The FretLight Guitar from Optek Music Systems is a product that is trying to drive the instrument into the 21st century through utilising software based technology to make learning the guitar more fun and intuitive. These specially designed guitars use LEDs in the fretboard to show you exactly which notes you should be playing! Left Handed models are available and this week we’re looking at the FG-421…
The idea behind the FretLight system is a simple one. Instead of reading the information you need from a book or screen and then conveying that data onto your guitar’s fretboard, the guitar will light up the information for you, on the neck where you need it.
The guitar connects to your computer and is powered via USB – once connected specially designed software will communicate information between guitar and computer. This might include lighting up a song note-by-note, displaying chord or scale shapes, or demonstrating one of the many inbuilt lessons. The guitar also functions normally and can be plugged into an amp.
Currently the only model available lefty is the FG-421 which is your standard tobacco sunburst Strat type guitar. The price of the FG-421 is $369.99 with the option of installing a N-Tune Classic Series tuner for $49.99 extra.
The FretLight guitar is going to be a wicked tool for learning new chord shapes, particularly for beginners. One problem associated with learning guitar left handed is that chord charts are laid out for a right handed player.
With the FretLight, if you want to know the fingering for a D Major chord you don’t have to worry about any of these issues, it’s right there on the fretboard ready to go! Any petty issues linked with learning left handed are effectively eliminated through learning with the FretLight guitar. So for any of you new left handed players who are having difficulties flipping chord charts, this could be the answer to all your problems!
Another area in which the FretLight guitar is going to excel is in learning new scales. If you want to add the Dorian scale to your repertoire you don’t need to spend days or weeks slowly memorising the shapes of the scale. The FretLight guitar will show you the complete scale covering the entire neck instantly, making it really easy to see how each shape interconnects. The image below shows the A Dorian scale covering the entire neck.
This feature appeals to me as I think it could be used to great effect to come up with some really interesting, exotic licks that would otherwise take a long time to map out.
Using the supplied software you can also use the FretLight guitar to learn songs in real-time. Having never tried the guitar I couldn’t possibly comment on the effectiveness of this feature but in all honestly I would imagine it being fairly tricky. I think that by far and away the major attraction of this guitar is its ability to quickly and effectively teach new chord and scale shapes and expand your musical creativity. I’d need to try out the songs feature for myself, but it seems a little too guitar hero to me. Who knows though, it could be fantastic!
Obviously you can tell that I love the idea behind the guitar and its creative possibilities – so why don’t I have one? The simple answer is that there is not a single store in Europe that sells them.
FretLight will ship internationally from their U.S store but to ship to me in the UK they would like $180 – i.e half the value of the guitar. Now, I regularly import guitars from the States so I was utterly shocked when I saw the price of shipping on this $370 guitar. To put things in perspective, I paid $99 to ship a $2000 MusicMan on a faster shipping service than they offer. Keep in mind that import taxes are based on the shipping cost as well as the item value. After shipping, import taxes and other fees it would cost well over twice the initial cost of the guitar. As a European player it is a given that I must pay extra for US products, but this just isn’t realistic.
Once again us European players lose out unfortunately. It’s a real shame as I’ve been longing to take a crack at one of these for years. I do love my gadgets!
If you live across the pond, try one out and let us know what you think!
For more information:
FretLight Guitar Website