Fretlight Guitar with LED Custom Guitar Inlays

High-Tech Custom Guitar Inlays

These cus­tom gui­tar inlays are SO cool… but first let me lay out the $5,200 math… There are 52 weeks in a year. If we assume you take one gui­tar les­son a week, at an aver­age cost of $20 for a con­ser­v­a­tive 30 minute les­son, that adds up to $1040 after just one year! Take gui­tar lessons for about five years? That’s a grand total of $5,200, not includ­ing five years worth of trans­porta­tion to-and-from those lessons. That’s more than enough to buy that Gretsch White Fal­con you’ve been oogling over for so long (and the Fal­con does­n’t even have cool cus­tom gui­tar inlays!).

Well, Optek Music Sys­tems hopes to change the way your chil­dren and your chil­dren’s chil­dren will learn to play gui­tar by automat­ing the part of the Instruc­tor via a mega cus­tom inlay set­up. Enter Fret­light.

What is Fretlight?

Fret­light is a two-part gui­tar edu­ca­tion sys­tem. The Fret­light FG-421 gui­tar itself is a real-deal Strat copy with two sin­gle coil pick­ups and one hum­buck­er near the bridge. With the bolt-on neck and oth­er hard­ware, it’s prob­a­bly in the same league as a mid-lev­el or entry-lev­el Strat. So what makes the gui­tar spe­cial? Very, very fan­cy fret­board inlay. The cus­tom gui­tar inlays on the Fret­light are LEDs, six per fret to be exact, and they mag­i­cal­ly light up in real-time to show you which notes to play. The sec­ond part of the sys­tem is the con­trol cen­ter and the brains of the fret­board mag­ic: The bun­dled Fret­light Stu­dio soft­ware.

How Does It Work?

The short ver­sion: You plug the gui­tar into your com­put­er and the soft­ware plays back a song while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly light­ing up the cus­tom gui­tar inlays on the fret­board, show­ing you exact­ly where your fin­gers should be in real-time.

The longer ver­sion: You plug the gui­tar into the com­put­er via a USB cable and the soft­ware talks to the cus­tom gui­tar inlays and lights them up where appro­pri­ate based on instruc­tions from the soft­ware. You can load your own MIDI songs, decon­struct lessons, speed them up, slow them down, loop sec­tions, and more. It’s even com­pat­i­ble with Gui­tar Pro 6!

Other Features

The Les­son Play­er allows you to down­load les­son packs from the Fret­light web­site that cater to spe­cif­ic things you want to learn. For exam­ple there are packs for rhythm gui­tarists, lead gui­tarists, even dif­fer­ent styles like rock gui­tar, and all lessons come in Begin­ner, Inter­me­di­ate and Advanced bun­dles with more being made every­day. The gui­tar even ships with a 30-les­son gen­er­al begin­ner’s pack that teach­es strum­ming pat­terns, scales, chords, music the­o­ry, and also includes a glos­sary of music ter­mi­nol­o­gy. The soft­ware can even be net­worked over the inter­net in such a way that an instruc­tor in, say, Oma­ha, can teach mul­ti­ple stu­dents all over the world by con­trol­ling the Fret­light soft­ware on the stu­dents’ com­put­ers and, thus­ly, con­trol­ling the cus­tom gui­tar inlays LEDs on the gui­tar! HOW COOL IS THAT!?

Problems

The main prob­lem I see with this sys­tem is that Fret­light took a bit of a shot­gun approach on the soft­ware side of things. Rather than adopt­ing one cen­tral piece of soft­ware to con­trol them all (smirk), there are sev­er­al sep­a­rate bun­dles which include:

  • Song Play­er
  • Impro­vis­er
  • Les­son Play­er

Com­bine that with the Les­son Packs and it can be a lit­tle intim­i­dat­ing for a Fret­light begin­ner to know how to get to where he wants to go. That said, I’ve man­aged to hunt down this fan­tas­tic two-part video tuto­r­i­al that walks you through some of the fea­tures and mod­ules of the pow­er­ful, if some­what scat­tered, soft­ware.

In Conclusion

Radio­head once said that Any­one Can Play Gui­tar, and it looks like Optek is mak­ing Thom York’s wish­ful lyrics come true. I def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend the Fret­light FG-421 in all it’s epic inlay-glo­ry to play­ers of all lev­els, but espe­cial­ly to begin­ners and inter­me­di­ates. It’s a real­ly fan­tas­tic tool for learn­ing and improv­ing your skill.

For more videos about how the Fret­light works, check out Optek’s YouTube chan­nel.

Let me know what you think about the Fret­light sys­tem in the com­ments! I’d love to hear your thoughts.