Tag: practice tools

Fret MarkersProject Guitar

First let me say thanks to Bri­an John­son from Project Gui­tar for the inspi­ra­tion for this post — this is not an orig­i­nal Gui­tar Inlays Head­quar­ters idea. In fact as I was snoop­ing around the Inter­net look­ing for some new ideas and inter­est­ing things to write about, I found a bunch of great resources on cus­tom gui­tar inlays at Project Gui­tar, and Bri­an’s post was just one of sev­er­al fan­tas­tic arti­cles over there. Here’s a link his orig­i­nal post on Project Gui­tar.


The Problem

So basi­cal­ly Bri­an’s prob­lem was that he was try­ing to come up with some sim­ple and wal­let-friend­ly way to do fret mark­ers that would pose lit­tle risk to the inlay work he had already done on the rest of the fret­board.

In his own words:

I want­ed to come up with a sim­ple and eco­nom­i­cal way to make posi­tion mark­ers with lit­tle chance of destroy­ing the work I had done up to that point.

The Answer

So what did Bri­an come up with?

Gui­tar picks + Hole Punch + Drill = Fret Posi­tion Mark­ers. 1..2..3..Bam! You’ve got uber cheap and easy cus­tom gui­tar inlays. It’s a pret­ty sweet lit­tle trick because it’s very cheap, very easy, and you can use gui­tar picks of any col­or to match the style of what­ev­er project you’re work­ing on. It’s not quite as cool as these high-tech cus­tom gui­tar inlays that we wrote about which light up in sync with music, but hey — we’re on a bud­get here!

Custom Fret Position Markers

Installing Fret Markers

You’ll need to pre­pare the fol­low­ing:

  • 1/4″ flat­head screw dri­ver
  • 1/4″ drill bit and drill
  • 1/4″ hole punch
  • A bevy of medi­um gauge gui­tar picks

Accord­ing to Bri­an, the best way to start is by using a 1/4″ drill bit to drill very slow­ly into to fret­board. He empha­sizes that these holes do not need to be deep. Once you’ve drilled in a bit (no pun intend­ed, although I admit I did chuck­le after I wrote it..), take a 1/4″ flat­head screw dri­ver and clean out the hole. The best way to do this is by insert­ing the head of the screw­driv­er into the cav­i­ty as straight as pos­si­ble, and just spin­ning the screw­driv­er around in cir­cles, as though you were screw­ing or unscrew­ing some­thing. If the screw­driv­er and drill bit are both exact­ly 1/4″ size (which they should be) then the screw­driv­er should be a nice tight fit inside the cav­i­ty. Spin­ning the screw­driv­er around in cir­cles with­in the cav­i­ty will then smooth out the side edges and the bot­tom, as well as loosen up any dust in the cav­i­ty.

Once we get all the extra­ne­ous rem­nants out of the hole and we have a nice clean cav­i­ty, we’ll need to ready our gui­tar pick discs. Basi­cal­ly, you use a reg­u­lar 1/4″ hole punch (the same kind we used back in grade school) to punch a hole in a gui­tar pick, and we’ll use that lit­tle gui­tar pick donut-hole as the inlay. Bri­an men­tions in his post that he’s had luck with medi­um gauge gui­tar picks, but believes that heav­ier gauge picks would also work well.

Once we have our gui­tar pick discs all punched out and ready to go, I rec­om­mend using a touch of super glue as an adhe­sive. Just a drop or two on the back of the disc should do it, and then we can put it into the cav­i­ty (adhe­sive side down, of course). Bri­an warns that it should be tight enough that you’ll need to use the head of your screw dri­ver to push it in all the way, but you can also use a bit of super glue over the top to full in gaps. And of course in the end don’t for­get to sand things down (try start­ing with 120 grit, then 220, then 400, and so on).

And that’s pret­ty much it. Just a hand­ful of steps and you’ve got a set of ghet­to-fab­u­lous DIY fret mark­er cus­tom gui­tar inlays.

Think this is a good tip? Or is it shite? Let me know in the com­ments!

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!?


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.