Anyone with two working hands and no cognitive disabilities can learn how to play a guitar already. It takes effort, but if you keep at it, learning how to play is inevitable. What they are promising with the title is that this device will take all the effort out of learning, so that even those who don't want to put any effort in can learn how to play.
But it will still take effort to learn. Lots. It's not just having to learn where to put your fingers. It's learning how to make your fingers move the way they should. It's learning to keep going even though your fingers just refuse to do what you tell them to do when you first start out. It's also learning rhythm, and musicality, and a whole host of things.
I'm sure this tool would make it somewhat easier to learn how to play. But you'd still have to actually learn how to play before you could play.
That being said, when Guitar Hero came out for the Wii I got a copy, realized that they had captured some of the 'feel' you get when you are playing for real (my nominal instrument is trombone but not a lot of call for that :-) and found it fun. So I took the open source bluetooth driver for the Wiimote and created an app that basically let you play a song and pace it with the 'strumming'. Its great for kidding around but not as satisfying as having to work the frets etc.
So here we have a guitar that can do a bit of both, play 'fake' where only the correct notes play, or play 'real' where all notes play. Cool idea.
The price though. Ouch. Lets look at that for a minute.
After they build their first batch, guitars will be $450 each. And they need an iPhone to work at all. So a used iPhone is maybe $100 so you are looking at $550 all up. A student guitar is $60 and lessons are like $100/month so call it 5 months of lessons.
I'm guessing that if you don't even know if you like to play the guitar its going to be too much of a 'risk' to invest in it. That will greatly limit the market. If they are successful I hope they come out with a dedicated built in compute unit.
> "...detect exactly what you're playing in real-time and relay each note to your iPhone, which then produces the actual sound."
From the iPhone speakers? Um... no thanks.
Anyway, good luck to them.
Given what looks like a resonant cavity, and the 'short' battery life of the guitar body, I'm guessing they have an audio amplifier built into the guitar and they pick up the signal from the docking connector.
> "Since the gTar is entirely digital, it doesn't care whether the strings are in tune or not."
I can't even see any pickups, so I'm guessing it simply checks what fret you're holding and detects strumming/picking some other way.
That seems to be supported by "...cannot be retrofitted onto a traditional guitar...". So, basically, you're stuck using your iPhone as the only interface option.
All up - isn't this just a solution looking for a problem?
There aren't other "real" instruments that can be mass produced like this in a few factories in China and Indonesia.
In most any endeavor, it's true that working on your skills is much more important than upgrading your equipment: practice is the way to improve, you can't buy your way into being better.
But this is significantly less true at the bottom end of the guitar spectrum. Cheap guitars really are worse -- not just in the quality of their sound or their durability, but in their playability. It is much more difficult to get a really cheap guitar to work right. A $100 guitar is going to be much more difficult to play than a $500 one.
That's primarily due to the "action" -- the height of strings above the frets. On a cheap guitar, the (im)precision of the components -- the bridge and its springs, the neck tension bar, etc., conspire to make it so that the higher frets have much higher action (or else the lower ones buzz). That forces the player to squeeze the strings harder to the neck, which is painful, and is less forgiving about finger placement within the fret, requiring that fingers go closer to the fret rather than allowing more space behind it.
The end result is that a new player, not wanting to invest too much money in something that he doesn't know if he'll like, is more likely to be discouraged and give up. If he'd had a better tool from the beginning, success would have been more likely.
I've owned a lot of cheap guitars, starting with a plywood no-name electric, and I wish the stuff that's available today had been there 25 years ago.
Most of the cheap guitars are not worth buying, especially for fretwear, warped necks, wonky trussrods or poor neck routs in the body. I also tell people to avoid cheap Floyd Roses, active electronics and 5 string basses (poor tension on low B
Also i'd add Squier Classic Vibes to the list of mfrs with at least passable QC but not their Affinities
I also had a 'guitar god' friend with me that day, and I thoroughly recommend taking a friend who can play along to buy your learner instrument.
Failing that, you can head to a small music shop where the guys selling (sometimes they have an in-store technician) can give lend you a hand at choosing something worth your money. Never buy your first instrument from a big shop where the guy behind the counter doesn't know shit.
