The electric guitar has thrilled listeners and players alike for decades, without any major technological innovation in the way that it’s taught. Sure, practice books and learning systems come and go, but none has gained enough traction to replace the tried-and-true methods of shelling out cash for lessons or banging around aimlessly until you work out the riffs to “Smoke on the Water,” ”Brain Stew,” or the anthem of your choice.
This year, we’ve seen several promising entries into the field of guitar instruction — especially in the form of guitars with frets that light up as a song plays, showing you how to jam along with it. Possibly inspired by Guitar Hero, these futuristic axes aim to lower the barrier to entry for a new generation of shredders, and all of them seem to be seeking funding on Kickstarter. GTar, which easily broke its $100,000 Kickstarter goal this week, after making waves at TechCrunch’s Disrupt NYC conference, is the newest — and perhaps the most promising to date.
Unlike previous entries Tabber and MusicAlight, which exist in the form of equipment fitted onto the neck of a standard guitar, gTar is a fully-functioning instrument in itself. Created by Incident, gTar looks a lot like a regular guitar, but with one glaring difference: the iPhone dock on the front of the body. It’ll cost you — $450, to be precise, although the presumptive manufacturer Incident is selling up to 500 units on pre-order for a pledge of $399.
Users can select songs to play along with on their iPhones using gTar’s free app, which then sends information to the guitar about which frets to light up. Sensors on the guitar figure out exactly what you’re playing, and send that back to the app digitally, which generates the sound.
That last part is important.
The fact that gTar digitally renders its sounds rather than relying on the actual strings of the guitar affords it a considerable level of flexibility. From an educational perspective, the most important part of that flexibility comes in gTar’s multiple difficulty levels, ranging from “Easy,” which automatically mutes wrong notes and drastically simplifies the act of playing, to “Free Play,” which makes gTar behave just like a “real” guitar — well, according to the official description, anyway. Before we plug this thing into a Marshall stack on a stage in front of people, we’d have to be sure the latency is close to zero.
The geek in us, however, can’t help but be more excited about the actual sound of the thing. Again, it’s the gTar app — not the strings — that generates the music you’ll hear when you play. That means there’s no reason to be limited to the traditional sound of a guitar. Incident’s Kickstarter page touts “big, warm synth” and “booming grand piano” sounds as well. The company also plans on releasing a software development kit for gTar, which would allow third-party app developers to build their own synthesizers to be played with the gTar hardware. This all could make the gTar a viable instrument unto itself in addition to an educational platform.
Watch Incident present gTar at TechCrunch Disrupt NY:]
(Images courtesy of Incident)