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Subscription-based video streaming websites are quickly taking over as the preferred method of learning the instrument, and Jamplay.com has earned a reputation as one of the best courses around. Websites like Jamplay.com and Guitar Tricks are under-cutting private instructors on price and sending them cowering in shame at the sheer volume of content provided. Learning guitar used to be all about apathetically strumming through sepia-tinged sheet music to the relentless ticking of a pyramid-shaped metronome. These websites ditch the stuffy atmosphere of private lessons and give you the option of learning when and where you like, and you can do it all in your sweat pants
With a JamPlay subscription, you gain access to their goliath collection of guitar lessons. These are taught by a veritable army of 48 instructors, who each cover their specialist subjects. In total, that makes for over 600 hours of instruction, split into over 2,000 individual lessons. They’re constantly filming new content, so every month an additional 11 hours of lessons materializes. This is plenty to keep you busy for a long time, and the lessons aren’t all they have to offer:
- Mammoth chord and scale libraries.
- Collections of jam tracks for you to play along to.
- A thriving online community.
- Diverse lick and riff libraries.
There are also several useful features that can help when you’re working through lessons:
- Bookmark relevant points within a lesson.
- Set the lesson to loop between any two points.
- Make a record of your progress on each lesson.
- Leave yourself notes for later reference.
The lessons are taught through a flash video which must be streamed. You can’t download the videos because then the inevitable rampant piracy would drive them out of business. There are five options for video quality, so you can watch the videos regardless of the speed of your internet connection. There’s even a specific option for streaming the lessons on a mobile device, and you can crank the quality right up to HD if your computer can handle it.
Check out some sample lessons if you want to make sure you’re getting quality. You should, because if you intend to learn by video, you need to be able to see what’s going on. JamPlay uses split-screens and multiple camera angles to ensure you can see both of the instructor’s hands, and offers studio-quality audio and pristine visuals.
JamPlay’s lessons are broadly split into three different groups. Firstly, there are plenty of lessons on the fundamentals. The next group contains genre-specific lessons and spotlights on various skills that will serve you throughout your playing career. The final group gets to what most students really want: learning songs. Within each of these groups is a plethora of courses taught by different instructors, which build up you knowledge of a given topic logically, rather than bombarding you with disconnected content.
Beginners are taught from the very basics of holding the instrument and how to use each hand right through to basic music theory and putting together your own chord progressions. JamPlay offers a comprehensive package of lessons to brand new players, and the beginner course also can serve to expand the knowledge of self-taught guitarists. Several different instructors teach beginner courses, and although they often cover the same content, you can at least pick your favorite and learn from them.
For Intermediate and Advanced Players
JamPlay doesn’t have specific courses for intermediate and advanced players in the same way as it does for beginners. Realistically, at this point in your learning you can start to specialize, so the distinction between intermediate and advanced players isn’t really clear. Instead of imposing a linear lesson structure for players who’ve grasped the basics, JamPlay opens up a multitude of different options. You can choose to become a blues lead maestro, a tender singer-songwriter or a fearsome metal rhythm player; mastering the unique set of skills that most appeal to you.
The genre and skill-based lessons are the starting point for the higher-level instruction. They have lesson series on most genres, from flamenco through to funk, Celtic and jazz, so no matter what your preferred style is, you can learn from a professional. The amount of courses on each genre does differ, so Celtic, country and R&B, for example, only have one course each, but blues has nine. You can look over the content of each course to make sure the most important genres are covered, but generally it goes with demand. There are a lot of rock lessons, because many guitarists want to play it, but not many Hawaiian slack key lessons, because it’s much more of a niche.
Different skills are also covered in-depth for intermediate and advanced players. There are courses on lead play, songwriting, music theory, ear training and building speed. Many of these skills are covered by the genre lessons, but the dedicated courses give you a much greater depth of knowledge. Again, the level of content differs, with ear training and lead only having one course each, but speed building having four. Have a look to see how well your most desired skills are covered. There are also plenty of lessons to help you learn songs in different genres, which gives you the opportunity to test out your skills.
Ease of Use
JamPlay is pretty intuitive. The lessons are divided logically, and when you navigate to a video it starts streaming and away you go. The fact that you can leave bookmarks and notes means that you can keep track of your progress easily. If you’ve picked up some of a particular lesson, but feel like you didn’t master some techniques it teaches, you can mark it as 50 percent complete and come back to it later. You can leave yourself notes so you know what to look out for, such as “learnt the scale, but the stuff on improvisation might as well have been in French. Give it another watch.”
Community and Support
One of the major benefits of JamPlay is that you also gain access to a burgeoning online community who are going through (or have gone through) the same things you’re struggling with. You can post up asking for help, or participate in heated discussions about contentious issues in guitar playing. The instructors also post up on the forums and participate in live chat, so you can get help from somebody who definitely knows what they’re talking about.
The chord and scale libraries are the most important extras offered with JamPlay. The chord library dwarfs that of any other program, with over 950,000 chords displayed in chord chart and tab formats. Most important ones also have pictures, so you can see what your hand should look like. Likewise, the scale library is comprehensive, displaying virtually any scale in every key. You might not feel like you need these to start with, but later down the line you’ll be glad you can learn multiple voicings for a D minor seventh.
JamPlay also comes with a few useful games, such as a pitch recognition game and a fretboard memorization aid. There is also a couple to help you with reading standard music notation. Other cool extras include the professional-quality jam tracks (no synthetic, MIDI-beeping here) and the collection of licks and riffs. These are great as extras, but realistically you’ll probably make most use of the chord and scale libraries.
You can take on JamPlay monthly, quarterly or annually, depending on your preference, but you get a better deal if you pay it all at once. Prices start at $19.95 a month, and you can cancel at any time. If you pay quarterly, it’s four installments of $49.95, and yearly it’s only $139.95. You can’t cancel if you pay for a year up front, though.
If you aren’t satisfied with JamPlay, you’d be in a pretty small minority (only 0.5 percent of users), but you can get a full refund within a week. This means you can give it a try, check out all of the features properly and make your decision without any real risk.
Overall, Jamplay is a pretty comprehensive service that is suitable for guitarists of all levels. It stands out for the logical structure of its lessons, the masses of content it provides and the detail put into the extra features. In some ways, it’s hard to determine whether it’s better than Guitar Tricks (a pretty similar service), but the quality of the instruction and the online community make it a preferable option. If you want to go from a wannabe to a veritable guitar god, you can do it all with JamPlay.