MAKE:TNT Tools 'n' Tips

Fretlight Guitar

by Rob Bullington

As seen in MAKE 04 Toolbox

Tool photo.

Wouldn't it be great if you could pick up a guitar, plug it in to your computer, and have it teach you to become a rock god? That’s the premise behind the Fretlight guitar, available from Optek Music Systems.

The guitar itself is pretty sweet. It sports a Fender Stratocaster body style, with a unique, patent-pending polymer fretboard that hides the true nature of this piece of technology. Underneath the fretboard lie 126 LEDs, and until you plug it into your computer you'll never even know they’re there, which means that you can not only use this guitar at home to perfect your playing but can take it on the road as well, with no one the wiser.

The Fretlight plugs directly into your computer via USB, the other end into a special 8-Pin DIN jack in the body. It also has the standard ¼" jack that you can plug into an amp. Its software shows you the basics of scales, chord location, and all the stuff I slept through in high school music class. Picking a chord on the computer sends a signal back to the guitar that light up the fretboard corresponding to finger placement.

Optional software is available (for more moolah) that goes deeper into what this guitar is capable of, teaching not only music theory, but having the ability to download tablature files from the internet that convey easily to the Fretlight.

With a price equaling 20 or so guitar lessons, you not only get to skip out on the smug guitar teacher in the faded Styx T-shirt, but get a quality guitar as well. And while it helps if you know your way around the guitar, with a little patience you too will be jamming in no time. For a full tour check it out online. It rocks!