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Fender's Riffstation Aims To Expand Guitar Market

..enhance the learning experience of beginning players, and thus reduce the number of those who abandon the instrument. Sonic Ladder’s flagship product, Riffstation, is a unique digital application that allows users to import audio, learn basic guitar chords for any song, master riffs, and create custom tracks for jam sessions. Since it was first unveiled in 2012, Riffstation has been enhanced with a new, cleaner full-screen design for both computer and mobile applications.

Developed by Dan Barry and Mikel Gainza, PhD., both students at the Dublin Institute of Technology, Riffstation is available in two versions. The free mobile app provides chords and play-along functions for a large catalog of popular songs. The desktop “Pro” version, available online for $34.99, has the capability of transforming any MP3 audio track into a powerful educational device. Within about eight seconds, the program can process an MP3 file and isolate the basic chords, thus helping beginners master their favorite songs. Vocal and solo tracks can also be eliminated, creating an ideal play-along backup. In addition, tempos can be altered without shifting pitch.

“We are honored to have joined the Fender brand, one that is so rich with heritage, as the company continues to evolve in the digital space,” said Dan Barry, vice president, research and development at Fender Digital and CEO/co-founder of Riffstation. “Alongside our newly integrated team at Fender, we will continue to bring an even more enhanced and positive musical experience for the booming base of Riffstation users.”

Ethan Kaplan, chief product officer and general manager of Fender Digital, said that Riffstation has the potential to significantly expand the guitar market. “There are more first-time guitar buyers every year than there are existing players,” he explains. “We believe Riffstation can convert more of those first-time buyers into lifelong players. It’s an easy-to-use interface that allows them to quickly play the songs they love, which is how they want to learn.”

Riffstation is the latest addition to the growing selection of software-based products offered by Fender Digital, which currently employs close to 50 software developers in Los Angeles. The Digital division’s first offering was a free iOS tuning app, introduced in August 2016. With an intuitive interface, the app can help an absolute beginner successfully tune his or her guitar, or allow an experienced player to experiment with alternative tunings. Fender anticipated 50,000 downloads by year-end, but to date there have been more than 600,000.

Citing the fact that the money spent on guitar lessons and instructional materials is twice the dollar volume of the new guitar market, Fender CEO Andy Mooney said that Fender Digital has the potential to be a viable stand-alone business. Just as importantly, he sees high-quality Fender-branded educational content as a way to reduce the dropout rate among first-time buyers. “90% of kids who pick up the guitar for the first time quit within three months,” he said. “If we can trim that even a little bit, we can significantly expand the market.”

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