On the other hand, you risk becoming a guitarist who struggles to read tablature or learn by watching other guitarists, so the trade off is arguably high. At the very least, one should learn these things after getting off the ground with gTar.
Of course, you're right that there's more to guitar than putting your fingers in the right place, but at the very least I think we can say that for learning individual songs, this would be a big improvement on tabs.
The problem with arguing that the GTar is easy for learning songs (and it is) is how much information is lost. Sheet music contains a ridiculous amount of information. Tablature does not. Lights on a wooden stick contain even less. At what point are you doing a disservice to the aspiring guitarist by taking away information?
Which isn't anything to be happy about perhaps, but does seem to be the reality of the situation. I'd put reading music in the same category as tabs etc: "You should really learn this, sooner is better than later, if you're serious about guitar". But a lot of people struggle to get off the ground with guitar at all, so I can still see value in something like gTar. Though I do see it as a niche market (musically struggling, iPhone owning technophiles).
Once you're more comfortable playing the guitar, you can move onto more complex things like reading sheet music, or composing, or whatever tickles your fancy.
Think of it like programming: we recommend beginners start on languages like Python, Basic or Pascal to ease the mind into that way of working.
Programming tutorials force you to physically type examples in verbatim to get a specified result. The result is a compilable program. Put your hands in the right place on a GTar, and at the end you're that much closer to learning a song.
This device seems to make it easier to learn where to put your fingers to get your result. It's illuminated tablature transferred directly to your fretboard.
Staff => C++
Tabs => Python
gTar => codeacademy
Staff, like C++, can be quite flexible/expressive, but is loaded with historical baggage and redundant nonsense, and is not easily portable (it was clearly designed with piano in mind). And it has been the defacto standard for a long time (ok, this is a bit might be slightly less analogous).
Tabs, like python, are clear, practical, concise and to-the-point, but lack some information and rigidity (dynamic typing), and need certain requirements in order to be useful (a python VM / fretted instrument)
meanwhile, the gTar looks to be more of a learning environment like codeacademy: it guides you through step-by-step and lets you pick up the basic idea of what it's like to play/program, while still giving you a slight sense of freedom. But of course, it is still just a specialized learning environment, and not a 'real' guitar/programming-environment.
The other difficult thing is developing the muscle memory to move quickly between chords. At this point, I can play simple passages from songs, but complicated chord movements are what's most difficult, not figuring out what finger placement is required. This means sitting down and playing the same passage over, and over, and over, and over... You get the idea.
Having played instruments all through school, this isn't a surprise to me, but for a lot of folks it is. Playing an instrument is a skill just like many sports, or even video games. Think of how much better you are on hour 30 of playing a FPS game than you were in hour 1.
The gTar seems to solve the most rudimentary of the challenges, but I can't see where it gets you to "playing songs" (in a real way) much faster.
I can see some neat applications for GTar, like illuminating different modes for a key.
As it is, gTar seems to me to be the hackertyper.net of guitars.
Edit: looking closer this one does seem to have a module the phone sits in so it may be future upgradable however... you still require the upgrade, and it seems the module isn't much wider than the iPhone4... not much room to adapt if the phone gets bigger.
The dock is removable, you can pop it out using a flat head screw driver pretty quickly. There's a cavity in the body and we're actually making a small change to the design of how the electronics are integrated into the dock itself instead of the underlying assembly so that if the 30 pin changes we can adapt to it. Another benefit is that through a generic expansion port we could also support other phones / devices.
The ability to dock the phone into the body was a really awesome experience, which is why we did it even with the risk of making people concerned with the form factor dependency. However, the gTar has a USB port so you can hook it up to any device that supports USB hosting. This is possible with most iOS devices with the aid of a camera adapter kit. We might eventually be able to produce such a special cable allowing you to hook it up directly to an iOS device.
The gTar tech was not originally intended to be for iPhone, that was a bit of an unintentional pivot we made when we met with a particular iOS app company we had a lot of respect for and wanted to impress them. Long story short, they weren't impressed but our next investor meeting went much better than those before it.
