive too, but you may find some genres like metal, fusion, and alternative underrepresented.
Toolkits are a feature only available for free to Year Standard and Year Pro member. Each toolkit is centered around a specific instrument and specific techniques or genres. There are some lessons that are unique to toolkits, but there is also some recycled content that you can find elsewhere on the website.
The important thing about toolkits is that they can serve as a curriculum once you’ve mastered everything the beginner courses have to offer you. If you’re at a loss as to how to move forward, what to study next, how to practice certain things, the toolkits may be of some help as they restructure some of the content scattered around in the various JamPlay libraries.
This is a feature that’s kind of unique to JamPlay. The platform offers three interactive games thus far, all designed to improve not just your skill but your grasp of music theory and positioning too.
For example, you can use the fretboard memorization game to constantly test you your ability to assign a note to specific fret positions. The game features a nice difficulty progression as it begins nice and slow but really starts to pick up speed once it’s clear that you know some stuff.
Another cool game is the note recognition trainer, which has been designed to help guitarists move past traditional tabs and understand music sheet notation. A similar game is the music notation trainer, which puts into perspective commonly used E, A, Ab, Bb notations by transposing them into classic notations and symbols most often used in music scores.
Keep in mind that if you need extra motivation to learn, as a JamPlay member, your scoring history will be tracked and compared to that of others in the community. Those who practice hard gets the bragging right.
JamPlay has a basic subscription model that you’ve probably seen before. There’s the monthly plan at $19.95 per month that comes with everything but the JamTrack packs and consultation perks.
Another popular plan is called the Year Standard. This will cost you $13.33 per month but you have to pay the entire sum upfront for a full year of access. That said, you will be getting some added value through discounts and an included guitarist toolkit, the Technique & Theory toolkit.
The last membership plan is called the Year Pro. This one costs $24.99 per month and it comes with some attractive perks if you’re willing to pay the full year upfront. Along with all the standard membership features, you’ll also receive all the guitarist toolkits, 1-on-1 consultation (which usually costs extra), ownership credits, and a JamPlay shirt.
The estimated total value of the year Pro membership is $1,094.05 (as claimed). This option may be better suited for intermediate to advanced players that can make full use of all the toolkits and get better clarification in 1-on-1 sessions.
Promo Codes and Discounts
There are two promo codes that you can use to get 25% off your first month on JamPlay when you first register. You can use the code ‘1BA1E2’ for the guitar section or ‘0713E7D01A’ for the bass section.
There are also two codes for 10% off all guitar or bass plans. The code for guitar products is ‘33C6CE’ and for bass ‘4B926862C0’.
I have to set the record straight on something. There are a lot of JamPlay reviews out there that state that the platform offers a free trial with a limited information signup form. That’s either outdated or not true.
As is the case with many similar e-learning platforms, JamPlay will ask for your credit card information if you want to sign up. That’s not to say that the one-month free trial isn’t real, because it absolutely is. But it’s not exactly full access as some may claim.
As a trial member, you’ll get over 500 song lessons, 6,000 or more style, techniques, and theory lessons, and 400 or so courses, some online and offline resources like Guitar Pro files and PDFs, as well as some cool JamTrack packs. Get started with their trial!
However, if you’ve been paying attention, you should know by now that the platform has a lot more than that to offer.
This means that while you will be getting more than enough access to form an opinion and perhaps even enough to grasp all the fundamentals of playing guitar, you won’t be getting complete access to everything as a free member.
The good news is that as always, you can cancel your subscription at any time during that first month and your credit card or PayPal account won’t be charged.
JamPlay is obviously not the only platform of its kind. There are many more for you to choose from, which I’ve also reviewed.
Conclusion – JamPlay is the Jam no Matter How You Put It
JamPlay is an affordable platform for guitarists all around the world. It has exhaustive beginner-friendly courses and even more exhaustive information for intermediate and experienced guitarists. While it may not have the best structure and curriculum, you can’t deny the great overall value of the website.
The production value alone is worth everything when you consider similar platforms that still offer hundreds of SD-only videos with substandard audio. The selection of instructors is mind-bending for any music fans, and the library is probably yet unmatched.
With a combination of offline, online, live, and archived courses, as well as interactive learning tools and games, JamPlay just about sets the standard with regard to what an online music-learning platform should offer and how it should offer it.