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Touch it, love it. The guitar gods compel you!
Sliding around the living room in your underwear with a hairbrush for a microphone might be cool…wait, wait, wait…that was never cool. If what you really want to do is learn how to play an instrument, it seems that starting with one that’s got a built-in cool factor is, well, cool.
Which is how we ended up with the Fretlight FG-431 Vintage Electric guitar. The FG-431, which you can connect via USB to your Mac, has a brand differentiator that’s as amusing as it is inviting: The fretboard lights up where your fingers are supposed to go. Kind of like painting by numbers (or the Guitar Hero videogame), the Fretlight, with a GarageBand plug-in, lets you learn how to play guitar easily. Something that we weren’t totally sure could be done - but we were game to try.
At first blush, the FG-431 seems a little heavier than a normal guitar, possibly because of the onboard electronics. But connecting to a PowerBook G4 was no problem - and that’s when the fun began. The fretboard (the portion of the guitar beneath the strings) lit up, as promised. Songs and exercises for learning how to play those songs appear on your Mac’s screen, allowing you to follow along in two places. The software walks you through tunes, bar chords, and the rudiments of making music (rather than noise).
Now, we don’t know much about teaching people how to play musical instruments, or if this is even the right way to do it, but it can’t get much easier than putting your fingers where the lights are. After an hour, we unplugged the guitar from the laptop and plugged into an amp, to see if the lessons stuck. Seemingly, yes. And outside of some occasional buzzy-ness from the frets, which could easily have been operator error (or reversed polarity), we highly enjoyed sliding around the living room in our underwear mangling the first few lines of “Smoke on the Water.” We probably didn’t look as cool as if we’d been rocking a Stratocaster, but unless the neighbors peeping in your open windows are pro guitarists, no one will know the difference. You learn on this one, and then move on. Your secret’s safe with us.
The bottom line. You can get plenty of other guitars for a lot cheaper than the Fretlight FG-431. But if you’re short on time and long on cash, it’s the perfect guitar for you.
COMPANY: Optek Music Systems
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS X
Great guitar for beginners.
The lights, the lights…for a seasoned hand, were a tad distracting. And the price kind of hurt, too.