Plus then you have the benefit of not limiting the product to only those people who have an iPhone. :)
gTar works on the assumption that playing the guitar consists of putting your finger on the right fret at the right time. Imho this is as wrong as assuming that programming consists of pressing the correct keys in the right order. (million dollar idea: Teach you programming by putting LEDs on your keyboard! $599 only).
There's a common misconception that learning to play the guitar consists of learning where to press; after all, isn't this what tablatures are all about? I tend to put much more emphasis and practice on right-hand techniques. Other comments in this thread speak of 'early reward' or fast gratification; stubbornly trying to bend your left hand in unintuitive positions while your right hand cannot cope is NOT the answer.
Side-note for beginners wanting to learn the guitar: Learn a few chords you don't need a lot of them, then practice right-handed techniques (you can find plenty of examples off Youtube) religiously. Early mastery of this would rapidly give you comfort around the body. You can then get your gTar, read your tabs, or do things correctly by watching videos of your favorite artists and learn slowly to reproduce their songs.
Again, the engineer in me thinks this is an amazing project. However I would never recommend it as a guitar teaching tool.
Last time I checked, Fretlight didn't have an open API that anyone can use, but reverse engineering the protocol and providing open tools would cost way less than $100K.
"Anybody (with an iPhone)" is a far smaller set than "Anybody". Also some peoples fingers are just too short which nothing can help and/or they lack musical "sense" (hearing, rhythm, whatever it is that makes me suck at anything musical) which I doubt this setup helps.
I don't think it is true, I believe it's a matter of stretch - pros of my size who practiced for years can play more demanding stuff, I even met a girl who was way shorter than me, but could play bigger intervals on piano.
> and/or they lack musical "sense" (hearing, rhythm, whatever it is that makes me suck at anything musical) which I doubt this setup helps.
I don't think it's true either. Hearing, rhythm can be improved by exercises. Probably some people are born with better hearing/feel, but practice makes a huge difference. Professional musicians usually do ear training for years (ie most schools incorporate this kind of class); you can also use some software for that - I'm pretty sure I wasn't born with any sort of talent/sense, but did lots and lots of training and got to reasonable level where I can improvise and play by ear. Many musicians that didn't have formal training claim that they listened to radio and just tried to play what was there - this is also some sort of ear training, though it is rather painful, I think. Some ear training software I used are GNU Solfege (free, works with linux) and EarMaster (paid, windows).
This is a classic excuse and complete BS. My hands are much smaller than average and I adapted. Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) lost the tips of 2 of his fingers in an accident and still manages to play!
If I were to use one, I'd use Chord Buddy because there is an extremely objective learning process: take one chord-helper out at a time until you need none.
Having a source for songs to learn might be cool for some people, but the drawback of having to learn by site rather than touch makes the gTar something I'm not interested in.
Awesome project, though. Godspeed.
I'd much rather something like this, which helps you learn how to play a real guitar...
First, if you don't tune it (the write up strongly suggests that tuning is optional), the strings will still make a sound, and that sound will be awful. I think the optional-tuning should be kept on the down-low, since taking advantage of it is sort of a bad idea.
Second, I don't think muting wrong notes is actually helpful, since you lose auditory feedback. Knowing whether the note you just hit was too high or too low is a valuable thing for a guitarist to be able to hear instantly.
Lastly, does it do string bends? Video isn't working for me and it's not mentioned in the write up. If not, somewhat serious limitation.
There is considerably more risk with this project than many other Kickstarter projects as the lowest tier is $350 -- if the project fails and the GTar is never made that's quite a bit more money to lose than a ~$20 video game.
The game with guitar USB adapter runs for about $70, while I got my electric guitar for around $100. Of course, you need an Xbox 360 or PS3 and that runs from $99 - $299.
The fact that it lets you plug in your real guitar is definitively nice. It handles bends, chords, slides etc... is super nice (not sure that the gTar supports these from the video).
I will say the tech isn't perfect it sometimes will let you get away with things it shouldn't but you can be your own police too.
