Nevada’s Fretlight has been making guitars with LEDs embedded in the neck for a good long while now, but all of its instruments so far have been full size electrics or acoustics. Now it’s going on the road with a travel version of its learning system.
Though beginners will still have to put in the hours, forming chord shapes by following light patterns on a guitar neck is a good way to learn the basics, as we found when we tried the FretX LED learning sleeve a few years back. You don’t have to keep looking away from the neck to watch a video or translate pictures from a page into fretboard action, for example, you just place your fretting fingers where the lights are and strum or pick – so your focus stays where the action is.
Though that system can be installed on pretty much any full-size acoustic or electric guitar, the lights are restricted to the nut end. The Fretlight Learning System puts lights at every note on the neck, and now the company has partnered with Traveler Guitar to install the system on a limited run of Ultra-Light travel acoustics and launched a Kickstarter to get them into the hands of players.
An original Ultra-Light rocks 23 frets for a full-size playing feel at a fraction of the size of, say, a dreadnought or even a parlor acoustic. The Fretlight neck loses two frets but gains 132 surface-mount LEDs. The neck section looks be about the same width, but the body has a bit more going on around back – where the system’s control box is situated. This Traveler also comes with a pickup and standard instrument output jack, allowing players to plug into a powered headphone or practice amp.
The learning system includes the Guitar Tunes app, which runs on a smartphone paired to the Fretlight Traveler over Bluetooth. When songs or lessons are launched in the app, the respective LEDs light up on the neck to show the player where (and when) fingers on the fretting hand need to be. Video lessons are also available, along with chord and scale libraries, and there’s tempo control for every song to learn at your own pace.
The Fretlight Traveler will also come with Guitar Pro 7.5, powerful PC/Mac tablature software that puts fretting positions onscreen and also fires up the lights on the fretboard for light-led learning.
It looks like only 85 guitars are up for grabs on Kickstarter, with pledges starting at US$329, though the campaign page does mention that the instrument could subsequently be made generally available to consumers in the future. If all goes to plan, shipping of the first tier will start in May.