If you already own a guitar it's a cheap investment I feel. If you don't I really don't but want to learn. I believe you'll be better served with this than gTar. You'll have a real guitar at a minimum. I can forsee a upgraded gTar with a 3/4 plug etc... I'd wait and see. Plus the iPhone requirement makes it's it non workable for many people.
(I don't think this should discourage the gTar folks, I'm sure they will have enough early adopters to improve the concept.)
These guys aren't totally green, they have multiple working prototypes/pilots, the software is done, manufacturing is ready. This isn't really much different from any other pre-order. They're saying "The product is tested and ready, give us money to buy a bunch of parts and put them together."
Presumably, this is how it tells which note you are playing. Pressing a string to the fret completes an electrical circuit. At first I thought the bridge had optical pickups based on the way it looked, but according to the description, the thing has no pickups.
There are some serious flaws with this design.
1) It looks like you can't bend strings, because the frets are divided into six segments. The string would get caught between the segments. If there's some kind of non-conductive bridge between the segments (unlikely), then it will probably wear differently. If you can't do a whole-step bend, then there's an enormous volume of music you can't play.
2) It's going to sound like trash. Without pickups, it has to synthesize the sound. I've gotten usable sampled guitar tracks before, but I did that by recording samples specifically for the song and manually tweaking each note.
3) It's unnecessary. You could basically take a stock Stratocaster, add a hex pickup and a LED neck, and you're done. The LED neck isn't easy, and of course it won't sound like a normal neck, but whatever. The guitar will still be a normal usable guitar.
If you want to divide guitar players into rhythm/lead and acoustic/electric, it becomes clear that this is a usable instrument in none of these four categories. Electric rhythm guitar strongly relies on palm-muting technique which you won't be able to learn without regular pickups. For electric lead, you need the whole-note bend and left-hand vibrato technique. The bend is impossible and the vibrato can't be taught without the pickup. Acoustic players want to be able to play and hang out with friends but the synth is just going to get in the way. You see the picture of that guy at the park with three friends (of course the two sitting next to him are girls)? He would probably be happier with an acoustic. Furthermore, if you learn on this guitar you'll be fairly hopeless on an acoustic since the strings are heavier (if you play electric and switch to acoustic, your left hand will give out fairly quick).
Incidentally, I paid about $330 for my first guitar, a Fender Stratocaster, plus amp. It's more like $400 with inflation since 2003. Never had lessons but it sure ain't hard to figure out "Smoke on the Water" or "Smells Like Teen Spirit".
I taught someone the equivalent for violin in 6 months (and the initial learning curve on violin is absurdly long compared to guitar). That wasn't the limiting factor, though. The limiting factor was the music: timing, ear training, articulation, dynamics, how to shape a melody, how to read music, how to write music, a body of carefully studied examples to be able to work on...
A decent sounding fender acoustic or electric will only cost you about $250 brand new. And then you have a real guitar, that will get better and more valuable with age. The GTar is a hunk of plastic that will end up in a landfill and be obsolete in 3 years.
It's tied to the most recent IPhone. Isn't that a huge red flag for other people? Unless the connector is modular, this thing will be useless when the next IPhone comes out.
People aren't going to want to hear you practice on it. Luckily your iphone can't get loud enough to annoy your neighbors, but the small speakers and digital sounds aren't going to be pleasing to your friends.
That all being said, I think more people should learn to play music and really any attempt to simplify, or encourage the process is a net benefit to society. To me the GTar just doesn't like it would be as fun or rewarding as buying a real guitar.
The "lights on the fretboard that show you what to play" thing has been done; and while it generally gets good reviews I don't think it's revolutionizing learning guitar or anything. Likewise plugging into an iPhone for effects, etc.
The hardest part of starting guitar is simply building up your hand/finger muscles and muscle memory. Having lights on the fretboard makes it nominally easier to place your fingers, but reading tabs isn't hard to begin with (this is essentially just tabs on the fretboard anyway) and learning to look at a tab (or sheet music) on paper/a screen and translate that to finger positions is an important skill to develop as a musician.
This will encourage beginners to look at the fretboard when they play, which is a bad habit to get into.
I also have concerns about this feeling and responding like a real guitar. This doesn't operate like a normal guitar, so there will probably be a lot of little areas where it differs so someone who's played this may pick up a real guitar and find that they are making all sorts of horrible squeaking and finger noise, aren't used to the action of a real guitar, etc etc.
If it was a choice between this and a real guitar for a beginner, I would go with the real guitar no question. If you happen to have ~300-500$ that you can just blow on cool gizmos, sure it'd be fun to play with.
If you've never touched a guitar before, this might get you from 0 to "Smells like Teen Spirit" slightly faster than otherwise, but I doubt by much. I think the returns will diminish over time, and this might even ultimately hurt you.
The main neat thing is using it as a midi controller/ to make cool sounds but there are plenty of other options in that area already.
I don't think playing guitar is that hard, but i was one of those kids that got signed up for 14 years of music lessons, band and orchestra, on at least 4 instruments, so it's hard for me to say what's hard.
As analogy, if somebody learn to play keys on a cheap unweighted MIDI controller /digital piano(M-audio, yamaha, casio, one of those), and then tries to play acoustic piano, they have a devil of a time trying to play with feel.
As another analogy, Yamaha used to make MIDI controllers that looked like soprano saxes, except you didn't have to develop an embouchure, you just blew into them any way and they played.
From a beginner's perspective, I could see some immediate wins, a built-in metronome, an auto-tuned guitar, an intimate yet digital "teacher" etc. These are things I'd definitely have loved when I started out learning.
Its great, the barriers to entry into creative fields are being lowered. Its happening well with programming and this could really encourage people to get into music. Even if it does not churn out professional musicians, just the joy of playing your own music is worth it.
PS: Been playing/learning on my humble acoustic guitar since 5 years.
That being said, you also want to encourage people to play and write your own music. If all this does is teach you how to play your favourite songs (by other artists), that is all you'll learn.
I notice it has a 'free-play' mode, where it turns into what looks like a Kaoss pad. This is also good, but I'd hope it'd have some sort of learning mode where you're taught chords, and basic chord progressions, and barre chords.
I'd see more value in that than the Guitar Hero, 'mash out epic rock and roll guitar solos' style of game it shows at the start.
Edit: I suppose the form of this will make parents a lot happier than they would be if they bought their kid a Strat and a 300W guitar amp.
On the other hand, I echo some of the sentiments expressed by others who have experience actually playing guitar. I play classical guitar and have been teaching my kid the same.
Once you get past what I call single-note-at-a-time pieces progress into more interesting music requires real work. On the guitar, just like the piano, fingering is of paramount importance. Without developing an understanding for this you'll twist your hand into a pretzel and simply will not be able to advance. Then there's proper right hand technique, which is different between and electric with a pick and classical or finger-style.
The guitar has weird and difficult simultaneous left hand finger motion that one must drill and learn. I suppose they could include such drills in the app. My favorite source of pain for both left and right hand training is "Pumping Nylon" by Scott Tennant. Most who know the subject would probably agree.
Reading written music is, in my opinion, very important and --I'll venture that far-- the only way to go. Tab is cool, but why go there if reading actual musical notation isn't that hard at all. As someone mentioned, there's a ton of information in a score. Scores written for guitar, particularly at the beginner level, include right and left hand fingering as well as all sorts of other notations. All of my sheet music has copious notes on pencil as I learn the pieces.
A neck full of LEDs just can't take you very far at all. I'm sure I could be fun, but there's a real brick wall that'll make the fun stop pretty quickly.
That said, if something like this inspires the player to move up and learn the right way then I am all for it. I might actually get one just because I'm a sucker for gadgets, but it will be just that: a fun gadget to bring out, show off and possibly take camping. I believe that because of this, they have a good chance of becoming the next million-dollar-plus Kickstarter project.
I'm curious how playable and hackable it will be. The Kickstarter page says it's MIDI compliant, but MIDI is a terribly restrictive protocol not really suited to the range of expression you have on a guitar.
Playing the guitar is "valuable" because not everyone can do it.
Announcing GTar S with support for the iPhone 5